Tag Archives: Naturalism

Peer-reviewed paper says there is no atheistic explanation for the Cambrian explosion

Story from the Discovery Institute.

A new peer-reviewed paper has been published that concludes that there is no material explanation for the massive amounts of information introduced during the Cambrian explosion, when all of the phyla came into being in the blink of an eye, geologically speaking, with no fossilized precursors.


Thus, elucidating the materialistic basis of the Cambrian explosion has become more elusive, not less, the more we know about the event itself, and cannot be explained away by coupling extinction of intermediates with long stretches of geologic time, despite the contrary claims of some modern neo-Darwinists.

Once again, the progress of science brings light.

The DI post goes on to cite another passage from the paper:

Beginning some 555 million years ago the Earth’s biota changed in profound and fundamental ways, going from an essentially static system billions of years in existence to the one we find today, a dynamic and awesomely complex system whose origin seems to defy explanation. Part of the intrigue with the Cambrian explosion is that numerous animal phyla with very distinct body plans arrive on the scene in a geological blink of the eye, with little or no warning of what is to come in rocks that predate this interval of time. The abruptness of the transition between the ‘‘Precambrian’’ and the Cambrian was apparent right at the outset of our science with the publication of Murchison’s The Silurian System, a treatise that paradoxically set forth the research agenda for numerous paleontologists — in addition to serving as perennial fodder for creationists. The reasoning is simple — as explained on an intelligent-design t-shirt.

Fact: Forty phyla of complex animals suddenly appear in the fossil record, no forerunners, no transitional forms leading to them; ‘‘a major mystery,’’ a ‘‘challenge.’’ The Theory of Evolution – exploded again (idofcourse.com).

Although we would dispute the numbers, and aside from the last line, there is not much here that we would disagree with. Indeed, many of Darwin’s contemporaries shared these sentiments, and we assume — if Victorian fashion dictated — that they would have worn this same t-shirt with pride.

Here is the reference for the paper:

(Kevin J. Peterson, Michael R. Dietrich and Mark A. McPeek, “MicroRNAs and metazoan macroevolution: insights into canalization, complexity, and the Cambrian explosion,” BioEssays, Vol. 31 (7):736 – 747 (2009).)

I linked before to a bunch of easy-to-understand videos that explain the Cambrian explosion. That post has a link to another peer-reviewed research paper written by Stephen C. Meyer, on the Cambrian explosion.

Christian parents: be sure to encourage your children to do the best they can in science, and push them to go on to graduate school to earn their Ph.Ds. We really need to have people working on these problems who are not wedded to the pre-supposition of atheism. We need to have people who are open-minded and willing to go wherever the evidence leads.

Further study

One of my favorite resources on the origin of life is this interview from the University of California with former atheist and origin of life researcher Dean Kenyon. Kenyon, a professor of Biology at San Francisco State University, wrote the textbook on “chemical evolution”, which is the view that chemicals can arrange themselves in order to create the first living cell, without intervention.

This interview from the University of California with another origin of life researcher, Charles Thaxton, is also one of my favorites.

You’ll need Quicktime to see the videos, or buy the videos from ARN. (Kenyon, Thaxton) I have both of them – they rock!

Stephen Meyer explains the design of DNA at the Heritage Foundation


The Heritage Foundation is by far my favorite think tank. If any of my readers have a blog, and you would like to get into policy a little bit, I highly recommend them. My Christian readers may be worried that think tanks are too focussed on fiscal conservatism and that they neglect foreign policy and social conservatism, including faith issues. You will not have that problem with the Heritage Foundation.

This time, they hosted one of my top 5 Christian scholars, Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, so that he could give a lecture to the public about the evidence for an intelligent designer of DNA.

The video and audio of the lecture is posted here, at The Foundry. (H/T The Discovery Institute)

I have seen Meyer give this lecture live. He steals his children’s toys to explain DNA to people! I am begging you: do not be afraid of learning about scientific evidence. Watch the lecture!!! And then watch it again!!!

Information about Dr. Meyer from that page:

Stephen C. Meyer is Director and Senior Fellow of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle.  Dr. Meyer earned his Ph.D. in the History and Philosophy of Science from Cambridge University for a dissertation on the history of origin of life biology and the methodology of the historical sciences.

And you can listen to a wonderful podcast with Stephen Meyer, too!

This episode of ID the Future tells the story of how philosopher of science Stephen C. Meyer first began his quest for the origin of life. How did one of the architects of the intelligent design movement move from the oilfields of Texas to the study halls of Cambridge to pursue the mystery of where biological information originated? Listen in and find out. The new book, Signature in the Cell, tells the rest of the story, the culmination of over 20 years of study and research on the origins of life.

I wrote about the evidence for intelligent design in the cell here, using a paper published by Stephen Meyer. Watch the lecture, and read the paper.

Don’t forget to bookmark the Heritage Foundation’s blog!

Further study

One of my favorite resources on the origin of life is this interview from the University of California with former atheist and origin of life researcher Dean Kenyon. Kenyon, a professor of Biology at San Francisco State University, wrote the textbook on “chemical evolution”, which is the view that chemicals can arrange themselves in order to create the first living cell, without intervention.

This interview from the University of California with another origin of life researcher, Charles Thaxton, is also one of my favorites.

You’ll need Quicktime to see the videos, or buy the videos from ARN. (Kenyon, Thaxton) I have both of them – they rock!

Does the Cambrian explosion disprove Darwinian evolution?

I made you all suffer this week by reading two long posts on the origin of life:

So now I’m going to be nice and let you learn about the Cambrian explosion through videos! Yeah! Because it’s Friday.

What is the Cambrian explosion?

Same story as always. Primitive tribes of atheists living during pre-scientific times naively attributed the diversity of life to the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s noodly appendage, working over billions of years. But then science progressed, discoveries were made, and all rational people accepted that virtually all the basic body plans emerged, fully-formed, in a 3-5 million year period, about 540 million years ago. And no new body plans have emerged since.

The best explanation of the sudden origin of nearly all animal body plans in the blink of an eye is that an intelligent designer provided the required software code for all of these brand new body plans. New instructions, like new Java code or new English sentences, require an intelligent cause. Period.

Part 1: (7:50)

Part 2: (3:25)

Yes, the people in the videos have Ph.Ds from Cambridge, Yale, Berkeley, etc. They are much smarter than any atheists, and they win any debates with atheists that dare to debate them. (Which is why atheists prefer censorship instead of debate, and blind faith instead of evidence)

Don’t worry, if you are an atheist, I’m sure that the noodly appendage of the hopeful Flying Spaghetti Monster will eventually overturn decades of scientific progress very soon, and then you can be comfortable avoiding moral obligations, being self-centered, thinking you are better than other people, and pursuing happy feelings at the expense of the liberties and rights of other people.

Further study

Advanced students can read more about the Cambrian explosion a published peer-reviewed book chapter (Michigan State University Press, 2003) or in a peer-reviewed research paper (Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 2007).

If you are totally lost on the question of origins, you can watch two DVDs that are now online at Youtube. Both videos are by Illustra Media. This is the place for complete beginners to get started.

Here are the 2 playlists:

Could life have emerged spontaneously on the early Earth?

Last time we saw how the progress of science in the last 30 years has proved that the environment of the early Earth would not have allowed the emergence of the basic building blocks of life. This time, let’s allow the atheist to assume the building blocks were created by the noodly appendage of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, (peas be upon him), and see whether it’s possible for the blocks to chain themselves together to make a living cell withinin a reasonable amount of time (400 million years, say).

For this post, I will be referencing an article by Stephen C. Meyer, which he published in the Catholic journal “First Things”. I chose this article deliberately because it was written at the level of an ordinary layman, so we could all understand everything well enough to feel confident explaining it to our neighbors. All unattributed quotes are from this article.

The combatants

The contest over origins features two opposing points of view:

  • A Creator and Designer is responsible for the origin of life
  • Matter, chance and long periods of time are sufficient to explain the origin of life

What’s at stake?

Atheistic Cornell University professor Will Provine explains what logically follows from naturalistic evolution:

There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either. What an unintelligible idea.

So, the stakes are high.

Why doubt the apparent design in nature?

There are two main reasons why atheists doubt the appearance of design in nature:

Minimal life functionality requires information

In order for a living organism to support life, it must be able to perform minimal functions:

  • store information
  • transmit information
  • edit information
  • use that information to regulate metabolic processes

There must be sufficient information inside the cells of that organism to support those functions. How does this information exist in the cell, and where did it come from?

Atheism is a pre-scientific worldview

Meyer describes the primitive superstitions of tribes of atheists living in primitive, pre-scientific cultures:

…in the 1870s and 1880s scientists assumed that devising an explanation for the origin of life would be fairly easy….they assumed that life was essentially a rather simple substance called protoplasm that could be easily constructed by combining and recombining simple chemicals such as carbon dioxide, oxygen, and nitrogen. …just as salt could be produced spontaneously by adding sodium to chloride, so… could a living cell be produced by adding together several chemical constituents and then allowing spontaneous chemical reactions to produce the simple protoplasmic substance that they assumed to be the essence of life.

Atheists believe in all kinds of primitive pre-scientific myths, like the eternal universe, etc., which the progress of science has falsified. Can the progress of science falsify the atheistic superstitions about the origin of life?

The Oparin-Haldane hypothesis

Atheists began to panic in the early 20th century as discoveries began to pile up confirming the that the entire physical universe, and time itself, was created by a supernatural force that existed transcendentally, independent of matter, energy, space and time. (See here for a listing of 6 of these discoveries from the progress of science). Atheists decided that they’d better get involved in this “science” thing that the Christians had started.

Meyer reports on one of their first groundless speculations:

During the 1920s and 1930s a more sophisticated version of this so–called “chemical evolutionary theory” was proposed by a Russian biochemist named Alexander I. Oparin…. Oparin, like his nineteenth–century predecessors, suggested that life could have first evolved as the result of a series of chemical reactions.

It was hoped that that the Flying Spaghetti Monster would appear to his true believers and ground this blind speculation, allowing atheists to continue in their flight from rationality and moral obligations.

The Miller-Urey experiment

Pre-biotic synthesis (see below) produces amino acids, which are the first step in explaining the origin of the simplest life, on atheism:

How did life begin?
How did life begin?

As we saw last time, the Miller-Urey experiments that were designed to produce the building blocks of life (amino acids) were horribly flawed and did not reflect the conditions that would have existed on the early Earth.

I’ll summarize the problems with the experiment:

  • the gasses were used in the experiment were not those present on the early Earth
  • molecular oxygen was excluded from the experiment
  • Harmful UV radiation was filtered out by the experimenter intervention
  • interfering cross-reactions were prevented by experimenter intervention

Other problems:

  • extinction events, such as meteorite impacts, were excluded not considered
  • the chirality problem (left-handed amino acids, right-handed sugars) was not considered
  • the problem of getting all peptide bonds was not considered

This experiment, though flawed, still exists in biology textbooks today, along side faked photographs of peppered moths and doctored drawings of embryos. All must praise the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and at taxpayer expense!

The problem of biological information

To create life, you need to sequence amino acids into proteins, and sequence the nucleotides on DNA strands.

Meyer explains:

To form a protein, amino acids must link together to form a chain. Yet amino acids form functioning proteins only when they adopt very specific sequential arrangements, rather like properly sequenced letters in an English sentence. Thus, amino acids alone do not make proteins, any more than letters alone make words, sentences, or poetry. In both cases, the sequencing of the constituent parts determines the function (or lack of function) of the whole.

…As it turns out, specific regions of the DNA molecule called coding regions have the same property of “sequence specificity” or “specified complexity” that characterizes written codes, linguistic texts, and protein molecules. Just as the letters in the alphabet of a written language may convey a particular message depending on their arrangement, so too do the sequences of nucleotide bases (the A’s, T’s, G’s, and C’s) inscribed along the spine of a DNA molecule convey a precise set of instructions for building proteins within the cell. The nucleotide bases in DNA function in precisely the same way as symbols in a machine code. In each case, the arrangement of the characters determines the function of the sequence as a whole…. In the case of DNA, the complex but precise sequencing of the four nucleotide bases (A, T, G, and C) stores and transmits the information necessary to build proteins.

…As Bernd–Olaf Kuppers recently stated, “The problem of the origin of life is clearly basically equivalent to the problem of the origin of biological information.”

How do atheists account for this biological information?

Atheistic superstitions about the biological information

Le’s take a look at the atheist’s faith-based explanations of the origin of life: chance, law and self-organization.

For the first one, let’s calculate the odds of building a protein composed of a functional chain of 100 amino acids, by chance. (Think of a meaningful English sentence built with 100 scrabble letters, held together with glue)

1. Chance:

  • BONDING: You need 99 peptide bonds between the 100 amino acids. The odds of getting a peptide bond is 50%. The probability of building a chain of one hundred amino acids in which all linkages involve peptide bonds is roughly (1/2)^99 or 1 chance in 10^30.
  • CHIRALITY: You need 100 left-handed amino acids. The odds of getting a left-handed amino acid is 50%. The probability of attaining at random only L–amino acids in a hypothetical peptide chain one hundred amino acids long is (1/2)^100 or again roughly 1 chance in 10^30.
  • SEQUENCE: You need to choose the correct amino acid for each of the 100 links. The odds of getting the right one are 1 in 20. Even if you allow for some variation, the odds of getting a functional sequence is (1/20)^100 or 1 in 10^65.

The final probability of getting a functional protein composed of 100 amino acids is 1 in 10^125. Even if you fill the universe with pre-biotic soup, and react amino acids at Planck time (very fast!) for 14 billion years, you are probably not going to get even 1 such protein. And you need at least 100 of them for minimal life functions, plus DNA and RNA.

Research performed by Doug Axe at Cambridge University, and published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Molecular Biology, has shown that the number of functional amino acid sequences is tiny:

Doug Axe’s research likewise studies genes that it turns out show great evidence of design. Axe studied the sensitivities of protein function to mutations. In these “mutational sensitivity” tests, Dr. Axe mutated certain amino acids in various proteins, or studied the differences between similar proteins, to see how mutations or changes affected their ability to function properly. He found that protein function was highly sensitive to mutation, and that proteins are not very tolerant to changes in their amino acid sequences. In other words, when you mutate, tweak, or change these proteins slightly, they stopped working. In one of his papers, he thus concludes that “functional folds require highly extraordinary sequences,” and that functional protein folds “may be as low as 1 in 10^77.”

The problem of forming DNA by sequencing nucleotides faces similar difficulties. And remember, mutation and selection cannot explain the origin of the first sequence, because mutation and selection require replication, which does not exist until that first living cell is already in place.

2. Law:

The idea here is that components, such as nucleotides, might have special bonding affinities that might cause them to bond together spontaneously into functional sequences. Like if certain SCRABBLE tiles had an affinity for certain other tiles that caused them to bond together whenever they met.

Meyer writes:

Consider what would happen if the individual nucleotide “letters” in a DNA molecule did interact by chemical necessity with each other. Every time adenine (A) occurred in a growing genetic sequence, it would likely drag thymine (T) along with it. Every time cytosine (C) appeared, guanine (G) would follow. As a result, the DNA message text would be peppered with repeating sequences of A’s followed by T’s and C’s followed by G’s.

3. Self-organization:

The idea here is that some spontaneous order might arise due to some physical force, just like rocks sort themselves by size in a rock agitator because of gravity.

Meyer writes:

…just as magnetic letters can be combined and recombined in any way to form various sequences on a metal surface, so too can each of the four bases A, T, G, and C attach to any site on the DNA backbone with equal facility, making all sequences equally probable (or improbable). The same type of chemical bond occurs between the bases and the backbone regardless of which base attaches. All four bases are acceptable; none is preferred. In other words, differential bonding affinities do not account for the sequencing of the bases. Because these same facts hold for RNA molecules, researchers who speculate that life began in an “RNA world” have also failed to solve the sequencing problem…

Understanding what creates information

The bottom line is that in order for software code, or even English letters, to be functional, it needs to defy ordering mechanisms. Biological sequences are functional for the same reason that software code or English text is functional – because some intelligent agent chose an irregular sequence of characters in order to achieve a specific purpose. Look at the letters in this post – they are not ORDERED by physical laws. They are SELECTED by an intelligent agent.

Meyer writes:

To see the distinction between order and information, compare the sequence “ABABABABAB ABAB” to the sequence “Time and tide wait for no man.” The first sequence is repetitive and ordered, but not complex or informative.

What causes specified, complex sequences?

…the information contained in an English sentence or computer software does not derive from the chemistry of the ink or the physics of magnetism, but from a source extrinsic to physics and chemistry altogether. Indeed, in both cases, the message transcends the properties of the medium… Our experience with information–intensive systems (especially codes and languages) indicates that such systems always come from an intelligent source…

And this is what everybody means by “intelligent design”. This design inference came from the progress of science. The more we discovered about the cell, the more nature pointed towards a creative, designing intelligence. The only option left to atheists now is blind faith that the Flying Spaghetti Monster will swoop in and undo the progress of science over the last 100 years. Good luck with that, atheists!

Further study

One of my favorite resources on the origin of life is this interview from the University of California with former atheist and origin of life researcher Dean Kenyon. Kenyon, a professor of Biology at San Francisco State University, wrote the textbook on “chemical evolution”, which is the view that chemicals can arrange themselves in order to create the first living cell, without intervention.

This interview from the University of California with another origin of life researcher, Charles Thaxton, is also one of my favorites.

You’ll need Quicktime to see the videos, or buy the videos from ARN. (Kenyon, Thaxton) I have both of them – they rock!

Could the building blocks of life have emerged spontaneously on the early Earth?

The origin of life

There are two problems related to the origin of the first living cell, on atheism:

  1. The problem of getting the building blocks needed to create life – i.e. the amino acids
  2. The problem of creating the functional sequences of amino acids and proteins that can support the minimal operations of a simple living cell

Normally, I concede the first problem and grant the atheist all the building blocks he needs. This is because step 2 is impossible. There is no way, on atheism, to form the sequences of amino acids that will fold up into proteins, and then to form the sequences of proteins that can be used to form everything else in the cell, including the DNA itself. But that’s tomorrow’s topic.

Today, let’s take a look at the problems with step 1.

The problem of getting the building blocks of life

Now you may have heard that some scientists managed to spark some gasses to generate most of the 20 amino acids found in living systems. These experiments are called the “Miller-Urey” experiments.

The IDEA center has a nice summary of origin-of-life research that explains a few of the main problems with step 1.

Miler and Urey used the wrong gasses:

Miller’s experiment requires a reducing methane and ammonia atmosphere,11, 12 however geochemical evidence says the atmosphere was hydrogen, water, and carbon dioxide (non-reducing).15, 16 The only amino acid produced in a such an atmosphere is glycine (and only when the hydrogen content is unreasonably high), and could not form the necessary building blocks of life.11

Miller and Urey didn’t account for UV of molecular instability:

Not only would UV radiation destroy any molecules that were made, but their own short lifespans would also greatly limit their numbers. For example, at 100ºC (boiling point of water), the half lives of the nucleic acids Adenine and Guanine are 1 year, uracil is 12 years, and cytozine is 19 days20 (nucleic acids and other important proteins such as chlorophyll and hemoglobin have never been synthesized in origin-of-life type experiments19).

Miller and Urey didn’t account for molecular oxygen:

We all have know ozone in the upper atmosphere protects life from harmful UV radiation. However, ozone is composed of oxygen which is the very gas that Stanley Miller-type experiments avoided, for it prevents the synthesis of organic molecules like the ones obtained from the experiments! Pre-biotic synthesis is in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario. The chemistry does not work if there is oxygen because the atmosphere would be non-reducing, but if there is no UV-light-blocking oxygen (i.e. ozone – O3) in the atmosphere, the amino acids would be quickly destroyed by extremely high amounts of UV light (which would have been 100 times stronger than today on the early earth).20, 21, 22 This radiation could destroy methane within a few tens of years,23 and atmospheric ammonia within 30,000 years.15

And there were three other problems too:

At best the processes would likely create a dilute “thin soup,”24 destroyed by meteorite impacts every 10 million years.20, 25 This severely limits the time available to create pre-biotic chemicals and allow for the OOL.

Chemically speaking, life uses only “left-handed” (“L”) amino acids and “right-handed” (“R)” genetic molecules. This is called “chirality,” and any account of the origin of life must somehow explain the origin of chirality. Nearly all chemical reactions produce “racemic” mixtures–mixtures with products that are 50% L and 50% R.

Two more problems are not mentioned in the article. A non-peptide bond anywhere in the chain will ruin the chain. You need around 200 amino acids to make a protein. If any of the bonds is not a peptide bond, the chain will not work in a living system. Additionally, the article does not mention the need for the experimenter to intervene in order to prevent interfering cross-reactions that would prevent the amino acids from forming.

The progress of science

As science has progressed, the discoveries have proved out the need for a Creator and Designer in every area – the big bang, cosmic, galactic and stellar fine-tuning, the Cambrian explosion, etc…. and even the origin of life.

“More than 30 years of experimentation on the origin of life in the fields of chemical and molecular evolution have led to a better perception of the immensity of the problem of the origin of life on Earth rather than to its solution. At present all discussions on principal theories and experiments in the field either end in stalemate or in a confession of ignorance. New lines of thinking and experimentation must be tried.”

(Dose, Klaus, “The Origin of Life: More Questions Than Answers,” Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, Vol. 13, No. 4, 1988, p.348.)

Meanwhile, atheists are left to have blind faith that the progress scientists have made during decades of research will be miraculously overturned by new evidence that their beloved unobservable Flying Spaghetti Monster, (peas be upon him), did it. Hey! Don’t blaspheme against the non-supernatural powers of his noodly appendage! (Two Ph.Ds in biology will not save you from the wrath of the Darwoid cultists!)

To see how bad this gets for atheists, watch this video where Dawkins says that unobservable aliens evolved somewhere else and then seeded the Earth with life. He has no evidence that these aliens did evolve (no fossil record), and even worse, he does not know whether they even exist. Nevertheless, that is the state of atheism today – an unobservable Flying Spaghetti Monster evolved somewhere else and seeded the Earth with life.

What else could have happened?

Further study

One of my favorite resources on the origin of life is this interview from the University of California with former atheist and origin of life researcher Dean Kenyon. Kenyon, a professor of Biology at San Francisco State University, wrote the textbook on “chemical evolution”, which is the view that chemicals can arrange themselves in order to create the first living cell, without intervention.

This interview from the University of California with another origin of life researcher, Charles Thaxton, is also one of my favorites.

You’ll need Quicktime to see the videos, or buy the videos from ARN. (Kenyon, Thaxton) I have both of them – they rock!