I just finished watching a debate on Youtube between a scientist and a young earth creationist.

Now, needless to say- the creationist completely lost the crowd at "dinosaurs walked with humans and still exist today deep in the rainforest..."

but he did make one point which i was wondering whether there was an answer to. on minute 16:30, the creationist, Laurence Tisdall, talks about the irreducible complexity of the single celled organism.

the claim is that even a single celled organism requires at 397 genes in order to exist- and that without those an organism cannot exist- because every cell needs basic genes in order to function. Tisdall invokes the "God of The Gaps" in order to state that there must be an intelligent design to account for the transition from 0 genes to 397, since natural selection does not occur before the first organism is created.

While this is just another attempt at sticking god in the ever shrinking gaps, I was wondering if there was a scientific answer to this- because the other guy doesn't respond to it.

and don't worry- even if there is no answer to this, it would hardly turn me theist.

I think the question of intelligent design doesn't solve anything, but rather just makes things more complicated as it raises two questions:
1. who designed the designer
2. of thousands of different proposed designers, which is it? Jehova? maybe Zeus?

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Precisely, Nelson. The 'minimal genes' argument is the smallest known genome for a modern cell. They completely ignore the possibility of older, more primitive organisms which are not around today because they cannot compete with modern, more evolved life forms.
I think irreducible complexity has been falsified many times already.
he put forward the analogy of the car- that you can strip it of all sorts of parts like lights and doors, but when you take away the engine- that's it.

can a cell (forget organism) even exist as a functioning whole with less than 397 genes? meaning that you need an X number of proteins to create the different components of a cell in order for it to be living, whole and self replicating- regardless of time (be it today or four billion years ago).

This is genuine curiosity talking...
It's quite possible that there were self-replicating organisms before the first cell existed. Just look at a virus, no cell required.

To borrow the creationists' car analogy, he's claiming that transportation had to start with the internal combustion engine, and horse-drawn carriages, horses themselves, and walking are not forms of transportation.
the virus is a good point.

however the horse analogy is wrong because the idea of the internal combustion engine did not "evolve" from the horse or the carriage.
of course it evolved- as all ideas do from previous ones- just not specifically from the horse
True, it was not the best of analogies, but neither was the original one. And the car did, in fact, develop from the horse-drawn carriage. (And the steam engine.)
fire -> boiling water- > steam engine- > combustion engine

really big rock down down a slope -> wheel -> carriage -> car
it is minor and unimportant, just that i don't see the connection between a carriage and a car other than it's a more sophisticated form of transportation.

i was referring to the fact that much like biological evolution, in the realm of ideas- no innovation comes from thin air. and to say that the car is a direct development on the carriage is wrong in the sense that the car is an innovation which came about when combining two separate concepts - the steam engine, and the carriage.

what makes a car a car is the fact that it propels itself- meaning the internal combustion engine- which did not come from the horse or carriage.

not very important though....
The car analogy is fine, but like most analogies, can only go so far before it breaks down. For one, we are comparing the evolution of inanimate objects to biological objects. There is enough difference there to kill any analogies between the two with only minor scratching of the surface, no matter which side is using it.

Bottom line is that modern biology can and does account for complex features arising from more simplistic forms.
quoting myself: "i don't see the connection between a carriage and a car other than it's a more sophisticated form of transportation."

the fault is mine for not explaining myself better. of course they're similar- and of course it's a horseless carriage.

but what makes a car a car- is the engine - which did not evolve from the horse or carriages, but rather from other, more primitive engines. "Cars" were born as a fusion between two distinctly separate realms of ideas- just like any good innovation- carriages and engines.

if you say they're descendant from one another in the sense that sometime in history someone looked at a carriage and said "gee i wonder if i can make that thing propel itself"- then yes, engines came from carriages.

but i'd throw a wild guess in saying that the thought process that led to the first engine was probably more related to chimneys and cooking than to automobiles- and that the two were only fused together much later on.

this discussion could not have digressed more :)
Irreducible complexity has beat up badly since Michael Behe brought it to the spot light at the Dover trial (maybe even before that).

This video is my favorite though:

It usually shows its flaws quite early on, because removing parts could make it function as something else. I've not seen "smallest simplest cell" used before this video; but I think Dave and Doone cover fairly well; just because we are looking at the simplest we know of doesn't mean something simpler doesn't exist. Although we have labs that have started producing abiogenisis-like conditions and results, we have not yet observed full abiogenisis, so we don't know what the most simply cell might look like.

A third question I might add to the end of your original post there: why did the designer allow so many flaws in the things he designed?


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