OOL’s Gold and Animism
What is the spark that turns molecules into life? For the materialist, it’s the spirit of imagination.
Illustra’s film Origin presents a calculation by Doug Axe, PhD biochemist at the Biologic Institute who worked at Cambridge University, who figured out the improbability of a relatively small functional protein of 100 amino acids. The chance of getting such a protein under ideal conditions, he said, is one in 10161.* This probability is so inexpressibly low, it gives a reasonable person confidence it will never, ever happen anywhere in the entire universe—just getting one smaller-than-average functional protein. The simplest cell we know has over 300 different proteins. And that’s just one of the numerous problems the film presents that should rule materialistic origin-of-life theories completely out of court.
So why do evolutionists persist in their view that life emerged by chance? Look at a press release from the University of Wisconsin-Madison that begins optimistically, “Experiments test how easy life itself might be.” How can a miracle of chance this improbable be easy?
David Baum, chair and professor of botany at UW–Madison and a Discovery Fellow at WID, thinks the earliest life might have relied on a primitive metabolism that originally started on mineral surfaces. Many central reactions in modern cells rely on iron-sulfur catalysts. This reliance on iron and sulfur could be a record stamped into cells of the environments where metabolism itself first evolved. Baum is testing this idea by turning to iron pyrite, a mineral of iron and sulfur better known as fool’s gold.
The reader is treated to a view of vials of non-living molecules rocking back and forth. The perhapsimaybecouldness index rises:
Together with Mike Berg, a graduate student researching the origins of life, Baum is mixing microscopic beads of iron pyrite with a source of chemical energy and simple molecular building blocks. As vials of this mixture rock back and forth in the lab, small groups of chemicals bound to the mineral surface might aggregate and start assisting one another in producing more chemicals. If so, they’re likely to spread to other iron pyrite beads, colonizing new surfaces.
Notice what Baum and Berg have done. They have endowed molecules with spirits. Only living things can rely on, assist, and colonize. If they were really materialists (or even methodological naturalists), they would have to agree that molecules will do nothing more than blindly obey the laws they learned in high school chemistry class. Impersonal molecules have neither the desire nor power to rise above those laws (see personification fallacy).
Cells need the kinds of metabolic reactions that Baum studies to produce energy and the components of more complex molecules. They also need a way to store information. All living cells pass on their genetic information with DNA. But UW–Madison professor of chemical and biological engineering and WID systems biologist John Yin is exploring alternative ways to store and process information with simpler molecules in an effort to understand how information storage could evolve without cells or DNA.
Nobody says that rock piles at the base of a cliff store information that the cliff needs to evolve. That would be ridiculous. But Yin adds his yang to Baum’s bomb by imagining non-living molecular clusters needing an information storage system. Multiplying the confusion, he plagiarizes a life force from human technology:
Taking a cue from computer science, Yin is working with the most basic method of encoding information, binary. In place of electronic bits, his ones and zeros are the two simplest amino acids, glycine and alanine. Using a unique form of chemistry, Yin is drying out mixtures of the amino acids to encourage them to join together.
These WID scholars should be asking whether natural forces actually do join amino acids together without “encourage”ment. They should consider whether chemicals actually do recognize information on their own. Oil separates from water in an oil slick, producing a rainbow of colors. Would Yin, Baum and Berg call that an information storage system? Information implies more than chemical properties of matter; it implies the ability to read, analyze, and interpret those properties. That requires a mind.
There’s only one way their statements make sense: in a mystic religion. The religion being practiced at University of Wisconsin-Madison (and many other venues in the Origin of Life Circus) is animism: the view that material entities are endowed with unseen spirits. The spirits of amino acids need each other, so glycine and alanine want to get married and bear offspring. The amino acids teach their progeny what they have learned in life, so that they pass on information and improve on it. Now we understand. Let’s help this blessed union by rocking them back and forth in test tubes.
In an ironic violation of separation of church and state, the American government promotes this religion. The press release says, “The project recently received $2.5 million in funding from NASA.”
*Justification for the calculation can be found in Axe’s book Undeniable and in Stephen Meyer’s book Signature in the Cell. For those who question Axe’s calculation, it should be noted that his is just one of a long string of similar results by both creationists (e.g., J. F. Coppedge) and evolutionists (such as Fred Hoyle, mathematicians at the Wistar Institute, and others listed by Meyer and Axe). Improbabilities of this order are so intractable, they could be off by many orders of magnitude and still rule out a materialistic origin of life.
The OOL school at UW puts a whole new slant on fool’s gold.