Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

News Flash! Materialists Caught in Denial

  1. Nov 24, 2003 #1

    Les Sleeth

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    In a recent article just published (here) scientific materialists are shown to be in major denial about something that affects the very heart of their theory that the origin of life, and all on-going life processes now, can be accounted for by chemistry and physical processes alone (what I will refer to as chemogenesis). This debate began in Nautica’s thread “Religion disproving Evolution and proving Creation through Science???” I will reiterate the main points made there.

    My claim is that chemistry cannot be shown to produce the particular sort of organization that is necessary for, and indeed central to, life. To reflect more clearly about the problem, I ask thinkers to separate the two concepts of 1) chemistry and 2) organization.

    Regarding chemistry, there is no doubt it is the physical basis of life. Likewise, there is no doubt that the chemistry of life achieves incredible things; even when not technically alive, for instance, one can use cellular constituents in chemically sophisticated ways. Now, humanity has considerable skill with chemistry - - we work with it all the time. Let’s say we get to the stage one day were we can replicate every single bit of chemistry that goes on in life. Will we then have life? No, not quite yet because we need something more.

    The “more” we need is for that chemistry to enter into what we might term progressive organization. Progressive organization is characterized by at least four traits:
    1. It progresses toward systems. To define “system” (minimally) for this setting, it is: a set of interacting processes that achieve something. That is, it is not just repetitive as in say crystal organization, but instead develops multipart characteristics which are aimed at the second trait, and that is . . .
    2. It is adaptive. It progresses in such a way as to help the system adapt to and take advantage of environmental conditions. Progressive system building actually uses resources from the environment to do a third thing, which is . . .
    3. It progresses hierarcally. It builds systems on top of more elementary systems, with each new system furthering the adaptability of the overall system aggregate. Finally . . .
    4. Progressive organization persists perpetually. This is no small matter because it is that persistence which seems to have forced chemistry into “living” in the first place, and then what kept it going for billions of years through every hostility Earth’s violent ways imposed on it.

    Okay, so we have the great potentials of chemistry, and we have the great potentials of organization. We know the two work together well because life demonstrates that. The claim materialists make is that the organizational profundity of life is derived from chemical and other physical potentials. And what is their evidence? Well, chemogenesis advocates routinely cite one marvelous bit of chemical capacity after another as though this answers the question.

    They point to the spontaneous organizing behavior of crystals, polymers, or autocatalytic reactions. Some researchers see as more significant the spontaneous formation of organic molecules, such as amino acids or the development of proteinoid microspheres.

    Yet all of this fails to explain the organizational issue. No one, not ever, has reproduced in chemistry (or through any other physical means) a spontaneous-launching organizational process of the sort that that will: perpetually develop adaptive systems, build one hierarcally system on top of another, and with each new system support the survivability of the overall system.

    So I say that if one cannot get chemistry to kick into progressively organizing gear, then why be so ready to believe chemistry can do it? And I don’t insist one has to achieve life from chemistry either; I mean prove progressive organization (as defined) is possible from chemistry and Earth’s physics. Isn’t that a reasonable request from a man of reason?
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2003
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 24, 2003 #2

    Les Sleeth

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    FZ, I hope you don’t mind I moved your comment here, but it offered a good opportunity to make a point. Also, I know when you wrote it you hadn’t read the theme of this thread, and that you might have answered differently if you had (or not at all).

    However, none your examples above are progressive organization (and we can eliminate gene triggering right off the bat because you’ve already got life-generated structure in the mix).

    This argument you advance is the typical one, and what it does is under-evaluate the quality of organization present in life. It is like saying an invisible, never-seen symphonic orchestra heard in the distance most likely derives from frogs because a symphony is sound, and a frog makes sound.

    I fully acknowledge that chemistry can self-organize to some extent, but that is not what has happened to form living chemistry. The organization necessary had to have been far more developed than that, as I listed above.

    And if this statement is evidence of chemogenesis, “In effect, ordinary chemistry, when driven by a constant source like the sun, is self-organising all the time to adapt to its surroundings,” then shouldn’t we expect life to be forming from chemistry on a regular basis? Plus, if chemistry is the organizer, then why when life “dies” should its chemistry rather quickly start loosing all it’s organizational capacity? I mean, the chemistry is still there isn’t it?
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2003
  4. Nov 24, 2003 #3

    Another God

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    I think you have assumed too much on to what you call living chemistry.

    I'm sorry, but when I look at the molecular functioning of cells, all i see is simple chemical interactions. There is no progressive orgnaisation like you describe it anywhere. There is just simple chemical organisation ontop of simple chemical organisation placed ontop of simple chemical organisation.

    DNA copies because of its base pairing properties. RNA is made because of its base pairing properties. Proteins are made because of RNA's base pairing properties. Proteins interact chemically do do chemically enzymatic things. Lipids form bilayers because thats what they do.

    Just because u have an incredibly well refined version of life in front of you doesn't mean that everything that could be considered living has to be like that. Besides, what seperates a large scale PCR reaction from a collection of living systems anyway? They are replicating aren't they? They are taking parts of their environment and orgasnising them (in the act of replicating)....what else did you want?

    Let me guess: that doesn't count for some reason does it?

    I have read over much of the other thread, and it just annoyed me more than anything. I took it seriously. I am not adverse to people questioning things that I believe. In fact, that is what I look for. (not that you would believe me) While I was reading over it, I knew that there was something wrong with it all. Something which I could say that would make it all understanable to you...but I am now pretty certain that there is nothing I can say. As I have found time and time again, this disagreement comes down to a difference in our brain function/Belief structure. No amount of reasoning on my behalf will change your thoughts, same from you for me.

    You see, I look at life, i see chemistry in action. You look at life, you see 'life'. No matter how much i describe how there is only chemistry there, you will keep searching for the life element: The thing which seperates it from everything else. And no matter how much you tell me that my descriptions of chemistry haven't captured the life element, I will just continue to describe the chemistry (because I don't need a life element). See, I don't think life is different. I think life is another typical human creation, based on the obvious, but not actually representative of truth.

    Anyway, end rant.
  5. Nov 24, 2003 #4

    Another God

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    PS: If you can find a way to show me what i have missed, which will make me look at the topic your way, then tell me that. Telling me that chemistry can't do it won't work, because I can't see anything but chemistry.

    PPS: I don't think the name of this thread is overly conducive to open philsopical discussio , but i'm not overly fussed.
  6. Nov 25, 2003 #5
    AG, I'll tell you what I think LWSleeth is saying and see if that helps. LWS, If I haven't understood it then let me know.

    To use a simple analogy, it seems to me that you are saying that when you look at a skyscraper and pull it apart, you see nothing but brick, glass, steel etc. etc. That's all it takes to make a skyscraper as far as you're concerned. And I hear LWS saying "show me brick, glass and steel that can build itself into a skyscraper." Seems like you aren't answering the exact question he's asking.
  7. Nov 25, 2003 #6

    Another God

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    The sub-micro world is incredibly different to our Macro world. This analogy is meaningless.

    Electronegativity is very different to gravity. Different forces at work, different considerations.

    A more accurate analogy would be : I look at builders building a building and think "Yep, thats builders, taking in resources (Sand, rock, steel etc), and making things out of it, as builders will tend to do"

    Builders (humans) act in ways which is typical of their behaviour, while chemicals act in ways which are typical to their behaviour.

    I am sure someone will claim that 'Humans think' and that molecules dont: To which I reply: Show me a thinking human, and I will accept your reply
  8. Nov 25, 2003 #7
    The sky-scraper of biochemical systems is thought have built by natural selection acting on DNA, mRNA etc, AFAIK
  9. Nov 25, 2003 #8
    One snide remark then I will get to my point. Your title to this thread is redundant. Materialism is denial and rejection!

    To my knowledge there has never been found any evolutionary precursurs to life. There is no proto RNA or DNA, no proto cell the is almost alive but not quite.

    We see in the cosmic clouds and in nature and the labs all of the building block, amino acids proteins etc, of life but it never takes the next step. It never starts to form more organized self replicating or more complicated molecules that would lead to life.

    When faced with this fact most say well it all got ate up by life forms once it got beyound that stage. That may be true but if it autogenesis were the case then it would still be going on and we should be able to detect it happening now in nature or in the lab.

    We create a garden of eden in a test tube and all we end up with is a soup of chemicals that never progress beyound a cetain point. The next step toward your progressive organization never happens.

    There is no evidence that it ever did or does happen under any conditions. For hundreds of millions of years no life nor evidence of life and no indications of proto-life then life. Fully formed functioning life that immediately sets about terra forming the planet
    to support more complex and advanced forms of life.

    If any of you doubt that life has done this read Gaia by James Lovelock. You don't have to buy into his hypothesis but the reasons and support for coming to his conclusions is eye opening to say the least.
  10. Nov 25, 2003 #9


    User Avatar

    Because we have not actually said what life is!

    Any set of objective criteria we try to set out - like your self-organisation one, inevitably runs into problems, and we always end up with an arbitary set of characteristic made to exclude other possibilities. For example, if we look at the ones listed:

    A crystal does acheive something - it sends a random mess into a body of high complexity, acheiving a minimalisation of potential.Ice crystals branch to produce snowflakes of infinite complexity. Fire acheives something - it reduces a set of raw materials into smoke and ashes. Everything acheives something, and life is fundamentally a repetitive process of cycles of breeding.

    Chemical REactions are a codification of adaptation. We say this word almost without thinking, but whenever we do mention a reaction, we are talking about adaptation taking place.

    This is untrue for the vast majority of life forms, which have truned out to be evolutionary dead ends. In any reaction, an initial reaction can be considered by cause and effect to have a whole series of tertiary systems. A fire for example has a central flame, and then a convection effect is evolved, and this causes smoke which exhibit the additional characteristic of turbulence, so on and so forth. By adjusting the scale, anything can be made to be "alive".

    But it isn't. Not more than any form of chemical equilibrium. Life is ultimately driven by the almost eternal input of the sun, and once that goes out, the reaction of life will cease very quickly.

    We must note that for each of these attempts to define, there is always a neccessary layer of vagueness to allow us to make distinctions. Without removing this vagueness, we cannot attempt to deny the possibility, at least, of chemogenesis.
  11. Nov 25, 2003 #10
    Life can and does exist on earth without being driven by the sun. There is abundant life not only in the depths of the oceans floor but in the depths of mineral and oil deposits thousands of feet below ground. Life only needs energy whether from the sun, chemical or geothermal energy. It is lierally everywhere on earth flourishing in conditions that we previously thought impossible for life to exist. This is my main reason for not accepting autogenesis. Life is so aggressive and invasive that I would think that given the slightest chance to start on its own as in the lab experiments it would do so almost imediately or at the very least begin to take the next steps beyound relatively simple proteins and amino acids.
  12. Nov 25, 2003 #11


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    Life needs...

    Life also needs a free energy gradient, so it can exploit being an open system.
  13. Nov 25, 2003 #12

    Les Sleeth

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    The title was meant to stir up things a bit , but no insult intended . I assumed materialists could take a good-natured ribbing as well as anyone.

    However, it's true that this thread is meant to taunt those who've assumed a philosophical position and then claim they are considering all the evidence objectively, when in reality they are ignoring relevant evidence (and the lack of it in their own theory), and only looking at that which supports their beliefs. Personally, I think true philosophers should seek the truth rather than wish to have their beliefs confirmed.

    The question is, why is it you only see chemistry? Let’s put all the chemicals of life in one vat, and a living cell in another. Are you saying you can’t see a difference in what goes on organizationally? A single, simple cell is performing organizational tasks that are a zillion degrees ahead of anything a mere collection of the chemicals can do on their own. You got your chemistry, but you can’t make it spontaneously organize into life, nor can you get chemical organization to behave very progressively without considerable help from conscious manipulations.

    ???????????? Wow, and you don’t see the logic problem with your examples? Are we talking about chemogenesis or what DNA or PCR can do? So let’s see, you would feel it is logical to claim there is nothing to an automobile except mechanistic processes, right (i.e., and ignore the quality and functionality of it’s organization)? And because of that, you are logically justified in assuming the car most likely built itself through those very mechanistic processes that make it function as a system, right?

    To make your case, you pull the car’s carburetor off, or take its engine out, or remove its transmission and then creatively hook them up to other mechanical systems and say, “See how they work 100% mechanistically apart from the car? That proves there is nothing but mechanics!” Now if you did that with a car, most people would suspect you didn’t want to acknowledge the element that organized the many parts which make a car function the way it does.

    And if you continued to insist mechanical processes alone had self-organized the raw materials that make up a car, then reasonable people would say, “okay, show us how that occurs.” Maybe you’d say, “Here’s some evidence, look at a tumble weed, it is round and the wind blows it around, and hey, look at those two tumble weeds that got stuck on a stick, and are rolling together, just like an axle!” There you have it, because there are various mechanical processes which do spontaneously occur, it is logical to assume they can organize themselves into a car, right?

    Similarly, you want to argue that some of the sophisticated chemistry DNA helps to achieve proves it’s just chemistry. But how did DNA get in that shape? Let’s just see you get chemicals, left on their own in conditions we might expect in Earth’s early life, to form into DNA. No matter what caused that organization, SOMETHING did. And compared to biology, a car would be a breeze to form spontaneously . . . life is thousands-fold more complicated and sophisticated.

    I do not see “life,” I see a quality of organization no one can demonstrate chemistry, all by itself, can do. The only reason I don’t accept your explanation is because it is unsupported by proper evidence.

    Well, that seems an ironic thing to say since you are the one who has the belief, not me. What I have is doubt. I doubt the illogical, poorly-supported materialist explanation for how chemistry produced life; as far as I can see, it is materialist propaganda. If I were into blind faith I might close my eyes to the glaring holes and contradictions in the theory, but I just cannot abandon reason like that.

    I don’t say it’s God because I don’t know what did it. But you say chemistry can do that to itself. I’ve never seen that, you’ve never seen that, no one has ever seen chemistry, on its own, self-organize like that . . . so why do you believe it so strongly if it isn’t to maintain a predisposed materialist philosophy? At least I am open to any explanation, including chemogenesis, that makes sense and which is supported by evidence.
  14. Nov 25, 2003 #13
    This seems to be a huge non-sequitor. The scientific definition of a cell is (basically) "a mere collection of chemicals". You see, you are (basically) saying "A collection of chemicals is (on its own) performing organizational tasks that are ahead of anything a mere collection of chemicals can do on their own".

    Why not? It happened before.

    The "quality and functionality of its organization" are assigned by sentient beings (just like purpose is assigned). It doesn't amount to a hill o' beans as far as a dog (for example) is concerned.

    Do you see what I'm saying? A car is a collection of parts that work together (the basic definition of any machine, including the cell), but there is no gestalt from this as far as any other creature is concerened...it is only the sentient creatures, who spend so much time assigning purpose, that believe there is "something more" to it.

    First off, a car (or any other man-made machine) is a bad analogy to the workings of a cell. It may be very complex, but there are things that are less complex, that still replicate (like viruses), which can be considered "precursors". Besides, one needn't ever postulate that a whole cell could come into existence, but the chemicals can start coming together (over very long periods of time), and natural selection will maintain only the "good" ones; so, eventually, you will have a functioning cell.

    Secondly, there is nothing spontaneous to the abiogenesis of the original cell, it probably took a very long time (as mentioned in the above paragraph).

    Lastly, what is the suggested alternative to the picture that scientists have painted? You are pointing out supposed flaws in their argument, but do you have any replacement postulates?

    Again, it is complicated, but not in the same way that a car is. This is "proven" (I use the term loosely here) by the fact that cells can multi-task, while cars (which were designed) can only do what they were "made to do".

    Anyway, "something" did cause the organization...natural selection.

    People like to use the "if you left a million monkeys in a room with a million type-writers, they would never type a Shakespeare sonnet" rebuttal alot, which is what inspired a certain scientist (whose name I forgot) to create a computer program, that simulated the million monkeys with type-writers, typing random nonsense on the keys. The only thing he added was that any "good" result (such as an "a" in the correct part of "Wherefore art thou Romeo?") would be preserved (which is the function of natural selection). The result, he was providing lines from Shakespearean plays of about thirteen symbols apiece, one/90seconds. He composed an entire play in 4 days.

    You exist, don't you? Isn't that evidence enough?

    Of course no one has. Humanity has only existed for 6,000 years. Conditions on Earth now (abundant in Oxygen) are very bad for abiogenesis, but they were not that way 3 billion years ago, and that's when it's supposed to have happened.

    Now, I'm not saying that this is "truth". But it is valid, IMO.
  15. Nov 25, 2003 #14


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    You gotta deal!

    Now, it took over a billion years while using the entire surface of the Earth as a laboratory for the random elements to combine in an effective replicating way. Since we'll be reducing the size of the sample considerably, to say ... a bathtub, it will take proportionally longer. That would be about a factor of 100 trillion. So, we should expect to see evidence of spontaneous life formation in about 10^23 years in our little experiment.

    The fact that it has not been observed is meaningless.

  16. Nov 25, 2003 #15

    Les Sleeth

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I agree, my list of what constitutes "progressive organization" does not perfectly define what I am talking about. I was trying to point to something which spontaneous-acting chemistry and physical processes cannot be shown to do. So when you say . . .

  17. Nov 25, 2003 #16

    Les Sleeth

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Exactly. That is why I am at a loss to understand the lack of doubt in chemogenesis theory by the materialist. One would think if they were objective, we'd at least see the same skepticism shown toward any hypothesized process one cannot confirm. What's up with that? Are we getting real science here, or are we being propagandized to?
  18. Nov 25, 2003 #17
    Actually, LW Sleeth, as you are probably well aware, the theory of Evolution did stir up huge contraversy (and not, as many people think, among the Christians (they just jumped on the bandwagon, for some reason, which I'll never understand), but among the scientists...it persisted for quite some time, that any idea that resembled "Darwinism" was denounced without fair trial; sometimes without trial at all). As it is, there is mounting evidence for it, and scientists are biased towards evidence.
  19. Nov 25, 2003 #18

    Les Sleeth

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Yes, I am saying that. AG makes a minor point that your analogy should be the building process rather than the parts, but in the case of chemistry the process can't be shown by itself to build the parts either from scratch .

    In all the (known) universe, there is only one thing that has ever been observed that is capable of progressive organization: consciousness. What does that mean? Well, it could mean progressive organization has some sort of relationship to consciousness. It doesn't have to mean it's God . . . it could be something no one has imagined.

    The point I make here is to wonder why materialists don't notice that resemblence, and why they have such faith in a theory they cannot confirm. Is it denial? Is it due to being committed to the materialist explanation over discovering the truth?
  20. Nov 25, 2003 #19
    Let me see; Les it taunting, and Royce is making snide remarks….
    Excellent ! (now I don’t have to feel so bad when I’m accused of being unfair and insensitive, hehe).

    Are you taking this opportunity to mock all of materialism with your snide remark, or simply the genesis of life via chemistry belief? There is more to materialism than meets the eye, you dig?

    Why should materialists be any less touchy than idealists, when both are human?

    I’m ok with taunting, but I would question the accuracy of the heading chosen for this thread. It would be, for example, nothing particularly special for an idealist to believe an immaterial god imagined the world (causing it to come into physical being) and yet also believe that life was born afterwards through strictly chemical processes. So, what I see being attacked in this thread is not materialism, but chemogenesis, which up until this point has not been able to create what all can agree to as being a living organism.
    I would agree that until such time as a creepy-crawly forms from a laboratory experiment that there should remain room for doubt (seeing is believing). But what this means is the hunt for that magical spark of life must continue to go on. What I wouldn’t agree to is that chemogenesis will never be demonstrated to happen at some point in the future solely because it hasn’t happened up until now. Nevertheless, I confess dissapointment that traces of what we call life were not found on Mars, for example. For the time being, Earth seems to be the only known planet in the game, but the search is still in its infancy. For some this may form part of a proof, for others it is only a disappointment prolonging the inevitable.

    At any rate, the problem with your consciousness scenario is that nobody has ever seen such a thing to exist independent of matter (is it in fact your belief that it may?). Our conscious mind seems to follow our cranium every place we go, is altered by chemicals (tying it to matter), etc. Materialism, as the theory that only physical entities exist and that so-called mental things are manifestations of an underlying physical reality has not been disproved here simply by the lack of a scientist to successfully produce a life form from ‘scratch’.
  21. Nov 25, 2003 #20

    Les Sleeth

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    You are wrong about how a cell is defined. However, you have joined the group who wants to ignore the organizational quality present in a cell.

    Talk about arrogating a principle!

    That's because a dog is too stupid to notice. We aren't.

    I didn't say a thing about "purpose." I simply am pointing to how the organizational effectiveness of biology is uncharacteristic of chemistry left on its own. It doesn't take a genius to notice that (fortunately for me).

    Viruses do not from chemistry alone . . . they require remnant DNA which was once part of life. No virus has ever been observed spontaneously forming from raw materials.

    Okay, demonstrate that. Besides, I don't think a cell needs to come together all at once.

    Long time or not, the theory is that is physical conditions and chemical potential started it spontaneously (spontaneous is not the same thing as instantaneous).

    I might have, but right now I am questioning the faith materialists have in the theory. I say the faith we see them exhibit, and that they often recommend that others should have in chemogenesis theory, is exaggerated because they are pre-committed to a philosophical position. It taints their objectivity and makes them diminish or ignore the problems with the theory.

    Natural selection is how a living animal evolves, it is not how chemogenesis occurred.

    It certainly is. But we aren't debating what is enough, we are discussing if the chemogenesis theory holds water.

    That's a strange thing to say Mentat . . . 6000 years?
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook