“Not only has Dawkins ruined science. He’s ruined atheism too.”

Last week I skewered Richard Dawkins for saying life was a “happy chemical accident” on National Public Radio.

Richard Dawkins

A reader of my blog (a smart, well educated guy) rushed to Dawkins’ defense.

I demanded he explain how

“happy chemical accident” qualifies as science.

My reader retorts:

“Oh, I forgot NPR interviews are venues for rigid, technical discourse! How silly of me!”

I reply: “When the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science from Oxford University appears on National Public Radio, don’t you think we should expect answers that do in fact further the public understanding of science?

“Or… should we settle for glib dismissive attempts to dodge the question?

“YOU seem to be a reasonably intelligent and educated guy. So why are you of all people attempting to defend him or deflect blame when Dawkins puts his foot in his mouth?

“Surely you’re more than a mere minion of Richard Dawkins. Why not just be honest and hold the guy responsible for saying something so dodgy and unscientific?”

The fact that people like you rush to Dawkins’ defense – when you should be calling him out on his dishonesty – is a smoking gun.

Why can’t atheists hold Dawkins’ feet to the fire for being the anti-scientific crank that he is?

Not only has Dawkins ruined science, he’s ruined atheism too.

20 years ago, an atheist was an intellectual with whom one could have a reasonable dialogue.

Today, most people experience atheists as bellicose angry males who commonly suffer from depression, who post anonymous tirades all over the internet so they can share their misery with everyone else.

We have the New Atheists to thank for this. And their four horsemen. Dawkins – Dennett – Harris – Hitchens.

Wanna have an intelligent discussion about atheism? Read Voltaire, Nietzche or Bertrand Russell.

Agree or disagree, they will force you to think.

Wanna have a pointless shouting match with a bunch of mannerless name-callers who make up just-so stories about warm ponds and lucky lightning strikes and think they’re doing science? Sit down with guys who read Krauss, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris. Walk into a roomful of Dawkins fans. 

They will force you to emote.

So, dear atheist, why are you sitting here defending any of these proselytizers?

Why do you allow Dawkins to abuse his position and not even do his job as a scientist?

Atheists, I respect your right and desire to be atheists.

But I do not respect you when you defend anti-intellectual, anti-scientific dogmas that have no explanatory power, no service to humanity.

And I do not respect you when you defend a bully who relegates incredibly valuable scientific questions to mere accident.

639 Responses

  1. Paul Cotton says:

    Perry – the article on miracles is interesting but like things biblical, it is anecdotal and unsupported by empirical observation. If these “miracles” were anything but bogus there would be no need for medicine in the world of those who pray. Recently Mother Teresa was beatified for being around when two people allegedly recovered “Miraculously”. Rome of course used this as a political opportunity to shore up a lot of damage .

    • You did not read my article. Otherwise you would never say “it is anecdotal and unsupported by empirical observation.”

      What an absurd statement.

      Read the peer reviewed paper in Southern Medical Journal. Read my article in full detail. Do not skim. Click the links. Watch the videos. Avail yourself of the resources. Investigate the information. Read at least one of the books.

      Once you have apprised yourself of the facts I will be happy to discuss them with you.

      • Paul Cotton says:

        The dictionary defines a miracle as an event contrary to the laws of nature. If they happen, then why are they so exclusive? Why do we need medicine? Why are they not made public and subjected to the usual tests? Of course people recover from terrible illness for no obvious reason and one can see why these events would be described as miraculous. Why do you think that they are so rare? Why do even the most devout believers still succumb to disease? My statement absurd? In relation to much of what you report here as fact, I think not, but then I am not an American. 🙂

        • Paul,

          First I apologize for the abrasive tone of my earlier reply. I should have been more respectful.

          YES, miracles are by definition events contrary to the laws of nature. You can get philosophical about it and debate whether they are truly interventions of the laws of nature or if they simply invoke even higher laws. I side with the latter. But either way, in the New Testament Jesus uses them to prove his divinity and spiritual authority. For example:

          Luke 5:21 But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”

          22 Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? 23 Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? 24 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man[d] has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”

          25 And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, and they praised God, exclaiming, “We have seen amazing things today!”


          Yes, miracles are by definition exceptions to the way everyone clearly understands the world to operate. Paralyzed people do not just “rise and walk” normally. Dead people do not rise from the dead. EVERYONE KNOWS THIS. (Yes, even unsophisticated Bronze Age peasants, who were not nearly as gullible as some 21st century people assume.)

          Why are miracles so exclusive? Because they are, by definition, rare. But they verify the authenticity of the messengers of God. By purely historical standards, the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is very strong. If you doubt me, then give authors like N.T. Wright and William Lane Craig a fair and honest reading.

          If you dive into this topic, you will find:

          No one who rejects the resurrection offers a convincing alternative explanation of what happened. Theories abound, but no single “2nd theory” has achieved any real consensus; alternative theories all have significant problems and leave major questions unanswered.

          Even a prominent skeptic admits: If God exists, belief in the resurrection is philosophically rational and historically reasonable. “Atheists are quick to ridicule the resurrection because of its miraculous nature; Christian apologists are quick to point out that an a priori rejection of the miraculous is unwarranted.

          “Both sides are correct within their worldview. But they have failed to argue outside of their worldview. Atheists should not be so quick to ridicule the miraculous and use a Humean attack on miracles to refute the resurrection. Unless atheists can demonstrate that theism is irrational or that the historical evidence for a material resurrection is lacking, they are unlikely to convince many theists to reject the resurrection. Similarly, Christian apologists need to recognize that, until atheists are shown that theism is plausible, atheists will continue to regard the resurrection as a highly implausible event.

          “I think it is rational to both accept and reject the resurrection. I think there are strong historical arguments for the resurrection (a lá William Lane Craig), but I also think there are good reasons to reject such arguments. I realize this may sound like a cop-out to some, but I think it is quite reasonable, especially when the issue of prior probability is taken into consideration.” -Jeffrey Jay Lowder, The Historicity of Jesus’ Resurrection, 1995 (Infidels.org)

          The question is: What interpretation of these historical facts best explains the sudden origin of early Christianity, belief in a risen Christ, and the explosive growth of the church, even in the face of severe persecution?

          See more at http://www.coffeehousetheology.com/what-we-know-about-jesus-and-the-resurrection/


          If you do the research – and I suggest you take my article at http://www.coffeehousetheology.com/miracles very, very seriously – you will find that there is an abundance of evidence for miracles. Stacks of books. Thousands of YouTube videos. Thousands of years of history. It’s a large subject. No atheist can reasonably deny that something very very unusual is happening, if he will only examine the evidence.

          You will find that evidence follows the 80/20 rule. 80% of the reports are purely anecdotal. They are simply peoples’ stories and don’t stand up to any kind of skeptical scrutiny. But there are LOT of them. And I mean a lot.

          20% of the reports are quite a bit better than that. Actual names and places and some level of information.

          20% of the 20% are even better. You have significant details provided and it’s quite obvious that something quite exceptional happened.

          20% of the 20% of the 20% – maybe 1% – include actual medical reports, testimonies from doctors, video, corroboration from many witnesses, and you cannot reasonably deny they happened.

          The Catholic Church has an entire protocol for vetting miracles and it is quite rigorous. Very, very few make the cut – they will say that even though it may be likely that it happened, they do not have enough evidence to be reasonably certain so they will not accept it. The book “Miracle Detective” by Rolling Stone journalist Randall Sullivan talks about this in detail.

          What I have provided here is *some* of the best evidence that I have personally encountered myself, and a few books that I have found quite useful. It is only the tip of the iceberg.

          But for example I have personal direct experience with THREE people who had severe hearing loss who got it back, and all three got it back while they were being prayed for. They weren’t brushing their teeth, they weren’t at a doctor’s office, they weren’t driving to work, they were being prayed for.

          Do you think all those 3 times were a coincidence? Statistically what are the chances that this was just a random occurrence, if all three got their hearing back *at a prayer service?*

          I will admit to considerable personal frustration that most Christians simply do not bother to document miracles. They are content to receive them and rarely will they compile the x-rays, doctors reports, case histories etc. so as to convince a skeptical person like yourself. But a small percentage do and there is an ABUNDANCE of evidence if you will simply look. Piles of it.

          And let me remind you, in many cases you can go talk to the people yourself. I can introduce you to the deaf people who got their hearing back. You can shake their hand.

          This is a matter of urgent importance. Why? Because atheists claim there is no evidence for miracles. That is flatly false. It is a lie. And if even ONE of these many miracles was actually performed by God as I claim, then two things are true:

          1) You are under the judgment of God, who has authenticated his presence in the world by doing miraculous things that you can verify for yourself, and

          2) It is also proof that you are invited into God’s grace for forgiveness, redemption, and a connection with the divine. This is available to you if you will turn to God and repent.

          It is not my job to convince you. But in presenting the evidence I have done the part that is my job – bearing irrefutable testimony.

          All the apostles still eventually died, even the ones that healed people. The only person in the New Testament who became physically immortal was Jesus. That doesn’t change the fact that these miracles still happened. As Jesus said in John 10:38:

          “But if I do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.”

          • Paul Cotton says:

            Too many points here to challenge in a short mail, but I will say that you are very dependent upon the bible as a source. It is notoriously unreliable as a historical document and little in it is backed up by contemporary historical works, especially the so called miracles performed by Jesus. Where else are these events recorded other than your bible?

              • Paul Cotton says:

                How accurate would your report be of events that occurred several decades ago? Do you not think that you would rely on rumour and handed down memories? Do you not imagine that you may well rely on what you had heard may have happened? Why did they wait so long to record such “important” happenings? I hear that there were also accounts that were rejected by the biblical compilers; perhaps because they contradict what you are meant to believe?

                • Paul Tibbetts was the pilot of the Enola Gay, which was the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. He wrote a book in 1998, shortly before he died, called Return of the Enola Gay.

                  How many years after 1945 is that? 53 years after the bomb was dropped.

                  I found this book at my father-in-law’s house because he’s into World War II. You go over there and he always has The History Channel on. I started thumbing through this book, and the reason Tibbetts wrote the book was to correct revisionist history.

                  Revisionist history said, “If we had just been a little nicer to the Japanese, we should have just gone over there and talked to them, and they would’ve…”

                  Tibbetts is saying, “No! Let’s get this straight.” He goes into extensive detail about the political situation and all this stuff that was going on behind the scenes. He tells what it was like to get in that plane, what it was like to let the bomb loose and go into a 135 degree angle and feel the shock wave from the bomb and the brilliant flash of light and think, “Oh my word, what did I just do?” and all that.

                  Now, does anybody doubt that his autobiography tells you more or less accurately what happened? Is anybody going to reasonably doubt that he doesn’t remember what happened, 53 years later? I don’t think so!

                  So if Jesus died in 33, what’s 53 years out from 33 – isn’t that 86? That’s like getting to the outside limit of when they said the Gospels were written.

                  Is there any reason to think that the Gospels were any less reliable?

                  Considering there are four of them and considering they don’t all perfectly line up or quote everybody verbatim the same way, they don’t all tell stories the same way – four independent accounts – can anyone reasonably think that the Gospels are any less reliable than his story? I don’t think so.

                  And if you compare it to other things in history, a lot of those things were written even further after the fact than that. I would like to point to the consistency of early teachings about Jesus and raise the question: Why do substantially different teachings about Jesus only appear after 150-200 years? Isn’t that what you would expect?

                  • Paul Cotton says:

                    Paul Tibbetts had access to a great deal of documentation, both written and in film, so you are not really comparing like with like.

          • Martin Gately says:

            Ooops. I really think you’ve jumped the shark on this one. Unfortunately, atheist and skeptic Derren Brown can also heal/cure people live on stage in an imitation of a Christian service. And I’ve personally seen him do it. So where does prayer come into all this? Look him up if you haven’t heard of him. Hilariously, he can also convert atheists to Christianity. I hope he remembers to change them back afterwards.

            You mention evidence for the resurrection…don’t forget there is also Matthew 27:52 – a much wider resurrection of Saints (i.e. a large number of people not just Jesus). Yes, you do need faith – by which I mean switching off your normal rational faculties – because this stuff is tough to believe. And, repeat after me, no 21st Century adult should be basing their life around it.

  2. David Hardisty says:

    “Dancing to our own DNA”, “Happy chemical accident” just two of the oracular Mr. Dawkins quotes. It is so comical to see such an educated man make a fool of him self.

    • Paul Cotton says:

      Anyone who challenges your belief is branded as a fool. Either you have not read his book or you fail to understand what he is saying.
      As they say, if science is too hard for you, try religion.

      • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

        It is pretty well-documented that believers have a significantly lower IQ.

        • Please back up the above statement with the scientific studies involved as well as any relevant discussion in the wider academic community about the validity of these results. As presented you have only provided an example of unsupported prejudice.

          • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

            1. J Biosoc Sci. 2009 Jul;41(4):537-56. doi: 10.1017/S0021932009003368.
            2. Social Psychology Quarterly Vol. 73, No. 1, 33–57
            3. Intelligence 34 (2006) 607–619
            There would be more, but I can’t attach files.

  3. Eric Pommer says:

    “most people experience atheists as bellicose angry males who commonly suffer from depression, who post anonymous tirades all over the internet so they can share their misery with everyone else. ”

    Welcome to the internet. You will find exactly the same situation with any issue over which there are strong disagreements, from the age of the earth to who to vote for in the next election.

  4. Jorge Lopez says:

    Of course there is an intelligent creator: humans. While I am not qualified to discuss evolution theory (I am chemical engineer), from what I read about the subject so far, it is (at the very least) apparent evolution theory if now a fact. Believing in a creator God might well be just another proof of human being´s natural tendency to wishful thinking and (ultimately) to stupidity.

    • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

      Human kind has a need to “comfort” the human brain, especially, in times of fear. There are two ways to do this: 1. you either start problem-solving, i.e. thinking, and 2. or believing; believing in something mighty that will solve your problem and help you out.

  5. Michael Barbour says:

    Anti-intellectualism at its finest. Having wandered upon one of your sponsored links before, I decided to buy the book and peel through the pages.

    You’ll pardon me for the tone of my response, considering the tone of your post toward Dawkins and new atheists. It wouldn’t exactly be fair for you to stifle my response after muckraking Dawkins and his contemporaries as you have here.

    I think you’re a hyperbolic jock-rider who doesn’t want to understand the difference between scientific jargon and polemical language. Though, upon reading the first few pages of your book, and now reading your blogs and comments, I can see you likely do comprehend that difference and use similar tactics to promote your voice and continue to clicks and sales.

    But not understanding scientific jargon is all well and good for an average fundamentalist or laymen (the latter I identify with, mind you), but when you drone on and accuse one of the foremost experts in any scientific field of ruining the pedigree of ALL science, you should probably stop short of hyperbole.

    When Dawkins says “accident,” he is delicately, and albeit crassly, straddling a line between the non-contextual definition of “accident” and contextualized scientific jargon.

    The scientific meaning of “accident” is not completely random, just as “random” is not completely unpredictable. These may be semantical differences, but when a prestigious, award-winning evolutionary biologist is talking on the radio, do listeners have the time or desire to sit through a jargon-laden lecture on why he chose the words he did? Moreover, should Dawkins be required to repeat the information contained in evolutionary research ad nauseum?

    “Happy chemical accident,” are three well-placed words to describe what has been explained, if not empirically validated, rather eloquently, time and time again.

    I’m not a scientist, I study literature and history. Asking me, and other commenters who dissent from your opinion, to provide evidence on behalf of professions not our own is cowardly and borderline chauvinist. The audacity of both attributes only further ingrained and hubristically displayed each time you offer some terse response to intelligent arguments sought to explain why Dawkins likely chose the phrase he did.

    You can lay at the feet a whole plateau of impatience, arrogance, disdain, and general unpleasantness from the new atheists all you wish (I’m sure Hitch wouldn’t mind at all), but you’re only further entrenching the reasons for their dismissive attitudes. The only distinctive difference between you and them is the shade of matte finish between your pot and their kettle.

    If you, or I, can give new atheists credit for nothing else, at least they’ve done the busy work of making religious fundamentalists come off the pulpit and into the laboratory.

  6. Paul Cotton says:

    This whole thread is based on a personal rejection of the concept of serendipity. For some reason this has become a rod to beat the back of Richard Dawkins and anyone who agrees with him. It would seem that he is being judged on one phrase among all of the worthy work that he has done. Requests for evidence supporting the alternative are met with biblical references or gut feelings, neither of which can be described as evidence. It has been interesting to note that the bulk of Trump support has come from “The Bible Belt” states; mainly people who follow blindly whatever they are told to believe in. The Christian metaphor of shepherd and sheep has never seemed more appropriate.

    • You can say what you want about “serendipity” but until you can provide empirical evidence that life can come from mere chemicals, none of this deserves the honor of being called a scientific theory.

      The fact that you feel the need to drag Trump into the conversation only underscores the weakness of the “happy chemical accident” position.

      Where is the supporting facts for this happy chemical accident – or this serendipity as you like to call it? Where is your evidence? Bring it forward, please.

      • Paul Cotton says:

        You know very well that there is no evidence to support the theory, but you have none to support your idea of a creator either. Trump is a symptom of the rottenness of the USA which is largely controlled and driven by the right wing Christian community. I used him as an illustration of the corrupt hypocrisy that is rife in the western world.

      • Bram Staanders says:

        Well that should be pretty simple really, we’ve already done so.

        All of the components for life can be made from inorganic chemical reactions. (including RNA and such)

        That said however, making a viable living being using that knowledge is rather much more difficult to perform and verify. And we haven’t as of yet done so to my knowledge. (Though we’ve made great strides in that aspect, and have already created partially synthetic organisms in the lab)

        • Peter Grafström says:

          Would you care to be more specific. Isnt it the case that Craig Venter used real DNA as the source when he created artificial modified DNA? I mean the computer program directed what to do but didnt really synthesize from inorganic material. So you are referring to more basic projects creating amino acids etc?

      • Peter Grafström says:

        I think both sides of this debate are right on some level. It is intelligent design to use evolution for selecting the best design. And the physics science is yet to evolve to provide a better framework for approaching consensus.
        I agree with your side about there being purpose behind what we see. But the intelligence isnt necessarily so hierarchical. Evolution may be its mode of operation.

        • Both sides are right about all kinds of stuff. Frankly I have never found a pocket of this debate that did not have something interesting and useful to say, whether it was the six day creationists or the panspermia people or even the most staunch traditional darwinists. (Obviously I disagree with many things too but that is not the point here.) If you see the world through a fisheye lens, you will notice things other people miss. I have tried as best I know how to recognize the truth wherever it may be found an integrate all of it into a single model.

  7. Colin Fairweather says:

    Feuerbach. Now THERE was an atheist to be reckoned with.

  8. Ravish says:

    Crappy nonsensical article. Seems to be the work of #RegressiveLeft.

  9. Laszlo G Meszaros says:

    I have been following this argument for while now, and what I am reading here makes me hypothesize that the human race is actually composed of two races: the thinkers and the believers.

    • Carol Sperling says:

      Amen, brother.

    • Scott Harwell says:

      Just give atheists two miracles to understand the universe, life, consciousness, the mind, etc.. : (1) the universe and everything contained within the universe coming from “nothing” – golf clap to The Sound of Music when Maria and Captain Von Trapp fall in love and sing “nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could” and (2) after “nothing” somehow became everything, including life (with the ability to self-replicate and survive) which spontaneously generated from chemicals.

      This is what atheists and “scientists” who are strictly naturalists “believe.”

      If people will follow where the evidence leads them, they conclude that there must be a supreme being (God) that created the universe and life. You have to be intellectually dishonest with yourself to believe otherwise and suppress the truth of God.

      • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

        “If people will follow where the evidence leads them”, they would have never come up with the idea of god.

      • Paul Cotton says:

        Wow Scott, what were you smoking? There are a number of theories about how the universe may have begun but I am pretty sure that the only reference to the Earth being created from nothing is in your book of myths. See Genesis 1.2
        I love the way that you dismiss ideas that you clearly do not understand and take huge leaps into the land of fantasy and see that as evidence. Please remember that lack of evidence for one thing cannot be construed as evidence for the existence of another.
        I am sure that you are happy in your delusion and far be it from me to throw water on that, but really! What has the Sound of Music got to do with anything?

        • Paul,

          Stop your insulting and derisive tone or you will be banned.

          It is possible to say everything you want to say and use your manners.

          The fact that you have to use insults instead of calmly stating facts is a telling problem of the New Atheism.

        • Scott Harwell says:

          Perry – insults on the topic of God should be expected but it is a product of “new atheists” like Dawkins, Harris, et al.

          As for these theories for the beginning of the universe from nothing, they all involve something whether it be “the laws of physics, and chemistry, energy, eternal matter, a concept of time beginning or time eternal. However, these theories are not “science” because not one of the theories can be tested, repeated and/or falsified. The beginning of the universe falls under historical science, philosophy and should be based on what “real science” reveals to us in 2016.

          Based on the deductive and inductive evidence we have, the universe had a beginning. Based on the philosophical principle of cause and effect, the foundation of true empirical science and the scientific method which is based on cause and effect and the known laws of physics, every effect has a cause. Almost every cosmologist and astrophysicist believes (based on red shift and the expansion of the universe) that the universe had a beginning. Therefore, the universe, based on our knowledge, is an effect which must have had a cause.

          On this cause, both the atheist and the theist agree as to the qualities of this initial cause: (1) it must be eternal and exist outside of time – See Godel’s theorem; and (2) it must be powerful enough to cause the universe;

          The atheist and theist can also agree that the laws of physics, electromagnetism, etc. are amazingly balanced and fine-tuned to prevent the universe from expanding too fast (or too slow) and, consequently, this allows life to exist (at least on earth).

          At this juncture, the atheist and purely naturalistic scientists part ways with the theist. The atheist, who must believe in purely natural causes, has no scientific explanation for the timeless and powerful “nothing” that caused everything and, by fortuitous chance, the laws of the universe lined up perfect;y to allow us to be chatting on the internet in 2016.

          I have studied this issue and tend to read several books at a time on various topics. Although I am not a scientist, I am a lawyer that can examine evidence and draw rational conclusions from the evidence. My faith in God is rationale and supported by the evidence whereas the atheists faith (and you do have have faith) is a “just so” faith in naturalism.

          Questions for you:

          (1) What theory of the universe do you ascribe to: multiverse, string, eternal expansions and collapsing, ……

          (2) Have you actually studied this topic and issue and read any contrary books on the topic? If not, I would suggest Berlinski’s book “The Devil’s Delusion.” Berlinski is a scientist and an atheist but takes Dawkins to task and the actual lack of science behind Dawkins’ “belief” system. Also, Anthony Flew’s book “There is a God” is a great book from a philosophical standpoint in which the world’s most famous atheist, after “following where the evidence led him,” changed his position and became a theist.

          If you have just soaked in what you have been taught to be true, then this is willful ignorance.

          Do you ascribe to the multiverse theory?

          • Note to Paul Cotton:

            Every time I see a New Atheist spewing vitriol, it only confirms how weak and fact-deprived New Atheist views are. It reeks of insecurity.

            If you sincerely believe you have a case, bring facts to the table. Answer all of Scott’s questions honestly, methodically and without invective.

            And if you can’t, then leave.

            • SCOTT HARWELL says:

              As a lawyer, I am used to advocacy. In my experience, the vast majority of atheists have never actually thought or studied the 2 miracles of naturalism and do not even realize that the universe and what evolutionists believes was the 1st life that then evolved are “just so” stories with no science to support their faith. They just assume natural causes because the supernatural is a priori excluded.

              My hope and prayer is that a viewer or poster will research the issues and follow the evidence.

            • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

              Dear Paul, it seems to me that you have – in this particular argument – no right to refer to “facts”. In general, no believer has the right to do it, which simply comes from the meaning behind the word “believe”.

            • Paul Cotton says:

              My so called insults were comments on a poorly written, almost incomprehensible posting. The author of this site, seems to find it ok to hurl abuse in the other direction and I guess that is his right.
              To answer your questions, I find the oscillating universe hypothesis to be acceptable but of course like all other ideas it is impossible to test. We know that at the moment the universe that we know of is expanding, red shift is a fact.
              My Atheism predated Professor Dawkins by a long way and was probably based on the entirely hypocritical face of organised religion. I do not KNOW that I am right, unlike those of you that soak in the warm comfort of your middle eastern mythology. Those books were written by men and based on hearsay and the limited knowledge of the time. NONE of you have yet to provide single shred of evidence to support your theory and yet you devote this entire site to attacking the theories posited that counteract you. I challenge you to prove me wrong in this respect.

              • You didn’t answer Scott’s questions. This is a vague answer.

                If we walked into a room and found a candle burning we would not assume it had been burning forever.

                Nor would we assume that the candle came from a previous candle which came from a previous candle.

                How does your eternal oscillating universe not suffer the effects of entropy?

                Please explain in detail how you propose to solve the entropy problem.

                • Paul Cotton says:

                  I have not read the books to which he refers but have read very little of the combined world literature. He can quote books all day long and in the end they are just ideas.
                  Regarding entropy –
                  Who knows? maybe it does and will one day peter out altogether.
                  Only when you guys decide to offer a single measurable shred of evidence that your God exists will this discussion have any meaning, as it stands all you are doing is picking holes in hypotheses and using those holes to claim the higher ground. The world as experienced by humanity seems to offer evidence that there is no higher power whatsoever, or is the lack of intervention an argument that you cannot defend? You wonder why atheists get annoyed – your arguments are both shallow and circular and simply involve attempts to assassinate common sense.

                  • “Who knows? maybe it does and will one day peter out altogether.”

                    Not much of an answer, Paul. Can you do better?

                    I take it you just have faith that somehow the universe just happened for no reason at all. Is that correct?

                    Do you have any EVIDENCE? Please present it.

                    • Paul Cotton says:

                      I wasn’t there Perry, but there is as much evidence for it as you have for a god. I do not know, in the way that you know but is seems at least a logical explanation. Can you not accept alternative explanations? Does it not cross your mind that it is a mystery why your god never intervenes?

                    • Where is your evidence that entropy can reverse?

                      Where is your evidence that a universe can pop up out of nothing for no reason at all?

                      Based on everything that we actually know from empirical science, everything you say is factually known to be impossible.

                      Evidence, please. Evidence.

                      Do you have any?

                      Or do you just believe on faith?

                      Or worse yet do you simply refuse to consider the question and then deflect by switching topics every time someone asks you to really think?

              • Scott Harwell says:

                Why would you be angry at a God that does not exist. It is akin to being angry at unicorns.

                Per your post, you “believe” in an oscillating universe. However, to maintain this belief, you have to somehow explain away the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Consequently, your theory actually fails the test of known laws of physics.

                Other atheists “believe” in infinite multiverses to explain our universe’s apparent design. This is not science. Rather, it is a dogmatic belief in naturalism.

                We are all looking at the same evidence but it takes more “faith” to be an atheist than a theist.

                • Paul Cotton says:

                  As always – misrepresentation and denial. I said that Atheist are angered by your fatuous and ridiculous arguments, not by a deity. I guess that this will be deemed disrespectful by your friend, who delights in making nonsensical claims about skewering Richard Dawkins and probably making money on the back of it.

                  • Paul Cotton:

                    Your writing shows the typical derisive, insulting, ad hominem-as-substitute-for-facts atheist intimidation.

                    It ceased working on me a LONG time ago. I see right through it.

                    It’s like this switch gets flipped and an evangelical Christian turns into an evangelical atheist. I am guessing this is what happened to you.

                    I came close to that same switch getting flipped for me. The story of my brother losing faith is much longer and wider than the brief version in my book, website and interviews. This was really going on for 2-3 years and covered a LOT of questions.

                    It was a lot of information to process because a skeptic can throw a believer FAR more questions than the believer can answer in a short period of time.

                    (Although I’ve found that’s a two-way street – atheists have faith too, less obviously so, but their worldview is still anchored in a long list of things that can be shot full of holes in mere minutes.)

                    I was trying to process all of this and I felt the negativity hanging over me. Like a beast breathing down my neck. I could feel the depression and despair – the same depression and despair that that radiates from nearly every militant atheist who comes here and posts comments.

                    But I resolved to methodically and systematically work through the questions. FACTS. Does the world really make sense without a transcendent source?

                    Do all the things that atheism relies on – universe from nothing, life from non-life, evolution by random accident – hold up?

                    No they do not. Everything we actually know experimentally, every known law of science, witnesses against these things.

                    What atheism really relies on is getting people to a place where they’re satisfied with their godless world, so they stop asking questions.

                    Neo-Darwinism has a funny way of killing curiosity. If all you need is natural selection and randomness, and if that solves everything, then you can stop looking for answers and just rest on your laurels. Which is what Richard Dawkins has been doing for the last 40 years.

                    But the atheist pays a price for this intellectual laziness and this capitulation to nihilism and despair.

                    Is it any coincidence that every blog in the world with lots of atheists (whether it’s this one, or a pro-atheist website or anywhere else) is littered with bellicose, bitching, moaning, insults, tirades, name-calling, immaturity, ad hominem attacks, assertions of intellectual superiority, anger, depression and rage?

                    It’s the signature of atheism. Jesus said you will know the tree by its fruit and atheism produces bitter fruit. In 2016 it produces an entire subculture of miniature Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennets. Running around insulting people and vandalizing blogs with their lack of manners and absence of civility. Sounding like Ebenezer Scrooge just like you did, just before Christmas.

                    Do you really like being that way? Or are you just trapped in it, unable to escape?

                    I’ve been watching this for 20+ years and it’s as consistent as the rising of the sun.

                    Become atheist -> lose manners, lose civility, become boorish and intolerant.

                    But the real problem is: Isn’t it a terrible thing to live that way? To be that way? To live with that depression, anger and bitterness hanging over your head every day?

                    To tell yourself a story that most of the world’s problems are caused by religion?

                    (When they’re really caused by reckless pursuit of money sex and power)

                    You don’t have to live that way. You don’t have to live under that fog.

                    I certainly don’t live under that fog. Rather I spend my discretionary time preventing people from getting their lives destroyed by it.

                    If you LIKE it – if you really enjoy being that way – then that is your choice.

                    However if deep down you do NOT enjoy the experience of having lost faith which you once had, if you do not like the bleak “this is my one and only chance” nihilistic outlook, then you can ask God to show Himself to you and He will.

                    Your choice. But I invite you to take that on as an experiment. There’s a better way.

                    • Paul Cotton says:

                      Oh you are so wrong. I never had faith in your god – it was always a nonsense to me, but when I was a child we were not allowed to challenge the established “Wisdom” of our elders and betters. We had to go along with the indoctrination, just as many people are obliged to follow their religions today. Some under fear of death for apostasy.
                      I can see that I have rattled your cage a little as your tone exudes a very unchristian toxicity.
                      All that you accuse me of, you display yourself; it strikes me that the only difference between us is that you choose to believe is something for which there is no evidence whatsoever while I believe in something for which there is evidence, despite your philosophical sleights of hand. I wish you well with your book sales and hope that the proceeds will be used to support a christian charity. Oh Happy New Year.

            • Paul Cotton says:

              My comments, though perhaps flippant, could hardly be described as vitriolic Perry. I would ask you to provide a single fact that supports your notion of a god but I know that you would evade the issue as is your wont. I wish you a peaceful christmas and hope that the “Chosen People” can stop murdering innocent Palestinians for a short time.

          • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

            No (real) scientist would say that our understanding of the universe is complete. Let me quote Hawking: “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”

            • Would you care to answer Scott’s questions, Laszlo?

              • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

                Which question? I do not see any relevant question to answer. (If we want to argue some civilized way, then we need to stick to the rules of reasoning. Obviously, Scott does not know those rules.)

            • Scott Harwell says:


              You obviously have a firm belief in scientism. Scientism is nothing more than a religion based on naturalism and materialistic causes. If you truly understand science, you would then know that the beginning of the universe can never be tested via this scientific method. Likewise, you would also know that the origin of life and can also never be tested via the scientific method. Consequently, true “science” cannot “win” when when comes to historical matters like the beginning of the universe and origin of life. The best that true empirical science can accomplish is to observe the current evidence and to draw inferences from said evidence.

              To quote Hawking as you did, it is very apparent to value his opinion. However, have you actually read any of Hawking’s books and you understand that his “scientific authority” is based upon assumptions such as the laws of physics. Have you ever pondered where the so-called “laws of physics” came from or from which they derived? Again, as I previously posted, both the theist and the atheist both start from certain assumptions. If you carefully review the evidence, any intellectually honest person will see the evidence of design in the universe and in life and conclude designer. The atheist, in contrast, sees the evidence of design and must suppress the obvious truth and invent “just so” stories to explain away a creator and posit a naturalistic explanation for the universe, life, consciousness, the human mind, moral law which exist within each and every human, etc. Be honest with yourself and admit that the atheistic and naturalist view of the world defies logic.

              Your fundamental problem, as with all atheists, is that your foundation is built upon “nothing.” According to your theory, nothing plus nothing with a little bit a chance, which in and of itself creates nothing, has resulted in the two of us communicating with each other via the Internet in 2016.

              Amazingly enough, the “Iron Age” book of the Old Testament as preserved by the Hebrews, deals with this very topic and clearly states “the fool says there is no God.” These are not my words but, if you honestly and objectively view the evidence, he was willingly remain a fool to actually believe that nothing plus chance equals you.

              • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

                Since your 2nd sentence is fundamentally wrong, it makes no sense to further argue. However, I would suggest that you start considering the difference between the meanings of two words: knowledge and belief.

                • Laszlo, answer his question and stop evading. Where did the laws of physics come from?

                  • Paul Cotton says:

                    At a risk of being accused of insulting you, is an accusation of evasion rather hypocritical?

                  • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

                    We do not know, but it does not mean that they came from good. As I have already told, science is an ongoing process; we know a lot, but we do not know enough.

                    • Given the past bravado of your “no evidence for God” assertions, that’s a weak answer, Laszlo.

                      Especially considering the argument you’re trying to combat – which is that the universe necessarily has an ultimate cause.

                      This is simple logic, after all. Effects have causes. So eventually you arrive at a First Cause.

                      You simply have no argument whatsoever. No evidence. No explanation. No reason. No logic.


                      I’ve given you evidence and you’ve retorted that it’s not evidence. But at no time have you presented anything that refutes the theistic argument.

                      So what we have here, apparently, is that you don’t LIKE the evidence – or perhaps the conclusion. So you choose not to believe it.

                      And that is your personal, emotional choice.

                      I have no interest in dissuading you; I’m here for people who are seeking answers, not people who are close minded.

                      But don’t come here and tell me you’ve got support for your view when in fact you have zero.

              • Paul Cotton says:

                I doubt that this will be published but here goes anyway. You say that Science is based on nothing? Are you mistaking the transmutation of energy and matter? Nothing can be based on nothing. Your belief is based on what? It doesn’t stand up to observation or any empirical test and therefore I assure that it is based on nothing. You talk of science in ways that suggest a lack of understanding of the process and yet you happily accept the idea of a higher being who created an entire universe for your benefit. You guys are amazing.

                • I fully understand that you think religion is stupid. You don’t have to keep telling us that.

                  We’ve been asking you some questions.

                  Where do the laws of physics come from?

                  Where did the universe come from?

                  How does your bouncing universe not violate the laws of entropy?

                  Please answer the questions you’ve been asked, Paul.

                  • Paul Cotton says:

                    I thought I already had answered to the best of my ability anyway. I never said that religion is stupid, I believe that it was an evolutionary step in the development of human beings. One that enabled tribes to cohere and become civilised. The Abrahamic religions are all based on the same basic ideas and probably served their purpose well. It provided answers ( probably wrong ) to the questions that people had and prevented free thinking. That has always been discouraged by the churches; why else would there have been witch hunts and blasphemy laws? The churches had their way as long as people did as they were told. Then some brave individuals stood out for what was right, Galileo for example, and were castigated for that. We are now beginning, and I use that word advisedly, to understand the universe and how it works but unlike you guys, science does not claim to have all of the answers. The difference really is that we keep asking questions, while you have no need to do so. Your questions above are meaningless – you cannot answer them sensibly and neither can I, but then no-one can – yet. It does not mean that your glib and simplified solution is the right one. My feeling is that your god is a vestigial program in the brain that has slowly being evolved out. It has been self selecting through vows of chastity over the centuries and through martyrdoms and the like. Religion feeds on the desperate and the needy so maybe it will rise again; I hope not as it would certainly be a return to the dark ages.

                    • So you don’t have any answer whatsoever to the question of where the universe came from, where the laws of physics came from, why there is anything instead of nothing at all. None.

                      And then every time I press you for an answer, you switch topics and start ranting about all the things you hate about religion. On a site, you will notice, where detailed discussions of complex scientific problems – both answers as well as unanswered questions – can be found on every single page.

                      And then you tell me “your questions are meaningless.”


                      Do I understand you correctly?

                      Or have you answered these questions somewhere and I simply haven’t noticed?

                  • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

                    Perry, you say “…Given the past bravado of your “no evidence for God”…”. Well, take another look at my previous comments, and you will find no such “bravado”. And it is not because I believe in good, it is because I am trying to be “scientific”, which means that I condemn any approach to anything, which is based on belief, instead of knowledge.
                    But, of course, there is no evidence for the existence of God, and, of course, there is no evidence for God’s non-existence either. Importantly, there is one thing I “believe”: the human way is not to believe, but to know. (The judeo-christian misunderstanding of the biblical apple-story is what I must resent.)

                    • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

                      Please, read “good” as “God” above… Stupid Google overwrites some words….

                    • All belief systems, including every single aspect of science, are based on belief. Not absolute knowledge. Per Godel’s incompleteness theorem.

                      10 Presuppositions of Science
                      1. The existence of a theory-independent, external world
                      2. The orderly nature of the external world
                      3. The knowability of the external world
                      4. The existence of truth
                      5. The laws of logic
                      6. The reliability of our cognitive and sensory faculties to serve as truth
                      gatherers and as a source of justified true beliefs in our intellectual
                      7. The adequacy of language to describe the world
                      8. The existence of values used in science (e.g., “Test theories fairly and
                      report test results honestly”)
                      9. The uniformity of nature and induction
                      10. The existence of numbers

                      None of these is actually provable. They are axioms. You do not KNOW that any of these things are true. Rather you must assume them in order to make science work. All must be taken with some measure of faith. Or, if your prefer, provisional caution.

                      Every single one of these to either a small or large degree were originally derived from theology, and were embraced by the classical scientists of the Renaissance, most of whom were devout Christians. They go back to the first ever statement of a scientific worldview, from ~200BC – Wisdom of Solomon 11:21 which says, “Thou hast ordered all things in weight and number and measure.” This is found in the apocrypha, i.e. the books of the Catholic Bible.

                      I dare you to find such a clear scientific statement in any piece of literature older than that. The Judeo Christian view was: God exists, God has ordered the world in weight and number and measure, therefore we can understand the mind of God by studying the world in a methodical scientific way. This is why science would not be here if it weren’t for Christianity.

                      Science got started in ancient China; in ancient Egypt and Greece and Rome; and in Islam. But it never went anywhere. In those cultures, it sputtered and coughed and died.


                      Because those cultures did not have a theology to support it.

                      Science rests on faith that the universe is governed by fixed, discoverable laws. That it operates without the need for constant intervention by the creator and that the creation has a degree of freedom to follow its own course.

                      Islam does not teach this; Greek and Roman mythology did not teach this, and neither did the Egyptian or Eastern religions.

                      And by the way the above list originally came from William Lane Craig’s book “Philosophical foundations for a Christian worldview.”

                      Atheism offers no outside framework for assuming the universe is orderly either; many atheists, both ancient and modern, assume it’s all a big giant accident. Which is an explicitly anti-scientific proposition.

                      Only in Christian Europe was there a basis for believing that a search for discoverable laws would be richly rewarded. And it’s no coincidence that a large number of the great scientists – Newton, Copernicus, Galileo, Maxwell, Boyle – were deeply religious and considered the practice of science to be an act of worship. A way of peering into the very mind of God.

                      Laszlo Meszaros has not the beginning of an idea of where the universe came from, and when I press him for answers he has none. Yet he says there’s no evidence for God.

                      This is exhibit “A” of psychological denial. Which you as a “freethinker” are entitled to. Believe as you choose. But what you believe is a system of faith, Laszlo. Faith that a universe with physical laws and order and structure can pop into existence for apparently no reason at all.

                      If you call that “reason” and “logic” then you are free to choose that path. But you have no evidence that what you believe is even possible. You don’t even have a framework for proving it.

                  • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

                    You write: “I’m here for people who are seeking answers, not people who are close minded.” When you say this, you are simply not telling the truth. Not because you have intention to lie, but because – being a believer – you just can’t understand the basic differences between believing and knowing. You simply cannot understand that being a believer you do not have any intention to learn, to progress. Instead, you are fine with God as the cause and initiator of everything.
                    You have to realize, dear Paul, that the basic difference between you and me is probably nothing else, but a difference in our attitude. The questions you are asking from me are such that you have no answers to either. but you believe that these are question, which require no answers at all. Instead, to explain “where the universe came from”, you simply say: “God did it”.
                    You have probably heard about the “religious gene”; well this might be the difference between us you have it, I do not. As a result, you have a tendency to be autocratic in the way of thinking, I do not. Some 20 years ago I wrote up a paper hypothesizing that there are two human races: the knowledge seekers and the believers. The idea came from a Nature paper from the early ’90s, which (quite smartly) suggest that both knowing and believing serve the same purpose: comforting the worrying human brain.

        • Ravish says:

          Well said!

  10. Alex MacEachern says:

    For all you Dawkins fans out there please answer this question.
    The ” scientific ” community ( which Dawkins is a member ) has
    proven beyond any doubt that evolution did NOT happen by
    means of chance mutations and natural selection. So why does
    Dawkins and his followers continue to spread that nonsense?

    • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

      “The ” scientific ” community … has proven beyond any doubt that evolution did NOT happen by means of chance mutations and natural selection.” Where do you get this from?

    • Paul Cotton says:

      Can you furnish us with that proof please? Or have you just made it up?

  11. Paul Cotton says:

    Perry – you continue, like a cracked record, to ask for evidence to support a hypothesis. You know full well that nobody really knows how the universe began or if it even did, and yet you somehow “know” that there was a creator. One last time – give us some evidence and not just a ranting diatribe against a scientific point of view, or yet another request for answers that you know cannot be provided.

    • My response to Laszlo a minute ago applies equally to you, Paul. http://evo2.org/defending-dawkins/comment-page-3/#comment-29411

      • Scott Harwell says:

        The evidence of a First Cause that for the universe is astronomical. Science (coupled with logic) uses cause and effect to study the universe. However, the atheist must believe that this fundamental principle of cause and effect did not exist when the universe was formed and it just exploded in to existence from ………. nothing. This is not science but is a belief that there is no God. The atheist then observes, by science, how fine-tuned the universe is and how it appears to be designed. This same principle applies to life but somehow life just “came to be” and was able to self replicate. This is a belief in chemical evolution with zero science to support the theory. We then have the fossil record of entirely new forms of animals that just appear with no “links” to their supposed predecessors. This is another “just so” position by atheists.

        In Romans 1, natural theology is addressed and those that do not believe in God have to willfully suppress this knowledge. This increase in knowledge and denial of God was a prophecy written thousands of years ago.

        Again, I would recommend 2 books by people who are not Christians and one is not even a theist. Anthony Flew’s book “There is a God” and David Berlinski’s book “The Devil’s Delusion.” You could also read some books by scientists who are Christians like John Lennox, Michael Behe and Stephen Meyer. Or, you can choose to believe that was are all one big chemical accident and are lucky to be alive.

  12. Paul Cotton says:

    Lucky to be alive? I am sure that there are many long suffering human being who would find that rather hard to take. As always Scott you use the fact that we don’t know the answers very well; you use a lack of completeness to scientific ideas as a stick to beat all of science. There is a theory that we do not exist at all and are part of some computer simulation. How do you feel about that? Douglas Adams said that the universe was sneezed out of the nose of the great Arkleseizure, which I found amusing as a teenager.
    Let us suppose for a moment that you are right and that there is a creator. Answer me the following –
    Where is he/she/it?
    Why was the universe created?
    From What?
    Why do we seem to be the only sentient (I use that word advisedly) beings in the vastness of space?
    Why were middle eastern tribes the chosen ones and why are they still fighting one another.
    Why does an omnipotent, omniscient entity do nothing about anything and yet demand that believers get down on their knees and beg him/she/it?
    Why is there no evidence that it/she/he exists – you cannot use the absence of evidence for other theories.
    Why is the universe expanding? Red shift is evidence.
    What is the purpose of black holes?
    What is the purpose of thoroughly nasty viruses and bacteria?
    I could go on but I leave that to you. I know that you have no answers for this questions, so I will not hold my breath. Enjoy your celebrations, whatever they are about.

    • Your tone is acerbic, insulting and demeaning.

      You can’t even say “Merry Christmas” without injecting the bitterness of Ebenezer Scrooge.

      (Just listen to yourself.)

      Nothing you have said in the last 6 months lends the impression you really care to get answers to any the above questions. (Although decent answers are definitely available for most or all of them.) Rather I get the impression that you prefer embracing a purposeless blind universe to facing the question that theology confronts you with.

      In any case this article is a good start:


      Work with that and we can go from there.

      “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” John 3:12

  13. Martin Gately says:

    For a moment I thought this was aimed at me…but obviously not since we’ve already gone over Godel. If I have a fault it must be that I’m not acerbic and demeaning enough…Perry, I respect you and all of the points of view that you hold…even though we obviously disagree. As an ex-Christian, Christmas (still) holds a great deal of meaning to me. So I very sincerely wish you a very Merry Christmas. Martin

  14. Jorge O Chavez Salas says:

    I attended once a Dawkins conference and it was frankly quite disappointing. He just used his time to make fun of religious people in an offensive way and didn´t explain any scientific idea.

  15. Peter Grafström says:

    I suspect life isnt a happy chemical accident but that still constitutes a legitimate scientific hypothesis since it implies the role of known physical entities like DNA and the likewise known processes within the science of chemistry.
    With present knowledge it certainly looks like a DNA molecule might arise by chance although the actual probabilities for life and evolution are hard to estimate. Denying Dawkins to be arguing scientifically is unfair. The interesting corollary is: has there ever been an experiment performed, where such a chance event led to the emergence of a functioning DNA molecule by random combination of its chemical constituent s? If not is it because the probabilities are extremely small or is it because we are missing something? That’s where the believers of divine creation and I who expect physics to be more intricate than in its present form, will find inspiration.
    It would be ok as far as I am concerned if an already living cell was used to prove such a randomly arisen artificial DNA-molecule’s functioning.
    Your attacks on Dawkins unnecessarily make him seem too important. The interesting aspects lie elsewhere.
    Demanding empirical evidence is legitimate but if the chance-hypothesis is not correct, then what is it in our present understanding of chemistry and physics that faults it? Is it just the exceedingly small probabilities? In that case the proof would have to be built up from a careful choice of separate partial constituents arising by chance while not demanding that they all happen in sequence. That way the needed probabilities would be much bigger. The line of argument would be less transparent yet scientifically sound.

    • Nobody advocating the “happy chemical accident” hypothesis has ever shown that the chances are any better than absurdly impossible. If you disagree, then by all means bring forward the evidence and show the calculations.

      You say:

      “what is it in our present understanding of chemistry and physics that faults it?”

      The problem is that cells are digital information processors, and physics and chemistry alone have never been shown to create coded information. As Hubert Yockey said, “There is nothing in the physico-chemical world that remotely resembles reactions being determined by a sequence and codes between sequences.”

      As stated by Dawkins, a “happy chemical accident” is nothing more than an anti-scientific appeal to luck.

      I am all in favor of a naturalistic explanation and my private equity investment group is offering a $3 million prize for a solution. Perhaps physics and the universe are far more amazing than we currently know; I am totally open to that. Personally I believe the universe is consciousness first, matter second, as Robert Lanza argues in “Biocentrism.”

      But people like Dawkins are not at all helping to solve this problem and his fans deserve better answers than his own glib obfuscation of important questions in science.

      • Peter Grafström says:

        “Absurdly impossible” is not sufficiently precise since the number of random microscopic processes are also absurdly many. Dawkins happy chance event need not happen frequently. Once self-reproducing molecules emerge the abdurdly improbable event which caused it need not happen again.
        So you need to get quantitative in order to outrule it on scientific grounds. Until then the mainstream hypothesis Dawkins adheres to still stands as a serious possibility.
        That said my own view is that life looks more like a feat of engineering. Like already developed advanced nanotechnology. Further physics theory, the invariance group of electromagnetism has not been fully exploited leaving very unfamiliar aspects of the temporal relations between different observers outside application to natural phenomena. And I agree about the understanding of the actual functioning of DNA to be lacking. Mithosis seems to me intuitively to be a projection of occurrences in a higher dimensional space. In addition there is the duality of particle aspects and wave aspects. Is our so called conscious impression a lock-in phenomenon, we being in synch with something while the full reality is a superposition of infinitely many alternative realities, with which we are out of synch? These are rethorical questions just to sketch some points of departure. If there is any use of that view, it could mean that material aspects including the biomolecules are like parts of a wave with which we have a stable phase relation. That isnt identical with your view about everything being mind but equally dramatic and maybe even related..
        There is a faustian aspect to this kind of investigation.
        Can we handle the truth if we find it..?

        • There are 10^80 particles in the universe. There are perhaps 10^200 interactions possible in the history of the universe.

          Please come forward with a sound statistical model that shows that any of this would happen by chance with odds that would fit similar parameters.

          If all you needed was for it to get going once and it would automatically evolve, Richard Dawkins would be a billionaire because he would have a random mutation + natural selection “methinks it is like a weasel” software company with code that automatically evolves without employees or health insurance costs.

          But there is no such thing. All evolution that we can fully understand and model in the human inventions realm involves intelligence, no exceptions.

          Until someone addresses this, nothing Dawkins says about origin of life stands as any sort of possibility at all.

          I appreciate the remainder of your comments, however. There is not enough respect for the mystery of life.

          • Peter Grafström says:

            You havent provided anything quantitative with respect to creation of DNA from basic constituents.
            The number of molecular collisions in the sea would be over 10^50/sec. However the anthropic principle could mean that there is a selection of one out of infinitely many parallell world. So the actual number of collisions may be infinite.
            Neither of us believe in the standard model Dawkins adheres to. But I deny that there is yet anything conclusive against it.
            What are the probabilities of simple partial reactions and what are the conditions under which they could coexist? The latter problem is interesting since it might be the case that something extraordinary like a cosmic catastrophy might increase the probabilities.
            Say the probability for partial components are sufficient, but they all require different environmental parameters so they wouldnt normally coexist locally enabling them to make the transition to a functioning biomolecule. Possibly the near vacuum of space would allow many more metastable configurations to exist for extended periods.
            Heavy elements are believed to emerge when supernovas shoot out a speed of light shockwave compressing otherwise thin interstellar gas into temporarily dense and hot regions. That is a cosmic catastrophy in one stroke changes the probability from absurdly small to sizeable.
            The unexploited part of physics I mentioned in the previous exchange allows for conditions when time comes to a complete standstill for a finite time in another reference system. That finite time is inversely proportional to the acceleration in one system. So it becomes infinite for absent acceleration. What does that mean? I dont know but it gives room for the unexpected without leaving the realm of science.
            If as implied by the symmetries inherent in physics equations, time may run in both directions, the future may act back on the past and present, representing a feedback loop enabling an evolving system to finetune itself according to some optimization.
            That would ring somewhat like a cosmic selfobserving mind.

            • “However the anthropic principle could mean that there is a selection of one out of infinitely many parallell world. So the actual number of collisions may be infinite.”

              You just invoked an infinite number of universes to explain away the extremely low probability (burden is on YOU to show that this is in any way probable, not me!) You’re the one making the outrageous claim that this can happen by chance, when we have neither statistics nor inference to support it.

              Do you have evidence of those other universes?

              How is this explanation parsimonious? How does it in any way satisfy occam’s razor?

            • Scott Harwell says:

              You havent provided anything quantitative with respect to creation of DNA from basic constituents.
              The number of molecular collisions in the sea would be over 10^50/sec. However the anthropic principle could (not science – pure speculation) mean that there is a selection of one out of infinitely many parallell world. So the actual number of collisions may (again, not science) be infinite.
              Neither of us believe in the standard model Dawkins adheres to. But I deny that there is yet anything conclusive against it.
              What are the probabilities of simple partial reactions and what are the conditions under which they could coexist? The latter problem is interesting since it might be the case that something extraordinary like a cosmic catastrophy might increase the probabilities.
              Say the probability for partial components are sufficient, but they all require different environmental parameters so they wouldnt normally coexist locally enabling them to make the transition to a functioning biomolecule. Possibly (??????????? – not science) the near vacuum of space would allow many more metastable configurations to exist for extended periods.
              Heavy elements are believed to emerge when supernovas shoot out a speed of light shockwave compressing otherwise thin interstellar gas into temporarily dense and hot regions. That is a cosmic catastrophy in one stroke changes the probability from absurdly small to sizeable.
              The unexploited part of physics I mentioned in the previous exchange allows for conditions when time comes to a complete standstill for a finite time in another reference system. That finite time is inversely proportional to the acceleration in one system. So it becomes infinite for absent acceleration. What does that mean? I dont know but it gives room for the unexpected without leaving the realm of science.
              If as implied by the symmetries inherent in physics equations, time may (??????????) run in both directions, the future may (???????????????) act back on the past and present, representing a feedback loop enabling an evolving system to finetune itself according to some optimization.
              That would ring somewhat like a cosmic selfobserving mind.

              The infinite universes explanation is a cop out to avoid the moral law which every human is born with. The atheist wishes to suppress this knowledge with “just so” stories that are not even real scientific theories

              • Paul Cotton says:

                Yet Noah’s Ark is credible! Amazing.

              • Peter Grafström says:

                I note that you claim the anthropic principle(AP) is speculation and not science. Barrow and Tiplers so called strong variants are not interesting to me but the simpler variant of Alfred Russel Walace and Robert Dicke as well as Barrow and Tiplers weak variant are very logical. Actually I have been quite taken aback by the seemingly irrational nearly aggressive revulsion against it which I have spotted in the literature some time back in the 80s when I first encountered it.
                The principle is scientific in the sense of being logically testable and it explains the coincidences observed regarding natural constants and exterior properties of the Universe in a very economical manner.
                Explanatory power and economy are indeed scientific characteristics.
                I havent seen a single good argument against the AP
                From your delegitimization of the AP (and its accompanying multiverse) you argue that infinitely many collisions is not scientific. But retaining the AP, DNA or something similar, are already present and the necessary number of collisions would lay behind us no matter how many it took.
                Then you deny without explanation that the near vacuum of space allows many more metastable configurations. I thought that would be obvious if you have any understanding of molecular physics.

                You understandably react when I wrote about time running in both directions because it isnt mainstream to say so but the equations of electromagnetism are invariant under time reversal. There is the sofar unexplained nature of dark matter which doesnt emit light according to most opinions (while I have seen speculation contradicting it). If time runs backwards light would converge on its sources and such matter would be invisible. And there would be no need to invent anything new, it would all be compatible with known physics. Explanatory economy is attractive and therefore it is worth taking seriously that time might be running backwards and see where it leads.

                Then it turns out you argue about moral and seem to claim atheism on my part. I’m an agnostic and I dont see my line of reasoning having any definite bearing on matters of religion. Neither do I trust religion to provide answers to scientific questions.
                What I say about the future acting back on the present is speculation but compatible with quantum field mathematics under time reversal.

        • There’s also another problem.

          The Dawkins doctrine says that once replication gets going, natural selection combined with randomness takes care of everything.

          So let’s apply a little math to that.

          The smallest known cells have 500,000 base pairs in their genomes.

          500,000 possible combinations of 4 codons, that’s 4^500,000 possible combinations. You have to look far and wide to find a machine that can compute that. I have Mathematica and the answer staggering. It’s 10 to the power of 300,000. Numbers bigger than most people have ever dealt with in their entire life. Mathematics has little use for such numbers.

          (The only software I know of that can do that number is Mathematica, which I own. It can process the 300,000 digits. That’s 100 pages of digits in MS Word.)

          So the space of possibilities is vastly too large for natural selection to have enough time to do its work. Which means it is flat out impossible for random, undirected processes to produce a cell. (As a communication engineer I can assure you there’s a whole additional set of reasons related to information entropy that also make this impossible.)

          So the random mutation + natural selection assertion of Neo-Darwinism is the biggest urban legend in the history of science.

          I invite you to show how a machine with a specificity of 1 in 10^300,000 can be produced by a universe where only 10^200 chance interactions are available in the first place.

          If Dawkins is right, you should quickly and easily find someone who has done these calculations and shown that it is feasible. Let me know what you find out.

          • Paul Cotton says:

            I love the way that you demand evidence and calculations to support ideas that conflict with your own and yet can still offer none to support the notion of a creator. Your hypothesis is based on the fundamental idea that we do not have all of the answers and so therefore there must be a god. Assuming that you are right, and I cannot totally dismiss that possibility, what was the point of creating what seems to be an infinite universe and populating one small insignificant planet? Evidence and calculations would be good. 🙂

          • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

            This is a quite naive argument. First, we need to know about “selective pressures”, about the environment, about the effects of putative catalyzers, etc… As long as you only have the Creator as an alternative “evolutionary mechanism”, it is quite funny that you come up with computing counter-arguments.

            • Evolutionary mechanisms: Horizontal gene transfer, symbiogenesis, transposition, epigenetics, genome duplication, endogenous retroviruses. All non-random systems with observed documented success, based on scientific analysis.

              Random mutation and natural selection: Fairy story proved by no one, must be believed on faith and statistically impossible.

              • Martin Gately says:

                Hi Perry, the impossibility of evolution is iron-clad evidence for creationism. Why does an omnipotent being direct evolution incrementally over millions of years when he could call the world into existence in a week, as the Bible says. Why have immense epochs of time with nothing but dinosaurs on Earth only to wipe them all out? Christians have been using the Bible to assist in calculating the age of the Earth for hundreds of years, and that age is roughly six thousand years. So your theory of God-driven evolution is, unfortunately, fundamentally incompatible with Bible teaching. The Bible does not describe the evolutionary process as being how life on Earth came into being. Therefore, that is not how it came into being.

                • I’ve written all kinds of articles about this. Search the site for “genesis” and go from there.

                  • Martin Gately says:

                    Actually, I have read “A Closer Look at Genesis” before and it is a confused mish-mash of nonsense. For example,”Up to this point the atmosphere has been thick and opaque. It is not possible to see the sun and moon as distinct objects in the sky.” Who do you think is on the Earth at this point looking up? The stuff about the opaque atmosphere is a rather desperate concoction from you to justify why the Bible has things being created in the wrong order. Who are you kidding? Not creationists or atheists. Maybe you’re just playing yourself.
                    And none of it gives the ‘why’ – Why untold epochs of just dinosaurs on the Earth leading to nothing but a dead end and their extinction? Do you have an answer?
                    You note that dinosaurs are not mentioned in Genesis 1. This would seem to be one heck of an omission in a document of revelatory truth that sets out the history and origins of the world. Could it be because the authors didn’t know about dinosaurs?
                    Finally, why is there a God, Perry? Why is there an omnipotent eternal being existing outside the universe? Where does the Bible give the answer…and since you often seem to know better than the Bible: where are your calculations on the probability of such a complex being coming into existence spontaneously or always having existed? What order of magnitude are we talking about? Presumably you have done calculations already…

                    • Martin,

                      Genesis 1 is written from a point of view. Since no one was there, the only hermeneutically fair way to read the text is to read it within the assumptions that it gives. The text states the vantage point in verse 2, which is the surface of the earth. The presumption is that God is telling us what happened.

                      Modern cosmology and anthropology fit the Genesis story quite well if we make 3 simple assumptions:

                      1) Day is a period of time
                      2) story told from earthly POV
                      3) Adam wasn’t the first human, he was the first prophet

                      You can call it a concoction, but in fact it is elegant. No other ancient text can be made to fit modern science with 3 simple assumptions (all of which are consistent with a close reading of the text.) Do you know of one that can?

                      “None of it gives a why” – what are you talking about? The entire Bible is a why. The people who are lacking a why are the atheists and materialists, who insist there is no reason at all. (And then they loudly proclaim their “reason” and “logic.”)

                      Why would ancient people in the middle east care about dinosaurs? Scrolls are expensive. Why would they want to spend paper and ink telling us about that?

                      There’s a lot more bacteria than dinosaurs. You could just as well ask why it omits them.

                      Why is there a God?

                      Foolish question, Martin. The question is, why is there something instead of nothing at all? And where do effects come from? If you apply simple logic you will eventually arrive at the NECESSITY of an uncaused cause.

                      Why is there an uncaused cause? Your very question is illogical because it assumes that there is a further reason behind the Ultimate reason.

                      The question is, why is there an earth.

                      Note that this (in the way you have presented it) is a theological question. The only way to go forward is to take theology seriously. Are you ready to do that yet?

                      As for the probability of a calculation – yes I have done that calculation. We know that if cause and effect is true, then the probability of that uncaused cause being there is 100%. If you believe in cause and effect (you do, don’t you?) there has to be something infinite and boundless outside of space and time that had to cause the universe.

                      Martin, would you please explain to me in detail, from an atheist point of view, how universes pop into existence out of nothing for no reason at all? Please document all the steps and calculate all the probabilities.

                    • Martin Gately says:

                      I said: And none of it gives the ‘why’ – Why untold epochs of just dinosaurs on the Earth leading to nothing but a dead end and their extinction? Do you have an answer?
                      Perry answered: “None of it gives a why” – what are you talking about? The entire Bible is a why. The people who are lacking a why are the atheists and materialists, who insist there is no reason at all. (And then they loudly proclaim their “reason” and “logic.”)
                      And yet, the main reason dinosaurs aren’t mentioned is due to the cost of papyrus. In which case, how does the whole Bible seek to answer the question. Perry, that was a good point on bacteria. It would’ve been extremely useful if the Bible had explained about bacteria – but since (as Sam Harris puts it) the Bible is written by people for whom the wheel barrow was emergent technology that was never going to happen. Your ‘uncaused cause’ points are very weak. If you can assume something as complex as an omnipotent creator always existed…I shall feel free to do the same with the universe…(or maybe an infinite regression of universes). I would put it to you that since you are the one who believes in an uncaused cause…you are the one who doesn’t believe in cause and effect. And, yes, there are questions that are not answered in the Bible. What is God’s backstory? What is his secret origin? Please feel free to make something up. Contact Stan Lee if you need help. Perry, if you want to read how a universe could’ve popped into existence via quantum fluctuation or whatever, please just google it. The internet is at your disposal. Look, this is just a guess, but off the top of my head I’d say that you’ve gotten most of your experience debating with people who aren’t very good at debating. I suggest offering a Logical Debating 2.0 prize to anyone who can help you improve how you construct your arguments.

              • Paul Cotton says:

                How do you explain the development of antibiotic resistance in bacterial populations?

                • If you are asking me this question after all this time it makes me wonder if you’ve really been paying attention at all. Start with the first 3 free chapters of Evolution 2.0. Read that and then we can talk.

                • SCOTT HARWELL says:

                  Not a scientist but the only real science we have on this is that the DNA appears to be programmed to adapt and survive, as all life was designed. And, even after adapting and rewiring it’s DNA, are they not still bacteria?

                  • Paul Cotton says:

                    Seems? that is very subjective. Like many creationists you seem to have a poor understanding of the mechanisms of evolution.

              • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

                Please, forget about this “statistically impossible” stuff. 1. Because what you are trying to say is not statistics, but computing probability. 2. Because, if you apply your kind of “probability” calculation, you would need much more data, which we do not have (yet).

                • If you say that this can happen by chance then that is a hypothesis. The burden is on you to prove it. Show me a statistical model that shows that even the simplest genome can arise by chance.

                  • Peter Grafström says:

                    The statistical model would have to be split up into multiple chemical and thermodynamical environments in order to obtain a high probability as smaller molecules are successively combined. In one and the same environment the probability would be absurdly small like you intuite. It would be counter to the entropy-law.
                    So an apparent difficulty is to describe a number of suitable environments and then combine components from different environments.
                    And to figure out under what conditions those components would withstand decomposition in the transfer phase of the process of combining them. Moving them from favorable to less favorable environments.
                    The statistics of availability of environments and their encounters is then the problem to be studied. That is a macroscopic aspect and could well entail cosmic events. The number of environments needed would be less than log(n) for an n-atom genome. It might suffice with much fewer, say <10 .
                    Catalytic properties could obviously be present.
                    The results of the partial buildup of the components would circulate among instances of these environments. Thats just a sketch of what the hard core reductionists might depart from in order to find a real example. Say in the vicinity of forming planetary systems with not so thin cosmic clouds. And where temperatures could span over interesting intervals. In summary, we meant to make plausible that separate environments exist which would boost the probability for formation of some subset or parent fragments meant to, in several similar steps, lead to the sought macromolecule. And we therefore move from chemical reaction probabilities in the small to the study of availability and distribution of a set of different environments each one favorable to a subset of the n-order parent fragments. n being the binary power of the number of atoms in the sought genome.

                    • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

                      The entropy law only applies to an isolated system. So, it should not be part of any such argument.

                  • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

                    Dear Perry, as I have told you a couple of times, this is exactly what the “Origin of Life” science is currently doing. It seems that the “creation” of the genome might only be a second step.
                    I have also told you before that the major difference between a “believer” and a “want-to-know-er” is only the attitude. So, no scientist would claim that science knows everything, but a scientist can claim curiosity.

                  • Paul Cotton says:

                    Perry, you are constantly requesting figures and calculations. Where are yours to support the notion of a deity?

              • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

                You say “must believe on faith”. Well, you obviously think that to believe in the Creator is a better belief.

          • Peter Grafström says:

            The specificity is supposed to be the outcome of gradual accumulations. Each accumulated piece may be a successively larger chunk. So there may be an exponential multiplication involved. As if different timescales exponentially related are involved.
            I repeat, anthropic principle, parallell worlds, unfamiliar properties of relative time opens up opportunities to explain the seemingly improbable.
            But such things are not part of Dawkins line of argument. So he needs quite a bit of luck to be right.
            Still nothing is settled.

            • In software, the outcome of gradual accumulations is always garbage. Unless the mutations are highly highly non-random.

              Appeals to luck, where such luck has never in the past been observed to succeed, are not science.

              • Peter Grafström says:

                The DNA is also full of old code. Not necessarily garbage but still not in current use.
                But that wasnt really what I had in mind, the point I was making is that there could be an exponential increase in the codechunks with time so the high (potential) specificity would rise relatively fast.
                And the luck I mentioned wasnt about the chance chemical occurrences but about the standard model being saved by physics aspects unknown to the proponents.

  16. Peter Grafström says:

    The nature of the physical world as understood in present physics theory, is such that an advanced kind of feedback must exist in order to secure the perfect clone nature of microscopic phenomena. That is if we assume the world is physical and not some kind of simulation as those conceivable in an operating computer program. The perfect clones in the shape of which elementary particles appear are then generated without any need for feedback. This is akin to the attitude of quantum theorists I have encountered who see the properties I refer to as perfect clones as a reflection of the primacy of the abstract framework per se without any need for further modeling. Those clones are simply mathematical objects in the view of such theorist. I guess it is a way of looking at it but I prefer to complement it with a physical model anyway. Therefore I arrive at the hypothesis that a feedback mechanism global in nature, defining those perfect clones, may be defined, explaining everything in terms of the commonly used concepts of eigenvalues and states albeit not immersed in space-time, the latter not being a primary concept, rather something expected to arise from such a study.
    In quantum mechanics the term eigenvalues represent an aspect of such a feedback system.
    Since the whole universe is believed to be made up of such perfect clones this feedback system must be operating globally. This means nothing is determined locally. Since space and time are interwoven it isnt farfetched to believe this also holds temporally. Whatever the nature of this feedback it would appear to us like something of a higherdimensional phenomenon. Thus the reductionistic assumption of everything depending of local random events isnt necessarily a limit inherent in the present scientific worldview. At present physics doesnt offer any satisfying theory of everything. So there is no sufficiently evolved framework where the global aspects are usefully represented.Since physics implies their existence those global aspects must have a theoretical framework. Whatever provides living cells with such amazing qualities it would automatically be guided by the same microscopic feedback stabilization function as its atomic constituents. And maybe many more.
    I still believe the reductionistic model might work without bringing in the mentioned complications but I assume it is being investigated by others so I leave it to them.

  17. Juan Francisco Muñoz says:

    This article uses so much Ad Hoc replies; for example, “Don´t read Dennet, Dawkins and Harris, read Voltaire and Niezche”.
    It is possible not to like some atittudes of Dawkins as a person talking, but it is just so untruth to say that Dawkins is bad for science. This is just another Ad Hoc bad argument. Richard Dawkins started an important and well stablished tradition in science divulgation when he wrote The Selfsih Gen. Maybe, his arguments about memes are for discussion, but that doesn´t rest importance to the great impact his ideas expressed in this book had in many fields: Psychology, Antropology, Sociology, Computacional Sciences, Genetics, Evolutionary Biology…
    And, is the case for his wrinting style. The Selfish Gene helped to important intelectualls to gave form to his ideas: Steven Pinker writing The Modern Denial of Human Nature, Daniel Dennet writing Consciusness Explained, Sam Harris writing Awake, and many others.
    So, maybe is the case to say that Dawkins is some king of dork because he always put in the front his thinking, over others thinking. But, to do this kind of academic censure over hhim, with these Ad Hoc bad arguments, it is just a shame.

    • If you watch this video by one of the people on Dawkins’ PHD Thesis approval committee, Oxford professor Denis Noble (check his credentials, they’re impeccable) you’ll see that Dawkins’ science is out of date, highly misleading, has significant core fundamental flaws and the selfish gene concept itself is no longer viable:


      Don’t believe me – watch the video from beginning to end and decide for yourself.

      The impact of Dawkins’ work to all of those fields and experts has been detrimental not beneficial. Read Denis Noble’s new book “Dance to the tune of life: Biological Relativity” for a detailed explanation of why this is so.

      I do not recommend that you spend down your own credibility defending Dawkins’ shoddy scholarship and outdated ideas. He’s not even willing to defend himself or bother to find out the latest science so why should you do it for him?

      • Peter Grafström says:

        I listened to Noble and what he describes is a set of lets say nonlinear responses to external actions which potentially might cause a mutations but which in many cases are filtered by these nonlinearities so there are restrictions for what random mutations may be realized. But that doesnt really render Dawkins oversimplification useless or obsolete. Just because the genome is more stable against many changes of a random nature doesnt mean those changes which actually happen are not randomly induced and that entirely different mutations might have happened at the same time for a different instance of random influence.
        It simply means that the genome has many more defences built in to its makeup, rendering evolution more protected against unfavorable changes.
        My impression of this debate, admittedly not knowing what is behind it, is that the western world is under assault, in a selfinflicted manner, by islamism and there may be a perceived need to reerect christian influence over peoples minds. The gains of science have undermined christian beliefs and when islam is bolstered for evil uses by the western oligarchs in the way we see happen( a British plot since the 1870s), even rational scientists are willing to give a helping hand to the preservation of christian influence without explicitly saying so. Can this be what is going on?

        • Your view re Islam doesn’t resonate with me. Certainly not as any kind of explanation for Denis Noble’s work. I know Denis. He’s arguably one of the top 100 scientists in the UK, check his credentials – who discovered experimentally through his heart research that there was zero possibility that the neo-Darwinian interpretation of genes and evolution was correct. His experiments blatantly contradicted the predictions of neo-Darwinian models.

          He developed the first computer model of an organ in the body. Those experiments made pacemakers possible. There is a reason why he holds a high position in the international union of Physiology.

          If you read his book “Dance to the tune of life: Biological Relativity” he shows that cells take random inputs and non-randomly produce systematic behavior from those inputs. This is the same thing Barbara McClintock discovered, see http://evo2.org/pz-mcclintock/ Yes there is randomness all over the place but living things convert that into order. (Note that it is NOT natural selection that is responsible for this, it’s living things actively avoiding the threats of natural selection.) Randomness all by itself is noise and noise only destroys information, machines, genes, etc. And you can write that in blood. I’m a communications engineer and I know this cold.

          Noble’s model is nothing like Neo-Darwinism. See my blog post http://evo2.org/royal-society-evolution/ for more about the November conference that pounded more nails into the “Selfish Gene” coffin.

          • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

            Perry, I thought we went through this before. You have to go back and study “complexity” and “randomness”. Then, you will start getting the point. Namely, that randomness can in fact generate order (pattern).

            • Water in your freezer forms ice crystals and snowflakes. Obviously.

              But it doesn’t produce codes.

              If you can prove something that does, I’ve got $3 million for you.

              • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

                I guess you know what code means, then you just do the following: 1. start flipping a coin and record the results. 2. Look for a pattern of, for instance, HTTHT. 3. Then, do more flipping and you will realize that you have more and more HTTHT sequences. 4. Assign some properties to this sequence, then you will have a system, in which selection can start. 5. Imagine this happening with chemicals. From now on you must get the point.

              • Martin Gately says:

                Perry, why are snowflakes (from naturally falling snow) complex, symmetrical, ordered and unique? Is God busily crafting them that way or is it other forces? If the answer is yes, shouldn’t he have better things to do? If not, isn’t it pretty obvious that order can arise out of random weather conditions? And if that’s true why shouldn’t ordered life arise out of a happy (and random) chemical accident…at the right time and place in the history of this planet?

                • God does not make the snowflakes. They are made from laws that are very well understood.

                  We have no comparable experience with life forms popping out of nowhere. If you think they do then that is faith but it is not science at all. Science says that only intelligent beings make codes. No exceptions are known at this time.

            • Scott Harwell says:

              It is amazing how much faith Laszlo and other believers in abiogenesis have that random chemicals could have formed life which, at the time it was formed, also had the capability of replicating itself. There is no evidence and this is not science. Rather it is a “just so” story to avoid the alternative possibility to
              which would be a self-existing, eternal, powerful, personal, etc. supernatural being.

              • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

                Yes, Scott, it is amazing, but maybe not at all. Actually, humans probably have two races, the thinker humans and the believer humans (see the religious gene). The first thing a believer will do is to turn to some supernatural cause. This is the last thing a thinker would do; first he/she tries to do is to get some “natural” explanation.

          • Peter Grafström says:

            As a communications engineer you ought to recognize the importance of nonlinear responses which are not restricted to living things and which have a controlling effect on noise input. Chaos theory makes that abundantly clear. Nontrivial structure emerges from pure noise input. And that already happens for ridiculously simple systems, and life is orders of magnitude more complicated, offering ample opportunity for more advanced mechanisms. I’m not questioning the content of he cited researcher’s work, just reflecting about how they might be worried about the potentially nihilistic impact of science when the western culture in particular the European is now under serious assault by the western oligarchy’s plot to counter secular progressive nationalist movements in the ME and instead encouraging the worst kind of backward radical islamism. (Documented like I stated since 1870 and continued ever since) But I actually was thinking more about how diverse sponsoring foundations might appreciate that scientists are generous with respect to religion without directly supporting it. Simply not insisting on putting the focus on non-religious modes of explantion, which doesnt take much effort since they really dont have all the answers.

            • I am very, very aware of chaos theory. My book “80/20 sales & marketing” applies chaos theory and power laws to business.

              But in information based systems, noise all by itself does not self organize into something useful. There is no version of chaos theory that turns noise into computer programs. In digital signal processing you can’t take noise and end up with highly ordered signals. There is no known way for demonstrably random mutations to produce improvements in DNA. Every time there is an improvement from outside assaults from the environment, it’s because the cell takes control and re-orders the genome. As was the case with McClintock’s plants.

              When you say “life is orders of magnitude more complicated, offering ample opportunity for more advanced mechanisms” you’re presupposing the ability to produce order from chaos which Denis Noble talks about. But noise all by itself in an unconstrained system will not do this.

              Random mutation and natural selection all by themselves only produce disease, aging, death and extinction.

              If you know of an exception, you are welcome to cite it. Please keep in mind that if you assert that something is random, you will be expected to back up your claim with rigorous empirical evidence.

              • Peter Grafström says:

                “Order from chaos” is strictly speaking misleading since the total entropy of such living dissipating systems is increasing it is just unevenly distributed so a tiny piece of it is more ordered but the whole isnt. Nonlinear systems have the capacity to create such uneven distributions. Every type of information processing systems contains nonlinear apparatae. Every memory cell of whatever makeup must be based on nonlinear phenomena. The living cell is of course no exception. Random noise acting on a selfprogramming computer with filtering algorithms only allowing a limited class of changes seems fully capable of explaining what you claim impossible. Lets say a gene for eye colour is protected from being changed other than to a different colour. That would in terms of computer language be like allowing a limited set of property values of an instance of a class, so a random change which altered anything else would not make it through the filtering algorithm. It would not be copied but the damaged material would be left on the scrapheap its parts being later reused in the metabolism.

                I should mention that I have for decades believed that evolution isnt proven what regards the convergence we see in nature. I have believed that it could lead to divergence ie to a degradation rather than what we see. But I have simultaneously believed that the problem may be settled through computer simulations. Not with an absolute proof but with an asymptotically increasing probability. That it cannot be an absolute proof is because it is obviously an enormously great span of possible outcomes. If some of the systems diverge into what you think is the expected outcome of death and disease while others converge to something similar to what we see happen, then it will be a matter of relative frequencies, of probabilities.
                So you see I have held such views not so far from what you say but without your categorical stance on it. We agree about evolution not being proven but disagree about the potential for proving it.

                • It’s important to make a distinction between thermodynamic entropy and information entropy.

                  Thermodynamic entropy ALWAYS increases in a closed system, but living things reverse information entropy ALL THE TIME. Every time you type or open your mouth and speak you are creating information. You’re not violating the laws of physics in any way, but you are doing something that no random process or even a computer can do.

                  Computers cannot evolve all by themselves. Living things can. Therefore humans do not adequately understand the mechanisms of evolution.

                  • Peter Grafström says:

                    Living things are not closed structures but part of a huge dissipative flow of matter and energy producing increased overall entropy. You omit the part of the entropy (all entropy may be designated information entropy= disorder) which is leaving or entering the living entity. E.g. convective, conductive and radiative heat. This obviously is related to the combustion of eddible material in the body, without which we die and by the use of which we constantly repair and renew our internal composition producing more entropy in the process.

                    • Closed system or open system, either way there is no known way to turn energy into coded information or to directly use energy to reduce information entropy. Such a discovery would be Nobel-Prize level stuff. It would also qualify for the Evolution 2.0 prize.

                  • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

                    Your making ex catedra statements, which is not helping this discussion. I thought we have gone trough the randomness vs. code stuff a couple of times. A code as a pattern can be easily generated in a random process. The question is not really the code itself, but the “receiver”, which understands the code.
                    (You keep referring to “information entropy”, which is fine, but first please start thinking about information theory.)

                  • Peter Grafström says:

                    Neither I and nor you Parry I presume, have checked out the wealth of scientific literature about datalogical simulations of evolving systems and other areas of interest.
                    And for example, something as basic as nonlinear analysis is just in the beginning of its development.
                    And every process inside living things is determined by nonlinear phenomena. Therefore it is premature to conclude anything about the emergence of selfreferential systems, which is how some researchers would characterize the mind.
                    Recently researchers managed to extract previously intractable data from EEG signals using nonlinear methods.
                    The previous research was based on linear methods and failed to demonstrate certain sensory effects. So science advances and new insight is accumulated. It doesnt seem to have ground to a halt.
                    However in the particular example above strong economical interests prefer this research to fail for reasons I dont need to bring up here. So the breakthrough despite having a bearing on legitimate concerns, has not been given much encouragement.
                    I sense that there may be a similar situation with respect to evolution as well.

      • Laszlo G Meszaros says:

        I thought that this whole argument here was not about Dawkins’ scientific achievements.

  18. Peter Grafström says:

    Niels Bohr was the foremost spokesman of the idea of complementarity. The view that there are mutually exclusive yet both applicable and valid descriptions of nature. Somehow this is understood to connect with a creative role of the mind of the observer. Reductionism is supposed to break down when this creative process takes place.
    So at least in the small there is a complementary duality of creation and blind reductionism.

  19. Peter says:

    what’s the best known example of a beneficial mutation?

    • Transposition. Search this site for it.

    • Paul Cotton says:

      Most mutations are by definition almost, harmful and are weeded out of the population, or maintained at very low levels. Environmental change may well change the playing field and so a mutation that was once harmful becomes useful and so its frequency in the population will increase. The problem with most of the fundamentalists is that they do not understand the meaning of evolution and see it as some kind of magic show rather than a natural process. They are blinkered by their bible which they see as truth and there fore the world is very young and evolution would not have had time to happen.

  20. DR Richard Muccillo says:

    I am a UCLA grad and Bertrand Russell long ago was the head of the Philosophy Dept there—when I took philosophy courses there –you learn about his ideas and other philosophies as well like logical positivism–which says you need criteria to describe anything –usually a list of 20 things and when you talk of an invisible thing in the sky you simply do not know what you are talking about because we use language to describe our beliefs. AS far as religion –something man made up to control and it is the reason for all the brutality in this world and has nothing to do with the UNIVERSE or some make-believe entity in the clouds

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