"God is on the ropes: The brilliant new science "

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http://www.salon.com/2015/01/03/god...eationists_and_the_christian_right_terrified/
God is on the ropes: The brilliant new science that has creationists and the Christian right terrified



The Christian right’s obsessive hatred of Darwin is a wonder to behold, but it could someday be rivaled by the hatred of someone you’ve probably never even heard of. Darwin earned their hatred because he explained the evolution of life in a way that doesn’t require the hand of God. Darwin didn’t exclude God, of course, though many creationists seem incapable of grasping this point. But he didn’t require God, either, and that was enough to drive some people mad.

Darwin also didn’t have anything to say about how life got started in the first place — which still leaves a mighty big role for God to play, for those who are so inclined. But that could be about to change, and things could get a whole lot worse for creationists because of Jeremy England, a young MIT professor who’s proposed a theory, based in thermodynamics, showing that the emergence of life was not accidental, but necessary. “nder certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life,” he was quoted as saying in an article in Quanta magazine early in 2014, that’s since been republished by Scientific American and, more recently, by Business Insider. In essence, he’s saying, life itself evolved out of simpler non-living systems.

The notion of an evolutionary process broader than life itself is not entirely new. Indeed, there’s evidence, recounted by Eric Havelock in “The Liberal Temper in Greek Politics,” that it was held by the pre-Socratic natural philosophers, who also first gave us the concept of the atom, among many other things. But unlike them or other earlier precursors, England has a specific, unifying, testable evolutionary mechanism in mind.

Quanta fleshed things out a bit more like this:

From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat. Jeremy England, a 31-year-old assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity. The formula, based on established physics, indicates that when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life.

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It doesn’t mean we should expect life everywhere in the universe — lack of a decent atmosphere or being too far from the sun still makes most of our solar system inhospitable for life with or without England’s perspective. But it does mean that “under certain conditions” where life is possible — as it is here on Earth, obviously — it is also quite probable, if not, ultimately, inevitable. Indeed, life on Earth could well have developed multiple times independently of each other, or all at once, or both. The first truly living organism could have had hundreds, perhaps thousands of siblings, all born not from a single physical parent, but from a physical system, literally pregnant with the possibility of producing life. And similar multiple births of life could have happened repeatedly at different points in time.

That also means that Earth-like planets circling other suns would have a much higher likelihood of carrying life as well. We’re fortunate to have substantial oceans as well as an atmosphere — the heat baths referred to above — but England’s theory suggests we could get life with just one of them — and even with much smaller versions, given enough time. Giordano Bruno, who was burnt at the stake for heresy in 1600, was perhaps the first to take Copernicanism to its logical extension, speculating that stars were other suns, circled by other worlds, populated by beings like ourselves. His extreme minority view in his own time now looks better than ever, thanks to England.

If England’s theory works out, it will obviously be an epochal scientific advance. But on a lighter note, it will also be a fitting rebuke to pseudo-scientific creationists, who have long mistakenly claimed that thermodynamics disproves evolution (here, for example), the exact opposite of what England’s work is designed to show — that thermodynamics drives evolution, starting even before life itself first appears, with a physics-based logic that applies equally to living and non-living matter.

Most important in this regard is the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that in any closed process, there is an increase in the total entropy (roughly speaking, a measure of disorder). The increase in disorder is the opposite of increasing order due to evolution, the creationists reason, ergo — a contradiction! Overlooking the crucial word “closed,” of course. There are various equivalent ways of stating the law, one of which is that energy cannot pass from a cooler to a warmer body without extra work being done. Ginsberg’s theorem (as in poet Allen Ginsberg) puts it like this: “You can’t win. You can’t break even. You can’t even get out of the game.” Although creationists have long mistakenly believed that evolution is a violation of the Second Law, actual scientists have not. For example, physicist Stephen G. Brush, writing for the American Physical Society in 2000, in “Creationism Versus Physical Science,” noted: “As Ludwig Boltzmann noted more than a century ago, thermodynamics correctly interpreted does not just allow Darwinian evolution, it favors it.”

A simple explanation of this comes from a document in the thermodynamics FAQ subsection of TalkOrigins Archive (the first and foremost online repository of reliable information on the creation/evolution controversy), which in part explains:

Creationists thus misinterpret the 2nd law to say that things invariably progress from order to disorder.

However, they neglect the fact that life is not a closed system. The sun provides more than enough energy to drive things. If a mature tomato plant can have more usable energy than the seed it grew from, why should anyone expect that the next generation of tomatoes can’t have more usable energy still?

That passage goes right to the heart of the matter. Evolution is no more a violation of the Second Law than life itself is. A more extensive, lighthearted, non-technical treatment of the creationist’s misunderstanding and what’s really going on can be found here.

The driving flow of energy — whether from the sun or some other source — can give rise to what are known as dissipative structures, which are self-organized by the process of dissipating the energy that flows through them. Russian-born Belgian physical chemist Ilya Prigogine won the 1977 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work developing the concept. All living things are dissipative structures, as are many non-living things as well — cyclones, hurricanes and tornados, for example. Without explicitly using the term “dissipative structures,” the passage above went on to invoke them thus:

Snowflakes, sand dunes, tornadoes, stalactites, graded river beds, and lightning are just a few examples of order coming from disorder in nature; none require an intelligent program to achieve that order. In any nontrivial system with lots of energy flowing through it, you are almost certain to find order arising somewhere in the system. If order from disorder is supposed to violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics, why is it ubiquitous in nature?

In a very real sense, Prigogine’s work laid the foundations for what England is doing today, which is why it might be overstated to credit England with originating this theory, as several commentators at Quanta pointed out, noting other progenitors as well (here, here and here, among others). But already England appears to have assembled a collection of analytical tools, along with a sophisticated multidisciplinary theoretical approach, which promises to do much more than simply propound a theory, but to generate a whole new research agenda giving detailed meaning to that theoretical conjecture. And that research agenda is already starting to produce results. (See his research group home page for more.) It’s the development of this sort of detailed body of specific mutually interrelated results that will distinguish England’s articulation of his theory from other earlier formulations that have not yet been translated into successful theory-testing research agendas.

Above all, as described on the home page mentioned above, England is involved in knitting together the understanding of life and various stages of life-like processes combining the perspectives of biology and physics:

Living things are good at collecting information about their surroundings, and at putting that information to use through the ways they interact with their environment so as to survive and replicate themselves. Thus, talking about biology inevitably leads to talking about decision, purpose, and function.

At the same time, living things are also made of atoms that, in and of themselves, have no particular function. Rather, molecules and the atoms from which they are built exhibit well-defined physical properties having to do with how they bounce off of, stick to, and combine with each other across space and over time.

Making sense of life at the molecular level is all about building a bridge between these two different ways of looking at the world.

If that sounds intriguing, you might enjoy this hour-long presentation of his work (with splashes of local Swedish color) — especially (but not only) if you’re a science nerd.

Whether or not England’s theory proves out in the end, he’s already doing quite a lot to build that bridge between worldviews and inspire others to make similar efforts. Science is not just about making new discoveries, but about seeing the world in new ways — which then makes new discoveries almost inevitable. And England has already succeeded in that. As the Quanta article explained:

England’s theoretical results are generally considered valid. It is his interpretation — that his formula represents the driving force behind a class of phenomena in nature that includes life — that remains unproven. But already, there are ideas about how to test that interpretation in the lab.

“He’s trying something radically different,” said Mara Prentiss, a professor of physics at Harvard who is contemplating such an experiment after learning about England’s work. “As an organizing lens, I think he has a fabulous idea. Right or wrong, it’s going to be very much worth the investigation.”

Creationists often cast themselves as humble servants of God, and paint scientists as arrogant, know-it-all rebels against him. But, unsurprisingly, they’ve got it all backwards, once again. England’s work reminds us that it’s scientists’ willingness to admit our own ignorance and confront it head on — rather than papering over it — that unlocks the great storehouse of wonders we live in and gives us our most challenging, satisfying quests.​
 
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I posted that as a stellar example of the utter crap that is generated both by some materialist scientists but moreso by those materialist "journalists"/writers who gushingly write about whatever they consider "science."
 
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I posted that as a stellar example of the utter crap that is generated both by some materialist scientists but moreso by those materialist "journalists"/writers who gushingly write about whatever they consider "science."
And there i was already wondering why you would post that. It doesnt fit with what you are normally writing about.

This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life.
That would mean that life isnt a coincidence. Even so his working a lot with thermodynamics there, wouldnt that mean that god could still be around? I dont see how the whole thing excludes a intervention of god. It makes it even a bit more plausible in my personal opinion.
 
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And there i was already wondering why you would post that. It doesnt fit with what you are normally writing about.



That would mean that life isnt a coincidence. Even so his working a lot with thermodynamics there, wouldnt that mean that god could still be around? I dont see how the whole thing excludes a intervention of god. It makes it even a bit more plausible in my personal opinion.
Reading it more closely one would see God isn't excluded. Instead God becomes superfluous.

It fits. Saiko never misses an opportunity to complain about anything of a materialist physicalist nature.
 
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I posted that as a stellar example of the utter crap that is generated both by some materialist scientists but moreso by those materialist "journalists"/writers who gushingly write about whatever they consider "science."
Actually, it's you whom have made the stellar example. Patting yourself on the back over this article only shows everyone you can't comprehend let alone appreciate the explanatory beauty of that very human endeavour known as science.
 
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I posted that as a stellar example of the utter crap that is generated both by some materialist scientists but moreso by those materialist "journalists"/writers who gushingly write about whatever they consider "science."
Naw - it's more an example of link-bait crap. Take a look at other headlines by this writer and on the site in general (on the front page now: "
“They’re perfect, PS I cried”: How teen “cute couple” videos are taking over the Internet"

Ironically, it looks like there is some interesting ideas discussed in the article, but the exploitative dumbed down headline would and intro would have turned me off from even reading any more had you not linked to it.

I've never been to that site before, but I'm not sure its the right place to go if you want serious discussion of these types of issues!
 
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Actually, it's you whom have made the stellar example. Patting yourself on the back over this article only shows everyone you can't comprehend let alone appreciate the explanatory beauty of that very human endeavour known as science.
I didn't know you appreciated science. Cool. I guess I've always just assumed you didn't based on your lack of appreciation for reason, facts, logic, good arguments, evidence and rational thinking.
 
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If I didn't know any better, I'd say the writer of this article doesn't care very much for Christians or creationists. Oh, and apparently nihilism is wondrous and satisfying. Hey guys, you feeling wondrous and satisfied? I'm feeling wondrous and satisfied, let me me ask this carbon atom if it's feeling wondrous and satisfied. Hello carbon atom, are you feeling wondrous and satisfied? Oh, its not saying anything, but no worries, one day it'll become part of a physical being with a brain-generated consciousness, and then it can tell me how wondrous and satisfied it's feeling! And then it will die, and rot in the ground, and not exist again ever, and everything will be black and silent and alone forever.

On a lighthearted note, how about those wacky creationists, huh? What crazy antics will they come up with next, hyuck-yuck-yuck?
 
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By the way, were you guys aware of this "new science" already? Because I thought science already knows everything we need to know. And what's with this, "right or wrong, it's worth an investigation" crap? I mean, this England guy is, like, an actual scientist, and this theory is, you know, saying that we came from a completely physical and biological process with no need for anything supernatural, so there's no need to invesrigate because of course it's right! Duh! Why say scientists are ignorant? Dawkins, Randi, Coyne, Myers, etc., they're not ignorant! They know what's nonsense and what's science, that's why Shermer already declared that whatever we don't yet know, it will have a purely naturalistic explanation and not include what we call today the supernatural, because there's no such thing! So how can this be a radical, epochal scientific advance? I mean, if science doesn't know everything we need to know, then that means... it doesn't know everything we need to know! That's like a paradigm shift! Better go destroy this guy's Wikipedia page.

And don't tell me the Christian Right is terrified, show me! Let me read about the choir directors jumping off ledges, parishioners robbing collection plates, and pastors reading The God Delusion with pistols shakily held in their mouths! You call this journalism?! And a Bruno reference? So you watched Cosmos, who didn't? That's not news! My mother could write a better article! Wait, she's Christian, so that means she can't think... my bad!
 
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That would mean that life isnt a coincidence. Even so his working a lot with thermodynamics there, wouldnt that mean that god could still be around? I dont see how the whole thing excludes a intervention of god. It makes it even a bit more plausible in my personal opinion.
Exactly. That, among many other things, is one reason for my comment on the stupid take by the "journalist."
 
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Naw - it's more an example of link-bait crap. Take a look at other headlines by this writer and on the site in general (on the front page now: "[]
I've never been to that site before, but I'm not sure its the right place to go if you want serious discussion of these types of issues!
It may will be "link-bait" but the fact is that such takes are common among mainstream writers. Sure many of those who use Skeptiko are aware of that but among the general population it does have an effect. Also AFAIK Salon is considered a credible website.
 
#12
Actually, it's you whom have made the stellar example. Patting yourself on the back over this article only shows everyone you can't comprehend let alone appreciate the explanatory beauty of that very human endeavour known as science.

Stop. My tummy is beginning to hurt. "can't comprehend let alone appreciate the explanatory beauty of that very human endeavour known as science." Uh-huh. Yep. lol. Though I do appreciate the flow and of that sentence. Good job.;;/?
 
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That would mean that life isnt a coincidence. Even so his working a lot with thermodynamics there, wouldnt that mean that god could still be around? I dont see how the whole thing excludes a intervention of god. It makes it even a bit more plausible in my personal opinion.
This is why I'm an agnostic atheist. The hard atheist position is not tenable. There is no possible way to exclude the possibility of god being or having been involved at some point in the process. A deistic universe (where a deity started the process but no longer interfered after that) could look exactly like an atheistic universe. I don't know that it would ever be possible to tell.

As Steve said above, these arguments are more to the point that no deity is necessary - not that no deity is possible.
 
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Stop. My tummy is beginning to hurt. "can't comprehend let alone appreciate the explanatory beauty of that very human endeavour known as science." Uh-huh. Yep. lol. Though I do appreciate the flow and of that sentence. Good job.;;/?
The thing that makes you unique among all skeptiko members is you always know your position is the correct one, even when engaging someone that sees reality pretty much as you do.

Have you read the thread titled "Rational and Irrational thinking..." in the Other Stuff forum? If you've not, you should.
 
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The thing that makes you unique among all skeptiko members is you always know your position is the correct one, even when engaging someone that sees reality pretty much as you do.
You're clueless. Very rarely do I do think my position is the correct one. Even more rarely (your still bating .000) do I see your position as being a correct one.

When I engage with those who see reality in a fairly similar way to myself, we usually agree on many key things. Happens on here regularly. The thing is - you are not one of those people. IMO you haven't even installed a window yet.
 
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This is why I'm an agnostic atheist. The hard atheist position is not tenable. There is no possible way to exclude the possibility of god being or having been involved at some point in the process. A deistic universe (where a deity started the process but no longer interfered after that) could look exactly like an atheistic universe. I don't know that it would ever be possible to tell.

As Steve said above, these arguments are more to the point that no deity is necessary - not that no deity is possible.
There is no deity necessary? Just like it isnt it necessary to exclude one. Im pretty much agnostic myself since i really dont know if theres a god - i mean, how would i be capable to know? Even so, this theory doesnt state that there is no deity necessary. If life is always imminent under certain conditions, well - who or what defined those conditions? Nature? Im not satisfied with the answer "well it just is like that in our universe because it just is like that here" and all of that multiverse-stuff. Those kind of things arent more plausible then a god. There are plenty of other theories for that, i know - they all seem to be on the same level regarding their plausability. That strengthens the agnostic position though - we simply have no clue whats going on there.
 
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There is no deity necessary? Just like it isnt it necessary to exclude one.
Right, it's not necessary to exclude one. The soft atheist position is lack of belief in a deity. The skeptical position is to withhold belief in a deity absent sufficient reliable evidence of the existence of one.

Im pretty much agnostic myself since i really dont know if theres a god - i mean, how would i be capable to know? Even so, this theory doesnt state that there is no deity necessary. If life is always imminent under certain conditions, well - who or what defined those conditions? Nature? Im not satisfied with the answer "well it just is like that in our universe because it just is like that here" and all of that multiverse-stuff. Those kind of things arent more plausible then a god. There are plenty of other theories for that, i know - they all seem to be on the same level regarding their plausability. That strengthens the agnostic position though - we simply have no clue whats going on there.
I don't think many would argue that the multiverse is only a hypothesis at this stage. As for the ideas presented in the article - I have no idea. I haven't looked up the actual studies the article is based on yet - I suspect they'll be quite technical. I don't have much confidence that the author of the article accurately portrayed their content so I currently have no opinion on it.
 
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Right, it's not necessary to exclude one. The soft atheist position is lack of belief in a deity. The skeptical position is to withhold belief in a deity absent sufficient reliable evidence of the existence of one.
Id rather say its a matter of interpretation if there is evidence or if there isnt. Of course, the positions that you described right here would be valid interpretations, i can agree on that.

I don't think many would argue that the multiverse is only a hypothesis at this stage. As for the ideas presented in the article - I have no idea. I haven't looked up the actual studies the article is based on yet - I suspect they'll be quite technical. I don't have much confidence that the author of the article accurately portrayed their content so I currently have no opinion on it.
He didnt. The whole theory that is stated in this article isnt more than a theory till now, although the article states that the "inventor" of the theory is confident that it can be proven. Whatever that means, idk.
 
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Id rather say its a matter of interpretation if there is evidence or if there isnt.
I agree that evidence must be analysed and interpreted- but the question isn't just "is there evidence or isn't there?" Evidence can be strong or weak, reliable or unreliable. The same evidence can support multiple hypotheses.
 
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I agree that evidence must be analysed and interpreted- but the question isn't just "is there evidence or isn't there?" Evidence can be strong or weak, reliable or unreliable. The same evidence can support multiple hypotheses.
I never agreed so much with you. I nearly get the impression as if i could understand the things you are writing. But thats propably just a fluke :p

Edit: Btw, that doesnt mean that i agree that the evidence for god is unreliable or whatever. Stated that before, i simply do not know regarding that kind of thing. Everyone out there needs to decide that for themselves anyways, so its all fine to interpret everything the way you want to :)
 
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