“He Beat You With Nothin!” Cool Hand Luke and the Atheist Search for Life’s Origin: Part 1

God’s goose is cooked if atheist scientists can show that life came into existence all by itself, without any intelligence required. For that reason, atheist scientists are working around the clock to show just that. I figured I’d better take a look and see how they’re doing.

The Great Courses company landed Robert M. Hazen in 2005 to give a lecture series entitled ‘Origins of Life.’ He’ll do. Great Courses doesn’t hire losers. The company says at the outset of every course that it seeks out academic professors stellar in their respective fields and stellar in teaching ability. Hazen has written a few books on the topic. He’ll represent the field well.

Nonetheless, I soon found myself thinking of the movie Cool Hand Luke. “Nothin'! A handful of nothin'. You stupid mullet head, he beat you with nothin!'—the derisive words of the senior jailbird.

Luke didn’t exactly have nothing. He held the 4 of clubs, the jack of hearts, 9 of diamonds, 10 of clubs, and the deuce of clubs. Call that nothing? Never mind that they didn’t add up to anything. He still bluffed his way to the top with ‘nothin.’

“Yeah, well sometimes nothing is a real cool hand,” he drawled, and was thereafter called Cool Hand Luke.

Is it too dismissive, even unkind, to say that the origins of life people have ‘nothing?’ They work very hard and become very enthused. They give every appearance of having something. To the scientism/philosopher/cheerleader/atheists promoting their cause, seeking to ram atheism down everyone’s throat as the be-all and end-all, as though it, too, were good news, they are always two centimeters away from clinching the deal. So how can anyone conclude they have ‘nothin?’

One can start by hearing out Hazen’s opening lecture. “In this lecture series I make a basic assumption, that life emerged by some kind of natural process.” It’s an assumption! Not something he will look into to see whether it is true or not He assumes it is true. “I propose that life arose by a sequence of events that was completely consistent with the natural laws of chemistry and physics. and in this assumption, I'm like other scientists.” They all assume it! All those in his orbit do. Isn’t science supposed to be a process of discovery?

But wait! Is there not a competing model that holds God created the heavens and the earth and all life on it? How does he come to grips with that? “Let me say now for the record: I'm a scientist. I'm not a theologian nor am I a philosopher. This course focuses exclusively on the scientific approach to the question of life's origins.”

Of course! That’s how he deals with competing models—he ignores them! My legal career would have truly taken off if I could have just persuaded the judge to ignore the other side! It just may be that Hazen and those he represents should incorporate those other two disciplines into their work, since the urge to both worship and philosophize is near universal.

No wonder he is not disheartened by his subsequent words—he admits to no other possibility for life’s origin. In that first lecture, he goes on to say: “I have to confess the nitty gritty details of that transformation remains a deep mystery. . . I have to be honest: Even with the scientific approach there is a possibility that we'll never know, in fact that we can't ever know how life emerged. That's because it's always possible that life emerged by an almost infinitely improbable sequence of difficult chemical reactions.. . . it's even possible that earth is the only living planet in the entire universe. and if that's true that any scientific attempt to understand life's origins is doomed to failure.”

Doesn’t that sound pretty close to nothin? Does that bother him unduly? Not at all. He admits to no other channel for life’s emergence! In his view, he may never prove his answer, but it is the answer, nonetheless.

Thus we hear of many things that “must have” happened. Such as: “At some point a collection of molecules must have begun to make copies of itself. Then, those self-replicating cycles of molecules must have experienced competition, which quickly drove the evolution to even more complex assemblages.” Did those things in fact happen? They must have, he concludes, otherwise his pie in the sky research falls flat on its face!

And they say religion is where the dogmatists hang out!

It gets worse. Hazen tells of attending conferences in which half the name badges incorporate the phrase ‘Origin of Life’ and the other half ‘Origins of Life’—plural. What’s with that? Well, it used to be just ‘Origin of Life.’ But, in time, due to a "fascinating shift in attitudes . . . many researchers began to argue that life has arisen frequently in the universe.” Why would they reason that way? Is there good (or any) evidence to that effect? Hazen’s answer: “Without such an assumption [another assumption!] the scientific study of life's origin is probably a waste of time.” Fascinating, indeed, to realize that. Nobody wants to waste their time. Cool Hand Luke didn’t want to, either. So he bluffed that the nothin he had was really somethin and he outfoxed all the other jailbirds!

[Note: I have nothing against Hazen, as will be explained subsequently. I have simply selected him as representative of a certain approach. If it wasn’t him, it would be someone else. Kudos to him for being the point man of his field. It is not as though Great Courses has ever tapped me to lecture on anything.]

To be continued:  here


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Cool Hand Luke: ‘He Beat You with Nothin!’ Atheist search for the Origin of Life. Part 7

For best results, see Part 1:

To the great atheist rank and file, Charles Darwin is science—far more so than Anthony Fauci said he was when he wanted to win over the general rank and file and silence detractors. You can even purchase ‘Stand Up for Science’ merchandise in his honor. I see a coffee mug advertised on Facebook all the time. It is emblazoned with six statements, each supposedly settled once and for all, each uttered with equal authority: “The earth is not flat, vaccines work, we’ve been to the moon, chemtrails are not a thing, climate change is real, and evolution is a fact.” You can get a tee shirt with the exact same artwork. Modeling that tee-shirt is a fellow with a great long Darwinian beard. Yes, you can drink your coffee in your Stand up for Science mug while wearing your Stand up for Science tee-shirt and look just like Charles Darwin, your hero!

Imagine: Darwin is the face of science! Not Mendel, who discovered the mechanism for how Darwin's ideas worked but who believed in a higher power, nor Einstein, nor Newton, nor Galileo, nor Copernicus—all of whom believed in a higher power, but Darwin, who also nominally did (in his younger days, he trained to be a clergyman) but who smoothed the way for those who would not. Frankly, Jehovah’s Witnesses will have little issue with Darwin, insofar as the specific findings he points to. Finch modifications to meet changing conditions are no surprise at all to anyone familiar with animal husbandry. Witnesses only get squeamish from correctly anticipating the truckloads of dogma that atheists will drive through the door he cracks open.

Darwin certainly has not lost his place in the subset of science that is origin-of-life, but every subset needs its own tee shirt and coffee mug star. That honor falls to Stanley Miller, who in 1952 created a few amino acids in the lab among contrived conditions and thereafter held firm that such conditions must have prevailed in primordial earth—otherwise his findings could not have happened. If that seems like somewhat circular reasoning, consider that Dr. Hazen says as much: “Most previous origin researchers have fallen into a kind of trial and error approach to devising hypotheses; they would cook up some likely geochemical recipe and run an experiment. If the experiment did something interesting, they patched together a theory around those observations.”

Well--surely the field’s own ‘Darwin’ didn’t do this. Yes, even he: “Stanley Miller's experiment is a case in point. the Miller-Urey experiment produced amino acids, so his followers became convinced that that's how it happened long ago in nature.” In fact, what he did was not even new. The Great Courses professor tells of another scientist who did exactly the same thing 50 years earlier, Walter Loeb, a German chemist. But Loeb didn’t frame it as searching for life’s origin; he just said he was mixing chemicals. Nor was he a self-promoter. Moreover, he was German, and in the years just following the World Wars, nobody wanted to hear anything from Germany.

So they just find something that works and say, ‘Ha! Early earth must have been that way! Otherwise, my experiment would have flopped!” It is not exactly rigorous science, most neutral parties would conclude. So typical is this slipshot guesswork passing for science that when someone comes along who actually details his work, it’s a big deal! “You don't mind if I brag a little” Gunter Wachtershauser says many years later, “but something like this has never been done in the entire field.” It hasn’t?! All he did was provide “more than 100 pages of specific chemical reactions. each of these reactions is a testable step.” Aren’t they all supposed to do that? Instead, they just spin guesses and gullible atheists lap it all up as ‘science!’

“We're going to take a much closer look at Gunter Wachtershauser’s theory in lecture 20,” Dr. Hazen says, and when he does, he finds other things not to like, but at least Wachtershauser did what you would think all scientists would do.

So, Stanley Miller is top dog, the Darwin in his field. He does not want to lose his place. Of a competing hypothesis, he mutters: “the vent hypothesis is a real loser I don't understand why we even have to discuss it.” The reason ‘we’ do is that, for all the euphoria, his hypothesis has some gaping holes that sink it. The early ‘primoridal soup’ is far too dilute, by all accounts, to host steps necessary for abiogenesis. Not to mention that water, the ‘liquid of life,’ and carbon, the ‘framework for all biomolecules,’ don’t mix. Not to mention that certain steps essential to life never work in water at room pressure.

So, maybe some areas of high pressure are where life originated, Hazen lectures, and he considers oceanic vents where weird life has been discovered since Miller’s time. Maybe life originated there! and there are a host of researchers going under in that direction. Presently, however, Hazen uncovers just as many difficulties there as with Miller’s soup. The non-scientist can get a rough idea of the troubles crushing pressure might pose to newly developing delicate life by smashing his thumb with a hammer. [my proposed experiment, not Dr. Hazen’s]

Since both scenarios post intractable problems, many others emerge. Maybe the earliest cells formed, not in the high pressure ocean depths nor the low pressure primordial soup, but on some material that served as a ‘scaffold’ to pin the early molecule to, and after so serving, disappeared. There is a hypothesis that maybe life emerged, not as carbon-based, but as something-else based—clay, says one, minerals, says another—and only later transitioned to carbon-based. Maybe it started silicon-based, the outer shell of silicon offering the same connections as carbon, there being only an extra shell within. Like those Star Trek aliens who bored through solid rock—not a problem if you are rock-based yourself—to attack humans who had mistaken their eggs for bowling balls or some such thing.

Look, they’re all great guys and all. I wish them well—well, I guess I don’t—but it doesn’t matter if I do or don’t. They are impossible to discourage. Every match that doesn’t burn their fingers is the one they are convinced will light the next rocket ship to Mars. (and yes, there is also an hypothesis that life originated on Mars and came here via asteroid.) Well into the course, after he has discussed hypothesis after hypothesis and found them all wanting, he doesn’t conclude what anyone of common sense would conclude, that they’re all wrong. Bizarrely, he concludes that they are probably all right and all that is needed is further experimentation to corroborate them!

Tell me this fellow hasn’t drunk too much of his own Kool Aid:

“Look, I understand it may seem a little frustrating to have so many scientific cliffhangers but by the time you're through with this lecture series you'll be poised to share in all the incredible discoveries that are about to come, and I absolutely guarantee there will be exciting discoveries in the quest for life's origins!” Tell me a guy like this can be discouraged.

Still, greatly thrilled at all the “incredible discoveries that are about to come,” I checked out from the library the most recent origin-of-life book I could find, a top choice of the nasa.gov list of life-emergence works: The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life, by Nick Lane, published in 2015, ten years more recent than Hazen’s lecture series. Had any of the “incredible discoveries that are about to come” come? Not as far as I could see.


*Urey was the overseeing professor to Stanley Miller, then a graduate student. Bucking conventional practice, he graciously withdrew his name from the paper because he, a former Nobel Prize winner, knew if his name was mentioned, people would forget all about Miller, who had come up with the idea and done the work, to heap all honors on him. You can almost picture the My Fair Lady song sung by atheists, praising scientists “who, when you win, will always give your back a pat. Well, why can’t a deist be like that?”


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Cool Hand Luke: ‘He Beat You With Nothin!’ The Atheist Search for the Origen of Life, Part 6

For best results, see Part 1:

If you venture beyond the purely material realm to peer into the spiritual, if you venture there WITHOUT EVIDENCE, and so the scientism/atheist/philosopher/cheerleaders will forbid that course, but if you tell them to kiss off and do it anyway, you will discover a prime reason for worshipping God.

You are worthy, Jehovah our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they came into existence and were created,” says Revelation 4:11.

What if you could demonstrate that God did not create all things? What if you could demonstrate that he actually caused nothing at all to come into existence, that it all happened by itself? Wouldn’t the prime reason for giving God the glory and the honor and the power vanish? Can we think of anyone in the supernatural realm who would love for that to happen? (Hint: he has horns.)

No, he doesn’t have horns. It’s an image from medieval times, if not before; no where does the Bible depict him with horns. But as an opponent of God? Oh, yeah. Satan is a word that literally means ‘resister.’ Its Greek derivative ‘devil’ literally means ‘slanderer.’ He, the one who noted the glory and honor and power going to God, said, ‘Hey, I’d like me some of that,’ and maneuvered events in the garden to lay his claim. James 1:14 tells the power of each one being drawn out and enticed by their own desire.

Granted that the origin-of-life scientists are good and honorable people, or at least they have the same mix of traits that typify the general population. They are not evil incarnate. Don’t go taking any nasty shots at them. But that does not mean they might not be pawns in a game much greater than they consciously play—the game that the Great Unhorned One cheers from his easy chair every bit as much as you cheer for the area sports team.

Who are these origin-of-life scientists? Are they easy to track? Are there a lot of them? Surprisingly, no. In a move that is reassuring for the reputation of science as a reasonable endeavor, the Great Courses lecturer says they number only about 500. Why reassuring? Because it suggests that the vast majority of scientists are not comfortable holding Cool Hand Luke’s 4, 10, and deuce of clubs, jack of hearts, and 9 of diamonds, let alone try to bluff themselves and others that they really hold something. They stick to areas more amenable to the scientific method.

“It's actually pretty easy to keep track of the origins of life community because there's one principle scientific society: the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life. Or ISSOL.” Of that tiny number of scientists belonging to the society, worrisomely, by far the largest contingent is the United States, contributing over half the membership. Why worrisomely? It is in the same vein as what was said early on about Jesus: “Can anything good come out of Nazarus?” Of course, iPads come out of the United States, as well as Teslas—they’re certainly good—but this is applied science. When we get into pipe-dream science, watch out! as the ‘land of the free’ is also the land of the free thinkers, even the unhinged free thinkers who are the ones quickest to overturn the traces, convinced something better will emerge on the other side.

“Most scientific societies have open memberships. but not ISSOL,” Dr. Hazen tells us. “Early on, when the society was small, there was a real concern that the membership could be taken over by crackpots and fringe scientists with their own agendas,” (as though the mainline itself has none) “The origins of life field has from time to time attracted people with ideas that are, to say the least, a bit odd.” (as though the mainstream one isn’t). “There's one contingent, for example, that's convinced that life on earth was planted by aliens and that we’re all just one big experiment.” Well, yeah, that is a little odd, but no odder than cutting-edge notions that currently permeate atheist society. For example, maybe we and all that we think we experience are merely bits on the hard drive of a superior intelligence! Hmm, yes, indeed plausible, nod the atheists—it comes from outer space—whereas if you mentioned anything about God to them, they’d hurl. The Matrix movies inspire them just as much as Star Trek did their forebears.

Every year and a half for these 500 luminaries, there is the Gordon Research Conference to look forward to, apparently as Hollywood looks forward to the Emmys. Yet, says the professor, “these week-long meetings are restricted to about 120 scientists and they're quite unusual in that everything said is strictly off the record. You actually have to sign a statement that you won't reveal what was discussed.” Not even all 500 get in, only the elite 120! And once in, their doings are as hush-hush as a meeting of top Masons. (one of whom once confided to me what the G in the central figure stands for. It stands for—gasp!—God)

“Our understanding of life's origins and evolution probably has a better chance of getting into these journals [Nature and Science] than almost any other topic,” says Dr. Hazen in Lecture 1. Imagine! There’s only 500 of them at the time of the lecture series. Only 500! I have to refrain from calling them a cult. Yet they beat out all the rest of the world’s two million scientists when it comes to prestigious publication!

They’ve just got a good gig going, they know it, and they’re plugging away at what they love to do—experiments and test tubes. No agenda beyond that, most likely. But a person could be forgiven for supposing they are tools of a Greater One, evil indeed, who does have an Agenda: prove God unnecessary and thereby his own claim to invisible godship is enhanced. I would never go there, of course, because I need EVIDENCE. But I could understand if you did.

To be continued: here


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Cool Hand Luke: ‘He Beat You with Nothin!’ Atheist search for the Origin of Life. Part 4

For best results, begin with Part 1.

One of my car group came across a “trained scientist” in the ministry. Alas, I was not with her. Had I been, I would have probed the meaning of “trained.” Time was when a scientists would just introduce him/herself as a scientist. Is the “trained” preface just there to lend prestige? Or does it really mean something? How is a trained scientist different from a regular scientist? Has he (my sneaking suspicion, though I could be wrong) been “trained” that atheism is required to be a real scientist, whereas it once was that scientists saw no inherent conflict with belief in God—some did and some didn’t, but it was not a requirement for the job? The ones who saw no conflict kept the two disciplines on separate realms, with the conviction that each provides unique tools for interpreting life and neither negates the other. Pew Research says (in 2009) that about half of American scientists believe in God or a higher power, and half do not

Who are these origin-of-life scientists whose experiments have verified a few islands, so they are confident that enough others will emerge for a shore-to-shore waltz across the ocean? I breezily suggested in Part 1 that they were motivated by a desire to disprove God? Can that really be?

No, probably not. That was just poetic license on my part. Maybe a few here and there do it, but for the most part, disproving God would be a consequence were they to strike pay dirt; it’s not their motivation. They just do science because it’s their discipline. Don’t take any cheap shots at them. Don’t for instance, play the Psalm 14:1 card: “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’” The fool may say it, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who says it is a fool. Besides, he says it in his heart. He may well believe it, but acts as though he does not.

Science fixated on the origin of life has soared in importance. (or is it just the atheists trying to convince me that has happened?) Nobody gets their articles into Science or Nature more quickly than the origin-of-life scientists—Robert Hazen said so in his first lecture. That doesn’t show ascendancy? Whereas James Watson (co-discoverer of the DNA double-helix structure) wrote in 1968 that botanists and zoologists of his day couldn’t even be depended upon to do “clean science [italics mine]; some actually wasted their efforts on useless polemics about the origin of life.”* It's not a condemnation so much as a witticism; Watson writes in snappy, tongue-in-cheek style. Still, it indicates that origin-of-life science had not the respectability it enjoys today. It was not then “clean science.”

Nor is it “clean” now, in my estimation. It is rife with speculation (see previous post) that will convince few beyond true believers--fueled by the assumption that one need not look elsewhere. It presents with almost as much wishful thinking as does evolutionary psychology (see next post), which turns Darwin inside out in its mission to present every aspect of human nature, be it mundane or bizarre, as stemming from our cavemen ancestors beating out the competition with whatever quirk is under consideration.

So, they’re neither hypocrites nor fools, those origin-of-life scientists. Even though you might think they are upon reading what they release, they’re not. They are no more hypocrites and fools than can be found in general society; probably less. They live in a world of their own, I suspect, and are largely oblivious to implications their work may prove or disprove God. One may take at face value Hazen’s explanation for why he doesn’t even consider what is common sense to most others: that God created all things, even if by incorporating the ability to adapt over time through genetic mutation. Why doesn’t he go there? Because he is neither theologian nor a philosopher, he says in Lecture 1. Okay? He’s not trying to bamboozle us. That’s just how it is with him and his crowd. One may accept his explanation as genuine.

But that doesn’t mean it makes any sense. Why am I reminded of the G K Chesterton line, “The first effect of not believing in God is that you lose your common sense?" What is it with a society in which people are expert in their chosen field, but if you nudge them even a tiny bit outside it, they are clueless? Of course he should incorporate those two other disciplines! But science has evolved in recent decades to convince him he doesn’t have to. ‘I don’t do theology or philosophy,’ he says, just as the cleaning woman says, ‘I don’t do windows.’ Alas, just as not doing windows results in a restricted view, so does not doing theology or philosophy. In the hands of atheists, that’s what science has become.

To test my hypothesis that scientists live in a world of their own, I read The Code Breakers: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race to see how often Anthony Fauci was mentioned. (Okay, so I didn’t read it with that intent. I just noticed it as I was reading.) Though it is not the starting point, an end point is how newly-discovered CRISPR technology** led to COVID-19 research and a resultant vaccination campaign. To the layman, Anthony Fauci is the top name encountered, the government superstar who night after night appeared on TV next to the president to urge what must be done to beat the virus. Anthony Fauci—the touchstone for all things COVID--spun by some a saint, by others a villain. How large a role does he play in Isaacson’s book on the scientific development of CRISPR technology? He gets two single-sentence mentions!

To the great unwashed, Fauci IS Covid-19 science! In fact, he even said so when opponents were trying to make it hot for him: “Attacks on me, quite frankly, are attacks on science.” Science doesn’t work that way. He knows it doesn’t work that way, most likely. It’s a cry to rally the troops and get detractors off his back. But the great atheist unwashed who have God overboard but not their instinct to worship one eat up this statement. ‘Criticize Fauci?’ they say. ‘Not on my watch! I believe in science and he is science! He said so!’ Yet, to the scientists who actually do the research, Fauci barely appears on their radar. He thus represents the great divide.

They live in a world of their own, these scientists. Hazen tells us: “Most scientists take a pretty straight path from high school to college to grad school to postdoc to tenure-track job; if you make it through, you're pretty much guaranteed a satisfying life in science,” (22nd lecture). Insulated much? one might ask. Most of them have never done anything else!

Read the words of scientists. Events that have all the world abuzz barely register with them. Watson writes in The Double Helix of how his mock-super-villain, Linus Pauling, so presented for his competition to discover the DNA structure, continually breathing down Watson’s neck (and that of co-discoverer, Crick), presented much the way I present Vic Vomodog, as a sort of ever-scheming but ever-frustrated Wily E Coyote—this Pauling was denied passport to England due to American suspicion of anyone who would speak too ‘subversively’ about peace during the McCarthy era. It’s all foolishness to Watson, as though it only exists to thwart science. Even though Cold War tensions captivated the rank and file, he is beyond it. Continue reading narratives on science, Isaacson’s Einstein, for instance, and you get the impression that they regard even world wars as little more than nettlesome interruptions to their research.

They are their own class, entirely separate from the philosopher/scientism/ philosophers/atheists who troll the internet, ever eager to call someone who doesn’t fall into line stupid. There may be a few losers among these real scientists who lead double lives, mixing test tubes by day and scouring social media by night, but for the most part, I am convinced they are two separate groups with little interaction.

It's a good gig to be a scientist. You don’t see poverty. You don’t see dirt. You get to hang out with smart people at the university. Everyone you meet likes to read. To be sure, you do see plenty of proud and stubborn people, but as a fellow scientist, they admit you into the club. What’s not to like? You get to hang up in your lab Far Side cartoons, such as the one of the scientists fleeing the lab like kids in frock coats upon hearing the ting-a-ling of the ice cream man—nobody enjoys those cartoons more than scientists, I am told.

I’m envious—make no mistake. But I still prefer my present life. “A physical man does not accept the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know them, because they are examined spiritually. However, the spiritual man examines all things, but he himself is not examined by any man.” It works for me. Like the time, just after the Columbine school shooting, before school shootings became the new normal, that I commented to a woman at the door about how “grief counselors” had been summoned to the school, with the air of calling the fire department to put out the fire—the term was new, then, not common-place, as it is today. “I’d love to hear what they have to say,” I commented. Her eyes widened. “You have an interesting job!” she exclaimed.


*The Double Helix, Jas D Watson, 1968, p72

**Sean B. Carrol thought CRISPR represented “fossil DNA” in his 2007 book, The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution, just garbage that might have been useful at one time but no longer was—whereas it has since been revealed to be the central mechanism of the immune system. Sean B. Carroll is not to be confused with Sean M. Carroll, and easily might be, since they are both active figures in contemporary science. You really not should confuse either with Sean Carroll, the area broadcaster however, to whom I introduced the two luminaries and they hit it off. In no time at all they were talking baseball.

to be continued: here


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Cool Hand Luke: ‘He Beat You With Nothin!” The Atheist Search for the Origin of Life. Part 3: A Word Experiment to Test the Hypothesis

For best results, begin here.

As the layman reader—not the true science believers, but the laymen—listen through the Great Courses lecture series, ‘The Origins of Life,’ they may begin to suspect they are being played for suckers. They may, therefore, conceive an hypothesis that the series is analogous to Cool Hand Luke holding a handful of ‘nothin.’ Isn’t it top-heavy in wishful thinking from ones who will admit to no other possibility that life arose spontaneously? It doesn’t take much to get them all excited. At least Cool Hand Luke knew he was holding ‘nothin.’

It is important to employ the scientific method. An hypothesis has no value unless it can be tested by experiment. What experiment might be devised to test whether ‘The Origins in Life’ consists of house specialists mostly spinning ‘nothin,’ bluffing you as they bluff themselves, drinking too much of their own Kool Aid? How can one test whether the stuff is more speculation than science?

Since speculation is associated with such terms as ‘may have’ and ‘could have,’ etymology comes to our rescue. Count up those speculative terms and compare them with ones that indicate results—‘happened’ instead of ‘may have happened’—and what do we find?

We hit pay dirt through this method. ‘May have’ occurs 29 times. ‘Could have’ occurs 24 times. ‘Proof,’ on the other hand, occurs 5 times. ‘Proved’ occurred 5 times, ‘proven,’ not at all. Moreover, not one of these ‘proof’ words indicates anyone has any, but either that it still needs to be found or that it is irrelevant to the experiment—such as one of the author’s colleagues, who “proved to be one of the most exacting finicky experimentalists I'd ever met.”

Digging deeper only rewards us more. When ‘may have’ and ‘could have’ is raised to the more imperative ‘must have’—here the experiment returns an astounding 77 hits! In almost every case it is, ‘such-and-such “must have” happened, otherwise the entire assumption that life arose on its own collapses.’ Can’t have that—therefore, it “must have” happened.

‘Happened’ itself seems a good test word. It occurs 23 times. 5 of those times are what ‘might have happened’ or some permutation, reducing the number to 18. 7 of them are things that ‘happened’ in this or that experiment, not the overall picture, reducing the total once more to 11. 4 of them are variations of ‘we don’t know what happened but hope to find out,’ reducing the total to 7. Then there are several hard to classify instances of ‘happened.’ Stanley Miller’s “followers,” whom you could be forgiven for thinking they present almost as a cult, are convinced they have found how things “happened long ago in nature.” Another advancehasn't happened yet but the chemical pieces are certainly close to falling into place.” Yet another researcher was asked to write up “a short speculative paper right away, [which] was a long shot but it's happened before.” There’s not a single instance of ‘happened’ with regard to the overall pre-formed conclusion that life originated by itself.

Many things are “assumed.” That word, along with it’s base, ‘assume’ or its derivative ‘assumption,’ occurs 46 times. Words to indicate definitiveness are less frequent: “Establish” may be the best word in favor of the origin scientists; it (or ‘established’) occurs 26 times. Many are irrelevant, such as the scientist who “established a solid reputation for cautious conservative science,” but the ones that remain refer to experiments that established this-or-that result, and if you could only string together enough of them, you’d have the big kahuna.

The problem is that the situation is “complex.” (215 instances, which includes ‘complexity’) I’m sympathetic. It’s always preferable to solve easy things than hard ones. The wear and tear of time “must have” erased the tons of evidence that would otherwise clinch the deal. Also, the main issue abiogenesis,” I was informed online, “is that probably the most important factor can’t be replicated in a lab.” If it could, I had countered previously, would that show life could originate without intelligent direction? If anything, wouldn’t it prove just the opposite? But I was called “stupid” for that question; all the scientists were doing was replicating conditions that ‘must have’ existed already.

Of course, the above etymology experiment is not conclusive in itself. Any experiment must be corroborated by many others for a theory to emerge. But I have been bitten by the science bug. Recently, I devised an hypothesis that my next book will be a literary masterpiece to make the world’s greatest authors hang their heads in shame. But how to test this hypothesis by 'experiment' (355 occurrences!)? An analysis of Wordle scores ought to do the trick. Scores of 4 shall be irrelevant for this experiment. Any donkey can get 4. However, comparing 3s with 5s should be revealing. If your 3s exceed your 5s, the hypothesis is corroborated. If your 5s exceed your 3s, you are due to write another turkey.

Sigh. My 5s exceed my 3s—though the margin is quite thin. More experiments are obviously needed—maybe just more Wordle tries.

To be continued: Here


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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Cool Hand Luke: He Beat You with Nothing! The Atheist Search for the Origin of Life, Part 2: There Oughta be a Law

(For best results, start with Part 1):

‘There oughta be a law!’ is what you say when something doesn’t go your way but you think it should. It’s a complaint. You often say it in jest or in a tongue in cheek manner.

It is what Robert Hazen says (though not in jest) about the two laws of thermodynamics. There ought to be another one. Therefore, there is--it just hasn’t been discovered yet. Why does he say it ought to be out there somewhere? Because otherwise his quest to find life’s origin (or origins) is going nowhere. Why doesn’t he consider that maybe God created all things, as religious people have almost universally believed? Because he’s not a theologian. He doesn’t go there.

[Note: I have nothing against Hazen in particular. I have simply selected him as representative of a certain approach. If it wasn’t him, it would be someone else. Kudos to him for being the point man of his field. It is not as though Great Courses has ever tapped me to lecture on anything.]

The first law of thermodynamics states that energy may change form, but the net total stays constant. The second states that it doesn’t change form in just any direction, but always toward disorder. “Another way of stating the second law is that all natural systems tend to spontaneously to become disordered, or messier, if you will” he says in Lecture 1 of his Origins of Life series. “It turns out that any collection of atoms, including your shiny new automobile, a pair of new shoes, or even your body, gradually deteriorates.”

This observation will strike most people as a big Duh, but scientists have attached a name to this deterioration: entropy, a “measure of disorder.” Thus, as disorder increases, so does entropy. “There’s a lot of entropy in this room,” I used to tell my son, hoping to instill in him a love of science, before demanding he clean it up so as to placate my wife--ignoring his non-sequitur plea of, “Well, what about your room?”

“A lot of people find the second law of thermodynamics more than a little depressing,” Hazen says. Another Duh—especially when applied, as he does apply it, to “even your body.” It is why I prefer the term Golden Rule to Human Rights. The latter may contain a measure of good stuff, but even our own bodies do not respect our human rights, crapping out on us just when we need them most, ultimately shutting down altogether. The Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," preserves all that is noble while discarding all that is pretentious about Human Rights.

 But for Hazen, the greatest reason that second law is “more than a little depressing” is because it louses up his theory on life originating spontaneously. There oughta be a law to countermand that second one. Therefore, he assumes there is. For the rest of the course, he continues to speak of the concept of “emergence,” which he hopes will someday be recognized as a law.

As evidence for his proposed theory, he urges people to “look around you. You see houses, you see holly trees, hummingbirds, all of them remarkably ordered systems. And so, in spite of the second law's pronouncement that entropy inexorably increases, it's obvious that disorder is not the only endpoint in the universe.”

Any child knows why, when you “look around you,” you see houses. The Bible, which favors the child-like ones over the “wise and intellectual,” opens the topic with a self-evident “of course:”

Of course, every house is constructed by someone, but the one who constructed all things is God.” (Hebrews 3:4)

 The other “ordered systems” mentioned, holly trees and hummingbirds, and later, “a single living cell or an ant colony or your amazing conscious brain,” are among the “houses” constructed by God, per the reasoning of Hebrews 3:4. Why doesn’t Hazen consider this possibility? Because he is not a theologian, he explains in his opening lecture. With that pronouncement, the reasoning of most of the human race is dismissed.

He expounds on his concept of emergence in Lecture 8. Are there things clearly not alive that counter the second law of thermodynamics, that is, things that build up rather than tear down? There are! and he goes on to consider how water can sculpt sand.

Then follows a discussion of four factors at work in the shifting sand—and also in more “complex systems” such as the cell, the ant hill, or the human brain. There’s the “concentration of interacting particles, the degree of those particles interconnectivity, the energy flow through the system, and the time variation of that energy flow, and perhaps other variables as well.” Yes, maybe, he postulates, the same factors that formed the sand ripples and dunes also formed the emergence of life!

However, as he and everyone else instantly realizes, the brain, and other components of life, is more complicated than a sand sculpture. How much more? Alas, “we don't know how to assign numbers to different degrees of complexity. What is the complexity of an ant hill or the human brain? And what are the units? Every scientific measurement needs to have units, like kilograms or meters per second. We need to be able to say that [comparing] this system with that system has a complexity of so-and-so many hundreds of thousands of some complexity unit, and nobody knows how to do that.”

With no measurable units, who can say just how much more complex is the living cell from the sand dune? It will have to be in the eye of the beholder. The Hebrews 3:4 people will say ‘infinite.’ Hazen and his crew will say ‘a gazillion,’ though he concedes it could be near-infinite. “Oh, about 5 or 6,” say the philosopher-atheist-scientism-cheerleaders plaguing the social media community, who are quick to call anyone “stupid” who disagrees.

"It's clear we don't know everything," he understates in his first lecture. "In spite of the labor of countless thousands of scientists over the centuries we don't understand one of nature 's most transforming phenomena, the emergence of complexity." That’s a pretty big thing not to know, methinks, seeing that his entire vision depends upon it, seeing that he has to presuppose a new law to propose it.

Toward the end of their first contentious presidential debate in 2016, Trump and Hillary were challenged to say nice things about each other. Both rose to the occasion. Hillary complemented Trump’s family. Trump said of Hillary that she is tenacious—she doesn’t give up.

Let us say that of the Origins community, too, as represented by Hazen. They are tenacious. They don’t give up as they search for the law that oughta be. Probably, they have nice families, too.

To be continued: here

******  The bookstore



Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'