James Tour Talks Origin-of-Life Dealbreakers
On today’s ID the Future, distinguished synthetic organic chemist James Tour of Rice University explains why the goal of synthesizing life from non-life in conditions similar to those of the early Earth appears further away than ever. It’s not an illusion, he explains. The illusion was how close OOL researchers thought they were 50-70 years ago. They were never close, and the more we learn about how mind-bogglingly sophisticated even the simplest cells are, and how the complexity is essential for biological life, the more we realize just how far we are from constructing a plausible scenario for the mindless origin of the first life. Tour points out that even granting a great deal of intelligent design in the form of the highly skilled and interventionist work of the origin-of-life researchers in the lab, they still can’t engineer into existence all the key building blocks of a living cell. What if you handed them all the building blocks in the right proportions? They’re still nowhere near being able to intelligently design those ingredients into a living cell, Tour says. It has to do with what’s termed the interactome—that is, all the interdependent molecular interactions in a particular cell, many of which may initially appear unimportant but turn out to be crucial. Tour doesn’t argue that researchers will never be able to design a cell from non-living matter. He does say that if it is achieved, it will be well into the future. What will such an achievement underscore? As Luskin emphasizes, it will highlight the creative power of intelligent agency. The occasion for Dr. Tour’s conversation with host Casey Luskin is Tour’s essay in a new book now available for free download, Science and Faith in Dialogue. For more from Dr. Tour, check out his website and his YouTube channel.
How a Teacher Wrecked Biology for Me, and How I Got Past It
On today’s ID the Future, Tom Gilson, a writer and editor for The Stream, shares his experiences in high school biology. Important mysteries (i.e., major problems) with evolutionary theory were hurried past and papered over, and yet his biology teacher could take an entire class period to tell Charles Darwin’s life story, and then repeat the same class, virtually verbatim, five more times that same semester. Tune in to hear how the class put Tom Gilson off of biology, but how he now finds the subject fascinating, thanks to the work of intelligent design researchers and the larger community of life scientists. Gilson’s commentary is taken from, and builds on, a recent essay of his, available at Evolution News.
James Tour: The Goalposts are Racing Away from the Origin-of-Life Community
On today’s ID the Future distinguished nanoscientist James Tour explains to host Eric Metaxas why the origin-of-life community is further than ever from solving the mystery of life’s origin, and how the public has gotten the false impression that scientists can synthesize life in the lab. Tour explains that origin-of-life scientists aren’t even close to intelligently synthesizing life from non-life in the lab. The problem, Tour says, is that some leading origin-of-life researchers give the impression they are right on the cusp of solving the problem. Not so, Tour says. He offers the analogy of someone claiming, in the year 1500, that he has the know-how to build a ship to travel to the moon, when no one yet knows even how to build an airplane, car, or car engine. Tour says that if he took a cell that had just died a moment before and asked top origin-of-life researchers to engineer it back to life, they couldn’t do it. They’re not even close to being able to do it. And yet all the ingredients, all the building blocks of life are right there, all in one place, in the right proportions. And not only can scientists not engineer those ingredients back to life, they still can’t synthesize even a fraction of the building blocks essential to cellular life, despite decades and millions of dollars poured into the problem. And yet they assume that purely blind material processes turned prebiotic chemicals into all the key building blocks, and then mindlessly engineered those into the first self-reproducing cell on the early Earth. There are no models that would make such a scenario plausible. And the more we learn about cellular complexity, the harder the problem gets. Indeed, as Tour puts it, origin-of-life research is like moving down a football field in nanometer increments while the goalposts are racing away. What’s left is only the dogmatic assumption among origin-of-life researchers that the first life must have appeared on Earth purely through blind material forces. Tour has made it his mission to show the broader scientific community and the public that the emperor has no clothes. Not surprisingly, the origin-of-life community has not responded with heartfelt gratitude. Tune in to hear more of Tour’s argument and to learn what kind of blowback he has experienced. The interview is reposted here with permission of Eric Metaxas and Socrates in the City. Find James Tour’s many videos on the origin-of-life problem here.
Michael Behe and Michael Medved Explore Secrets of the Cell
On today’s ID the Future, Michael Medved interviews biologist Michael Behe about Behe’s visually stunning YouTube series, Secrets of the Cell. Behe summarizes one of the key messages of the video series, namely that everything from the life-essential blood clotting system to a myriad of crucial protein structures in our bodies increasingly appear to be far beyond the reach of blind evolutionary mechanisms to build. Instead they appear to be the work of planning and purpose, which is the purview of mind. Meanwhile, even many mainstream evolutionists are growing skeptical of neo-Darwinism, Behe says, as biologists continue to uncover more and more layers of cellular sophistication. The emerging field of metagenomics, he says, is a case in point. Medved also mentions a recent article in World magazine where Behe also lays out a case for intelligent design The piece is here.