On today’s ID the Future physicist Brian Miller and host Eric Anderson explore a recent conversation between physicists Jeremy England and Paul Davies on Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable? radio show. Davies admitted he doesn’t want the origin of life to require divine design, while England argued that his work on non-equilibrium systems offers a promising avenue for explaining the origin of the first life in naturalistic terms. Miller and Anderson demur on both counts. They hold out hope that Davies, having recognized his philosophical bias, will eventually decide to follow the evidence wherever it leads, even if doing so has theistic implications. And as for Jeremy England’s approach, Miller says it’s fascinating work but fails to solve the origin-of-life challenge in naturalistic terms, and for multiple reasons.
In today’s ID the Future physicist Brian Miller discusses fellow physicist Jeremy England’s book Every Life Is on Fire: How Thermodynamics Explains the Origin of Living Things. Has England made a significant step toward solving the mystery of how life first began? In Miller’s conversation with host Eric Anderson, he argues that while England’s laboratory work is fascinating and innovative, what’s happening in his experiments differs dramatically from what is required of even the simplest life, so much so that the experiments do not shed the kind of light on the mystery of life’s origin that some may hope they do. Moreover, life does certain crucial things with energy that are unknown outside of the biological realm, Miller says, and without those processes available to prebiotic chemicals, it is far from clear how they could ever assemble into the molecular biological machinery essential for the first self-reproducing biological entity.
Today’s ID the Future features audio of the first in a series of YouTube videos by Dr. James Tour on the origin-of-life problem. Here Tour, a renowned synthetic organic chemist and professor at Rice University, explains why he is addressing the origin-of-life issue, also known as abiogenesis, and touches on some common misconceptions about the field. He says the organizing impetus for the series is a YouTube video by Dave Farina, “Elucidating the Agenda of James Tour: A Defense of Abiogenesis.” As Farina’s title suggests, he begins his video with an ad hominem attack, seeking to discredit Tour by showing that Tour is a Christian. Tour briefly responds to this line of attack and then moves into matters scientific. There he touches on, among other issues, thermodynamics and the origin-of-life puzzle of low entropy and high energy.
Today’s ID the Future features Part 1 of an extended interview that first appeared on a podcast show hosted by distinguished Rice University synthetic organic chemist James M. Tour. As he typically does, since it’s the Science & Faith podcast, Dr. Tour begins his show by asking his guest for a statement of faith. Miller, a Christian, gives his, and then they dive into origin-of-life science. In a surprisingly accessible discussion given the depth of the material, the pair cover a range of issues—thermodynamics and the origin of the first cell, entropy, free energy, order and disorder, molecular engines, non-equilibrium thermodynamics, and the need for engines and information to overcome the vicissitudes of entropy. Also in the mix—feedback loops, Jeremy England, and much more.