Evolution in the Junkyard

Introduction

It's one of the most oft repeated arguments against Evolution out there, the argument that you can't get the complexity and order of a life-form out of the chaos and random chance of nature. The two most common versions of this argument, which may in fact be taken as separate arguments expressing the same general idea, are the Tornado in a Junkyard Argument and the Watch-Maker Argument.

I plan to spend most of the hub on the so-called Junkyard argument because I've partially covered the Watch-Maker in a previous hub but I think both are worth touching on here as both showcase the unfortunate ignorance Creationists show toward both science and how nature actually works.

The Watch-Maker Re-visited

Both of these arguments suffer from a shared assumption about nature that often plagues Creationist thinking, the assumption that without divine intervention everything in the Universe is chaotic or entropic. Usually this brings with it mentions of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics which, in brief, states that in a CLOSED SYSTEM things will always tend toward entropy. Both the Watch-Maker and Junkyard argument offer us a window into how Creationists view nature and how they misunderstand evolution.

In the watch-maker argument what we are dealing with is essentially a version of the Teleological Argument. The argument goes as follows, imagine you are a native of a culture that has no modern technology and you come across a watch that has washed up on the beach. You would recognize, even if you had little idea of what it was used for, that it was likely designed by someone - that it is NOT the product of nature. The watch is clearly made with a purpose and precision even if that purpose is unclear and the maker is not immediately discernible.

Naturally Creationists view life this way, as having been designed with a specific purpose by a divine Creator even if the identity of that Creator is not immediately discernible. The precision and grandeur or life cannot, they argue, be explained by the blind processes of nature.

The problems with this are numerous but among the most obvious is that life has been studied extensively by science and not only can we find no evidence of any purpose for which we are designed but we find absolutely no hallmarks we'd expect of something designed with precision in mind. In fact every piece of evidence in biology comports with the theory of Evolution which is why it is one of the strongest and most well-vetted theories in science to date.

One of the biggest problems is the assumption that nature has no order, precision or complexity to it or COULD not have such things without supernatural intervention. Of course it makes sense that a Creationist would have a TOP DOWN view of the Universe, as if any godless Universe would necessarily be random and chaotic with no complexity and certainly no life in it. The problem is that when we investigate things with a desire to actually discover truths about reality we must discard the assumption that things are decided upon from the top down by a God.

The assumption of a God, a watch-maker, was one many of the world's early practitioners of science clung to, but they still had the wherewithal to invoke God in a primarily Deistic sense. There was a form of naturalistic Deism that saw science as a method to learn the mind of God that I actually find quite admirable as opposed to modern proponents of Creation who seem to view science as an anti-god conspiracy of the godless Left.

747 in a Junkyard?

The second argument I want to talk about and the one I want to spend the most time on is the Junkyard argument (mostly because I covered Teleological Arguments in past hubs). The Junkyard argument doubles-down on the idea that without an active supernatural agency to give it order nature is as chaotic as a tornado going through a junkyard. For the Creationist it seems absurdly improbable to think that such random chaos as is apparently present in nature could bring about life as complex as what exists on Earth - so improbable that they express this improbability by saying that life evolving naturally from non-living material over billions of years is like a Tornado blowing through a Junkyard and assembling a fully functioning fueled up Seven Forty Seven passenger Jet.

Unpacking why this argument is so wrong is going to take a bit of doing.

Nature Isn't Chaotic

The first thing I want to establish is the fact that chaos and order are largely subjective. Take an asteroid impact as an example. When an asteroid is headed for Earth and hits the planet it does so according to the laws of nature (laws which I should point out are DESCRIPTIVE, not PROSCRIPTIVE).

Gravity, mass, momentum, energy, basic physics - The laws of nature are descriptions of how nature is observed to behave, behavior which is typically so consistent it can be expressed mathematically. So an asteroid impact on the planet Earth would cause chaos, the randomness of it seemingly coming out of nowhere to strike on a seemingly random part of our surface would seem quite disorderly... but in actuality what is happening is in perfect concordance with the natural order.

Nature is not actually random or chaotic rather it is observed to behave in ways that create order and beauty and even complex patterns. When debris and gasses and the rocky remnants of some exploded star form together under the duress of gravity to become a planet there aren't many Creationists who would demand that a God MUST be involved there.

Many of the people who use this argument aren't even hardcore fundamentalists and will concede that things like the Grand Canyon, the Giant's Causeway, and even whole Galaxies with billions of suns and planets, were simply formed naturally. They are happy to admit God was not directly involved in hand-crafting SOME things and that the Universe itself (which they claim was created by God of course) was designed for these things to form NATURALLY. Yet they do not extend this same reasoning to conclude that life ALSO formed naturally in this same manner.

So if nature is not chaotic and in fact order, beauty and complexity can emerge from it where does that leave the Junkyard argument?

Replication with Variation

Part of the problem with the Tornado in a Junkyard argument is that it truncates the vast amounts of time evolution takes into on singular event. The argument takes billions of years of incremental chemical (natural) steps forward and attempts to compare them to what would seem like a nearly supernatural event. Of course trying to compare Evolution to something so miraculous as to be impossible is the whole point of their argument though the irony that they themselves subscribe to a miraculous belief about the origin of life seems wholly lost on them.

Another hurdle the argument fails to clear is in its comparison of the complexity of a 747 to that of life on Earth. However when we factor in the massive amounts of time with our understanding of chemistry, biology, Natural Selection and indeed everything we know to be true of nature, we can see how, gradually, an increase in complexity is perfectly reasonable.

The very first self-replicating molecules, the precursors to everything alive on Earth today, were not nearly so complex as to be comparable to a 747. Self-replicating protein chains are hardly similar to a piece of high tech commercial aviation technology.The very first living cells, the descendants of those self-replicating proteins, were themselves not much different from what they had come from. Each generation that passes moves evolution only a minuscule amount and, contrary to whatever misconceptions Creationists might have, there is absolutely NO demand that evolution deliver a BETTER organism or even a more complex one.

Each new species to emerge is simply a slightly modified version of the one before it and all of this takes place chemically through reproduction. However magical it might seem to create and raise a child, or to watch a mother bird feed and care for her nestlings, there is no actual magic there, simply the continued march of a parade of life that stretches back over 3 billion years.

Cause, Effect and Probability

As a former Creationist putting myself back in those shoes I can see the appeal of the Junkyard argument, it makes evolution seem really REALLY improbable and the 'argument' itself was actually invented by an atheist. However any event is simply the effect of a prior cause. Most, if not all, events in our Universe seem to have a cause and if we follow back a chain or cause and effect far enough from any point the outcome of what we got would seem ridiculous no matter what.

For example for you to be reading this your parents, at some point in the past, had to meet and at the very least hook-up for you to exist. Now think about all of the vast number of variables involved in this chance meeting, now their parents had to meet and your great grandparents had to meet and so on and so forth down through ages of history.

Each event leads to new events, cause and effect, so to pick the current state of affairs and say, “wow it's improbable that things turned out this way” is meaningless. If things hadn't turned out this way they would be different but they did turn out this way, there is no cause to invoke the supernatural doings of a Creator anymore than there is to invoke the Greek Fates or astrology. Any mundane modern truth has behind it a long chain of causes, it doesn't make sense to take the whole chain and declare that truth impossible.

Such arguments of probability may seem impressive and may flash big hefty numbers to make them seem sound but none of them are convincing.

Conclusion

At base level life is replicating proteins that function just fine without the need to invoke supernatural agents or forces in order to explain how we got here. If Galaxies and stars and canyons and cliffs and hurricanes and thunderbolts and black holes and planets can all form without the direct intervention of the supernatural than life can as well.

For many believers however evolution continues to be the gap in which they place their God in order to help justify their beliefs. The more hardcore among them treat evolution as a hard line in the sand and refuse to even grant it as a possibility. To do so they use arguments such as the Watch-Maker argument and the Junkyard argument but in using them they misunderstand or misrepresent science and propagate ignorance about how nature and the Universe work.

Whether or not there is an unseen hand, a God, pulling the strings of this Universe, science has helped humanity by revealing how nature and the Universe operate. It has taken us to the moon, it has wiped out certain diseases wholesale, and it has propelled us from mere primates to building skyscrapers and yes even constructing 747s.

The evidence is out there in hundreds and hundreds of scientific papers, in fossil beds, in museums, even in the food you eat and the pets you keep. We no longer need the magic spark that God reached his hand down through the clouds to be a literal magic spark from a literal hand, if there is a God we know now that he could have let nature do it for him – no miracles required.

If you are a Christian and you are reading this you have nothing to fear from studying and fully understanding evolution and there is nothing to be gained from ignorance.

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Comments 24 comments

Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 11 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

In this age of information, ignorance of science and evolution is an incredible state. To actually come out and state the old "theories" of creationism is willful ignorance. Why do people continue to repeat old ideas when they can simply use a few keystrokes to discover the truth? Do they simply not understand how to read and comprehend what they are reading?

Your video is very simple and easy to understand, but how many creationists will even bother to watch it? How many will attempt to understand the logic behind it? I'm guessing the number is close to zero.

If creationists would only study the real world, instead of just accept the blanket assumptions put forth by "faith" in an ancient book, the world would be a better place.

We have no reason to fear change. God will not send lightning bolts to strike you dead for questioning the bible (or any other 'holy' book).

We have a well developed brain and we all need to use it.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 11 months ago from back in the lab again Author

I have some insight into some of what goes on in their heads and I still can barely understand why they are that way. Growing up evolution was constantly scoffed at as false, as not even worth consideration because it was so absurd and it denied the obvious fact that God had created everything. There was no desire from those around me reinforcing these beliefs to actually learn about the evidence or learn how evolution actually works. I can recall watching videos about evolution then and being finished writing my comment before the video was even over, just regurgitating the things I was told without any actual UNDERSTANDING.

If you dig into evolution it can all be understood but if you dig into Creationism somewhere down the line you run into miracles and magic that Christians shrug their shoulders and say, "God works in mysterious ways" or "he's just God, that's how he did it"...


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 11 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

Exactly! Most people are just too damn lazy to educate themselves. They prefer to swallow the mind control that they grew up with.

It's tragic.


rjbatty profile image

rjbatty 11 months ago from Irvine

I'm glad that you put in the work to produce this Hub, which is mandatory reading material. My view of the universe may deviate slightly from what you presented -- but not so much as a little. I think the universe in which we live is both orderly and chaotic simultaneously -- a kind of yin/yang deal. Thus, I view evolution as being a product of both chaotic happenstance and some kind of order. Life goes in a direction trending toward the more complex (or adaptable) forms that will survive while those forms that are perfect for their time but can be overwritten by their superior offspring. This suggests that some kind of code is written into the fabric of the universe itself. Why is there anything? Why have any universe at all? Something came from nothing, if we adhere to the Big Bang theory. That in itself is mind boggling, but we have to take a step further. Not only did the stuff ejected from the Big Bang eventually coalesce into stars and planets, but some planets (like ours) actually produced creatures with minds sophisticated enough to contemplate their own existence and place within the cosmos. So, our universe was born or evolved to allow for some amount of order even while a lot of disorder could continue concurrently. I couldn't refer to this as intelligent design because it's very apparent that the universe is neither for us or against us. Actually, it seems more against us than for us since we have good data about past distinction events. And homo sapiens have been around for a short period and yet we now number somewhere close to seven billion beings -- and this alone may prove to be a cause for our own extinction, without having to wait for an asteroid or comet collision. Without past extinction events, mammals wouldn't have ever reached transcendency. But the point is why/how did the universe erupt in a seemingly chaotic fashion yet have built within it the component to create life forms -- some few of which might ultimately become complex enough to contemplate subjects such as this? The physicists who concentrate on the quantum level are struggling to make sense out of what they observe. How does the mere observation of a particle cause it to behave unpredictably? Our brains are inadequate to encompass ideas such as billions of years or billions of galaxies. Once we go past the number of fingers on our hands, we have to rely on abstracts because we're simply not sophisticated enough to absorb huge numbers or the concept of something being infinite. Yes, a lot of people have a hard time accepting that our existence is based on a long series of luck. The fact that we exist is rather "miraculous" in the sense that fortune could have easily shifted just a bit another way and we'd still be little rat creatures or just microbes or nothing at all. New theories about our universe are exploring the possibility that we reside in a much larger place than previously imagined -- that there may be numerous (if not an infinite) number of universes coinciding with our own -- too far afield to observe or ever contact. And these other universes may have an entirely different set of physics -- and if the set is indeed infinite then we can chew on the idea of parallels -- places identical to our own or just slightly different. In a place of infinite possibilities, we have to consider that we have an infinite number of duplicates doing the same as ourselves -- indistinguishably exact movements and behavior. In William Peter Blatty's novel "The Ninth Configuration" also known as "Twinkle Twinkle Killer Kane," the main character says something to the effect that it's easier to believe in God (than try to contemplate how randomness presented conscious beings such as ourselves.) And Blatty really nailed it. While science relies on math for a lot of its fundamental principles, others find it easier to just have faith in a supernatural being who causes the clock to tick. Even if science holds itself more accountable and is more objective, it doesn't even propose to support any kind of morality -- even if at its extremes the field also relies upon a kind of "faith." People are just not equipped to understand the universe in its entirety. But more importantly, people don't really care about string theory or multi-verses. They just want to know how to live their lives within some kind of comprehensible context. That is to say, most people are not in tune with science because it doesn't draw lines about moral conduct -- so they dismiss the entire field and fill in the blanks with the concept of an anthropomorphic God who cares about us on an individual level. So, my final comment is that we need both science and religion but they should never collide. Ideally, there should be no opposition between the two. Science fulfills aspects of our seemingly uncontainable curiosity -- mostly about ourselves, and religion (at its best) can provide a moral backdrop for how to conduct ourselves as mostly peace-loving creatures. The media concentrates on the worst aspects of human conduct, e.g., suicide bombers, fringe groups that have no qualms about beheadings, parents leaving their children inside dumpsters, etc., etc. But from day to day the majority of us seven billion just go about our immediate necessities and concerns. The statistics illustrate that most of us just want things to be sane and even mundane.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 11 months ago from The English Midlands

I think that your comment 'Part of the problem with the Tornado in a Junkyard argument is that it truncates the vast amounts of time evolution takes into on singular event' really sums it all up.

Yes, of course, if one day there was no life and the next there were humans discovering incredible inventions then it would be unbelievably miraculous - but that's not what happened.

When Christians have discussed this subject with me they have asserted that it is ridiculous to imagine that an ape could either give birth to a human or, alternatively, wake up one day as a human. And they are correct. But this is not what happened and it is not what evolutionists believe.

These things did not happen overnight, but, unfortunately, many believers think that this is what evolutionists are suggesting.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 11 months ago from back in the lab again Author

Wow rjbatty that is one great big wall o' text...

I have one minor point of contention with what you said, namely with the idea that the Universe came from nothing. It's important to distinguish NOTHING in the abstract absolute sense of the word and Nothing in the scientific sense that folks like Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss use. When most people use the word they are referring to absolute nothing, no energy, no potential, no quantum fluctuations, absolute nothing. Of course now we know that even empty space is filled with virtual particles that pop into and out of existence seemingly without cause.

My belief is that there never was NOTHING in that absolute sense, in some sense there always had to be something because nothing is an incoherent term that cannot describe a real state of affairs. So when people ask, "why is there something rather than nothing?" I always ask, "How do you know that nothing is even a possibility?". The question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" IMPLIES that there COULD be and SHOULD be NOTHING AT ALL and it is only in spite of this fact through some unknown means that something came from nothing. I do not think this is correct.

I think it is much safer to assume that SOMETHING is the natural state of affairs for reality and that nothing in that absolute sense is an impossibility.

Now in the sense of there being nothing made of matter causally prior to the Big Bang I think that is probably true, matter, energy time and space appear to have originated from whatever state reality was in "prior" to the Big Bang. That state of affairs "before" our Universe may be incomprehensible we just don't know.

"That is to say, most people are not in tune with science because it doesn't draw lines about moral conduct"

Knowledge of science does inform our morality however, in fact it does so a great deal. We see how the scientific ignorance of certain religious people actually retards moral and ethical progress all the time. Every time some faith healer couple kills their child by refusing to take them to get proper medical care for an easily treatable condition. Their ignorance of science and reliance on blind faith has caused them to do something that most of us would deem immoral. Scientific facts help us determine where we stand within reality in relation to everything else and without those facts morality becomes much more subject to our whims, superstitions and ideologies.

Science, particularly medical science and psychology, can help inform us a great deal about moral and ethical issues. The problem is scientists are not in the business of handing down easy answers of right and wrong, they aren't deities handing out stone tablets with commandments or dos and don'ts. Morality is HARD, it's a complex issue, and while I sympathize with those who want the answers to be easy I don't agree with their intellectual laziness.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 11 months ago from back in the lab again Author

@Trish_M

Thanks for the comment!

Creationists don't seem to understand that nature doesn't have hard lines where one species ends and another begins in regards to evolution. They seem to think evolution works like that famous illustration of man coming from apes that only shows a few transitions. I try to explain to them that in actuality evolution is like a hand drawn cartoon or a piece of stop-motion animation. After every frame (every generation) only the slightest of variations occurs and it moves on and on like that but if you were to play back every frame it would be a smooth transition and there wouldn't be one single frame you could point to and say, "that's where humanity emerged".

They usually bring up the Cambrian explosion as proof that evolution isn't gradual, but that event took MILLIONS of years. Some are too afraid or indoctrinated to actually learn what evolution entails and wrap their heads around the time involved while others are willfully ignorant.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 11 months ago from The English Midlands

And, of course, there is the belief that the earth is only a few thousand years old.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 11 months ago from back in the lab again Author

Which is comparable to the idea that the world is flat but the scary thing is I've run into plenty of people on the internet that DO believe the Earth is flat - most of them conspiracy theorists and creationists.

It strikes me as ironic that these same people who distrust and hate science often use the technology and medicine that modern science has produced to spread their bizarre fringe beliefs.


rjbatty profile image

rjbatty 11 months ago from Irvine

Titen: You raise a very valid point about how science (mostly inadvertently) does have an influence upon moral conduct. I hadn't considered this, so thanks.

Re. Nothingness: You may be right about this also. If the quantum guys are right, the universe consists of multi-verses winking in and out of existence, and if that is true the universe (the total universe) is never a complete void.

I personally still hold onto the concept of our local universe ending in a "big crunch." The concept has grown out of favor by most cosmologists who see that in the far future our universe will continue expanding to the point where you cannot see a single star in the sky no matter where you reside.

The stars will run out of energy and everything will go cold and dark. While this theory may be true, I tend to believe that dark matter will be a sufficient gravitational force to reverse the universe's expansion and coalesce into another infinitesimally small point.

When the point reaches a critical stage, I imagine it exploding again, giving birth to a new universe -- maybe identical to the one we know or perhaps something slightly different or even radically different.

So this again would support the concept that there is never a complete void. The crunch would engulf all time/space for maybe a millisecond (or who knows how long) then erupt its material, re-creating time/space with components that may be identical to the birth of our private universe or eject stuff that is insufficient to create our same laws of physics, never producing stars and galaxies.

But my point is that on a gut level, I cannot accept a total void. I may be the only guy who holds to the big crunch concept, but it makes more sense to me than having an ever expanding universe filled with dead stars.

I cannot support my gut instinct with mathematical calculus. I'm not a physicist and I don't have the mental capacity to back up my instincts with any evidence. But even those who hold to the idea that our local universe will expand endlessly even though its material would be long dead cannot prove their point without equivocation even within their own community.

They still don't know enough about dark matter to be able say that the universe will not eventually begin a reversal where everything collides into a kind of super black hole containing a single particle that upon reaching a stage of critical condensation might not be forced to explode with the same intensity that probably gave birth to our neighborhood.

I hold to the big crunch idea because it is more elegant than the concept of dead matter expanding endlessly. Whether we live in a universe of infinite universes or we will just have to accept there is only one, the concept of an endless series of expansions/contractions just seems more beautiful than the currently accepted idea that everything ends up becoming frozen while plummeting into an ever-expanding empty space. Time (at that juncture) would have no significance whatsoever as the only thing occurring would be the ever-gaining radius of one dead piece of matter from another.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 11 months ago from back in the lab again Author

"But my point is that on a gut level, I cannot accept a total void. I may be the only guy who holds to the big crunch concept, but it makes more sense to me than having an ever expanding universe filled with dead stars."

Yeah a slow heat death to the Universe without the possibility of a Big Crunch does seem rather hopeless and dreary but then by that point the matter that makes up all of our bodies will probably be dust blowing on the solar wind that our now dead sun has cast off in its final moments after swelling to consume the planets of course.

Personally though I don't much mind it either way since Cosmologists still don't know one way or the other and since either way I will be dead, Earth will be gone and chances are even in the best case scenario nothing of our species will remain (including any species we evolve into from here out) by the time the Universe gets to that point.

One interesting thing to see is what happens when an apologist and an actual physicist debate, the result is quite different from the average believer vs atheist affair... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0qKZqPy9T8


rjbatty profile image

rjbatty 11 months ago from Irvine

Right. On a personal level the expiration of the universe should be even less significant than our usual day-to-day, meaningless existences. Contemplating the end of everything is totally abstract or existential or both. At some point all life everywhere will become impossible and no one will be around once all the stars run out of energy or everything starts colliding inward toward a single point. It's not much different than watching an alternate ending to a motion picture, which is sometimes attached to a DVD as a bonus feature.

It's not much different in the sense that either version of a film's end still remains purely fictional. Contemplating the end of all things is like mulling over some form of fictional entertainment. I can't understand why I care one way or the other.

I guess it's like you said, a slow heat death is both "hopeless and dreary" while a big crunch sounds very dynamic and far more visually interesting for my imagination. It also holds the potential for rebirth and I prefer to imagine the universe as being cyclical as opposed to a one-time event with a dull conclusion.

I also prefer the big crunch theory because it may suggest a cyclical universe, which has no beginning and will never have an end -- it just keeps spewing out one iteration after another. We could be in the first cycle or we could be in the billionth. It really doesn't matter.

The whole thing may be nothing more than a process resembling a Mobius Loop. Both hypotheses are equal in the sense that neither one offers more "meaning" than the other.

Woody Allen in one of his movies states something like the world is terrible but it's the only place to get a good steak.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 11 months ago from back in the lab again Author

An interesting idea is the Simulated Universe hypothesis, the idea that our Universe is merely the science experiment of some super-intelligent species of beings outside of it. Our Universe is running on some interdimensional alien hard drive somewhere and the Universe outside out ours that those beings live in could be incomprehensible to us and that itself could be a simulated Universe and so on.


rjbatty profile image

rjbatty 11 months ago from Irvine

Yes. It's disconcerting to think we might all just be a soap opera or game for some upper-tier intelligence. I think if the hypothesis could be proven, we'd see people jumping off cliffs as if we were lemmings.

In some sense it really wouldn't or shouldn't change how people think/behave. Once you get to the point of accepting that the universe is meaningless, it hardly matters whether we are "real" or just holographic creations invented for the amusement of an audience vastly superior to our own.

It would be a let down in the sense that we all like to think/believe that we have free will. If someone is scriptwriting my existence, I sure wish they'd be a bit more generous, as I often find myself hanging on by my fingernails.


Matthew RN profile image

Matthew RN 10 months ago from Tennessee

Interesting point of view, I do like the junk yard theory approach. Consider the Miller-Urey experiment. In the 1950’s the experiment successfully created amino acids, but not life. Now, the odds of amino acids forming proteins 4.9 x 10-191 . Now the odds of forming one lving cell from proteins, and mind you correctly, 1 x 10-40,000. Those are huge odds of success. Not that we should consider Creation is the answer here, but let us be open to the odds of success to evolution.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 10 months ago from back in the lab again Author

Of course if you look at the odds of any event happening, overall, you must also factor in the odds of every event that lead to that event in an endless stream of cause and effect. So any event, even a mundane one, can sound amazingly improbable. Creationists have been making up numbers for the probability of life forming for decades to achieve just such appearances. Of course this is irrelevant and serves merely as a fallacious argument from incredulity.

No amount of improbability suddenly makes supernatural creation into a viable alternative and despite the best attempts of Creationists to falsify abiogenesis and evolution we know these building blocks can come together naturally and everything we know about biology and evolution tells us that life has natural origins.


Matthew RN profile image

Matthew RN 10 months ago from Tennessee

If this process is natural and truly a process (not talking natural selection here, that is a part of evolution, I know but we need more than just natural process…natural process does not get us true evolution by itself, no ape to man idea), why is it not seen today? If this process is truly natural, then hybrids should be seen today. Ok, millions of years need to be added to be “safe,” but you would think (scientifically) there has to be missing links out there in the flesh? How can it be science if it cannot be duplicated or seen in life? Lastly, you are saying the chicken that crossed the road has the same amount of odds as creating life out of a process, that we do not see happening today and that process has no origin (the molecule had to start from somewhere)?


rjbatty profile image

rjbatty 10 months ago from Irvine

This doesn't really have much to do with your post, but I thought you might find something intriguing about it. We've been searching for ETs for years. We've been listening for any sign of life outside our own throughout the entire galaxy -- so far nothing has turned up.

There are a number of ways of discounting this finding. Perhaps we're using radio frequencies in such an infantile way that a more developed civilization wouldn't even bother to tune in -- but would they if they were so highly advanced? Wouldn't a technologically advanced species be aware that lesser forms of life might be trying to communicate on more redundant levels and have equipment to grasp high-end and low-end forms of communication?

The answer (to date) remains a constant silence -- and communities such as SETI are on constant alert.

What if "intelligent" life is extremely, extremely rare? And it might be. What if we are the only "intelligent" life form in the entire Milky Way? This isn't a theological argument. I fully subscribe to evolutionary processes, natural selection, etc., but what if we are indeed alone?

It's a sort of creepy thought. We all sort of got used to the Star Trek/Star Wars concept that there would be plenty of intelligent species within our reach. Most of us would prefer to think that the galaxy is full of intelligent life, but the research thus far is not pointing in that direction. In fact the research seems to be pointing toward the opposite direction.

Okay, you might find microorganisms here or there, maybe even things that resemble fish or octupi. That alone would give us clues about how life might develop independently on various worlds, but what about finding Vulcans or Klingons? So far, no luck.

Or is it just a matter of luck? One has to consider the alternative -- that we are the only beings existing within our known galaxy that have developed to a point of contemplating its own life/death cycle. Does the concept disturb you, as it does me?

If in fact we are the only life form to have been lucky enough to evolve to a point where we can search for other life forms on other planets -- if this could somehow be proven -- then what? We certainly wouldn't automatically become masters of the universe or quasi-gods, but it would definitely hold us in a very rarified/special class of life forms where evolution played out in our favor. Or did it? Despite our advanced intellect, we still cannot manage to get along with each other. We have world wars. We have individuals bent on committing murders. Some great species, eh?

But what if this is the best that evolution can offer? I know -- this isn't a scientific point and much more a philosophical one, but I'd like to hear your view on the matter. What's your impression?

Are we just intelligent enough to destroy ourselves? Is self-destruction a built-in design of nature? If a species over-populates a planet and fouls it with its filth, is there some kind of built-in mechanism for nature to wipe this life form off the map?

And what have you to say about the Milky Way being devoid of other intelligent life forms? I read an article recently that stated that any intelligent life forms in our galaxy were long dead. Is all of this just part of a process, a meaningless process? We can agree that "Meaning" is only a cushion for human beings who do not want do not want to feel estranged in an incomprehensibly large universe that acts without a human-level of consciousness.

But even with that, what if we are freakishly alone? Does the idea budge your concepts? For myself, the thought is disconcerting but doesn't alter my thinking about religious matters. We might be freakishly alone in the cosmos, and if anything it just gives me a sense that we have some inbound duty to preserve ourselves.

If we are indeed that unique, we have to give it some regard and try harder not to extinguish ourselves. It's sort of like discovering a new/unique butterfly in the jungle. You regard its beauty and want it to flourish. Humanity, of course, is far more complex. It's filled with beauty but nearly the same amount of ugliness. Yet, even taking the ugliness into context, one should hope to see us flourish because "heaven knows" when our like will ever be seen again.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 10 months ago from back in the lab again Author

"If this process is natural and truly a process (not talking natural selection here, that is a part of evolution, I know but we need more than just natural process…natural process does not get us true evolution by itself, no ape to man idea), why is it not seen today?"

What in the hell is true evolution Matt? Judging by your questions and the things you've said over in the Q and A you don't seem to grasp what evolution is. In fact the inconsistency and incoherence of your argument and questions is more befitting of someone who is drunk or just trolling. The small incremental changes from one generation to another are what add up to the larger changes. We get from ape the man the same way we get from generation 1 to generation 2, through the genetic variation that comes from reproduction and natural selection.

Take the evolution of whales for example. We have the land mammal ambulocetus evolving to live and thrive in a marine environment, this means the traits that helped it survive there are selected for. So the traits of a land dwelling animals are left behind in favor of those that aid the animal in surviving in the sea, through nothing more than environmental selection pressure and the passage of enough generations.

Eventually, after successive changes that the fossil record openly attests to, you end with modern day whales who are mammals just as ambulocetus was, who have hair and feed milk to their young and who retain vestigial hip bones that tells us they once lived on land. Ambulocetus was, quite literally, the so-called "hybrid" you are looking for, it could still walk but it had clearly evolved to survive in the water, it was not yet a whale but it was well on it's way.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_cetacea...

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/e...

"Ok, millions of years need to be added to be “safe,” but you would think (scientifically) there has to be missing links out there in the flesh?"

Again with this shit. Dude, seriously, at least understand a subject on a middle school level before talking about it. You do understand that every single organism is a link right? Evolution doesn't stop, it doesn't have an end goal and it isn't taking us toward a "higher species". Evolution is genetic variation over time that eventually leads to the emergence of new species. Not better species, not higher species, just NEWER species.

"How can it be science if it cannot be duplicated or seen in life?"

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.htm...

Speciation, that is the divergence of one species into one or more other species, has been observed both in the laboratory conditions of scientists and in the wild. It is also supported by the fossil record and by genetics.

"the molecule had to start from somewhere"

What exactly do you think that life on Earth is made of Matt? Life is made up of organic matter and functions through natural chemistry, the same sort of stuff that was present on the early Earth and the same sort of chemistry that scientists study every day. No one has ever found anything spooky, supernatural or magical about life despite centuries of searching for just such things. Is it LIKELY for life to occur? Maybe, maybe not. However an event being improbable does not mean it is impossible nor is our ignorance on how exactly life got started an excuse to stick in a God. In fact to stick a God in there is actually a logical fallacy called an argument from ignorance.

Now, I recommend you google evolution and read up on it. When you come back and are actually smarter than a fifth grader let me know and we can have an intelligent conversation on the subject that doesn't involve you making a fool of yourself.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 10 months ago from back in the lab again Author

@rjbatty

It has taken some 3 billion years of evolution for life on this planet to become as self-aware and intelligent as we are. In that time the Earth has been through countless calamities from ice ages to asteroids that each threaten the viability of life on this planet. My guess is that we don't hear from our neighboring star systems for a variety of reasons.

1) Time - it may be that a civilization develops on one planet and dies out billions of years before life evolved and became intelligent here on Earth. It's been 14 billion years since the Big Bang so while life was still in it's infancy here it could have been just achieving intelligence elsewhere and perhaps before we even spoke our first word of complex language that civilization had already snuffed itself out.

2) Natural disaster - An asteroid or comet or gamma burst might wipe out life on a planet.

3) Self-Destruction - as you so rightly point out it's easy to imagine how a civilization might wipe itself out, especially in the early days of a species when the population is still small. The more mankind reproduces the harder it is to extinguish us especially as we look towards the other planets in our solar system with hopes to colonize them some day.

4) Wiped out by another civilization - This one is scary to think of. Stephen Hawking has warned against making contact with aliens fearing that what happened to the Native Americans after Columbus would befall the human race leaving us at best isolated and demoralized at at worst extinct.

5) Communicating using different criteria - So far we've searched but a small portion of the sky looking for what WE think an alien civilization might be capable of creating. But for alien beings that evolved on an entirely different planet who knows what sort of technology they have.

6) Distances are too great - Time and Space are both massive issues when it comes to interplanetary travel but they also serve problems for interplanetary communication. There may be countless worlds beaming out signals to the rest of the cosmos but they all may be too far away to get here during our lifetime.

"We might be freakishly alone in the cosmos, and if anything it just gives me a sense that we have some inbound duty to preserve ourselves."

It is one possibility that we are alone. But the Universe might be absolutely teeming with all sorts of weird lifeforms. Keep in mind that evolution is under no imperative to produce intelligence on the level of our own. We may be currently alone with our distant ancestors, if we can stay alive, destined to meet creatures similar to us evolving on some other world. The possibilities are too endless to really speculate on them.

"If we are indeed that unique, we have to give it some regard and try harder not to extinguish ourselves. It's sort of like discovering a new/unique butterfly in the jungle. You regard its beauty and want it to flourish. Humanity, of course, is far more complex. It's filled with beauty but nearly the same amount of ugliness. Yet, even taking the ugliness into context, one should hope to see us flourish because "heaven knows" when our like will ever be seen again."

I have been saying for years that human beings need to start thinking "fourth dimensionally", it's a reference to something Doc Brown says to Marty in Back to the Future but I use it as a short-hand for the fact that we need to look at the big picture. It's not just about us and our every day concerns and our petty conflicts and differences. It's about establishing a better future for our grandchildren and their grandchildren after that. It is very hard for human beings in the here and now to think beyond themselves but I feel it is imperative that we get off this rock and begin colonizing and exploring space if we hope to survive.

The longer we wallow with our old prejudices and superstitions here on Earth the more vulnerable we are to everything from meteors to nuclear war, but once we have colonies offworld on other celestial bodies we have insurance that our species can live on if something happens to good ol' Mother Earth.

I'd like to think there are aliens out there somewhere but who knows, it may be the nearest intelligent civilization is an entire galaxy away, there's just no way to tell currently.


rjbatty profile image

rjbatty 10 months ago from Irvine

Ah, you finally came around to admitting the possibility that an intelligent civilization may exist a galaxy away from us. I wanted you to confront this. Why? Heck if I know.

We have scientific and philosophical ways of regarding our cosmos. Science is trying to hook up with some pals in outer space. Stephen Hawking warns us against trying too earnestly to make this attempt. I don't agree with him. I lean more toward the Arthur C. Clarke approach about confronting an alien species.

Any life form that is capable of transporting itself between stars, is not likely going to look upon us as fresh meat. Such a life form would have the tech to synthesize meat byproducts or whatever sustains them. And if life (even semi-intelligent life such as our own) would not pose a threat and require some kind of planetary extinction event.

If we were able to find a colony of ants on Mars, we'd go wild. We wouldn't want to step on them, crush them out of existence because they might one day pose a threat. On the contrary, we'd be ecstatic about finding any kind of life on another planet. So, Hawking's fears do not seem justified on a purely instinctive level. And I don't think he has much to worry about because intelligent life seems to be a rarity... a very big rarity.

You did a nice job in outlining why we haven't been able to make contact with any friends/foes in our neighborhood. I think the key point is time itself. Our civilization has existed in the blink of the cosmic eye.

This may be par for the course of all intelligent life forms. If an intelligent life form can exist for just several thousand years, it doesn't bode well for being able to make contact. For a species to survive beyond several thousands of years suggests that they have managed to avoid any of a dozen cosmic-type catastrophes, a planetary catastrophe (such as multiple volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, or even weather-related destruction). They have also mitigated their own civil disagreements. (No nuclear wars.)

And yes, we may be trying to contact others who have an entirely different kind of tech. We may be listening in to a broadband that is entirely unused by a different community. We are hoping to find a group that is almost identical to us, and in this respect we may be shooting at stars. Assuming that another civilization evolved like ours is just a crap shoot. There are dozens of reasons why we haven't made contact with anyone (thus far), and we will no doubt try to find different angles in this approach.

But my haunting suspicion is that there is no one out there -- no species to have evolved to reach the point of wanting to hear from others in the universe. While I suspect that life itself is plentiful on many planets, I fear that advanced species are spectacularly rare. We have to take that into consideration.

Yeah, getting us to colonize Mars would be a good start for preserving our species (if we deserve preserving). If intelligent life is as rare as I suspect, then we owe it to ourselves to move outward. For all we know we are the most advanced species that has ever existed in our universe. If someone were able to provide verifiable proof of this, what would we think? For myself, I'd think, "Oh, holy o'mighty. What a tremendous burden. If we are the best that the universe happened to create, it really spoils the entire billions upon billions idea of intelligent life being reproduced elsewhere." If we are in fact the culmination of luck and circumstance, we have to take our survival somewhat more seriously. Why? I don't know. This question flows into philosophy. Does it matter whether we exist/continue to exist? In the entire scheme of things it's a trifling matter. I tend to think that life will flourish whenever given the opportunity.

It's an evolutionary process that may have be curtailed for an unknown number of reasons. We got lucky. The dinosaurs vanished and mammals could begin their dominance. Some tree-hugging monkeys found a more advantageous route on the ground and gave rise to the apes, which over time found it advantageous to stand above the grasslands and walk upright. A few of them began experimenting with tools. Then Prometheus gave them the gift of fire. The fire is not just a means of flavorizing your favorite hog or rabbit but a symbol of consciousness.

The Greek gods posted Prometheus to a rock with his liver being pulled out daily by birds of prey. What are the ancient Greeks suggesting in this metaphor? I sense that by Prometheus giving us consciousness, the old gods knew there time was up. The spark of insight had crossed over into the minds of mere mortals.

Well, let us "pray" that Prometheus didn't sacrifice himself needlessly. And let us "pray" that his after rithms such as Jesus didn't die on the cross for no cost. You can be impaled on a rock or a crucifix, but if knowledge stops there, we're not going to last another thousand years and have no hope of finding anyone like us in this galaxy or the next or the next.


Matthew RN profile image

Matthew RN 10 months ago from Tennessee

Why sound back with connotations of drunkenness and low education because I do not agree with you and because you have not given me evidence. Wikipedia, you base your whole theory on Wikipedia and you tube? Interesting. You said the occurrences that happen in everyday life have great odds, but the thing is they happen, cannot say that for evolution in today’s world.

The odds of life coming by chance for a multiple cell organism, those odds are impossible. How did those inert molecules come to create life, do not see that happen today. If a meteor hits a planet and that generates life, then life would have to be on every planet. Biology says life comes from life, but evolution states life came from non-life. How can evolution pick and choose what meteor hitting generates life or which one does not, that too is heavy odds. Missing links, why do we not see them, you show pictures of animals that I have not seen in the fossil world. I also do not see “different species” today, higher or otherwise forming. Tell me specifics, this half whale fossil was discovered in Utah, or something to that nature.

Evolution is two parts, natural selection and the evolving of new species. I see natural selection, but no evidence of fish coming out of the water and that sort of thing (from you examples of brocoflower and bacteria mutations, you also lack knowledge of this process). You need both to actually have evolution. They say there are holes with evolution, I am still looking for a solid foundation and the way you defend it, seems like a religious belief. Lastly, I am done here, but what are you afraid of, seem fearful.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 10 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

Matthew - you said, "evolution states life came from non-life" This is not true, look up the definition of evolution. You really need to take a course on evolution before you go off half cocked about your indoctrinated view of evolution.

" Missing links, why do we not see them" - Because of several reasons. First there really are no "missing links", only links we haven't found yet. They are there, they are billions of years old and have been buried deeply.

"Evolution is two parts, natural selection and the evolving of new species." No, it isn't. Again, you need to do some real research. Read Richard Dawkin's books. He is an expert and a professor in and of evolutionary science.

"They say there are holes with evolution" - No, the holes are present in your infantile arguments. AGAIN - take a course in evolution and study up before you go off on people.


Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 10 months ago from back in the lab again Author

"Why sound back with connotations of drunkenness and low education because I do not agree with you and because you have not given me evidence"

I'm sorry if I judged you too harshly but you didn't seem willing to educate yourself no matter how many times I asked you to this stuff up yourself. I like it when people disagree with me, I don't like it when they belligerently bad arguments that makes no sense such as evolution being a "frog turning into a newt" or how 'vegetable to vegetable" doesn't count as evolution. That makes no sense.

I am not an evolutionary scientist or a scientist of any kind nor have I ever claimed to be. I recommend that you research evolution on your own and come back with a fresh understanding of it so that you don't make these same mistakes.

" You said the occurrences that happen in everyday life have great odds, but the thing is they happen, cannot say that for evolution in today’s world."

Yes we can. As I said you can look this up on the internet, you can even talk actual scientists in some cases. There are direct observations of evolution whether we're talking within a species or speciation.

"Wikipedia, you base your whole theory on Wikipedia and you tube?"

No but they are resources that are easily accessible and understandable to laypersons whereas the actual scientific articles take a certain knowledge base to understand that most ordinary folk don't have. That youtube channel, Stated Clearly, is funded and researched by ACTUAL SCIENTISTS who are trying to explain on a simple level what evolution is and how we know that evolution occurs. It is one of the most accessible resources from the point of view of it's clarity and simplicity unlike highly technical scientific papers.

If you like you can go on Google Scholar and look at actual research from actual scientists.

"The odds of life coming by chance for a multiple cell organism, those odds are impossible."

There is no scientific evidence that life arising naturally is impossible. You use the words BY CHANCE but as I point out in my hub nature is not random, it has order to it, so things do not happen by chance. Nature is not synonymous with chaos and randomness. It has been proven in a lab that the building blocks of life, amino acids, can form from the same sort of materials and conditions that was present on early Earth.

" If a meteor hits a planet and that generates life, then life would have to be on every planet."

I can only assume you're talking about panspermia. Panspermia is the idea that life could evolve on one planet, say Mars, and a meteor that smashes into Mars or is ejected from it somehow could carry robust microorganisms across space until they crash land on another planet. Panspermia is HYPOTHETICAL, meaning that we don't even know if it's a plausible explanation yet, more information is needed.

"Biology says life comes from life, but evolution states life came from non-life"

Life is chemistry. We are currently looking for how the chemicals present on early Earth came together to form the first self-replicating molecules and how those eventually became the first proto-organism. The line between what is alive and what is just organic chemistry is apparently full of gray areas. For example there is still some debate in scientific circles as to whether or not viruses should count as being alive or not.

"How can evolution pick and choose what meteor hitting generates life or which one does not, that too is heavy odds."

Meteors do not create life, as far as we know. We are talking about a Universe with trillions of galaxies, trillions of stars, trillions of planets. The odds are actually pretty damn good when you look at just how huge a Universe we live in. Keep in mind that life on Earth is carbon based and carbon is pretty prevalent throughout the Universe, we're not talking about super rare stuff here (the materials at least are common).

"Tell me specifics, this half whale fossil was discovered in Utah, or something to that nature"

Ambulocetus, whose name means Walking Whale, lived about 50 million years ago. It is exactly the sort of thing I assume you are looking for when you say you want a "hybrid" species because it is in-between a land animal and a water animal. Natural selection has clearly favored traits in amulocetus that allow it to thrive in the water and yet it could apparently still walk on land. By comparing the DNA of whales with other animals the closest living relative that was found was the hippopotamus who shares some things in common with the ancient amulocetus as a hippo is mostly aquatic but can also survive on land.

Here is a link to some actual scientific articles on the subject: https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=ambuloc...

Google Scholar is a great resource if you want to look at the stuff scientists actually publish, I sent you links to wikipedia and youtube because they tend to boil things down to make them easier to understand.

"I see natural selection, but no evidence of fish coming out of the water and that sort of thing"

I recommend you research the discovery of Tiktaalik https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiktaalik

Tiktaalik is a transitional species, like the "hybrids" you are looking for, between fish and amphibians.

But yes evolution within a species still counts as evolution, those same small changes are what add up, over millions of years, to produce big changes. Can't you see that if a species changes a thousand times it may still be the same species but if it undergoes millions of changes over millions of years it could be very different?

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