The “tornado in a junk yard” analogy is correct after all

Darwinians object when their critics say that, according to Darwinism, life evolved through random mutations, that Darwinian evolution is like a wind blowing through a junk yard and assembling random pieces of metal, plastic, and wire into a computer. The Darwinians are correct that such statements do not accurately portray the Darwinian theory. Darwinism does not attribute evolution to purely random mutations alone. It says that life evolved through purely random mutations plus the natural selection of those mutations the possessors of which lived longer and had more offspring. Thus, says Darwinism, random change produces, as it were, the raw material of various evolutionary innovations, and natural selection then filters and shapes that raw material into viable new organs and new species.

However, there is one phase in the evolution of life that, even according to Darwinism, had to have occurred by pure randomness without the assistance of natural selection. I am speaking of the beginning of life. In order for chemicals in an ancient sea to organize themselves into the thousands of enzymes necessary to start a living cell, the right combination of chemicals—or, rather, the right thousands of combinations of chemicals—had to happen by pure chance. It was not a matter of mutations leisurely appearing one by one in an already existing organism and then being “tried out” by natural selection, because, when life began, there were no existing organisms for evolution to experiment with, there were no living “platforms” upon which mutations could introduce new changes which either were selected or weren’t. There was nothing alive to work with at all. Instead, non-alive chemicals, through a purely random event, had to come together in multiple, precise configurations to produce thousands of enzymes and a living cell.

To repeat: when life began, there was no “testing” process, no gradual accumulation of naturally selected random mutations building on previously naturally selected random mutations. Either thousands of purely random combinations of chemicals produced the thousands of enzymes needed to form the first living cells, or they didn’t. According to Darwinism, life came into existence by pure chance.

The significance of the distinction between the origin of species and the origin of life came to me as I was reading the following summary of Wikipedia’s article on astronomer Fred Hoyle that was posted last January at VFR:

In his book “The Intelligent Universe” (1983) he wrote: “Life as we know it is, among other things, dependent on at least 2000 different enzymes. How could the blind forces of the primal sea manage to put together the correct chemical elements to build enzymes?”

According to his calculations, the likelihood of this happening is only one in 10 to the 40,000th power (1 followed by 40 000 zeros). That is about the same chance as throwing 50,000 sixes in a row with a die. Or as Hoyle describes it: “The chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way is comparable with the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein… I am at a loss to understand biologists’ widespread compulsion to deny what seems to me to be obvious.” (“Hoyle on Evolution,” Nature, Vol. 294, 12 November 1981, p. 105.)

I would add that the distinction between the Darwinian-naturalist view of the origin of life via pure chance, and the Darwinian-naturalist view of the origin of new species out of existing species via pure chance plus natural selection, does not mean that the latter is less improbable than the former. The Darwinian evolution of new species out of existing species is still dependent on the purely random appearance of the genetic mutations that gradually accumulate via natural selection into new organs and species, a process which, as I’ve demonstrated, is inherently impossible. What the distinction between the origin of species and the origin of life shows us is that, when it comes to the origin of life, materialist science lacks even the cover of natural selection to distract our gaze from the pure randomness upon which—as materialist science actually says but doesn’t want us to notice that it’s saying—the existence of all life is based.

As evidence that Darwinians, in order to prevent a general defection from their theory of evolution, try to divert people’s attention from the fact that the theory is based on an unbelievable randomness, see my article, “‘Darwinism’ retired?”, about a proposal by evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson to get rid of the term “Darwinism” and replace it by “evolutionary biology,” because, as I argue based on her article, the term Darwinism reminds people of what Darwinism, a.k.a., evolutionary biology, actually means.

However, there is a group that is even more intellectually dishonest on the problem of randomness than are the evolutionary biologists. I am speaking of the theo-Darwinians, who with bald faces maintain the palpable absurdity that the random mutations upon which all evolution is based are both random and intended by God.

- end of initial entry -

Ben W. writes:

LA: “In order for chemicals in an ancient sea to organize themselves…”

Where did the sea come from? Moreover where did the chemicals in the sea come from? And why would they “organize” themselves—in fact what is “organization? Couldn’t one say just as well that “in order for chemicals in an ancient sea to e4g&$d_1AfhV.iI9 themselves?”

LA replies:

Ha ha. Well, a discussion has to begin some place. If all discussions had to start with the beginning of the universe, no other topic could ever be discussed.

Ben W. replies:

What I wanted to convey is that language itself betrays Darwinism. Darwinism presupposes phenomena such as “organization” and the identification of elements as “chemicals” that follow certain rules of combination. The “sea” is an organized entity that has form and boundaries. It itself is composed of entities in an organized fashion. So Darwinism, or any discussion started by a Darwinist presupposes certain forms of organization—which is a form of parasitism (just as liberalism parasitically borrows from the Judeo-Christian resources of Western civilization).

LA replies:

Yes. Materialists constantly presuppose the existence of an organized, intelligible cosmos the very possibility of which their materialism precludes.

One example of this is the way they repeatedly inject teleological tropes into their materialist explanation of evolution that radically prohibits the slightest notion of teleology.

Ben W. writes:

You wrote: “Haha. Well, a discussion has to begin some place. If all discussions had to start with the beginning of the universe, no other topic could ever be discussed.”

Which is why in the final analysis God is the only one qualified to speak of origins. He was there when no one else was.

LA writes:

Speaking of Darwinians injecting teleological language into their radically non-teleological theory, just today over at Congenial Times the commenter TGGP said:

As I showed with regard to birds we find evolutionary arms races where each is evolving to defeat the adaptations of the other.

To which I replied:

“Evolutionary arms races”? What are you talking about? Evolution has no direction or purpose. Why do you inject an image of purpose into an unconcious, purposeless, materialist process? Maybe Darwinism in the raw, Darwinism as it actually is, is not believable to you, so you need to dress it up.

Kristor writes:

That’s the spirit. Don’t let them weasel out of their own metaphysic. If you are relentless enough, and careful enough, you will prevent them saying anything at all. This is because minds are by nature intentional—at every point in their operation, they proceed by referring to other things—i.e., their procedures have meaning (even when wrong). This is what all information processing procedures do—they mean (i.e., they both signify and effect). Information is intentional. Unfortunately for the coherence of their position, indeed of their minds, materialists of all stripes adhere to a metaphysic that rules out intentionality. But this has disastrous consequences for them, because it constitutes an argument that it is not possible to say anything meaningful—including such statements as, “there is no teleology in the world.” Materialism amounts to saying, not only that there is no such thing as teleology, but that there is no such thing as information—and this is only to say that there is no such thing as order. Order being impossible, science is bankrupt, thought is bootless, and mindfulness an illusion of minds that don’t really exist.

February 1

Terry Morris writes:

Great article. I think that people, once they understand what Darwinism really means, tend to have a natural instinct to say to themselves, “wait a minute, this just seems completely implausible.”

I can almost see it now, the next cover of Columbia University’s magazine: “Why don’t Americans get Darwinism?”

LA replies:

Thank you.

Yes, that’s a key point. The only way Darwinians make Darwinism plausible, even to themselves, is by ignoring what Darwinism actually says.

In this connection, you may also want to check out my most recent comment at Congenial Times where commenter TGGP gave me a golden opportunity to expose the Darwinians’ addiction to teleological language, which is the main way they make the theory plausible to themselves.

Now, the fact that Darwinians habitually clothe their theory with mythical teleological constructs in order to make it plausible to themselves and others, does not by itself prove that the Darwinian theory is wrong. It does, however, lend strong support to the conclusion, which I’ve previously demonstrated by logical argument, that a Darwinian universe is incompatible both with the existence of an objective moral good and with the existence of a being with intentional consciousness who can know and love the good. And therefore it also lends strong support to the conclusion that Darwinism cannot be true.

I will demonstrate this by reasoning backward from my conclusion about Darwinism to the behavior of the Darwinists. Since a Darwinian universe is incompatible with the existence of a being with intentional consciousness who can know and love the good, and since man exists, and since man has intentional consciousness and loves the good, and since the Darwinians themselves are men who have intentional consciousness and love the good (even if in some reductivist, materialist guise), therefore the Darwinians inchoately sense that Darwinism is incompatible with their own existence as beings with intentional consciousness, i.e., the Darwinians inchoately sense that Darwinism is untrue. And therefore, in order to make Darwinism believable to themselves, they continually inject into their Darwinian scenarios all kinds of notions of intention and purpose which Darwinism itself precludes.

LA continues:

My last comment has also been posted at Congenial Times.

LA continues:

In answer to my argument, Darwinians frequently reply that the teleological images and “stories” are not necessary, but are just added as an aid to understanding. But this only supports my point that the theory, when stated accurately, in its true, radical reductiveness,—as a picture of living beings as automata controlled by accidential mutations and of evolution as a process lacking the slightest element of direction and purpose—is implausible to the human reason and will be rejected.

February 11, 2009

LA writes:

My argument above goes to the subjective thinking processes of the Darwinists. I say that their own inchoate and unacknowledged discomfort with Darwinism, as shown by their constant recourse to teleological language, strongly suggests that Darwinism is not true.

But the argument doesn’t need to be based on the thinking processes of the Darwinists. We can make an objective argument that goes farther and is more conclusive, viz.:

Since the Darwinian theory of evolution is incompatible with the existence of a being with intentional consciousness who can know and love the good, and since a being (i.e., man) who can know and love the good exists, therefore the Darwinian theory of evolution is false.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 31, 2009 02:30 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):