Wednesday, February 24, 2016

125 Rebuttals, 1A and 1B

This is the second post in a (hopefully quite long and interesting) series of rebuttals against this particular webpage.

Since we discussed point 1 yesterday, I'm going to glance over 1a and 1b here, before starting into the next argument.  I really hope the author isn't counting each of these individually as arguments, because that'll really shorten the overall scope of this series.

1A: The software and hardware of the cell are irreducibly complex

Well, that made my job a lot easier, and I haven't even addressed a single premise yet.  Cells do not have a disparate nature between the 'hardware' and 'software.'  The parts of the cell interact, chemically, and that's basically all that's important here.  It isn't as though DNA is some sort of computer chip, and the sequences on it are some sort of code.  The fact that it's arranged in the way it is, is due to natural processes, not some underlying operating system.  It's a false analogy, and I'll be damned if I don't at least point it out.  Again, I'm not going to pick apart this entire sub-point, so let's find the first problematic thing in the premises.  Although, all these points are rich, we'll just pick one or two for now.  I'll come back and more thoroughly pick this apart later, if anyone's interested.
3. The cell contains a genetic code which is at or very close to a global optimum for error minimization across plausible parameter space
Well, as I pointed out yesterday, it's useful to call it a code, because it acts kinda like a code.  However, the second assertion here is that it's optimized for error minimization.  This is simply incorrect.  The 'job' of the RNA is to facilitate the copying of DNA. I don't want to belabor this point terribly, but it's important.  It's not optimized to reduce errors, so to speak.  It's simply evolved to be very good at making sure segments of DNA are copied verbatim.  If it were really optimized in such a way, species would never have evolved because the DNA would never have allowed such errors to pass through.  Indeed, some of the most famous traits in almost any given species are because the RNA simply does its job, and allows 'incorrect' versions of genes to pass on.  Whether it's heterochromy or microcephaly, the RNA only cares about transcribing what its given, generally.

Now, it is important to note that the RNA does actually act as though its got some error-correcting properties, but these properties tend to check sorts of parity, making sure it creates pairs that are AT or GC, and not AC or GT for example.  It's clear the author is not talking about this kind of parity checking when we find this premise:
7. There is no reason for information processing machinery to exist without the software, and vice versa.
Again, this is not the kind of 'information processing machinery' that DNA/RNA is.  RNA is a precursor to DNA.  Also, it's a false premise, because the author hasn't given a single reason why there is no reason.   Prions are an example of a sort of organism which are evidence of how something can reproduce without the very system point 7 is arguing must exist.  Irreducible complexity requires that nothing simpler can exist, but here it is nonetheless.

For an analogy, imagine I hand you a smart phone, and tell you that the smart phone is the simplest possible phone that can exist.  If even one part of it were not there, it would not be able to do its job, or any job.  Even looking at old rotary phones, we can still see how the removal of parts, including even the number dial, still doesn't make the phone necessarily impossible to use, or even exist.

1B: Proponents of evolution believe it is necessary to get chemicals up to the point of replication before Darwinian Evolution begins.

I'll say right now, this is a fallacy of begging the question.  I'll say more things later.

Premise 1 and 2 create a false dichotomy and a false analogy.  Abiogenesis deals with how the chemical reactions ultimately gave rise to more typical forms of life, however, not everything that evolves is living.  Viruses are a clear example of this.  They do not meet the typical definitions of 'living thing,' but very clearly demonstrate how evolution can happen absent the fact of 'life.'

Similarly, the first self-replicating molecules probably didn't resemble RNA and DNA as we know them today.  RNA was likely the precursor to DNA, so to claim that RNA can't function without DNA is preposterous.  Similarly, there are processes which replicate, which are not self-replicating. Many chemical reactions happen in nature, but very few on their own.  Fire can be started by any number of reasons, it's not self-replicating in the same sense.  This is a fallacy from ambiguity, but I digress.
4. The other problem is the origin of a genetic code that can copy itself.
This isn't a problem, save for people who don't actually understand the words they are typing.  This is a fallacy of false cause.  Using another analogy, genetics can be compared to language in one useful way: the way in which languages develop.  Since I'm speaking English, I'll use English as my example. However, this argument works with most languages as well, if they are sufficiently modern.
The argument the author presents is akin to this: English is the simplest language it could ever have been, so it must have come about exactly in its current form.  Similarly, it's impossible for English to have any degrees of variation from place to place.  Looking to the evidence, we can see this is clearly not the case.  As we move backward through time, we can see that as early as a few hundred years ago, the English used by speakers at that time would be considerably different.  I don't know of any people who routinely speak in old English or middle English.

My point here is, English has slowly and steadily evolved into the language it is today.  We can also go a great deal in reverse, and see that English was indeed a simpler language in the past.  After a certain point backward in time, English ceases to be a thing, because it hasn't separated from the languages that came before it.  Going further back, we can look at ancient languages, and determine that there were languages which are incredibly simple by today's terms.  Just remember, 20 years ago Google didn't exist, and now it's a verb.

Let's think a bit further. We know, factually, that there was a time before written languages existed.  Irreducible complexity argues that cats can't possibly communicate with one another, since they don't use a verbal language with well-defined terms.  This would be impossible, since languages (like we compare the workings of DNA to) must be fully formed.  There can be no precursor, but alas, we know precursors exist in both cases.  Similarly, there probably was no 'first language' from which all other languages spawned.  Languages before writing were probably very simple - we do indeed have examples of isolated indigenous peoples using languages that would be considered very primitive by today's standards indeed.  Irreducible complexity argues that it's impossible that the same process that produced English (a language that humans speak) could possibly produce anything other than English (a language that humans speak).  In a similar way, they claim that RNA variants could not possibly have ever become DNA as we know it today, and that RNA and DNA could never have shared a common ancestor.  A language (chemical reactions) without a specific code (genes/alleles/base pairs/etc) could not possibly exist.

Addressing the next few points, point 4a is an argument from authority (rather than arguing from any evidence, he says that people think a certain way therefore one of them must be right - also a false dichotomy, since he's barring the idea that both he and the strawman he's attacking could be wrong).
5. “We now feel compelled to abandon compositional inheritance as a jumping board toward real units of evolution.”
5 is a quote from somewhere, probably out of context, possibly just made up as a strawman.
6. As one scientific theory is abandoned, often the new theory is based on faith being not 100% proven.
a. “We do not know how the transition to digitally encoded information has happened in the originally inanimate world; that is, we do not know where the RNA world might have come from, but there are strong reasons to believe that it had existed.”
6 asserts that scientific theories are abandoned, when in fact this hardly ever happens.  It's hard to create theories for this reason.  Usually they're simply expounded upon or corrected with further observation.  The author lacks that vital point, observation and evidence of his own point.

7. The metabolism-first scenario cannot work:
8. The genetics-first scenario doesn’t work:
7/8 False dichotomy: both could have developed at the same time.  Oddly enough, I'd like to know how he thinks chemical reactions can happen WITHOUT using the constituent materials. Energy is stored/used without metabolism somehow? I left out the bits that followed each point, but I think you get the idea. Oddly, I agree. Neither probably works, since they both developed together, probably.
9. Because both concepts of life’s origin are impossible, the only plausible scenario of complex life’s origin is intelligent design that implies God the best designer.
9 Intellectually dishonest false dichotomy. "Neither of the things I've proposed can be true (citation needed) therefore MY GOD is correct." Also a false premise, since it could be any god, or no god at all, or maybe some other creature did it which wasn't created by a god, like a leprechaun or race of bigfoot monsters.  Again, the point is moot, because it is quite frankly a terrible argument, if not an outright dishonest assertion. I'm going to re-write his ninth point here:
9. Because both concepts of life's origins are impossible (why?), the only plausible scenario of complex life's origin is bigfoot farted them out one afternoon that they both developed together, and not disparately.
See, this is how you create good arguments.

10. Hence God exists.
10 Is just posturing.

Alright, I know I promised point two, but I can only spend so much time per post before you quit reading. I'll pick up tomorrow where I left off today.

Peace to you all!