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Intelligent Design or Evolution? Why the Origin of Life and the Evolution of Molecular Knowledge Imply Design

Stuart Pullen

Intelligent Design Books; Paperback, 2005

Item# B117
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This book is the most significant and comprehensible critique of origin of life theories to be published in the past decade. When used with the companion website, the book serves as an excellent entry level text on the topic for the student, scientist or inquiring layman.

The chemical origin of life is the most vexing problem for naturalistic theories of life�s origins. Despite an intense 50 years of research, how life can arise from non-life through naturalistic processes is as much a mystery today as it was fifty years ago�if not more. These problems were well documented in The Mystery of Life�s Origin by Thaxton, Bradley and Olson, but the book has been out of print for several years now. Pullen does an excellent job of synthesizing the work of Thaxton, Fox, Spetner, Orgel, Yockey, Shapiro and others, and then takes the origin of life arguments to the next level by discussing the problems naturalism faces in explaining molecular information and molecular knowledge. His analogies and examples make the information very accessible for both the scientist and non-scientist. His degrees in biochemistry (1987 North Carolina State Univ) and electrical engineering (1992 North Carolina State) appear to have prepared him well to tackle the origin of life problem from an information theory context and he also addresses some shortcomings in Yockey�s work in this area.

This book explores chemical evolution (often called prebiotic or abiotic evolution) and reviews many important origin of life experiments. The failure of these experiments to create DNA, RNA and proteins suggest that the primordial soupdid not exist. Chapter 11 quotes many scientists who have already reached the same conclusion. The bibliography for chapter 9 lists many excellent�articles found in scientific journals�that describe the problems with chemical evolution and the mystery of life's origin. While these problems do not prove intelligent design theory, they certainly lend support to the design inference.

Chapters 7 and 10 use the second law of thermodynamics which is defined in chapter 6 to show that the first living organism was not a simple self replicating RNA molecule nor was it a self replicating protein. These simple systems while appealing on paper are not robust because they do not self replicate under plausible prebiotic conditions. Thus, natural selection cannot guide their evolution. Chapter 7 explains that energy sources alone do not help explain the origin of life. Self replicating systems must also have the ability to couple�their replication to�these energy sources. If they cannot, then the second law forbids their very existence. Chapter 10 concludes that the RNA world did not exist and that the first living thing was probably a simple cell capable of synthesizing many of the chemicals it needed for replication and survival. The concept that simple�living molecules do not exist because they cannot self replicate without violating the second law of thermodynamics strongly supports intelligent design theory, and this argument is unique to this site. Thus, true self replicators are not simple molecules. They are complex systems that contain the ability and molecular knowledge (useful information) to couple their replication to plentiful energy sources.

Chapters 1 and 2 describe how useful information or molecular knowledge evolves. The companion website also has several interactive demonstrations that model the evolution of information through genetic drift (chance) with the help of natural selection. These demonstrations are designed to show that natural selection does not work like Darwin theorized and that the popular belief given a billion years anything can happen is wrong. Chapters 13 and 14 use information theory to analyze an irreducibly complex system - the metabolic pathway that all life uses to synthesize adenine and ATP. This path requires many enzymes, and if a single enzyme is missing, no useful products are created. My favorite page on the site offers users who have java installed interactive pictures of ATP synthase and the protein insulin using jmol. Chapters 13 and 14 conclude that natural selection and chance do not explain life's ability to synthesize nucleic acids (DNA and RNA). All of these factors taken together suggest that life was created and that intelligent design offers a better explanation for the origin of life than evolution.

Chapter 15 deals with the common misconception held by most biologists that the extreme age and size of the universe offsets the poor odds associated with the origin of life. This chapter shows that ironically natural selection limits the number of tries and that despite claims to the contrary by most astronomers life is not something we should expect to find on other planets. For completeness, alternatives to intelligent design are discussed in chapter 17.

Chapter 4 and 5 apply information theory to the evolution of insulin today and in the primordial soup, respectively. These two chapters drive home the concept that not only were biological precursors rare on the primitive earth, any that may have existed would not have the information required to do anything useful.

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