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I saw this refutation online of Darwin's Random Evolution Theory and cannot see any holes with the logic. Can anyone crack this simple refutation?

Refutation of the Theory of Random Evolution

As for the theory of evolution, which says that living things evolved progressively from mud - first organism - bacteria - fish - animals - humans through tiny random mutations which were advantageous and naturally selected; there's a lot to say on this. All currently living life forms appears to be highly related, sharing the same DNA system and cell structure. This would suggest a common first ancestor as the theory suggests (or better yet - one Designer), however, the most obvious flaw with the theory is that the first organism must have had highly sophisticated intelligent design. There is a minimum requirement for even the most primitive possible life form, without which it could not possibly survive.

Minimum Requirements for First Organism

  1. The first organism must have a system of producing and/or sourcing energy along with subsystems of distribution and management of that energy which interact and work together, otherwise it cannot power critical tasks such as reproduction.

  2. It must have a system of reproduction which necessitates pre-existing subsystems of information storage (DNA), information copying, and information reading/processing which interact with each other and work together. This reproductive system is dependent on a power source, so it must be coordinated with the power system. The reproductive system must also copy/rebuild all critical infrastructure such as the power system and the reproduction system along with the "circuitry" and feedback mechanisms between them, otherwise the child organism will be dead..

  3. It must have a growth system, otherwise the organism will reduce itself every time it reproduces and vanish after a few generations. This growth system necessitates subsystems of ingestion of materials from the outside world, processing of those materials, distribution, and absorption of those materials to the proper place, building the right thing at the right place and in the right amount. It must also have an expulsion system for waste materials.

    The growth system must also be coordinated with the reproduction system. Otherwise, if the reproduction trigger happens faster than the growth, it will reduce size faster than it grows in size and vanish after a few generations. The growth system also requires connection to the power infrastructure to perform its tasks.

  4. All the "circuitry", signaling, and feedback infrastructure which allows the different systems and subsystems to coordinate together and work together must be in place before the organism can "come alive". The reproduction system won't work without coordination with the growth and power systems. Likewise, the power system by itself is useless without the growth and reproduction systems and cannot survive. Only when all the "circuitry", etc. is in place and the power is turned on is there hope for the hundreds of interdependent tasks to start working together. Otherwise, it is like turning on a computer which has no interconnections between the power supply, CPU, memory, hard drive, video, operating system, etc - nothing to write home about.

  5. We assume it originated in water since gas is too unstable and solid is too static. If so, the organism must be contained by some kind of membrane otherwise its precious contents will drift away in the water due to natural diffusion or drifting of water due to temperature variations in the water from sunlight, etc. or from heat generated through its own power, or wind, moon, etc. If so, this makes the assembly of such an organism more problematic, since it would need to be closed shut before it can build itself in a stable way. Yet, to build itself it would need to be open for a long time until all systems are built and interconnected.

From the above minimum requirements it is clear that the simplest possible surviving organism is by no means simple. You would need thousands of different proteins/lipids etc., in the right proportions, all intricately folded and actively interacting with each other and with sophisticated organelles. Contemplate this and you will see the necessary complexity of this primitive organism is far more sophisticated than anything modern technology has ever produced. Even the most sophisticated Intel CPU is mere child's play compared with the design of such an organism.

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closed as off-topic by daniel, Chris, Bez, Richard Smith-Unna, biogirl May 30 at 5:00

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See this question –  Rory M Jan 20 '13 at 11:25
    
As explained by @5th below, this is really about the origin of self-replicating systems. See here for an outline discussion of this difficult problem. (added later - I have just seen your other question, so now realise that you know all of this anyway!) –  Alan Boyd Jan 20 '13 at 13:13
    
thank you to all who answered/commented. I see its not so simple as I thought. still seems to me a far jump to go from things like self replicating RNA to fulll fledged single cell organisms. intuitively, i just dont see how it can evolve one tiny step at a time due too many interdependent things. will need to think it over –  user1909257 Jan 20 '13 at 19:12
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@user1909257 I think your stumbling block is that you don’t account for the vast time span involved. I’s very hard to grasp how much time evolution had. We can estimate the rate of evolution from experiments and observation, and let me tell you, even though evolution is happening really slowly, there was plenty of time since the beginning of the world. It’s simply unimaginable how old Earth is. The book Climbing Mount Improbable illustrates how tiny changes can accumulate over time. –  Konrad Rudolph Jan 21 '13 at 10:49
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Apparently it's still active. I think it should have been closed initially but better late than never. –  daniel May 29 at 15:06

4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I like @5th 's answer but I thought it might be worthwhile to clarify on some points and pull the logic out a bit more.

First there is some contesting the overall logic that it assumes all these qualities of life are showing up at once. If they had to, it probably is true that life could not evolve, but the general assumption is that there is a path to do so. Let me try to be convincing of this.

Dawkin's theory of the replicator is axiomatic and not entirely helpful at this point, but it does have a lot to say. Once you have self replicating systems, the rest of biology and evolution and selection does seem reasonable, even with the emergence of complicated structures like the eye, the flageller motor and other seemingly unplausibly multi component systems seem to magically come together and do something new in the course of evolution. Dawkins wrote a book on this topic "Climbing Mount Improbable" on this topic which tries to answer this question for several cases.

To outline why biological systems can and do seem to leap to new abilities, organs and unprecedented assemblies. In fact the do not, but there are so many possible trials (quintillions? ) over the trillions of years, that eventually some adaptive path to these features, which has usually been found when we go looking for it. As such there is no clear reason why new cases of this argument need to carry extra weight. The argument of statistically improbable combinations has been tried and remains unconvincing with respect to evolution several times.

After this, I think it would be fair to say that the origins of life, although coming clear still has many details to be resolved, but progress is being made. Precambrian evidence of primitive life was very different as seen in fossil records. We can see that at one time there were only bacteria and single celled organisms. There is evidence that at one time there appears to be only simple very large single celled organisms that lay in shallow water and soaked up the sunlight, growing and growing.

We can see that going back about 1.2-2 billion years, life shows a pretty clear progression where selection and adaptation creates complexity in living things and transitions life from exclusively chemotrophs (metabolizing Sulfur from geological processes) to anoxic (no oxygen environment) photosynthesis, and then oxygen breathing organisms.

In the precellular world, the RNA World hypothesis describes how all that life needed was one sort of molecule - RNA. That is chemically a very simple replicator. Evidence is pretty strong that RNA world was possible. Many chemists are interested in proving that RNA can be created more or less spontaneously from early earth chemical environments and recent experiments show that spontaneous soups containing RNA are a reasonable picture of earth at one point.

All this being said its probably true that exactly what happened and how it happened will never be 100% known and the argument can be made that something unnatural happened at some point. But I hope you can also see that while the argument may still hold some water, the need for any magical interventions in the action of life is retreating to a point of origin - the beginning of time. Scientific inquiry is very much focused on filling the picture of the origins of life on earth though and given the success of finding probable paths through to the origins of life, the odds actually are in favor for making a statement of the physical mechanisms of life's origins.

Just a couple of side notes.. (1) biologists are not stuck on everything being random. There is lots of work on mechanisms evolved to adapt in non-random ways.
(2) Darwin is not a sacred cow - just about any working biologist would love to show Darwin was wrong even in a little way. The same is true for Einstein, Newton and the rest. After a few years of trying though what one usually finds that its kinda difficult. Its not a matter of who makes the argument or what it means, but it has to be convincing and that turns out to be difficult.

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i agree that the answer is not so clear cut, and ultimately may remain a mystery –  user1909257 Jan 21 '13 at 7:34
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science is more guessing than proof in many cases, theories are built on lots of different evidence that somehow turns into a story. –  shigeta Jan 21 '13 at 13:40

(A few words about your source: it's little use to come a serious site about science and quote sources whose objective is to prove the existence of god. If you want to learn more about the beauty of life and the theory of evolution, I suggest you read the book "The Blind Watchmaker" by Richard Dawkins, it's an excellent introduction to the topic.)

There is no such thing as "Darwin's Random Evolution Theory". Further, Darwin put forward a theory of the origin of species (which is the opposite of random!), not of the origin of life (I do believe he did not write anything at all about how life develops from "mud".)

Thus, there is nothing to "crack" in that "logic", because the question is not valid in the first place.

Disregarding that the question is not valid in the first place, I think you're trying to refute the idea that self-replicating life-like things could emerge spontaneously. I'm not sure there is anything particularly random about how the world behaves, it's rather a label for what human imagination and ingenuity cannot predict. However, in the sense of random you are using, self-replicating patterns (I won't be the one to determine whether it passes as life) have been shown to be possible in a much simpler world than ours: Conway's Game of Life. A pattern that uses a kind of instruction tape, replicates and destroys its parent (repeating this every 34 million generations) was found in 2010 by Andrew J. Wade. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway%27s_Game_of_Life#Self-replication

If this can occur, although to a large part it was probably designed in this case, you cannot say it is impossible in a world on a much larger scale and over eons of time (these kinds of time periods cannot easily be imagined - a good reason why we tend to believe it is very unlikely that something very improbable will happen during the period).

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I saw this refutation online of Darwin's Random Evolution Theory and cannot see any holes with the logic. Can anyone crack this simple refutation?

Certainly. First and foremost: The refutation is not simple. It is a complex argument that draws consistently on baseless assumptions and relies on the lack of education of the reader to get its point across. I do not mean that the reader is dumb, merely that the author's target audience is probably ill-informed about the details of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and similar fields. The author relies on being long and convoluted, appealing to faulty logic, and a whole slew of fallacies that might be missed if the reader hadn't already encountered them in the context of Evolution.

As for the theory of evolution, which says that living things evolved progressively from mud...

Well, as 5th has already said, this is a bad start. The Theory of Evolution (via Natural Selection if we want to get the full name out there) says nothing about the beginnings of life. That would be Abiogenesis.

The Theory of Evolution merely dictates that subsequent generations adapt to their environment, and that those who have adapted best will pass their inheritable traits to the next generation.

1. The first organism must have a system of producing and/or sourcing energy along with subsystems of distribution and management of that energy which interact and work together, otherwise it cannot power critical tasks such as reproduction.

This isn't a difficult task. Currently the most abundant source of energy on the planet is the Sun. It has been shining for billions of years before the Earth was formed, and will be shining for billions of years after you've read this paragraph.

If we exclude sunlight for the LCA (Last Common Ancestor) of all life, then we're mostly talking about geothermal energy or chemical reactions. Ultimately, though, extant organisms store energy in chemical bonds. The primary "Energy Carrier" of the cell is ATP - Adenosine Tri-Phosphate, and it's the third of the three Phosphates that is often "harvested" for its energy - leaving ADP as a product of metabolic reactions.

That a system of sourcing and managing energy distributions could arise from even simple situations is not so far fetched. Consider the Earth's atmosphere and weather patterns; initially they appear extremely complex and result in myriads of environments that even modern science cannot accurately predict more than a few days ahead.

However, the entire system is driven by the interaction of the planet's geography, the gases composing the atmosphere, and the Sun as it heats the system. Regulation is taken care of by Physics - hot air rises, cold air sinks, geographical location determines exposure to the energy source, etc.

Power is not an issue. Basic regulation is not an issue. Once the basics are down, more complex forms can Evolve.

2. It must have a system of reproduction which necessitates pre-existing subsystems of information storage (DNA), information copying, and information reading/processing which interact with each other and work together. This reproductive system is dependent on a power source, so it must be coordinated with the power system. The reproductive system must also copy/rebuild all critical infrastructure such as the power system and the reproduction system along with the "circuitry" and feedback mechanisms between them, otherwise the child organism will be dead..

If you're willing to accept that chemical reactions between amino acids and similar molecules can occur on primitive Earth, then the jump to this question isn't that hard.

First, you should know that DNA almost certainly wasn't the initial genetic storage form. A commonly accepted and incredibly intriguing theory is the RNA World Hypothesis. RNA can also store genetic information - albeit at a less accurate rate for a shorter amount of time. More importantly, RNA has also been observed folding into itself to create proteins and catalysts. It's sort of a jack-of-all-trades, and since it's basic constituents have been discovered amongst the vacuum of spaces, all the pieces were here on Earth 4 B.Y.A. to make some of the first steps towards organic life. All that had to happen is that the right molecules had to come together, then physics takes over and you have some astonishing reactions. Given the right conditions and a few hundred million years, who's to say it isn't possible?

3. It must have a growth system, otherwise the organism will reduce itself every time it reproduces and vanish after a few generations. This growth system necessitates subsystems of ingestion of materials from the outside world, processing of those materials, distribution, and absorption of those materials to the proper place, building the right thing at the right place and in the right amount. It must also have an expulsion system for waste materials.

Let me introduce you to the Micelle: A naturally occurring structure that looks an awful lot like today's cell membranes. It doesn't require exotic materials, it doesn't require fancy catalysts; it requires amphipathic molecules and that's about it.

While complex organisms do require subsystems and various ways to ingest food to harness nutrition, for the most basic forms of life "Digestion" is little more than taking in outside material into the cell and then putting what's left back outside.

To that end, Micelles merge on their own when distance allows. The mechanism is powered by the entropy of the water molecules surrounding the micelle's structure and doesn't require any sort of metabolism or organic control to occur. In addition, hydrophobic molecules can slip through unhindered fairly easily (depending on size), and many of amino acids used to make proteins and micronutrients our current bodies require are hydrophobic.

So it's entirely possible to have a basic membrane that can "eat" other things without being strictly alive. Everything after that is just added complexity that was retained due to improved functionality. It's important to remind yourself that we're talking of a span of hundreds of millions of years. Almost nothing currently living on the planet has gone more than a few hundred thousand or few million years without drastically changing how it looks. A hundred million years ago humans were little more than rats or furry lizards. Imagine what could happen with 5x that span!

4. All the "circuitry", signaling, and feedback infrastructure which allows the different systems and subsystems to coordinate together and work together must be in place before the organism can "come alive"...

This very, very much depends on your definition of alive - which is still difficult to define for Biologists to this day.

Are viruses alive? They certainly do not retain any reproductive ability of their own and must hijack the operations of a living cell to create the next generation - but they still have inheritable genetic material, they still create structures and adapt to their environment, and still - in an odd way - consume resources to reproduce.

What's the difference between the spread of iron oxide (rust) -- which, you could argue, requires an interaction of existing elements to perpetuate and has built-in feedback (it is inhibited when there is a lack of a substance - a completely viable and well-known trope of feedback mechanisms) -- and the spread of a fungus, which you could describe just as simply?

Defining "Life" by what exists today is a mistake often made by those who dispute the Theory of Evolution. Only the most basic assumptions and connections can be made between life as-it-exists and life-as-it-started. The planet is different, the air is different, the Moon is significantly further away, and countless other things have occurred.

That said, we have definitely observed complex interactions of molecules and systems in situ within conditions similar to those of early Earth. One of the most famous is the Miller-Urey experiment. If you're asking why they didn't succeed in creating life, remember that it took about 500 million years for the LCA to spring into existence... And the LCA is not necessarily the first form of life, just the one that gave rise to all current forms. Miller and Urey experimented for two weeks, not 500 million years, but still made significant discoveries in that short a time-span.

5. We assume it originated in water since gas is too unstable and solid is too static. If so, the organism must be contained by some kind of membrane otherwise its precious contents will drift away in the water due to natural diffusion or drifting of water due to temperature variations in the water from sunlight, etc. or from heat generated through its own power, or wind, moon, etc.

We have already discussed the Micelle above.

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This refutation contains a fundamental error.

The first living organism need not be anything complex, it just has to be
a molecule that creates copies of itself which inherit its characteristics.

From there its population grows exponentially and evolution starts.

Therefore there is no need for any of those items he is listing as requirements for the first life.

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your system works for simple molecules. but to go from there to interdependent intelligent design is a long way. consider upgrading your software through random mutations of the hard drive. it's just impossible for anything to improve unless its coordinated with other changes in an intelligent way –  user1909257 Jan 29 '13 at 18:46
    
for example, you cannot improve the code for windows xp by randomly changing one line of code. the reason being that this change would affect other lines of code and you'd need to modify those in a coordinated way. make sense? –  user1909257 Jan 29 '13 at 22:07
    
I am pointing out that this so-called refutation is flawed as it assumes that first life must be someting complex. As for the continued evolution of life you can start a different thread. –  Hermann Ingjaldsson Jan 30 '13 at 0:14
    
simple molecules is not first life. –  user1909257 Jan 30 '13 at 8:23
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Continuing to say "you need some kind of intelligence" doesn't mean you have demonstrated it to be so. Yes, it's a long stretch from self-replicating chemicals in a micell to full-blown organisms with brains capable of intelligence, but you also have a VAST amount of time, and a VAST amount of attempts with which to make incremental changes. –  swbarnes2 Jan 9 at 18:13

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