RNA World… Do they have a good roller coaster there?

I know I just wrote a post about Britney Spears, but my real intent in logging in tonight was to make a brief comment about Origin of Life issues.  So, just forget I wrote the last post and read this one instead, OK?  Great! 🙂

I just wanted to mention that if any Christian out there would like to bolster his faith that there truly must be a God, just spend some time wandering around the internet reading about different so-called “scientific” theories about the origins of life.  You will come away warmly reminded that it takes more faith to be an atheist than it does to believe in God (to borrow the idea behind the Geisler and Turek book).

I just took a dip, myself, in the world of abiotic origins of life theories (that is, theories about life arising from non-living materials) by skipping here and there around the Internet, reminding myself of some of the details of these flights of the imagination.  The result for me was an increased faith in the God of Creation, if–for any reason–because the tour reminded me that the “theory” that an intelligent Being created life on earth is still the best explanation going and the one that is best supported by the facts at hand.  It’s certainly not less reasonable or acceptable as a possible truth when compared to the abiotic fantasies out there, and after consideration I believe that a mind freed of deceit would find it readily more reasonable and acceptable than the fantasies.

The theories aren’t new to me, and for years I have read about such hypotheses — even believed them.  As a child I read about the “prebiotic soup” that the early earth just “must” have been.  As a pre-teen, I sat enthralled watching Cosmos on PBS as my childhood hero Carl Sagan (a.k.a. St. Carl) described and reenacted the Miller-Urey experiment (which, I now see, proved so much less than has been claimed).  As an older teen, I read about the wonders of self-replicating clay crystals and their potential role in the process of “creating” the first self-replicating organic material (and, at the time, thought it fit in well with Adam being from the “dust of the ground,” except for the glaring fact that in reality it doesn’t fit in well at all).  I have read much of the promise of an “RNA world” (including the discussion in the wonderful book Rare Earth, by fans of the idea Peter Ward and Don Brownlee), in which the earth is so coated with RNA that the “creation” of DNA and functioning cells is seemingly inevitable.

False though these ideas may be, they still fascinate me and I continue to read about them whenever an opportunity presents itself (such as the recent magazine article I read on the ongoing “Chicken vs Egg” debates over which came first, DNA or RNA).

And while I would like to write more extensively on the topic at another time, let me say here that those who hold onto these “life from non-life” ideas do so completely on faith…  Faith that there must be an explanation for life’s origin that does not include any sort of “God.”  Faith that the mind-numbing improbabilities connected with such scenarios will magically disappear one day.  Faith that needs no evidence — only the personal conviction that “it must be so” and the hope that, one day, something that at least looks like evidence may one day arrive.

That is, they hold on out of the sort of faith for which they often ridicule others, yet with one important exception: it takes a lot more faith for one to believe in such tales than God would ask of the same person.

Shame on those who taught me in my youngest days that we all came out of some “prebiotic soup” as if it were fact, when in actuality there were no facts to be seen.  And bravo to those scientists and theoreticians who are willing to say otherwise.  I may disagree with the Hubert Yockey on many matters, but I respect him for his stance on the nonsense behind most of these theories.  I may not agree with any given Darwinist on, well, Darwinism, but show me one who accepts the fact that belief in life arising from non-life is a statement of faith and religion and not of science, and at least I can respect him.

So, really, if you want to increase your faith in God as the Designer and the Creator of Life, spend some time reading about the current state of so-called “scientific” theories of the origin of life.  It was a breath of fresh air for me!  Here’s an easy place to start: Wikipedia on “abiogenesis” — consider starting there and letting your clicks take you where they may.  🙂

Meanwhile, until real (as opposed to imaginary) observations suggest otherwise, I’ll stick with what the facts continue to indicate:  Life comes from Life.  Information comes from an Informant.  And the Bible isn’t kidding when it says, The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”

7 thoughts on “RNA World… Do they have a good roller coaster there?

  1. Ed Ewert

    Hello Mr. Smith

    By coincidence, I was on the internet last evening looking for information on ribosomes, which are found in all cells, and which assemble proteins out of amino acids, in a complex process.

    http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/cells/ribosomes/ribosomes.html is one of many sites that give information on this.

    The ribosome is an utterly amazing piece of cellular machinery, and the idea that it could just have evolved due to random DNA mutations, is utterly ridiculous.

  2. Howdy, Mr. Ewert —

    I would agree! Wikipedia happens to have a great entry on ribosomes, including two rotating images showing atomic structure and indicating the intricate folding and intertwining of the RNA and protein complexes. The link is here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ribosomes

    Also, this seems a good time to mention the amazing video, “The Inner Life of the Cell” which can be found at this link:

    http://multimedia.mcb.harvard.edu/

    I had mentioned this video in a blog entry back in March 2007, and it is still one of the most amazing video depictions I have ever seen of the microscopic world and its amazing molecular machines. Yet, knowing that–in reality–such videos hardly scratch the surface of the wonder there is truly humbling.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Best regards,
    Wallace Smith

  3. Lou Maschio

    Greeting Mr. Wallace,

    Some info/background:

    My name is Lou Maschio and I am a member of the LCG since last July. I am a local elder new to Living but have been in God’s Truth since 1981. I just read your blog on RNA and found it very interesting to say the least.

    After reading your comments on this subject (DNA/RNA), I thought that you might be the one who can help me.

    I have recently delved into the magnificent study into disecting dna. I was driven to this study to reinforce my belief in an almighty creator. How any scientist cannot believe that an All Powerful Creator and Designer is not present is hard to believe.

    This study actually has confirmed and given me a much deeper belief in God and just how much more awesome His mind and wisdom is over any puny human being.

    But in this indepth study (in which I am still into) I have come to notice through much information on the net involving the subject of dna, that the doctrine of the United States & Britain as the remnant of the lost ten tribes is challenged. Also with that challenge, comes an attached challenge of man being older that 6,000 (14,000- 40,000).

    These 2 challenges have sidetracked my dna study because they have been put out there in front of my eyes for me to disprove. Now I feel motivated to rise to this challenge and defend God’s doctrine, and disprove some of these claims which I know can harm some of the faith of others.

    I wanted to give you some of my background because I wanted you to know that I’m not a novice in the subject of British/American Israelism, in fact I believe it and have for over 25 years. To me, the proof is in the blessings and where and when God shed them. What peoples have enjoyed these blessing that were promised? Of course, no other nation except the U.S. Britain etc.

    I figured that you may be the one who might shed some light on how and or where I could find the needed info to disprove these new 21st century popular theories.

    Are these scientifc findings flawed, incomplete? Do you have any info that may refute these so called findings?

    These findings may trouble some, and I would like to know where to go or what to read to prove that God’s doctrines can be confirmed by science, not refuted by it.

    Can you shed some light?

    Lou Maschio
    Chicago area LCG

  4. Howdy, Lou —

    Thanks for your question. It’s a good one! I hope I can help.

    Before I address the specifics of the question of DNA & the identity of the “lost” 10 tribes, let me delve briefly into the relationship of science and the Bible — albeit, too briefly than such a relationship deserves, but enough to make some key points.

    1. The body of beliefs accumulated through science is always an incomplete one, as science is always learning new things and, sometimes, overturning previously held positions. (E.g., Many scientists used to believe the atom was indivisible, until we discovered it is not. Many believed in an eternally steady state universe — so much that even Albert Einstein was “inspired” to “cook the books” — only to discover it may have had a birthday, so to speak.)

    This comes into play sometimes when we see science pitted against the Bible. For instance, many archaeologists claimed, based on the evidence known at the time, that the Hittites were an imaginary people, a figment of some Biblical author’s imagination. Then, lo and behold, the find evidence of the Hittites, suggesting a very great empire, indeed. The critics were wrong (and, hopefully, humbled). Of course, there is no shame in being wrong in science, only in being unjustifiably dogmatic.

    One lesson from the “Hittite experience”: Don’t be too quick to bet against the Bible, no matter how “solid” the evidence seems.

    2. The conclusions published by scientists often only include the evidence from their own field of expertise, which–frankly–can at times be very narrow. Geology may yield very little clues as to the existence of a worldwide flood in our past (I know that some would disagree with this claim, and I am stating it only as a convenient example), while cultural studies documenting the persistence of ancient flood tales with strikingly similar story elements amongst a vast array of diverse peoples and different cultures attest to the truth of the claim. How these claims can be reconciled remains to be seen.

    A similar disagreement between disciplines I learned about once concerned whether or not ancient Egypt had contact with the New World of the Americas. Some forensic scientists once identified some “mummy stuffing” as tobacco, unknown in Egypt, which would imply (given current knowledge) contact with the New World. Egyptologists, on the other hand, claim this is impossible, because the models they have created of Egyptian history include no such contact between those cultures. Each discipline claims the other is wrong. Again, how these claims can be reconciled remains to be seen.

    Another lesson here: Don’t be too quick to agree that one particular scientific discipline has all the answers and that the search for truth would not be helped by taking in a broader set of data.

    So these things in mind, let me address the issue of DNA and the identity of Israel. Please recognize that I am no expert (as I will readily admit) and that I have not been thinking too long about these issues, but I have mused on them and do have some thoughts.

    First, I have not heard anything that would specifically convince me that any possible connection between the British and the ten northern tribes has been “disproven”. I have read a conclusion saying that this was so, but the conclusion was poorly referenced by any sort of footnote. Then when I did encounter a footnote, the referenced study did not necessarily lead to the stated conclusion without a little “help” from the one making the conclusion. I’m not saying that there couldn’t be something out there that states things more solidly, but I haven’t run across it yet.

    Also, such work is (relative to other disciplines) part of a relatively young science, I believe. I have seen comments made by organizations connected with the very DNA-related work in question that would cause one to question the conclusion that the Britain-Israel connection could have been so disproven. For instance, in a paper titled “Genetic Anthropology, Ancestry, and Ancient Human Migration” on the “Human Genome Project Information” website (www.ornl.gov), the following statement is made:

    “DNA studies do not indicate that separate classifiable subspecies (races) exist within modern humans. While different genes for physical traits such as skin and hair color can be identified between individuals, no consistent patterns of genes across the human genome exist to distinguish one race from another. There also is no genetic basis for divisions of human ethnicity. People who have lived in the same geographic region for many generations may have some alleles in common, but no allele will be found in all members of one population and in no members of any other. Indeed, it has been proven that there is more genetic variation within races than exists between them.”

    (You can read the paper yourself here.)

    Statements like this help me to remember to take far-reaching conclusions stated on the basis of, say, Y-chromosome studies or mitochondrial DNA studies, with a grain of salt. Adding to this the fact that the ten scattered tribes seem not to have avoided intermarrying with other peoples as stringently as have, say, the Jews, and there seem to be all sorts of reasons to withhold a verdict for the time being on such genetic studies.

    As the science of correlating human migration patterns with the markers we find in our genetic heritage matures, I believe that the connection between the UK and Ephraim will eventually come to light. Until then, I have seen nothing that causes me to fret overly much (in fact, much less than, say, geological findings and a worldwide flood, regardless of what Henry Morris might say).

    Lastly, as for the age of mankind, this falls into the “we’ll see” category, much like the claim of “there ain’t no Hittites.”

    All scientific conclusions (one could say, perhaps, all conclusions, period) are dependent on underlying assumptions, and weeding out those assumptions in order to examine them for undue influence or for their validity is difficult. Frankly, I’m surprised that the DNA “evidence” gives an age only older by a factor of 6, which your stated figures indicate.

    The true facts uncovered by scientists must always be interpreted in some way: there must be some structure that provides meaning to the facts. Hence the inevitable introduction of assumptions. And as any garment salesman knows, the appearance of the hanging coat is quite definitely affected by the shape and style of the hanger.

    As with the supposedly non-existent Hittites and the supposedly indivisible atom, time will tell the tale on the age of mankind. 🙂

    I may be speaking more out of my ignorance than my knowledge base, but hopefully I am not too far off the mark! I would hate to think that I am speaking too authoritatively (and thus make the same mistake I am here criticizing some scientists for making), but I do hope my musings have been helpful.

    Take care, and thanks for writing!

    Best regards,
    Wallace Smith

  5. Ed Ewert

    Hello again Mr. Smith

    I know where Mr. Maschio is coming from as I have considered the same issues. Since examining issues of Evolution/Intelligent Design/Creation is in fact a major hobby of mine, I am constantly exposed to seeing (and contemplating) the wonders of God’s creation, and also to seeing the self delusion, and the pattern of lies of those who deny creation. Hence I am no longer concerned about dogmatic statements that scientists who have an erroneous view of the history of biology might make.

    Regarding the question of DNA & the identity of the “lost” 10 tribes, I know that there are those who want to dismiss the possibility of a connection between these tribes and various peoples on the earth. Some are very hard-line in their opposition to this idea, and they are quite happy to dismiss the idea based on the most superficial scientific objection to it. I briefly considered looking more deeply into this matter, but it would have been time consuming, and I’ve already got my Creationist hobby to keep me busy. I simply assumed something that was along the lines of your answer (although your explanations are better than my fuzzy thoughts on the matter, so I appreciate that!).

  6. Dear Mr. Smith,

    I’m sorry to find this thread so late in the game. If possible, please have Mr. Lou Maschio contact our Personal Correspondence Dept. in Charlotte about the DNA study of alleles in the Y-chromosomes of Jewish males. Mr. Ehman at the PCD gets questions on that matter once in a while, and I was asked to write a response concerning it. I have the original scientific paper, I mentioned in principle some of what you’ve mentioned, and I’ve also brought out other things. I’ll make a summary of my thoughts here. (If necessary, I can send you a copy of my original file.)

    First, the Jews have by no means been isolated from interbreeding — the genetic diversity of the Jews in Israel (which I’ve seen firsthand) is staggering. In most respects they resemble the Gentiles among whom they lived in the Diaspora than they do each other. This was due both to intermarriage and to conversions, as well as other genetic factors such as natural selection and genetic drift. The paradox is that the Ten Tribes in their European migrations sometimes had taboos against intermarrying outside their own people, and when they did intermarry, it was usually with relatively close kin or else with Gentile peoples with similar outward characteristics.

    Second, Raymond F. McNair noted that Pharaoh Shishak illustrated on his trimuphal monmument the ethnic features of the Judahites and others he conquered, city by city. Some Judahites were stereotypically “Semitic” in profile; others were “proto-Nordic” or “proto-Celtic”. This should tell us something! Again, in some areas of the Jewish Diaspora some features were favored, while in other areas other features were favored. The same general processes worked on the Ten Tribes. Some remnants in Afghanistan and Pakistan are classically “Semitic” in appearance. Most, however, have retained or adopted outward traits more suited to the lands in which they live (the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic-Nordic traits as we know of them today).

    Third, it is not commonly known today even among the Jews that the Jews were the intermediaries between the Christian and Muslim worlds in the Middle Ages. Moreover, the spread of Islamic musical styles in the Jewish synagogues (all over Europe and the Middle East) disproves the canard that the Jewish synagogues were isolated from one another and from the Gentiles ever since the Second Temple fell. The earliest music of the synagogues (much of which still survives) was quite different, as was the music of the Temple service itself. All this is consistent with what the authors of the scientific paper raise as an alternate explanation: the movement of large numbers of Jewish males throughout the Diaspora in post-Second Temple times. People do not quickly change their ingrained religious traditions without such changes in the base population itself.

    As for the age of humanity, we should not underestimate what young-creationists are doing in their research of dating methods. All scientific dating methods whatever depend on the assumption that the present is the key to the past, which notoriously it isn’t. There are some things such as “quantum tunneling” that allegedly can increase radioactive decay rates by up to a billion times. How did God’s intervention in the natural order at various times alter the bases of scientific extrapolations of the present into the past? What has been uncovered already is quite interesting, and I would like to learn more.

    יוחנן רכב

  7. P.S.: Please have Mr. Ed Ewert and anyone else concerned about the study contact Mr. Ehman too. 🙂

    Your comments on this matter were very helpful in principle, and my next revision of the L-series letter hopefully will take them into account.

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