To: All Msg #192, Apr0993 11:26PM Subject: Re: Albert Sabin In article 1prtl8INN2o0@ctronn

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From: Richard Harter To: All Msg #192, Apr-09-93 11:26PM Subject: Re: Albert Sabin Organization: Software Maintenance & Development Systems, Inc. From: (Richard Harter) Message-ID: <> Reply-To: rh@ishmael.UUCP (Richard Harter) Newsgroups: alt.atheism,talk.religion.misc, In article <> (John E. King) writes: > >To: rh@ishmael.UUCP (Richard Harter) wries: >>This is substantially misleading. First of all, to a large extent, >>the information that "tells" a cell how to divide is embedded in the >>laws of chemistry and physics. >Lets not quibble. The "code" in the DNA is so complex, that it even has >timers which if slightly off, would result in malformations. The Gnombe >Project (sp?) is an attempt to translate this code. When done the >volumes will fill a small library. I don't have the exact context for my remark, so I can't tell if I was quibbling or not. However your response is essentially irrelevant to the question of abiogenesis. The genome project is mapping human DNA. Human beings are multi-celular eukaryotes; the earliest life forms that we know of were single-celled prokaryotes. I hope you won't be offended if I repeat a bit of basic biology that you may not be aware of. Prokaryotes are single celled organisms without a nucleus; eukaryotes have a nucleus and other organelles. Prokaryotes have a single strand of DNA; eukaryotes have chromosomes. Prokaryotes are much smaller than eukaryotes. The complete genome for a number of prokaryotes, e.g. E. Coli has been completely determined. As I recall it runs about a thousand genes. [Correction welcomed.] I can't be certain what you meant by your remark, but I suspect you are confusing several points. If, by "code", you me mean the Genetic code, this is the mapping from sequences of bases in the DNA to the amino acids that make up proteins. Three successive bases map into one amino acid. This encoding is universal (all life uses the same encoding); it has nothing to do directly with cell division. On the other hand, if you were thinking of embryological sequencing, you are correct in that changes in the relatively small number of genes that control sequencing are very likely to lead to malformations. Again, however, this has nothing to do with cell division. What it has to with is the formation of organs in multi-cellular life forms. The reason I mention this is because of your references to "timers". What I said originally is essentially correct -- cell division itself is largely driven by physical processes which are essentially independent of the particular details of the genome. As I recall, I was responding to an argument about the essential implausibility of cell division because of the complexity of DNA required. If my recollection is correct, your point was fallacious, and you have not strengthened it any way. By the way, a great deal of variation in the DNA of prokaryotes is normal. >>The probability that DNA molecules can form >>is 1.0 -- it happens continually. If you mean to say that complex >>molecules cannot form abiotically, that too is false -- it happens as >>a regular thing. Come to think on it, your sentence really doesn't >>say much at all. Maybe you meant to say that improbable things are >>improbable. Now that we can all agree on. >I really don`t follow this. I obviously accept biogenesis. I thought >we were talking origins here? My apologies. I thought the point was clear. Evidently it is not. Let me try again. You posted a well worn argument that the formation of a complex organic molecule was highly improbable. Now what the argument amounts to is multiplying a number of probabilities together to get a very small number. This argument has at least two hidden premises, to wit: (1) the probability of the component elements being available is as stated, and (2) the probabilities of union of elements is no greater than the stated amount. I believe that you directed the argument to DNA [exactly the same argument is directed to proteins.] Let us suppose, for the moment that your argument is correct. Then the formation of complex DNA molecules is impossible. Why? Because your argument implicitly uses upper bounds on probabilities and implicitly assumes independence. But, you say, I know perfectly well that complex DNA molecules form in life all of the time. Well then, there is something wrong with those implicit assumptions; they cannot apply universally; the local environment alters probabilities. As a second line of defense for the argument you might argue that the living cell is a special environment and that it holds in an abiotic environment. But again, the argument is quite general -- it can be applied to all manner of complex molecules to show that they cannot occur abiotically. And again, actual fact falsifies the prediction of the argument. That was the point I was making. What, then, is wrong with the argument. The thing that is wrong with the argument is that it puts unrealistically low bounds on the probability of elements joining. There is no single number which is the probability of two nucleotides joining -- the probability depends on the concentration and on the presence or absence of catalysts. The rate of chemical reactions varies by many orders of magnitude, depending on these factors. What the argument shows (correctly) is that the probability of formation of complex molecules by a certain assumed mode of formation is very low. We infer from this that the molecules were not originally formed in this manner. Now you may have in mind another unstated premise to the effect that the mode specified in the argument is the only mode available, i.e. concentrations are always low and catalysts are never present. This unstated premise is false. In short your entire argument only makes clear the improbability of an improbable event. It has nothing to do with abiogenesis. -- Richard Harter: SMDS Inc. Net address: Phone: 508-369-7398 US Mail: SMDS Inc., PO Box 555, Concord MA 01742. Fax: 508-369-8272 In the fields of Hell where the grass grows high Are the graves of dreams allowed to die.


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