The beginnings of Life

I was wondering if any evolutionists lurking out there could answer me a question that’s been bothering me.

Obviously, the first cell that evolved couldn’t replicate.

So how many living cells came into being before one could replicate, and were there more than one?

I only wonder because the chances of a reproducing cell evolving are basically nil, so I am curious as to whether evolutionists think that more than one came into being in parallel.


  1. I’m not qualified to answer that question in detail – I suggest you hunt out some experts on the Richard Dawkins forums.

    You do need to get your head of out that “complete and fully formed” space – this is no different as an argument than the old chestnut of the eye being too complex to evolve. I’m more than satisfied that biologists can explain the steps from replicating molecule to cell.

    I’m still waiting for an ID’er / creationist to explain why if it is “too unlikely” for simple life to emerge spontaneously it is possible that some immensely powerful and complex entity (your diety of choice) could just happen to exist in order to create it?

    1. “why if it is “too unlikely” for simple life to emerge spontaneously it is possible that some immensely powerful and complex entity (your diety of choice) could just happen to exist in order to create it?”

      I guess that’s like asking if why it’s too unlikely for a car to drive *itself* to a given location, it’s possible that some intelligent “driver” could just happen to exist in order to drive it there.

  2. That’s one of the very few easy ones in abiogenesis (which , FWIW is not evolutionary biology) – the first replicators would have predated the first cells.

  3. “…it’s possible that some intelligent “driver” could just happen to exist in order to drive it there”

    Yeah but how likely is it that the intelligent driver “just happened to exist”? Nothing comes from nothing, yeah?

    “Intelligent Design” is yesterday’s news. People have figured out that it’s just creationism dressed up in a cheap tuxedo.

    The only people that go for it are the ones that are too deceitful to admit that they are creationists in public.

  4. “Nothing comes from nothing, yeah?”

    In the universe as we know it. Let’s say that a very powerful computer was invented and a simulation of our universe was setup with an earth like ours and virtual human beings. All the rules of physics would apply in this virtual world, and all experiments performed in this world would arrive at the same results as our current earth.

    The people within this universe would correctly say that “nothing comes from nothing”. However, that rule doesn’t and can’t be applied to their own origins, since all they can experience was not created out of the “stuff” they see around them – it *was* created out of nothing (from their perspective) because that which created it is *outside* their universe.

    This is pretty bog-standard theology. I find it strange that so many atheists can’t seem to get their head around it. God isn’t constrained by the universe he created.

    I may address the whole “tuxedo” issue in a post, where I can use a diagram to explain it easier.

  5. This is pretty bog-standard theology.


    “God isn’t constrained by the universe he created.”


    I thought we were talking about Intelligent Design here? Hmm.

    The problem with Intelligent Design is that nobody wants to talk about it.

    Creationists understand that they can’t mention God in the courtroom because it gives the game away.
    So Intelligent Design was poofed into existence at the same time that the creationists lost their latest court case back in ’87.

    However, this doesn’t stop the god bothering. The rank and file in the ID movement don’t want to talk about Intelligent Design. They want to talk about god. It drives the Discovery Institute crazy.

    Show me somebody that calls ID a scientific theory and I’ll show you a dupe or a liar.

  6. You asked a theological question – how was something created out of nothing.

    “Science” is defined today as the study of what is *within* the universe. You asked how it got created, which by definition is outside “science” as defined by evolutionists themselves.

    If something is, there is only one possibility: something made it. The question here is, was that something a deliberate, or a non-deliberate force.

    That’s the question here. Now, if there’s a bunch of leaves in my driveway that’s a non-deliberate force. If there’s a car, it didn’t just blow there.

    BTW, I started this thread to ask a specific question, which I had been wondering about – I’ve now answered it thanks.

  7. Ok, I’ve now looked at your video, and it makes me want to cry.

    Honestly. That, and your website are only about spreading abject nonsense. Ooh, those “and the fundamentalist Americans arose up in the 80’s” talking points are quite the in thing, aren’t they? Cute.

    If you want to change my mind, try addressing logic and facts. If you want to refute my theory, try to understand it first. There are no “aliens” or “superaliens” in intelleget design – just a being that is greater than any known force in the universe, but as you have so kindly pointed out, talking about anything outside the universe “is not science” so we just leave it to theology to define what that force is.

    Anyway, on the matter of sources, here’s one of mine – this guy stood in front of me and described how cells work, how the body has programs that can do what no device ever made by humans can do, yet all the information to make that device is stored in one sperm and one egg.

    Specifically, he pointed out some of the image manipulation software in the human brain and pointed out that suggesting such software could fit on something so small would get you trotted off to the funny farm (ok, today not so much prehaps!) let alone suggesting that such software could come about by accident.

    Hey, there’s an idea! Why didn’t microsoft think of that?

    Creationism is a scientific theory, it just happens to include theology. That really seems to bother evolutionists for some reason, so we took the theology out. Yet evolutionists are still bothered – reading the comments here even shows just how reluctant they are to really address the incredibly obvious problems with their theory – problems that have been pointed out by others, not just creationists.

  8. “Creationism is a scientific theory.”

    I thought we were talking about Intelligent Design? Hmm.

    The Intelligent Design movement goes to great pains to tell their supporters to “Ixnay on the Ognay”.
    Every time you (or somebody else) blurts out god, theology, creationism etc. when they are supposed to be talking about Intelligent Design, the people at the Discovery Institute cry.

    As you can see, they put quite a bit of work into getting their creationist supporters to talk all sciency and plead with them to drop the “Creationism” thingy yet…creationists don’t want to.
    Creationists can’t help themselves.
    They need to talk about god, theology, etc.
    They just don’t understand that they shoot themselves in the foot by doing so.
    Bill Buckingham learned this the hard way at the Dover trial.

    “That really seems to bother evolutionists for some reason, so we took the theology out.”

    It’s called…lying. The Intelligent Design movement is just creationism with the religious references stripped out for legal purposes.

    Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness.

  9. Cedric:
    Intelligent Design = Studying science and concluding scientifically that an Intelligent Designer is needed.
    Creationism = Studying science and concluding scientifically that an Intelligent Designer is needed, and believing theologically that Intelligent Designer is God.

    ID = science only. Creationism = ID + God.

    No lying. They are just two different but strongly related terms. What is the point in you trying to pick holes in the precise definitions of the names of movements you don’t even agree with?

  10. Scrubone, you can appeal to that “god is outside the universe” thing if you want – the assertion that one of the world’s religions’s gods set up all the conditions for the big bang to occur cannot be disproved.

    However, if that is the case, that is where “he” has remained to this day because nobody has ever found proof of “his” presence or influence since – and no, “wow, look at how complex that is, god must have done it” does not count as proof.

    Personally, having not found “god” under any of the millions of rocks science has looked under so far I’m pretty confident he’s not under that last one either.

  11. Rakaia – I think you need to think a little more carefully about the implications of “God is outside the universe.

    If you talking about finding him under rocks, you’re orders of magnitude out in your perspective to put it mildly.

    Now, you poh-poh’d my post on George Muller, but you’ve never explained exactly how this man had all his material needs met from 1831 onwards, started his orphanages in 1836 building to a ministry that looked after thousands of children, meeting all their needs in clothing, food, shelter, education and more, the ministry of which still exists *today*… without ever so much as hinting as to the needs he (and his successors) had to any man, asking only God.

    Frankly, until you have answered that comprehensively, you have no business talking about “no proof”. I personally would have thought that the often very subtle ways in which Muller’s needs were met, often at the last possible minute, are proof that God is not constrained by his creation, to be “found under rocks”.

    The evidence is all around you, if you want to see it.

  12. Creationism is a scientific theory, it just happens to include theology. That really seems to bother evolutionists for some reason, so we took the theology out.

    What does creationism predict? Tot the extent that it predicts anything how do those predictions work out?

    You’ve also committed creationist fallacy number one up there somewhere (this thread got long quick) – no one thinks the brain or any other organ arose purely by chance.

  13. Natural Selection isn’t random. Adaptation arises because random variations in genes have non-random effects on the survival of their owners.

    To take a toy example form Dawkins, in reality having a team of monkeys bashing on keyboards (or a random number generator) try and write shakespeare is useless – they wouldn’t even get “methinks it is like a weasel” in the lifetime of the universe. However, if you write a script that adopts a selection process (make random variants, pick the best, repeat) you can do it in about 2 minutes. Obviously it’s not directly analagous to how evolution works in the wild displays the massive, directional, power of cumulative selection.

    It might change your opinion of the geniuses behind the ID movement to learn that they don’t seem to be able recreate the program that Dawkins wrote in Apple BASIC in the 80s…

  14. BTW, this is a really fundamental mistake to make (and one that a lot of people, creationists or not, seem to fall into), perhaps you ought to look into this evolution business a little more thoroughly before dismiss it

  15. “Looking under rocks” is what we call a metaphor…

    Re: Mr Muller. Personally I’m much more prepared to put faith in the fact that people doing good stuff tend to inspire others around them to make a little bit of effort to help out too. This was the great victorian era of philanthopy that produced Titus Salt and Josiah Wedgewood after all…

    Claiming that nobody but GM himself in an organisation of that size could possibly have known about urgently needed food (for instance) is just silly.

    As I said in a comment on another blog earlier today, it would appear that most of our species have a “god-shaped hole” (don’t know if I’m right to credit that phrase to Dawkins?) in our heads – me, I don’t. I believe in personal responsibility in all things, I don’t want socialists or priests telling me how to live my life…

  16. What is the point in you trying to pick holes in the precise definitions of the names of movements you don’t even agree with?

    I care about reality. I care about science.
    When people create a political/religious movement and dress it up as science, that’s fraudulent. It’s dangerous.

    It’s wrong for an organization to lie to the general public for political and financial gain.
    I would like to think that you would agree with me on this. The Discovery Institute should not get a free pass.
    ID is bad theology and bad science.

    ID = science only.

    This is not true. ID has no scientific definition. There is NO WAY to test ID scientifically.
    Nobody is doing any work with ID in any science field.
    Go ahead and check out the claims made by the Discovery Institute. Examine them in detail.
    All you will find is…waffle.
    Sure, they sound all sciencey. Yet when you strip away the rhetoric you wind up with Paley’s Watch and nothing more.
    There is no scientific theory of ID.
    Never has been. It’s a fraud.

    I would just like to quickly say that if anybody doesn’t feel comfortable talking about ID then I’ll leave. Tell me to go and I’m gone.
    There’s no need to ban me. Thanks.

  17. “However, if you write a script that adopts a selection process (make random variants, pick the best, repeat) you can do it in about 2 minutes.”

    If you pre-determine the result (e.g. “methinks it is like a weasel”), you can certainly write a script that will reach it. In order to get to “methinks it is like a weasel”, you need to know that “mitdwoks” is better than “ilgnysrk”. That works fine if you already know you are trying to get “methinks”.

    The big difference between the real world and a computer program is that in the real world you do not know the result. In the real world, a protein will usually not actually work until it is exactly correct. A half-correct protein is in most cases useless, and in some cases actually detrimental.

    Forget gimmicky computer programs. Study genetics.

  18. This whole “moderation” thing doesn’t work for me.
    My post (civil reply to Dennis) has been held up for no apparent reason for about 24 hours.
    Sorry but there’s no point in having a discussion under these conditions.
    Thanks anyway. Bye.

  19. Cedric: I have no idea what Scrubone’s settings are, but WordPress does that automatically on me too, it is incredibly frustrating. Often you have no idea why a comment has been blocked. Not his fault, just the fault of a free blog service.

  20. Moderation picks up anything with more than a few links. Unfortunately, it doesn’t filter out people pushing conversations far beyond their original purpose in order to beat their own personal whipping boy.

  21. “Claiming that nobody but GM himself in an organisation of that size could possibly have known about urgently needed food (for instance) is just silly.”

    Of course, but claiming that the widow on the street who gave her last penny to complete the bread order due that morning knew is equally silly.

    Email me, I’ll post you a copy of the book and you can tell me how possible it is in a world without God. Regardless, I’ll scan a few pages and put them up for people to consider.

  22. The atheistic critics of ID (and I realise that some of ID’s critics are not atheists), when they say that ID = creationism in disguise, are either using tricky language and innocently failing to realise the meaning that it conveys to most people, or they are using a formal logical fallacy, or they are just lazy and ignorant, or they are willfully lying to people.

    “Creationism” is a term that has come to refer to a specific view about how God created the universe and the life in it. Not all people who believe in an intelligent creator are “creationists” in this narrow sense. “Creationism” has become associated with certain people and organisations: Answers in Genesis, the Institute for Creation Research, Ken Ham, Jonanathan Sarfati etc. People who are creationists do in fact believe in intelligent design. But atheistic critics of ID often reason as follows:

    1) Creationists accept ID.
    2) You accept ID.
    3) Therefore ID is creationism, and you are a creationist.

    This is a logical fallacy called the fallacy of affirming the consequent (read about it at

    If the critics of ID reason in this way, they are engaging in logically fallacious reasoning.

    As the term “creationism” is thrown about today, I am not a creationist. But I think ID has a lot going for it, and I think that its very vocal online critics are typically unfamiliar with the nuances of ID and have invested little or not time reading the literature on it (after all, we all know it’s rubbish, so let’s just ignore it). That is why many of them are simply not aware of the distinction between creationism (which affirms ID) and ID (which may or may not affirm creationism).

    Critics of ID who lump the two together for this reason are just lazy and/or ignorant.

    Thirdly, it’s possible that some critics of ID who use the ploy of lumping the two together are actually familiar with the ID literature and so understand the distinction between the two. However, it is rhetorically useful to associate ID with an unpopular position (creationism) for the sake of arousing prejudice against ID, allowing people to feel better by dismissing it as no more than creationism.

    It is therefore absolutely fair for me to say, as I started out by saying, that the critics of ID who say that ID is just creationism in disguise are either engaging in a logical fallacy, or they are ignorant and/or lazy, or they are just liars. None of these options is particularly appealing to me.

  23. Wow, I realise this thread is entirely out of control, but their is some arrant nonsense up there so here is succint replies

    Glenn, “cdesign proponentsists”

    Mr D.

    I actually do study genetics, almost every residue in every protein can be changed without destroying its function. Evolutionary protein design (taking a gene, randomly changing it, choosing the one that works best, repeating) can make protien with new functions much more easily that ‘rational design’ and if we want to stay in more computer-ish analogies you might want to look into Evolvable Hardware (in which the programmers have no idea of the solution before they start)

  24. David W, let me get this straight: You think that the fact that “creationists” (as defined in my previous post) believe in intelligent design (as evidenced by certain text book, as a colourful graph reminds us), justifies the claim I rejected earlier, that intelligent design in fact is creationism?

    And on the basis of claim, you refer to my post as “arrant nonsense”? I have to say, at this point it’s not clear which of the three (or which combination of the three) factors I identified in my previous post are at work in that claim. I just can’t tell.

  25. David:
    Yes, there is a certain amount you can change a protein before causing fatal harm. However that is very different from getting to a functional from no protein at all.

    However evolvable hardware is a very interesting idea. Bear in mind however that this is actually more complicated than standard hardware – not only do you have to make a circuit, you have to make it “intelligent” enough to be able to change itself. Even though the final configuration will not be known by the designer, the entire process happens within the parameters laid down by the designer – without an intelligent electrician setting it up in the first place, it would never work.

    So all that this would show is that an intelligence can design an evolving system – which would compare to theistic evolution (the theory that God created the first life then allowed it to evolve).

    In the same way, if you ever managed to create life in the laboratory, it wouldn’t show life could come about by chance – it would rather show that with an immense investment of careful design, an intelligent being can create life.

  26. Glenn,

    No I think ID is a form of creationism because it offers no testable hypotheses, necessarily invokes supernatural forces, is exclusively supported by followers of one of the religions that makes claims on the way the physical world came about, is principally argued about on school boards and not in academic circles, was invented to circumvent laws about teaching creationism (and to change utterly how science works) and is a vacuous failure even in its lesser goal or providing a critique of modern evolutionary theory.

    Since this thread is already a rambling mess I sent you a link about a book that was co-authored not by “some creationist” but Will Dembski – the guy who called himself the Isaac Newton of information theory and is considered the star of the ID movement.

    I am genuinely sorry if you’ve been taken in by these hucksters and would encourage you to check out some slightly more “mainstream” sources.

  27. David W: Wrong on every level.

    Firstly: ID’s claims about irreducible complexity most certainly are open to scrutiny to a level satisfying any “testable” criteria. What’s more, being untestable would not make a view creationism.

    Secondly: ID does not necessarily invoke supernatural forces (a number of Christians object to ID precisely for this reason, as it allows for things like alien design), and what’s more, invoking supernatural forces would not make a view creationism.

    Thirdly: Yes ID enjoys support from only Christians as far as I know and most from creationists. I have already explained the logically fallacious nature of this argument for saying that ID = creationism.

    Fourthly the “wedge strategy” is not only useful for the reason you allude to. it is also useful because it unites Christians who are creationists with those, like me, who are not, because it leaves out the creationist baggage that I would not accept.

    You could not be more wrong if you tried. As for your amusing and patronising comments about me being “taken in,” I thank you for your obvious humanitarian concern (sarcasm intended).

  28. David: “I think ID is a form of creationism because it offers no testable hypotheses”

    ID is as testable and untestable as evolutionism. Two examples:

    – ID says there was an intelligence at the beginning of life. Evolutionism says there was not. Each view is untestable, because you can’t go back in time and check. Nor can you prove through science the existence or non-existence of something that exists outside the bounds of science (whether that is a supernatural being or an alien living a very long way away).

    – ID says natural selection occurs, and operates within the bounds observed in modern genetics (ie small-scale changes). Evolutionism asserts that as well, but postulates that this can be extrapolated up to give large changes (fish to reptiles for example). The genetics accepted by both are testable, but the extrapolation proposed by evolutionism is untestable, as we do not have the timescales to test it in.

  29. Right, last word from me because this is getting ridiculous.

    Creationism is a pseudoscientific alternative to evolutianary biology. Providing no testable hypotheses and invoking the supernatural makes a discipline a pseudoscience. ID makes no testable predictions and invokes the supernatural (no one in ID actually thinks it’s magical spcae aliens) and is meant to be an alternative to evolutionary biology. ID is creationism.

    Irreducible complexity is not a scientific theory, it’s a stupid name for the same thing for the sort of negative argument Palley was talking about in the 18th century. Specific claims of IC are testable but have universally failed to prove IC. If you really can think of a single testable hypothesis that follows from ID then you ought to get on to the disco institute, I’m sure they’d like to here from you.

  30. David W, you confirm the very worst criticisms about your argument. You say:

    1) Creationism is pseudoscience that makes no predictions (OK, you’re welcome to think this, right or wrong)
    2) ID makes no testable predictions and invokes the supernatural (we actually know this to be false)
    3) Therefore ID is creationism.

    This is a textbook case of the logical fallacy that I initially accused you of. If this is how ID’s critics are prepared to argue, then so much the worse for them!

    It’s ironic that the crowd who attack ID like this (yes, I’m generalising now) are also likely to crow about having logic and reason on their side.

    Thanks for the laughs, David W!

    (btw David, you might find this educational.)

  31. *sigh* – being a pseudo-scientific alternative to evolutionary biology is not a consequence of creationism, it’s the definition of creationism! Young Earth Creationism is creationism, Old Earth Biblical Creationism is creationism, ID-creationism is creationism.

  32. Evolutionary biology is a pseudoscientific alternative to Intelligent Design, providing no testable hypotheses and invoking the faith that matter can organise itself into complex life independent of an intelligence.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: