Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Abiogenesis

Jahedgpeth wrote the following on PostMormon:

from wikipedia:

In the natural sciences, abiogenesis, or origin of life, is the study of how life on Earth emerged from inanimate organic and inorganic molecules

Basically, I can't believe that we could ever get to a viable single celled organism and have that organism reproduce without some sort of "god" x-factor to begin the process.

It never has made sense to me.




Here is how I get past the probability issue.

First, it must be clear that we are not talking about pure chance. There are organizing forces at work. Electrostatic attraction organizes atoms into molecules, and molecules into protein stuctures. Spheres (the shape of the cell membrane and the neucleus) are very stable due to the laws of physics. That is why soap bubbles take the shape of a sphere.

So, we are not saying that all of these atoms just randomly aligned out of pure chance. Chance played a large role, but there are organizing forces of physics and chemistry that were at work naturally, just doing what they do.

Let's also remember that the formation of a cell without a god-like creator is not impossible. (A point which Jahedgpeth has already admitted to).

So, let's estimate the probability of the formation of a cell to be very, very low. Here is where the law of very large numbers comes in. If the numbers are big enough, even very, very improbable occurances become likely. To illustrate, let me use easy numbers to work with. The probability of one Powerball lottery ticket having all the numbers that are drawn on a particular day is 1 in 100,000,000, so very unlikely. However, if 1,000,000,000 lottery tickets are purchased, the odds are that 10 of those lottery tickets are winners. So, an event that is improbable becomes probable if given a whole lot of chances.

Now, the odds of a cell forming are a lot smaller than 1 in 100 million. But, no matter how infinitesimly small the chances are, we have to remember how large the universe is and how long billions of years are, and how many interactions atoms have each second. I mean we don't even have names for the number of interactions atoms had throughout the entire universe over the entire time from the Big Bang to the creation of replicating cells. Even very improbably events can happen. And remember it is not just chance at work, principles of physics are at work organizing the elements and holding the pieces together when they get in place.

I find that the formation of replicating cells become likely due to the law of very large numbers. I see no need for a Creator, and I don't believe there has to be a reason why.

Here is some reading:

Law of Truly Large Numbers

law of truly large numbers

I don't believe we matter at the cosmic level; we don't matter ultimately or permanently. But, I do believe we can matter at the local level in space and time - temporarily.

Incidently, that is also how we reconcile the law of entropy against the other organizing laws of physics such as those that arrange carbon atoms into diamonds, etc. At the cosmic level, the universe is cooling down and becoming more disorganized (entropy rules). But, at the local level we see matter moving into more and more organized and complex forms (organizing laws of physics rule).

1 comment:

John said...

Ha! I remember this one.

You might be right about it after all. I don't think there is anyway to KNOW but your explanation works for me for the most part. A viable single cell organism is so complex and so fragile considering it's function and structure. Maybe it was a mix of chance, time, physics and chemistry. I can't quite wrap my mind around the probability of it happening even with billions of years for it to happen but it is a better answer than "god did it" because "god did it" just moves the question back one space to "who made god". Same can be said with all arguments for "artificial intelligence". AI pretends to answer the hard questions without actually proving anything and all the while hoping everyone doesn't notice the fact that there is a hole in the logic of that argument as wide as the pacific ocean. The probability of a god/AI "just happening" is far less likely than one single cell organism and therefore I tend to lean towards the more probable explanation. Props to you for taking the time to argue with a hard headed jack ass like myself. You are a good man for putting up with me.
Best Regards,
jahedgpeth