Night Owl Mk. II

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Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

(R) I surely don't perport to *know* how/why things happen or happened the way they have.
(MB) "How" things happen is one of the pursuits of science. "Why" falls into the realm of philosophy or theology and seems to be the main point of debate.
    "How" only has one answer and that answer can be learned. "Why" often depends on one's presuppositions and may or may not be testable. One can't disprove a claim of supernatural causes, but it can be shown that such a thing is not required to have brought about any given phenomena and, therefore, can cast strong doubts upon such a claim.

(R) I teach physical science to college fresh & soph and am careful to say that evolution is a theory, and not to let evol and the religious beliefs of anyone in the class clash.
(MB) The religious opponents of evolution love to mangle the meaning of the word "theory". To them, if something is a "theory", then it's no better than any other explanation. Some go so far as to suggest that if it's "only a theory", then there must be something seriously wrong with it and we shouldn't believe it.
    I'm sure that I don't have to tell you that a scientific idea progresses from a "hypothesis" to a "theory" only when sufficient supporting evidence is found to make the idea strongly acceptable. It becomes a "law" when it can be definitively proven. Still others believe that predictions made by theories can't be valid since the theory itself hasn't been proven. To them, one needs only point out that Newtonian gravity is "only a theory". We know that it is insufficient at the quantum level or when relativistic effects must be considered, but it is perfectly good for use in dealing with macroscopic objects at speeds less than that of light.

(R) (My major problem is that most students have no religious or scientific beliefs.)
(MB) I find that they have beliefs, but most of them aren't any more advanced than being "something I heard about that sounded good". Few are able to explain their beliefs and fewer still are able to defend them adequately.

(R) There can't be disagreement between good science and good religion. both seek the truth, and there is only one truth. I think bad science is science that says,"This is the truth and if you don't believe me you are a fool." As bad religion says, "This is the truth and if you don't believe me you are going to hell."
(MB) I agree. The source of truth is irrelevant. All I ask of any idea is that it stands up to the same standards of evidence and proof as any other idea. That's the only sensible way to separate the good from the bad.

(R) Also some such as J Swaggert and other TV evangelists add, "But for a $25.00 I'll tell you how to stay out of hell."
(MB) *grin* It's hard to fault somebody for entrepreneurship, but it's disturbing to see how many gullible suckers are taken in by it.

(R) I'm careful not to call the other *beliefs* claptrap or stupefyingly silly as you do.
(MB) I feel justified in doing that when it is obvious that there is nothing to support them (and, in most cases, much to contradict them), yet, they will still be used to dispute or dismiss things that are far more valid. Such behavior just contributes to the general ignorance that dismays both of us and should rightly be chastised.

(R) I do, as a physicist, have problems and probably disagree with you about your approach to the second Law. I have no problems with evolution of life forms, just the original creation of life. I've asked myself many times, "what is life?" Now-I'm not a molecular biologist or even a biologist of any brand. But I like to pontificate behind the words of Ernest Ruthorford who said, "In science there is only physics; all the rest is stamp collecting."
(MB) I like that! *grin* On to the rest of your point...

(R) That said: I think we all would agree?? that the organization of N, O, H, and C molecules into the complicated molecules of DNA protein and such represent a huge decrease in entropy. The common idea is that the energy needed for this comes from electric discharges, radiative heat, or the sun.
(MB) The combining of those molecules into more complex objects does represent an increase in local order, but, it is accomplished at the price of a higher decrease in overall disorder from the released heat energy generated and the wasted potential input energy from the external sources you named.

(R) This random organization is still hard for me to accept. Consider(and this has been attempted in many labs) all the molecules needed for life to be placed in a container, add energy in any form you wish for as long as you wish, will the complex molecules of living cells form? I don't know--just puzzled by the question.
(MB) This was the focus of the "primordial atmosphere" experiments from back in the 50's. It was shown that amino acids and other organic "building blocks" can be created in the manner theorized. It is also known that these building blocks are self-ordering and do not combine randomly. Still, it took a planet full of these compounds upwards of a billion years to produce the first living organisms. We've been trying to replicate the process with beakers, test tubes and only a couple of decades of time.

(R) Ive seen it put this way. Consider a box filled with 3X5 cards, you dump it from a plane. What is the probability they will land and spell your name on the ground? Give them more time to fall, say attach a little parachute to each. Is it more likely now that they will fall into an organized word form?
(MB) Examples like this are commonly used to dispute evolution, but all suffer from the same mathematical inadequacies. The major flaw is that the argument assumes that there is only one possible organization of molecules that will produce a living organism. Even a cursory examination of the diversity of Earthly prokaryotic life will quickly correct that assumption. The second flaw is in equating improbable with impossible. Given enough time and trials, any improbable event will eventually occur. To witness this, take a standard deck of 52 playing cards and deal out a 4-player bridge hand. The mathematical odds against dealing out the exact hand that is on the table equate to an event that is far more improbable than the chance that self-ordering molecules will eventually combine to form a living organism. Yet, the odds have been beaten since the hand is there in plain sight. So, highly improbable events are certainly not impossible.

(R) The question I have (for myself) is; given that the complex molecules did form, what is the thing(for lack of a better word) called life? Living cells can't be chemically distinguished from non living. The living ones are just able to metabolize energy. I'm afraid I have to think that the life could have come from a source other than chance.
(MB) Since the components of living and non-living cells are essentially equal, the difference must lie in the exact arrangement of those components. Consider two otherwise identical radios. One can play music and the other can't. The components are identical, but there must be at least one broken or burned-out component in the one that doesn't work. That's the only difference, but it's a crucial one. Could life have arisen from a source other than chance? Of course it could have done so. Did it have to? I strongly doubt it. It has been shown that it is not impossible for life to have arisen by chance. All that is required are the availability of the proper components and a sufficient amount of time. The history of the Earth has provided both.

(R) Also, you chastised one responder by stating that creationists think that the universe came from nothing. I certainly think this also, as do the cosmologists accepting the Big Bang theory of creation, Hawking, Penrose, Pasachoff and others.
(MB) Modern science doesn't really accept that there can be such a thing as "nothing". This might be more of a philosophical argument, but there is some logical rationale for it. General opinion now seems to favor the idea that "nothing" is actually the result of the combination and complete cancellation of positive and negative energy. If these energies can somehow begin to separate, then something physical can be produced and there will no longer be "nothing". An initial separation event could produce a snowball effect that would rapidly build up and produce what we now refer to as the "Big Bang".

(R) I have great difficulty in getting students to understand *nothing* Nothing isn't empty space or what you see when you close your eyes, it's what you see with your elbow. Remember before the big bang (creation), there was nothing. then all the matter and energy in the universe appeared in one cataclysmic event at one dimensionless point(a singularity). After this, expansion occurred and space and time were created. You know the rest.
(MB) Hawking's "no boundary" model eliminates the need for any singularity. Linde's "chaotic inflation" model explains the expansion of the early universe, the initial composition of elements, and the overall homogeniety, apparent "flatness" and mass density. Since the dimension of "time" didn't exist until it was created in the Big Bang, it is somewhat pointless to speak of anything being "before" the Big Bang. All that is thought to have existed was the roiling "nothing" I mentioned in the previous paragraph -- often called "space-time foam".

(R) To me, this and Biblical creation differ only in the modernization of the thought of the individuals espousing each. I have problems with how this happened and why.
(MB) Usually, that evolves (no pun intended) from one or more missing pieces in the puzzle of understanding.

(R) Science does not and yea verily(just a Biblical whatever),it even must not attempt to explain what was before creation since time or space did not exist.
(MB) Science can attempt to explain such things by demonstrating an inadequacy in a preconceived notion of "before" as it applies to the Big Bang.

(R) Religion(since it involves faith) can state what it believes to have been the cause of the creation.
(MB) Basically, religion just provides arbitrary pieces and tries to force them into the incomplete puzzle. Then, it declares the puzzle "solved" no matter how ill-fitting the pieces might be.

(R) Finally, I guess I'm what one would call a Deist? Most religious or even Christian individuals today are not literal interpreters(I hope). They are seeking the truth. The Bible is filled with truths that work today-Golden rule etc. Does it mention lying about campaign finances? That small group called Creationists shouldn't taint the barrel of all religious people. They didn't want to accept that the earth wasn't at the center of the universe either.
(MB) Fortunately, the Creationists are a small minority of Christians. Unfortunately, like most activist groups, they are rather well-funded, well-organized and very vocal about their ideas. Because of this, their ideas tend to gain acceptance that is far out of proportion to their validity. If the voices of reality and reason aren't heard in response, the general public tends to accept what it is continually subjected to hearing. This is why such ideas must be addressed and squashed.

(R) I enjoy sharing your thoughts and would love a conversation over coffee sometime.
(MB) I'm quite sure that would be an enlightening experience for both of us. Thanks for taking the time to express your views here!

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