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Intelligent Design

Nobel laureate, organic chemist and a leader in origin of life studies, Professor deDuve writes in his excellent book, Tour of a Living Cell, "If you equate the probability of the birth of a bacteria cell to chance assembly of its atoms, eternity will not suffice to produce one..”
Humans and all mammals have some 50,000 genes. That implies, as an order of magnitude estimate, some 50,000 to 100,000 proteins active in mammalian bodies. It is estimated that there are some 30 animal phyla on Earth. If the genomes of each animal phylum produced 100,000 proteins, and no proteins were common among any of the phyla (a fact we know to be false, but an assumption that makes our calculations favor the random evolutionary assumption), there would be (30 x 100,000) 3 million proteins in all life.
Now let's consider the likelihood of these 3 million viable combinations of proteins forming by chance: Proteins are complex coils of several hundred amino acids. Take a typical protein to be a chain of 200 amino acids. The observed range is from less than 100 amino acids per protein to greater than 1000. There are 20 commonly occurring amino acids that join in varying combinations to produce the proteins of life. This means that the number of possible combinations of the amino acids in our model protein of 200 amino acids is 20 to the power of 200 (i.e. 20 multiplied by itself 200 times), or in the more usual 10-based system of numbers, approximately 10 to the power of 260 (i.e. the number one, followed by 260 zeros!). Nature has the option of choosing among the 10 to power of 260 possible proteins, the 3 million proteins of which all viable life is composed. In other words, for each one correct choice, there are 10 to power of 254 wrong choices!

Randomness cannot have been the driving force behind the success of life. Our understanding of statistics and molecular biology clearly supports the notion that there must have been a direction and a “Director” behind the success of life.

Topics: evolution
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  • Jan 15 2012: Absolute nonsense.
    Sorry, but as a previous Molecular Biologist I have to say that nonsensical tripe such as this shouldn't even be allowed on TED.
    I don't have the time to make a full refutaton to all of this right now, so start with this article:
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/abioprob.html

    I would like to think that TED will start moderating these forums a little better aswell..
    • Jan 16 2012: Because I see the world from a different point of view I am to be silenced? Are you serious?!

      Can you please explain to me what feels and reads the need for the condescending attitude towards thought that does not agree with the writer I have been receiving? I have written my thoughts about it, but have not received a response yet. Disagree fine, but what's with the attitude? I thought the TED audience might be intellectually above this name calling etc. In contrast, my Rabbis taught us to encourage and love tough questions. There was literally nothing we were not allowed to ask or protest from foundational theological beliefs to the meanings of actual text. For me the Talmud is one long debate and celebration of the human mind. I was not always religious and became so after my studies. I debated evolution, science and philosophical issues and never was called names or put down for my views. In the end we might agree to disagree (even today), but always with respect and love.

      In general, I have experienced that many of the lefts/liberal adherents are filled with contempt and even hatred to those they disagree with -- they believe that everyone who disagrees with them is sexist, intolerant, xenophobic, homophobic, islamophobic, racist and bigoted. This allows them to feel superior and do not have to engage in deeper discussions and ideas that would make them uncomfortable - such as the possibility that there is more than meets the eye than pure randomness. Or that our physical, intellectual and emotional lives might contain more than meaningless star dust.
      As the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre taught, people are free to make their own meaning. (Yes, this Orthodox Jew, also has a background in philosophy as well.)....

      If you'd like you can read the rest of this reply on above. I have run out of space here.
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        • Jan 16 2012: What is wrong with this forum. I was quiet inspired by this film and expressed my thoughts about it. And no one has yet to answer my question (on this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday yet!) why all the name calling because you do not agree with my opinion? Why all the vitriol to silence my thoughts? The states I quoted are not mine but eminent scientist in their fields. Would you tell them too take their opinions elsewhere? Is my quoting them because I share their views unacceptable?
          I am just astounded by many of the reactions I have received. I will state again:In general, I have experienced that many of the lefts/liberal adherents are filled with contempt and even hatred to those they disagree with -- they believe that everyone who disagrees with them is sexist, intolerant, xenophobic, homophobic, islamophobic, racist and bigoted. This allows them to feel superior and do not have to engage in deeper discussions and ideas that would make them uncomfortable - such as the possibility that there is more than meets the eye than pure randomness. Or that our physical, intellectual and emotional lives might contain more than meaningless star dust.
          As the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre taught, people are free to make their own meaning. (Yes, this Orthodox Jew, also has a background in philosophy as well.) The language and attitude in this debate/discussion is frightening to me as it is representative on a very small scale what happens to a society when Meaning is removed. You may think I am making too much of this. I do not believe so. Life is lived on a micro before it is lived on a macro scale....
          I am actually sickened by the reactions I have received. So I will end with Toscanini said in 1933, regarding Richard Strauss, "To Strauss the composer I take off my hat; to Strauss the man I put it back on." regarding his support of the Nazi's.
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          Jan 18 2012: Hi David

          I think I warned you before to expect a backlash. Please don't let it get to you. The rude ones soon get fed up & meaningful dialog can be had with the rest. I am a Christian, which is of a similar popularity to a Jew. I'll give you a wee bit of advice. Don't start a conversation, it's like a feeding frenzie. Just trawl around & try to answer some of the basic questions that folks are asking about life. Keep going we need folks from all viewpoints.

          :-))
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        Jan 16 2012: i don't recall calling you sexist, intolerant or anything of that sort. in fact, i didn't call you anything at all. i was strictly restraining myself to talk about this conversation, and the ideas you have presented here. are you certain you are not crying wolf?

        you try to find the reason behind harsh words. you consider some possibilities, but not one that comes to the mind first: that your so called "logic" is as old as dirt, it as as wrong as it can get, we are fed up with it, thoroughly. it is explained all over the internet already. it has been refuted like hundreds of times. but it just keeps coming up, like zombies from the grave.

        why should i expect you to be really interested in the topic if you failed to look around, and read what you can? don't you think that the hundreds or thousands of experts out there might also have something to say about it? that those might be worth reading?

        this is a good starting point for you.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objections_to_evolution
      • Jan 16 2012: Hi David,
        Just wanted to warn you that there are some real extremists out here on TED. My first reaction was.. "How refreshing" Finally someone with some new input. The people who criticize the most can be a bit annoying and sarcastic at times but don't let it get to you. We can only hope they go away. However there are the other religious extremist also... they are sort of on both ends of the proverbial ongoing battle here at TED.
        But I would like to engage with you in a discussion. I see intelligence everywhere in nature (as opposed to in some human beings). I see nature as full of wonderment and creation. I ask myself how can it all come to be out of simple material explanations. I have arrived at a few conclusions that we may get into latter on in the discussion.
        For most people, perhaps especially here at TED, they can only go so far as to accept they idea that intelligence is simply an emerging property from the physical. I myself could never understand how a thought could arise out of the purely physical. That's like squeezing blood from a stone in my mind. But further than that they will not go. They will not step over the line to even discuss the possibility of a spiritual reality in the world. People will fight to the death for this reason. As you quickly heard from the two previous comenters... they'd like to run you out of town. Don't let them bother you. There are some really interesting people on TED too. Some have even had NDE and tell you in detail what it was like..... again ... to use the word NDE is almost like swearing in the atheist / evolutionists church of Richard Dawkins. We can get started then and see where things lead us !!
        Greetings Daniel
        • Jan 17 2012: Sorry Daniel, but the only reason you find this refreshing must be that you have not noticed that this is classic creationist fallacy.

          Note that the paragraph starts by stating tons of credentials for a person about to be quoted (nobel laureate, notable chemist, and such). Now notice the actual meaning of the quote:

          "If you equate the probability of the birth of a bacteria cell to chance assembly of its atoms, eternity will not suffice to produce one.” Here I go:

          It is true that a chance assembly of their atoms would not produce a bacterium. Do bacteria arise that way at all? Nope, we know they don't. So what is this supposed to support then? I can tell you, creationists think that evolution is chance and chance alone. So far, I have never read a single book on evolution that states: "the first living cell was a bacterium assembled randomly from a bunch of atoms." Have you?

          So, often quotes to well informed scientists, when not deformed, are introductions to what really happens in nature, not introductions to a stance on creationism. But creationists quote out of context for pure effect.

          Then he presents a calculation where no protein is related to each other across living forms because that "favors" the evolutionary assumption (?) That's the clearest misrepresentation of evolution that I have seen in a long time. Do you notice the problem at all? He is presenting something that actually would contradict evolution as something that is in accord with evolution! Then evolution means that each and every organism is assembled from atoms by mere chance. Truly?

          Then again the insistence of calculating the probability for the proteins to assemble by chance. That is not what evolution means.

          We know that randomness is not the key to the success of life. Evolution is not utter randomness. That means that either David is lying or ignorant, none of which are good foundations for inferring an intelligent designer.

          Best,
          --G

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