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Evolution is baseless without a theory of abiogenesis (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Evolution is baseless without a theory of abiogenesis (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CB090:

Evolution is baseless without a good theory of abiogenesis, which it does not have.

Source: Mastropaolo, J., 1998 (2 Nov.). Re: The evolutionist: liar, believer in miracles, king of criminals.

CreationWiki response: (Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

The theory of evolution applies as long as life exists. How that life came to exist is not relevant to evolution. Claiming that evolution does not apply without a theory of abiogenesis makes as much sense as saying that umbrellas do not work without a theory of meteorology.

The author of Talk Origins may have a point here, although it does depend on what stance you take on the issues. You could say that there is absolutely no observational evidence that life can get started on its own, and that would be true. Evolutionists may be able to get long molecules through experimentation, or complex organic molecules may be able to form in space, but none of these substances are living. The complexity of life seems to point to intelligent design from the start. So it could be that some unknown deity/supernatural force (although that is not allowed in naturalistic thinking) could have started life, imposed some intelligence on the material world to form a simple form, and then left it to develop. This could be the place where evolution starts, so abiogenesis and evolution really are two different things, like umbrellas and meteorology. Of course this is just speculation because there is no revelation of the unknown deity, since all the other deities of religions do things completely different from that, and this deity is still just a figment of imaginative speculation.

Evolution is based on the idea that nature and living creatures on their own can create new genetic information. For example, bacteria or simpler life forms in the past would have no genetic information for feathers, intestines, feet, heart, scales, fins—the list could go on. It needs to be able to generate that new information on its own via mutation, which has more chance of destroying the simple organism because of its random nature, and natural selection, which has more chance of keeping the organism the same kind due to its conservative nature.

The only explanation allowed in the evolutionary mindset is a natural one. So the very first creation of life, that first bit of genetic information, is very important in seeing where the naturalistic process of evolution can go, because if nature can produce the life code from the start, then that can give evidence that nature may also be able to produce more new genetic information to form the diverse kinds of living organisms on this planet. So the ideas of abiogenesis and evolution may not be as separate as the Talk Origins author would have us believe. And it is not so difficult to follow on from that and show from this that if nature cannot get genetic information started in the first place to form life, then it probably wouldn't have much chance or any chance at all of creating new information in the first living creatures evolution believes in to form the diversity in all of life today.

Abiogenesis is a fact. Regardless of how you imagine it happened (note that creation is a theory of abiogenesis), it is a fact that there once was no life on earth and that now there is. Thus, even if evolution needs abiogenesis, it has it.

This point shows the author's inability to get out of his own mindset and think like someone else. I'm not saying everyone can do it, or that I do an excellent job of it. But his inability to understand his opponents' point of view causes him to make some proposterous statements like this one. It also betrays his faith in Nature.

To say that creation, speaking of the Genesis account, is a theory of abiogenesis is inaccurate to the point of ineptitude. I'll go through this quite slowly, not to insult the intelligence of you, the reader, but to show how the author of this Talk Origins page has lost the plot of the whole scenario.

In Genesis, we have the Supreme Being, Deity, who creates everything. According to the Scriptures, he is alive and lives forever (Deuteronomy 32:40, Authorized Version translates it word-for-word). Now when he creates the world, He, the Living one, creates life. Now think about it. A-bio-genesis means non-life creating life or generating life. And here we have The Living Being, the very source of life, creating or generating life. So this is still a case of life creating or generating life.

Now would it be accurate to call the act I just described "a theory of abiogenesis"? Although the Creator may use materials to make things, it is he who is still forming and generating life, through the power of his command. He is using his intelligence and living power to create life. Maybe the Talk Origins author was thrown off by the fact that the Genesis account features the Creator using materials. Either way, he should have realised that this is not a theory of abiogenesis.

Thus we have here a question. What, in his naturalistic world, is the evidence he has that abiogenesis, life from non-life, is fact? Isn't this more of a faith statement? How scientifically did he prove that there was no life before and there is now? According to his belief, there were little simple life forms that now no longer exist, but were unlike what exists now. There is no evidence of this life—it is simply part of his belief. Now, if in his belief system he says that a different form of life existed for which there is no historical evidence, then how does he truly know that there was no life before? It could just be that, just like his simpler life forms, they left no evidence. This is not science, or even a scientific idea. It is speculation and a form of faith, the sort with no evidence.

Even if there was no life before and there is now, what can that honestly prove about abiogenesis? Nothing. All you can say is that something caused life to form, but we don't know what it is. It is only the author's unshakeable faith in nature and matter that would cause him to limit it to natural forces, or that would cause him to believe that the thing that caused life to start had no life of its own.

What am I trying to show in all this?

  • it's not too much of a stretch to see the fact that abiogenesis has never been observed can adversely impact the theory of evolution to the point of saying that the dogmatic philosophical naturalism inextricably linked to it has no foundation and is baseless;
  • what has been observed in real life is biogenesis, life forming life;
  • the author's position about abiogenesis is not based on the observed or even human experience, thus it is not scientific, more a show of faith than fact.

Universal Common Ancestry and Abiogenesis

It is also noteworthy that there is one aspect of evolution that is highly dependent on a theory of abiogenesis—universal common ancestry. There is absolutely no reason to believe that all life is descended from common ancestors unless it is predicated on a specific theory of abiogenesis. Think of it this way—why do evolutionists assume that multicellular life came from unicellular life? There's no fossil evidence of transition. Numerous forms appear all of a sudden in the Cambrian without transitional forms. Therefore, the only reason to assume that all of these forms evolved from earlier ancestors is to assume a specific theory of abiogenesis which only can create single-celled organisms.

Life is full of both continuity and discontinuity. Obviously, some discontinuities may be removed with more data. But the only reason to assume that all discontinuities are apparent instead of real is because you have a specific theory of abiogenesis which forces the issue. If you don't know how life arose, there is no evidential reason to assume that these were all separate instances of abiogenesis.

Therefore, unless universal common ancestry somehow got removed from evolutionary theory while no-one was looking, abiogenesis is in fact deeply ingrained in evolution.

For creationists, the combinations of continuity and discontinuity of life are actually predicted by the creation of multiple, distinct types by the Creator.