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This exchange perhaps illustrates how difficult it is to communicate across conflicting paradigms. It took place on a non-public Internet discussion group called "META" that has 15 continuing members. They are all intelligent, science oriented, and strongly committed to Darwinism. The group invited me [Klyce] to join them in the latter half of 1999. Earlier this year [2000], I angered some of them by commenting that mainstream big bang theorists had not predicted that the expansion of the universe was accelerating, and that if the big bang could accommodate a surprise that big, it could perhaps also accommodate Cosmic Ancestry. At the start of this transcript, that issue is just winding down. Calvin J... is a cosmologist.
Movements wither and die when "true believers" of various persuasions break off the debate and form sects that invite discourse only from the like-minded Steve Fuller in Thomas Kuhn: A Philosophical History for Our Times, The University of Chicago Press, 2000. p 402.

META vs Cosmic Ancestry
28 April - 1 May 2000

Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2000 01:52:34 -0000
From: "Brigham Klyce"
Subject: Re: Update on the Hubble Constant and the Open/Flat Universe

In META@egroups.com, Calvin J... wrote:

[...] Narlikar points out (as did many people at this time) that even in 1993 one could not rule out a negative q_0. No where does Narlikar say, however, that this disproves the big bang.

Narlikar's book is very good, although the math may prove heavy-going for the layperson. Because Narlikar works with Hoyle and is interested in alternate cosmologies, he points out nearly all the possibilities. He also carefully enumerates many of the problems with the Big Bang model. However, please note, that *nowhere* does this critic of the Big Bang say that a negative q_0 would disprove the Big Bang.

[...]I hope this finally lays this misconception to rest.

Thank you for the reference. I don't think anyone has ever sugested that acceleration disproves the big bang, if that's the misconception you refer to. I suggested only that mainstream big bang cosmologists did not predict acceleration and were surprised by it. Whereas Narlikar is a thoroughly qualified cosmologist, he is not a mainstream one, as you know. His opposition to the standard big bang is much more formidable than mine.

Jayant Narlikar has just published, with Fred Hoyle and Geoffrey Burbidge, A Different Approach to Cosmology: From a Static Universe Through the Big Bang Towards Reality. The review in Scientific American says, "This is a highly-controversial book in which three distinguished cosmologists argue with persuasion and conviction that the astronomical community is wrongly interpreting cosmological data by using the standard Big Bang model."

Best Regards.
---
Brig Klyce * http://www.panspermia.org


Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2000 08:10:24 -0500 (CDT)
From: Calvin J...
Subject: Re: Update on the Hubble Constant and the Open/Flat Universe

[Brig Klyce wrote]
Thank you for the reference. I don't think anyone has ever sugested that acceleration disproves the big bang, if that's the misconception you refer to.

I hate to be contentious, Brig, but my impression of the discussion is that is EXACTLY what YOU were suggesting. I did not archive the discussion so I cannot prove this. My interpretation of your comments was that since cosmologists did not "predict" acceleration, this called the Big Bang into question.

I suggested only that mainstream big bang cosmologists did not predict acceleration and were surprised by it.

I agree that cosmologists were surprised by it. I agreed with this statement all along, and I explained why--because of a prejudice against a cosmological constant. It's a fairly reasonable one, as Larry himself recently demonstrated. However, as I have maintained all along, no cosmologist ever insisted they could PREDICT the value of the cosmological constant. They ASSUMED it was zero, because up to ten years ago the observations were not inconsistent with zero and it was simpler. (Also, there was the widespread impression that Einstein had "blundered" by trying to insist on a nonzero cosmological constant to stave off expansion of the universe. So for historical reasons, astronomers were leery of a nonzero cosmological constant.)

There is a very important difference between an ASSUMPTION and a PREDICTION. The assumption previously made--that the cosmological constant was zero--is not IN ANY WAY fundamental to Big Bang theories. It merely was a simplifying (and historical) assumption. In light of history, and in light of the fact we really don't understand the origin of the cosmological constant, a positive acceleration IS surprising, yes indeedy. But it is important to appreciate that this IN NO WAY undermines the Big Bang. The tenor of the discussion some time ago, Brig, was that you were under the impression that it did undermine the Big Bang. At least that was my reading of your comments. I don't think it was an unfair reading, either. I am willing to be proved wrong on this, however.

If we can both agree that (a) the acceleration was surprising and (b) it does not undermine the Big Bang, then all is well.

Whereas Narlikar is a thoroughly qualified cosmologist, he is not a mainstream one, as you know. His opposition to the standard big bang is much more formidable than mine.

I agree and that's why I recommend his book. Most astronomers think Hoyle, Burbigde, and Narlikar are wrong about the the Steady State theory, but they are very smart and well-informed guys and their arguments are worth debating. It's always useful to have a few gadflies who can point out some of the *real* weakenesses of a theory.


Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2000 20:06:19 -0000
From: Brigham Klyce
Subject: Panspermia

--- In META@egroups.com, Calvin J... wrote:

[...] I agree that cosmologists were surprised by [acceleration]. I agreed with this statement all along,

[...]If we can both agree that (a) the acceleration was surprising and (b) it does not undermine the Big Bang, then all is well.

I'm glad we have come together somewhat at least. Incidentally, as Larry knows, "onelist.com" archives old posts, so you don't have to.

As for "undermines the big bang," I guess I would make an analogy with medicine. When medicine suddenly announces that "bleeding" makes things worse instead of better, or that germs cause disease, it makes you wonder what else they don't know. But I don't want to get Calvin annoyed again.

It has become interesting to me that when the big bang is discussed, creationists and Darwinists come together to defend it. With entirely different motives, both like to have an absolute beginning to everything, life included. (I understand the creationists' motive better than the Darwinists'.) Regardless of its merits, the big bang theory has an unholy alliance behind it. The consequence is that, regardless of its flaws, the big bang theory will be stoutly defended.

But I am coming from the direction of biology. I do not intend to defend any other cosmological theory. I only wish to suggest that there could be a way for life to have existed before 10 or 20 or xx billion years ago, and for it to have arrived here. If a cosmologists says that he knows that to be impossible, there's the rub.

I realize that we are off into the land of opinion now. I think it is impossible for life to start from ordinary chemicals by natural means. (But as Pasteur knew, one cannot prove a negative.)

On the other hand, my impossibility could be refuted with a single experiment that could easily be performed on Earth today (if I'm wrong.) But what experiment could demonstrate that it was impossible for life to exist before 10 or 20 or xx billion years ago and survive til now? Thus, by Popper's falsifiability criterion, my panspermia theory is scientific, and opposition to it based on the big bang is not.

I hope this isn't too contentious.
---
Brig Klyce * http://www.panspermia.org


The next poster does medical research and writes science fiction, and she is the moderator of the group.

Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2000 18:09:37 -0500
From: Athena A...
Subject: Re: Panspermia

[Brig Klyce wrote] As for "undermines the big bang," I guess I would make an analogy with medicine. When medicine suddenly announces that "bleeding" makes things worse instead of better, or that germs cause disease, it makes you wonder what else they don't know. But I don't want to get Calvin annoyed again.

Dear Brig,

sometimes your arguments smack of sophistry and this analogy is, to put it plainly, wrong. Science -- biology in particular, which is young -- has many gaps, which is why Horgan's lamentations about the end of science are way too premature. Bleeding, incidentally, has never been a problem per se; the problem was the use of dirty instruments and lack of painkillers. Before the advent of blood-thinning drugs such as coumarin, bloodletting was the only method for relieving excess hemoglobin and platelets that can cause thrombosis and heart damage (several people, my father included, have this condition). Even today, some doctors prefer application of leeches to the drugs, because of their far fewer side effects. And even today, the best painkiller remains aspirin, the first one discovered.

So things are actually not as you tend to portray them. More generally, science can bumble about quite a bit, especially when people fall in love with their theories. You yourself are a very good example of this. Your obvious desire to establish panspermia as an explanation for the origin of life seems to have blinded you to the leaps of (il)logic that you engage in. However, as Larry Krauss said in a NYT editorial, at some point some things are no longer assumptions: in no way can anyone argue that the sun does go around the earth. In no way is the universe static and in no way has life existed unchanged since the non-beginning that you postulate.

...It has become interesting to me that when the big bang is discussed, creationists and Darwinists come together to defend it. With entirely different motives, both like to have an absolute beginning to everything, life included. (I understand the creationists' motive better than the Darwinists'.) Regardless of its merits, the big bang theory has an unholy alliance behind it. The consequence is that, regardless of its flaws, the big bang theory will be stoutly defended.

Creationists do not support or deny the Big Bang; it's irrelevant to their worldview. Again, if you are equating the Big Bang to the monotheistic creation of the Universe by a deity, the analogy is false. Are you implying that those who consider the Big Bang data convincing (as they are) are immoral? And since when is Darwinist a term of approbation?

...I realize that we are off into the land of opinion now. I think it is impossible for life to start from ordinary chemicals by natural means. (But as Pasteur knew, one cannot prove a negative.)

On the contrary, Pasteur definitively proved that if you keep bottles sterile, nothing grows in them and therefore maggots, bacteria or fungi do not arise from meat by transubstantiation or vitalism, but from eggs or spores.

...On the other hand, my impossibility could be refuted with a single experiment that could easily be performed on Earth today (if I'm wrong.) But what experiment could demonstrate that it was impossible for life to exist before 10 or 20 or xx billion years ago and survive til now? Thus, by Popper's falsifiability criterion, my panspermia theory is scientific, and opposition to it based on the big bang is not.

If there is such an experiment, please describe it. You are purposely leaving out so much data that I don't have enough time or energy to go over them all. This deliberate obfuscation goes beyond honest disagreement and comes dangerously close to bad faith.

But the core lies elsewhere. In short, Brig, let me cut to the bone of this contention: as the lawyers say, please answer if you believe in evolution, yes or no only. If yes, you cannot demand instant reproduction of life processes in the dish (though seeing bacteria or viruses mutate in front of your eyes and examining the fossil record and the extremophilic archaebacteria should be close enough). If no, your position is formally identical to creationism regardless of its motivation, and then you cannot be on the META list.


Date: Sat, 29 Apr 2000 05:47:42 -0000
From: Brigham Klyce
Subject: Re: Panspermia

--- In META@egroups.com, Athena A... wrote:

[...] Dear Brig,

sometimes your arguments smack of sophistry and this analogy is, to put it plainly, wrong. Science -- biology in particular, which is young -- has many gaps, which is why Horgan's lamentations about the end of science are way too premature. Bleeding, incidentally, has never been a problem per se; the problem was the use of dirty instruments [...] So things are actually not as you tend to portray them.

Dear Athena --

Thank you for the info about bleeding, which was quite interesting. Seriously. But, how does that make my (above) argument wrong?

More generally, science can bumble about quite a bit, especially when people fall in love with their theories. You yourself are a very good example of this. Your obvious desire to establish panspermia as an explanation for the origin of life

Origin of life _on Earth_

seems to have blinded you to the leaps of (il)logic that you engage in.

Please, please be specific about my leaps of (il)logic. Otherwise, how can we ...be useful to each other. Incidentally, I recognize that people become committed to their theories, and I do not claim to be different. Feyerabend (I think it is he) says that commitment is necessary for fledgling theories to be fully explored. And for established theories, commitment is a social phenomenon.

[...] In no way is the universe static

I never said it was. I specifically said in my post to which you responded that I was not going to defend any alternate cosmology. All I am suggesting is that the big bang theory is not secure enough to establish absolute boundaries for biology. If I were Calvin, that sentence would be in all-caps.

and in no way has life existed unchanged since the non-beginning that you postulate.

How can you possibly be sure of that? This is nothing like the Earth going around the sun, for which there is "excess corroboration." That life must originate has no corroboration except for arguments from the big bang, which theory is already overburdened. Actually, the case against life's origin by natural means is exactly the same as Pasteur's case against the spontaneous generation of germs (about which more below.) All attempts to demonstrate it fail.

As for "unchanged," I'm not sure what you mean. The theory I am defending holds that life can only descend from prior life that was at least as highly evolved as its descendants. But it could certainly change, in different environments for example.

[...] Creationists do not support or deny the Big Bang; it's irrelevant to their worldview.

I have actually tangled with some of them on the issue, and they do uphold it. (And Pope Pius XII embraced the big bang in 1951, saying it was a miracle.)

Again, if you are equating the Big Bang to the monotheistic creation of the Universe by a deity, the analogy is false. Are you implying that those who consider the Big Bang data convincing (as they are) are immoral? And since when is Darwinist a term of approbation?

Where are these ideas coming from???

[Klyce] I realize that we are off into the land of opinion now. I think it is impossible for life to start from ordinary chemicals by natural means. (But as Pasteur knew, one cannot prove a negative.)

[Athena] On the contrary, Pasteur definitively proved that if you keep bottles sterile, nothing grows in them and therefore maggots, bacteria or fungi do not arise from meat by transubstantiation or vitalism, but from eggs or spores.

Pasteur said that it is impossible to prove a negative, and that the best he could do was to demonstrate that any claim of spontaneous generation was due to faulty (unsterile) procedure. I will find the reference for you if you wish. [René Dubos, Louis Pasteur: Free Lance of Science, Da Capo Press, Inc. 1950, 1960. pp 186, 396.]

[Klyce] On the other hand, my impossibility could be refuted with a single experiment that could easily be performed on Earth today (if I'm wrong.) But what experiment could demonstrate that it was impossible for life to exist before 10 or 20 or xx billion years ago and survive til now? Thus, by Popper's falsifiability criterion, my panspermia theory is scientific, and opposition to it based on the big bang is not.

[Athena] If there is such an experiment, please describe it. You are purposely leaving out so much data that I don't have enough time or energy to go over them all. This deliberate obfuscation goes beyond honest disagreement and comes dangerously close to bad faith.

Sorry if this was unclear. My impossibility is the origin of life from ordinary chemicals by natural means. (I say it's impossible.) The experiment that could disprove it would be a demonstration of the origin of life from ordinary chemicals by natural means.

But the core lies elsewhere. In short, Brig, let me cut to the bone of this contention: as the lawyers say, please answer if you believe in evolution, yes or no only.

I love this. The inquisition.

If yes, you cannot demand instant reproduction of life processes in the dish

People have been claiming that life can come from nonlife for at least two thousand years now, and modern science has been actively trying to demonstrate it since the 1920s. After that much failed effort, are you willing to admit the _possibility_ that it can't happen? When there is a scientific alternative?

(though seeing bacteria or viruses mutate in front of your eyes and examining the fossil record and the extremophilic archaebacteria should be close enough).

The mutation of bacteria in closed system experiments corroborates the view that mutations and recombination cannot lead to continuing increases in complexity, or "progress." The fossil record demonstrates what can happen in an open system, as almost everyone now acknowledges Earth's biosphere to be.

If no, your position is formally identical to creationism regardless of its motivation, and then you cannot be on the META list.

Would it make you feel any different to know that creationists oppose me because I do not think miracles can be part of science?

But hey, it's up to you. It's been pretty tough sledding anyway.
---
Brig Klyce * http://www.panspermia.org


Date: Sat, 29 Apr 2000 16:54:02 -0000
From: Brigham Klyce
Subject: Is Sustained Macroevolutionary Progress Possible?

Dear Athena --

Although I have bought your book and read much of it, I realize that you may be completely unfamiliar with my work. This abstract answers your question whether I believe in evolution. It is the abstract of the poster I presented at NASA's Astrobiology Conference in April.

IS SUSTAINED MACROEVOLUTIONARY PROGRESS POSSIBLE?

Microevolutionary change has been demonstrated with closed-system biological experiments (Papadopoulos) and in computer models (Ray). Sustained macroevolutionary progress ("SMP") that can lead from prokaryotes to people has not. In 1988, Ernst Mayr wrote, "Unfortunately, the genetics of microevolutionary processes has been unable to provide a full explanation of macroevolution." Today, a score of sequenced genomes later, W. Ford Doolitle observes, "Many eukaryotic genes ...seem to come from nowhere."

Two recent insights point to a new possible explanation for the apparent SMP on Earth. The first insight is that microorganisms from space may have seeded life on Earth; the second is that horizontal gene transfer plays a major role in evolution. The new possible explanation is "strong panspermia," according to which microorganisms from space provide the new genes necessary for SMP on Earth. Thus, if the planet is an open biological system, perhaps what we call macroevolutionary progress is actually the incremental development of pre-existing, highly evolved cosmic life.

Strong panspermia accords well with several phenomena that have troubled standard Darwinism, including life's rapid start on Earth, punctuated equilibrium, convergent evolution, the ubiquity of certain master control genes, and the fact that many genes appear older, by sequence analysis, than they should be according to the fossil record.

But when pursued to its logical conclusion, the theory conflicts with most versions of the Big Bang and with customary Western thought, which hold that life cannot simply descend from prior life, highly evolved or not, ad infinitum. However, until SMP is demonstrated, this argument is overburdened. If SMP is possible, closed-system experiments should be able to demonstrate it. Success in biological experiments would be decisive, but computer models should be able to get results faster. Of course, before results could be interpreted, a way to measure and verify SMP would have to be established, a worthy task in itself. If the experiments were positive, the existing paradigm would gain helpful confirmation. But if SMP is not possible, we would not have to abandon science altogether, as participants on both sides in the "Darwinism versus creationism" debate suggest. Instead, in a role reversal, cosmology would have to accommodate a fundamental biological principle.

The issue is important. Let's conduct experiments to learn if SMP is possible.

References

  • Doolittle, W. Ford. Sci Am 2000 Feb; 282(2): 90.
  • Mayr, Ernst. Toward a new philosophy of biology. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988. p 405.
  • Papadopoulos, D. et al. PNAS USA 1999; 96: 3807.
  • Ray, Thomas, "Artificial Life," 15 July 1996: http://www.hip.atr.co.jp/~ray/pubs/fatm/fatm.html

    (The full poster is available at http://www.panspermia.org/astrobio02.htm)
    ---
    Brig Klyce * http://www.panspermia.org


    Date: Sat, 29 Apr 2000 19:25:32 -0500
    From: Athena A...
    Subject: Re: Is Sustained Macroevolutionary Progress Possible?

    Dear Brig, let me respond to your abstract. After this, we must bid farewell to this discussion unless you present something better than computer models. Most of the points you raise we have discussed before, and I really don't have the time to go over much-trodden ground.

    IS SUSTAINED MACROEVOLUTIONARY PROGRESS POSSIBLE?

    "Many eukaryotic genes ...seem to come from nowhere."

    All genes have predecessors in bacteria, both functionally and ancestrally. The usual way for adding or refining functions is duplication and subsequent drift. Those that drift in the wrong direction get eliminated by evolution. Once you have a system of sufficient complexity, you get all sorts of positive molecular and cellular feedback loops. One example is the "maternal" effect -- how a fertilized egg starts and makes an embryo.

    Two recent insights point to a new possible explanation for the apparent SMP on Earth. The first insight is that microorganisms from space may have seeded life on Earth; the second is that horizontal gene transfer plays a major role in evolution.

    Horizontal gene transfer has been known for close to forty years, even since people figured out how bacteria move plasmids and pili around.

    Thus, if the planet is an open biological system, perhaps what we call macroevolutionary progress is actually the incremental development of pre-existing, highly evolved cosmic life.

    Earth is a de facto open biological system, because its organisms use sunlight as a prominent method for generating energy and in return have radically modified its atmosphere. All biology is an open system at the physical level as well, since its organization requires a local entropy decrease.

    Strong panspermia accords well with several phenomena that have troubled standard Darwinism, including life's rapid start on Earth, punctuated equilibrium, convergent evolution, the ubiquity of certain master control genes, and the fact that many genes appear older, by sequence analysis, than they should be according to the fossil record.

    Genes cannot appear older than the fossil record, since there is no metric for cross-comparison and fossils have insufficient DNA to be analyzed. All that can be established, and this very doubtfully, is relative rate of duplication and/or divergence by computer models -- which give different rates depending on what gene family has been chosen for analysis. Whether life started rapidly or slowly is a matter of total conjecture, since we have no remnants of the truly primitive proto-forms. They might well be the clays that I mentioned in my previous message. To say that "standard Darwinism" cannot account for X implies that a theory cannot evolve. Nor can you argue in good faith that a theory is invalid because its 19th century version could not account for phenomena only recognized in 1970. Current evolutionary theory can and does incorporate punctuated equilibrium, convergence, and so-called master genes.

    The bottom line is: There is no contradiction between evolution and the conclusions of today's molecular and cellular biology. I don't exclude the possibility of cross-travels of primitive organisms within a solar system. However, the fossil record and the existence of archaebacteria implies that, if something came from Mars, it was at most bacterial. And even if this happened, it does not imply that life existed forever and therefore the Big Bang cannot have occurred. Even if you postulate that life arose once in the universe, you still must account for the non-living to living transition for that event. You don't remove the problem, but simply move it to another time and place.


    Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2000 14:44:36 -0000
    From: Brigham Klyce
    Subject: Re: Is Sustained Macroevolutionary Progress Possible?

    --- In META@egroups.com, Athena A... wrote:

    [...] All genes have predecessors in bacteria, both functionally and ancestrally.

    I am aware that this is required for Darwinian theory, but it is an unsupported assertion. From sequenced genomes it appears that some genes have identifiable predecessors in simpler life forms, and some don't. (See for example the recent issue of Science announcing the drosophila sequence.) As more genomes are sequenced, Darwinism expects the number of genes that don't have identifiable predecessors to diminish, but it isn't happening. That's Doolittle's point.

    [...] Earth is a de facto open biological system, because its organisms use sunlight as a prominent method for generating energy and in return have radically modified its atmosphere. All biology is an open system at the physical level as well, since its organization requires a local entropy decrease.

    I mean "biologically open" in Pasteur's sense -- germs can get in. The fossil record shows that evolutionary progress can happen in an open system. But for a proof that Darwinian evolution can produce evolutionary progress without a supply of new genes, the fossil record is not conclusive. (It's likely been contaminated.)

    [...] Genes cannot appear older than the fossil record, since there is no metric for cross-comparison and fossils have insufficient DNA to be analyzed.

    The dating of fossils is done with standard methods from paleontology, not from DNA. Try these references. The last one specifically considers whether the fossil record is adequate for such comparisons:

  • Gregory A. Wray, Jeffrey S. Levinton and Leo H. Shapiro. "Molecular Evidence for Deep Precambrian Divergences Among Metazoan Phyla" p 568-573 v 274 Science, 25 October 1996.
  • Sudhir Kumar and S. Blair Hedges. "A molecular timescale for vertebrate evolution" p 917-920 v 392 Nature. 30 April 1998.
  • Lindell Bromham, Andrew Rambaut, Richard Fortey, Alan Cooper and David Penny. "Testing the Cambrian explosion hypothesis by using a molecular dating technique," p 12386-12389 v 959 Proc Nat Acad Sci, USA, 13 October 1998.
  • "Large Gene Study Questions Cambrian Explosion," newsrelease from Penn State Eberly College of Science, 19 January 1999. http://www.science.psu.edu/alert/Hedges1-1999.htm
  • Mike Foote and J. John Sepkoski Jr. "Absolute measures of the completeness of the fossil record" p 415-417 v 398 Nature, 1 April 1999.

    [...] Whether life started rapidly or slowly is a matter of total conjecture, since we have no remnants of the truly primitive proto-forms. They might well be the clays that I mentioned in my previous message.

    I see in another post that you believe the clays are sufficient to pretty well close the subject. But among the variety of theories for the origin of life, this one is favored by only a few scientists. In NASA's Astrobiology program, it's in about third place, by my estimate.

    [...] Current evolutionary theory can and does incorporate punctuated equilibrium, convergence, and so-called master genes.

    I wrote about "several phenomena that have troubled standard Darwinism." I know that punctuated equilibrium troubled it mightily, although that's been digested now. I am not aware of the standard account for the ubiquity of master control genes. If it is that they were horizontally transferred, then Darwinism has adopted, ad hoc, one of panspermia's predictions.

    [...] And even if this [bacterial transfer] happened, it does not imply that life existed forever and therefore the Big Bang cannot have occurred.

    No one is saying that bacterial transfer implies that life existed forever, nor that the big bang cannot have occurred. (We have a better chance to make progress if we characterize each other's position accurately.) Perhaps the following argument in a nutshell will remove some of our misunderstanding --

    1) Is there any real-time (not big-bang based) evidence that life can originate from nonlife by natural means? [No.]

    2) Is there any real-time (not big-bang based) evidence that life can make sustained evolutionary progress in a closed system? [No. The evidence was recorded in an open system.]

    3) Is there an adequate model for these phenomena in another medium such as computers? [No.]

    3) Can we be confident that these phenomena occurred? [No. Without more corroboration than the big bang, it would be unscientific.]

    4) Is there an alternative explanation for life on Earth? [Yes. It could come from elsewhere.]

    5) What about highly evolved life? People couldn't come from elsewhere. [Why not? Germs from elsewhere could carry the necessary genes, and by horizontal gene transfer these could produce highly evolved life.]

    6) But life can't simply descend from highly evolved prior life ad infinitum. [Why not? Because there was a big bang?]

    7) This version of panspermia is simply too incredible for words. [That's the way the Darwinian account of the origin of life and sustained evolutionary progress seem to me!]

    8) Darwinism is scientific, your theory is not. [Science requires evidence. A number of predictions of strong panspermia have been sustained by evidence like organic compounds in space, fossils in meteorites from Mars, fossils in meteorites not from Mars, the apparent immortality of some bacteria, the importance of lateral gene transfer in evolution, and recently, really large complex organic molecules in interstellar dust. You may not like any of this evidence. And I have already said why I do not accept the usually cited evidence for Darwinism.]

    9) There is no way to resolve this difference of opinion. [Perhaps. Regardless of what you think of panspermia, Darwinism needs confirmation for its foundational principles -- that life can originate by natural means and make sustained evolutionary progress in a closed system. (A similar scientific motive was behind the Michelson-Morely experiment. The result was unexpected, but tremendously important.) If these Darwinian principles can be demonstrated, panspermia will become unnecessary. That's a way to resolve it. Conversely, until these principles are demonstrated, panspermia remains a viable scientific alternative.]

    10) Please just go away! The big bang rules!

    [...]Even if you postulate that life arose once in the universe, you still must account for the non-living to living transition for that event. You don't remove the problem, but simply move it to another time and place.

    I guess this was the illogic that you mentioned earlier. I hope this misunderstanding has been alleviated.
    ---
    Brig Klyce * http://www.panspermia.org


  • The next poster does animated computer graphics.

    Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2000 09:47:06 -0700
    From: Ken C...
    Subject: Re: Is Sustained Macroevolutionary Progress Possible?

    Brigham Klyce wrote:
    [big snip, I'll cut to the theses nailed to the door here...]

    No one is saying that bacterial transfer implies that life existed forever, nor that the big bang cannot have occurred. (We have a better chance to make progress if we characterize each other's position accurately.) Perhaps the following argument in a nutshell will remove some of our misunderstanding --

    1) Is there any real-time (not big-bang based) evidence that life can originate from nonlife by natural means? [No.]

    If the big bang falsifies your pet theory, it's in trouble. If the rest of your argument consists of a dependence on whatever your definition of something other than natural turns out to be, you've gone in my crackpot file before you go any further.

    That you don't actually come out and use the word "supernatural" is almost to your credit, were it not for the appearance that you're trying to slip it in sideways as if it wouldn't be noticed. So, you start off demanding that abiogenesis be supernatural.

    You're a creationist who won't come out and admit it. The rest of your post has your position exactly where it belongs: in a nutshell.

    2) Is there any real-time (not big-bang based) evidence that life can make sustained evolutionary progress in a closed system? [No. The evidence was recorded in an open system.]

    Do you know what you're saying here? I don't.

    3) Is there an adequate model for these phenomena in another medium such as computers? [No.]

    When you get to define adequate, I can't argue with you.

    3) Can we be confident that these phenomena occurred? [No. Without more corroboration than the big bang, it would be unscientific.]

    When you get to define confident, I can't argue with you.

    4) Is there an alternative explanation for life on Earth? [Yes. It could come from elsewhere.]

    Yes life could have come from elsewhere. Life could be ubiquitous, achieving emergent complexity from non-life more readily in the microgravity of the interstellar medium or in protoplanetary nebulae and seed life via cometary impact. Demonstrating this once and for all, with absolute certainty, that life arose elsewhere prior to finding a foothold on earth, would affect darwinism not one iota.

    5) What about highly evolved life? People couldn't come from elsewhere. [Why not? Germs from elsewhere could carry the necessary genes, and by horizontal gene transfer these could produce highly evolved life.]

    "Could've" isn't even an hypothesis. Why don't you turn this into a compelling yarn? One of my students is creating a cute little animated critter who accidentally sneezes into a vat, and tries to hide the (human) results on a small, unregarded planet orbiting a yellow star. She's being just as scientific as you are, so far.

    6) But life can't simply descend from highly evolved prior life ad> infinitum. [Why not? Because there was a big bang?]

    At this point I'm distracted by the note of hysteria in your argument. It's the shrill tone of voice of the standard skiffy b-movie evil mad scientist's rant before being dispatched by the steroid case hero who isn't even bothering to try to follow the argument.

    Once it's started, who's to say what life can or can't do, and for how long? The big bang would put a crimp in efforts to trace ancestry infinitely far back in time, just as the north pole limits efforts to go even farther north. What bothers me is the requirement that so many areas of current research and discovery in astronomy have to be so completely wrong for your eternal immortals to have made the perfect humans, just like us, with our windpipes and our fovea tacked on top of each retina.

    What would the discovery of life on Europa do to your cherished theory? What if it bore no genetic similarity to life on earth?

    7) This version of panspermia is simply too incredible for words. [That's the way the Darwinian account of the origin of life and sustained evolutionary progress seem to me!]

    I'm always devastated by the argument from personal incredulity. It makes me reach into my record collection and crank Frank Zappa's parody of fifties love songs, with its shrill chorus of falsetto voices in the refrain, "Oh no I don't believe it!"

    8) Darwinism is scientific, your theory is not. [Science requires evidence. A number of predictions of strong panspermia have been sustained by evidence like organic compounds in space, fossils in meteorites from Mars, fossils in meteorites not from Mars, the apparent immortality of some bacteria, the importance of lateral gene transfer in evolution, and recently, really large complex organic molecules in interstellar dust. You may not like any of this evidence. And I have already said why I do not accept the usually cited evidence for Darwinism.]

    None of this evidence would matter in the least to darwinism. Who could be disheartened by evidence that life thrives and can originate in more places than the pre-biotic soup of an ancient earth? How is any of this a challenge to darwinism? [hint: it isn't]

    9) There is no way to resolve this difference of opinion. [Perhaps. Regardless of what you think of panspermia, Darwinism needs confirmation for its foundational principles -- that life can originate by natural means and make sustained evolutionary progress in a closed system. (A similar scientific motive was behind the Michelson-Morely experiment. The result was unexpected, but tremendously important.) If these Darwinian principles can be demonstrated, panspermia will become unnecessary. That's a way to resolve it. Conversely, until these principles are demonstrated, panspermia remains a viable scientific alternative.]

    Oh, thanks. So long as this is just a difference of opinion, we can talk about this all day. Let us know if you want to resolve it sometime, there's this really nifty toolkit that scientists use to help people, who are willing to entertain challenges to cherished beliefs, provide support for better-informed opinions.

    The planet earth, for the umpteen zillionth time, is not a closed system. If you're saying that being on the inside of an entire singularity bounded in space/time by a big bang defines a closed system, you're missing the trees for the forest.

    10) Please just go away! The big bang rules!

    I'm truly disappointed by the way you chose to respond to Athena's necessary and simple yes or no question. I have no investment one way or another in the big bang-- I'd like to know as much as can be found out. If I'm some panentheist instantiation of divinity, groovy, but I'm not attached to the idea and clinging to it for dear life. I'm enough of an extropian to know that something of what was uniquely me will survive in some form or another, even if the sensation of being uniquely, subjectively me will most likely not.

    I was truly disappointed that you have been able to produce nothing more than creationist arguments for panspermia--typically incredulous pooh-poohing of evolution and current cosmology so you can make your supernaturalist fairy tales appear necessary. When your argument starts out asking us to assume that everything I know is wrong, I know it's time to check the location of my wallet, because yet another new age huckster is reaching for my wallet, presuming I'm just another of the seekers born every minute. If you're a sincere true believer, here expecting to find converts to your faith and "sell it by zealot," it can't happen here. That leaves the martyrdom of the sole possessor of the truth, and as Carl Sagan has it, "They laughed at Galileo. They laughed at Newton. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown." I'm one of those people who gets a perverse pleasure out of pointing and laughing at people who sincerely can't see that their religion isn't the least bit scientific, and who go on to insist that it isn't even religion, but even more scientific than thou.

    [Athena][...] Even if you postulate that life arose once in the universe, you still must account for the non-living to living transition for that event. You don't remove the problem, but simply move it to another time and place.

    I guess this was the illogic that you mentioned earlier. I hope this misunderstanding has been alleviated.

    I really don't know what you were trying to alleviate with this comment to Athena. I really hope you can wipe the smirk off my face and show me how I have completely and utterly misunderstood you, and that you can do so demonstrating something other than tired, creationist canards and assaults on evolution and cosmology. Panspermia, so called, can work fine without such assaults, unless you're using it to smuggle in theism like some Trojan Horse, the way Paul Davies uses the anthropic principle. I have no problem with panspermia as abiogenesis elsewhere seeding earth, but used as an assault on evolution and cosmology, as you appear to wield it, I'll have nothing to do with. It just pisses me off and poisons my pen.

    Ken C...


    Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2000 13:44:35 -0500
    From: Athena A...
    Subject: Re: Is Sustained Macroevolutionary Progress Possible?

    Dear Brig:

    when you asked to join META, I outlined several requirements for membership. One was that creationism was out of bounds in any form; another, that you could not twist evidence to fit preconceived moulds. You have repeatedly done both, despite my frequent requests to desist.

    Science will always have a long way to go, and it can and does go astray, though it's kept on an even keel by its in-built self-correcting mechanism. I have also said that several (in fact, most) variants of panspermia are easily compatible with both Darwinism and the Big Bang. Your response is to keep asserting that life cannot arise from non-life and hence must have existed forever in its present state, thereby invalidating evolution in both biology and cosmology. Why are you so hung up on the particular version of panspermia which contradicts most data? And why do you quote facts out of context, reversing their true implications? To me, such rigid opinions -- contained in points 5 and 6 of your latest post -- constitute creationism regardless of label.

    I do not intend to have this list used as a platform for missionary efforts. Therefore, I must regretfully ask you to leave META. If you prefer, I can unsubscribe you in my capacity as moderator. I think we have reached the end of any productive exchange; what looms ahead is acrimony and tedious repetition.

    -- Athena


    Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2000 18:49:47 -0000
    From: Brigham Klyce
    Subject: Re: Is Sustained Macroevolutionary Progress Possible?

    --- In META@egroups.com, Ken C... wrote:

    [...] That you don't actually come out and use the word "supernatural" is almost to your credit, were it not for the appearance that you're trying to slip it in sideways as if it wouldn't be noticed. So, you start off demanding that abiogenesis be supernatural.

    There is nothing supernatural in the version of panspermia that I am advocating. But if you cannot even entertain the possibility that life never originated I can see why you might have this impression.

    [Klyce] 2) Is there any real-time (not big-bang based) evidence that life can make sustained evolutionary progress in a closed system? [No. The evidence was recorded in an open system.]

    [Ken] Do you know what you're saying here? I don't.

    Sorry, you are right, it's not clear. Darwinism holds that people can evolve from bacteria without any new genes ever being supplied to the bacteria or their descendants. But this claim cannot be sustained by a fossil record when new genes could easily have been supplied all along the way, because Earth is not a closed biological system. A definitive demonstration that Darwinian evolution can produce sustained evolutionary progress must be conducted in a closed system. But merely a few steps would demonstrate the principle. (And a computer demonstration would also be convincing.)

    [Klyce] 3) Can we be confident that these phenomena occurred? [No. Without more corroboration than the big bang, it would be unscientific.]

    [Ken] When you get to define confident, I can't argue with you.

    Please. There is no confusion here.

    Demonstrating this once and for all, with absolute certainty, that life arose elsewhere prior to finding a foothold on earth, would affect darwinism not one iota.

    You're probably right about that!

    [...] "Could've" isn't even an hypothesis. Why don't you turn this into a compelling yarn?[...]

    The main reason for fleshing out the strong panspermia theory is to counter the claim that life must have originated and evolved to higher forms by the Darwinian mechanism because there is no scientific alternative. There is one. But how could it possibly work? Well, it could work like this...

    [...] the steroid case hero who isn't even bothering to try to follow the argument.

    Is that you?

    [...] What bothers me is the requirement that so many areas of current research and discovery in astronomy have to be so completely wrong for your eternal immortals to have made the perfect humans, just like us, with our windpipes and our fovea tacked on top of each retina.

    No, the big bang would have to be adjusted perhaps only slightly. In a previous thread, which no one wants to reinitiate, I tried to make the point that the big bang theory already makes rather major adjustments occasionally; it could therefore probably accommodate one that would remove the present logjam.

    What would the discovery of life on Europa do to your cherished theory?

    Great question. It would provide very strong confirmation.

    What if it bore no genetic similarity to life on earth?

    Another excellent question. If it used a genetic material different from DNA, my version of panspermia would be crushed, devastated, totally out of business. Killed by the guy on steroids. This is what I am saying to you! Get the evidence! The closed system demonstration of the origin of life or evolutionary progress would do almost the same thing -- pull the rug out from under me.

    [Klyce] 8) Darwinism is scientific, your theory is not. [Science requires evidence. A number of predictions of strong panspermia have been sustained by evidence like organic compounds in space, fossils in meteorites from Mars, fossils in meteorites not from Mars, the apparent immortality of some bacteria, the importance of lateral gene transfer in evolution, and recently, really large complex organic molecules in interstellar dust. You may not like any of this evidence....]

    [Ken] None of this evidence would matter in the least to darwinism. Who could be disheartened by evidence that life thrives and can originate in more places than the pre-biotic soup of an ancient earth? How is any of this a challenge to darwinism? [hint: it isn't]

    When a theory makes a surprising prediction, and it is subsequently upheld, and this happens several times, it counts in favor of the theory. That's the way science is supposed to work anyway.

    [Klyce] [...]Regardless of what you think of panspermia, Darwinism needs confirmation for its foundational principles -- that life can originate by natural means and make sustained evolutionary progress in a closed system....

    [Ken] The planet earth, for the umpteen zillionth time, is not a closed system. If you're saying that being on the inside of an entire singularity bounded in space/time by a big bang defines a closed system, you're missing the trees for the forest.

    _I_ am the one saying Earth is not a closed system. I thought _you_ were saying that the big bang makes our universe a closed system. It's not a trivial point. If our universe is a biologically closed system that began in a totally lifeless state a finite time ago, then, without miracles, it must be possible for life to originate by natural means and make sustained evolutionary progress in it. [Please notice that the premise could be flawed, somewhere, without it requiring us to throw out the whole big bang theory.] But if you are willing to admit that our universe may be biologically open, by having not been totally sterilized in its past for example, then most of the disagreement between us has been based on an unfortunate misunderstanding only.

    [...] I'm truly disappointed by the way you chose to respond to Athena's necessary and simple yes or no question.

    You should be aware that I responded to it with a carefully written essay of about 400 words, because that's how this thread began. Because "evolution" does not have a single precise meaning, a simple yes or no was impossible for me. Yes, I think selection, adaptation, mutation, recombination, etc. take place. No I do not think that sustained evolutionary progress that turns prokaryotes into people can be produced by mutation and recombination in prokaryotic genes.

    I have no investment one way or another in the big bang-- I'd like to know as much as can be found out. If I'm some panentheist instantiation of divinity, groovy, but I'm not attached to the idea and clinging to it for dear life. I'm enough of an extropian to know that something of what was uniquely me will survive in some form or another, even if the sensation of being uniquely, subjectively me will most likely not.

    You sound like a cool guy!

    I was truly disappointed that you have been able to produce nothing more than creationist arguments for panspermia--typically incredulous pooh-poohing of evolution and current cosmology so you can make your supernaturalist fairy tales appear necessary.

    Based on logic and evidence, the case for panspermia is identical to Pasteur's case that germs don't spontaneously arise from a sterile broth. If experiments continue to produce no results, how long do you think we wait before deciding that the origin of life by natural means might perhaps be impossible? Someone could claim that Pasteur was wrong, germs can spontaneously emerge from a broth, it just takes time to demonstrate it. In fact, it looks like the same question to me. (The hypothetical intermediates that Athena mentions are the phenomena that entirely lack evidentiary support.)

    [...] I'm one of those people who gets a perverse pleasure out of pointing and laughing at people who sincerely can't see that their religion isn't the least bit scientific, and who go on to insist that it isn't even religion, but even more scientific than thou.

    [...] I really hope you can wipe the smirk off my face and show me how I have completely and utterly misunderstood you, and that you can do so demonstrating something other than tired, creationist canards and assaults on evolution and cosmology. Panspermia, so called, can work fine without such assaults, unless you're using it to smuggle in theism like some Trojan Horse, the way Paul Davies uses the anthropic principle. I have no problem with panspermia as abiogenesis elsewhere seeding earth, but used as an assault on evolution and cosmology, as you appear to wield it, I'll have nothing to do with. It just pisses me off and poisons my pen.

    The theory that I am advocating is profoundly different from Darwinism, and it touches on cosmology to a certain extent. It is so different that 1) people do not grasp it easily and 2) people resist it instinctively (unscientifically, without thinking). I am going to continue to assume that my main problem here is the former. However, based on the tone of your posts, the latter sometimes seems possible. I say this without ill will, merely as an observation.
    --
    Brig Klyce * http://www.panspermia.org


    The next poster teaches music. Although annoyed, he expresses some genuine interest in the theory.

    Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2000 15:55:04 -0500 (CDT)
    From: Dan
    Subject: Re: Is Sustained Macroevolutionary Progress Possible?

    Brig wrote:

    There is nothing supernatural in the version of panspermia that I am advocating.

    But he also wrote:

    If experiments continue to produce no results, how long do you think we wait before deciding that the origin of life by natural means might perhaps be impossible?

    Well, it's finally happened. I've finally become annoyed with this to the point of needing to vent some bewilderment. Please feel free to re-clarify anything that follows. However, If there is nothing supernatural about your theory, yet you wish to question how long we should wait before deciding that natural origins are impossible, then what exactly is left?

    A definitive demonstration that Darwinian evolution can produce sustained evolutionary progress must be conducted in a closed system. But merely a few steps would demonstrate the principle.

    If you had any idea how many Baptist preachers have used that exact same argument with me - that evolution can not be accepted as a valid description of the emergence of human life on Earth simply because we haven't yet been able to make a bacteria spontaneously appear in a beaker - you'd begin to see just how supernatural your theory actually is.

    Darwinism holds that people can evolve from bacteria without any new genes ever being supplied to the bacteria or their descendants. But this claim cannot be sustained by a fossil record when new genes could easily have been supplied all along the way, because Earth is not a closed biological system.

    Contamination? I have absolutely no problem with that idea. However, I still am having trouble understanding how this negates Darwinism. At which point along the SMP time scale would you argue that contamination took place? At the beginning? Fine - seed away! That doesn't effect Darwinism. At one of the mass extinctions, perhaps simultaneously seeding and exterminating as the comet exploded? Fine - evolutionary progress still occurs after the seeding/extinction. When the monolith appeared and taught us how to kill our hairy neighbors? How does Earth being an "open biological system" negate evolution? How would you characterize the Cambrian explosion - as a disembarkation of a Universal Ark?

    Yes, I think selection, adaptation, mutation, recombination, etc. take place. No I do not think that sustained evolutionary progress that turns prokaryotes into people can be produced by mutation and recombination in prokaryotic genes.

    Let me make sure I have this right...you feel that selection, adaptation, and mutation (the engines of evolution) take place BUT you don't feel that the results of the mechanism - which you agree exists - are conceivable? Isn't that a bit like writing a computer program and then refusing to accept the printout at the end? You can't have it both ways. To deny sustained macro-evolutionary progress, wouldn't you also have to deny the mechanisms which you agree exist?

    No, the big bang would have to be adjusted perhaps only slightly. In a previous thread, which no one wants to reinstate, I tried to make the point that the big bang theory already makes rather major adjustments occasionally; it could therefore probably accommodate one that would remove the present logjam.

    You're argument here is rather simple as I understand it. You want to adjust the big bang to allow for the existence of eternity. Sorry. That's not a slight adjustment.

    A number of predictions of strong panspermia have bee sustained by evidence like organic compounds in space, fossils in meteorites from Mars, fossils in meteorites not from Mars, the apparent immortality of some bacteria, the importance of lateral gene transfer in evolution, and recently, really large complex organic molecules in interstellar dust.

    I figured you were going to use the Stardust data to help support your version of panspermia. I must admit that I found that data intriguing as well. I liked it because it helped to strengthen my belief that life is potentially widespread throughout the Universe. It even helped to strengthen some aspects of panspermia for me - namely that organics could have arrived here on our open system from elsewhere and that those same organics could be seeding many other worlds as well. It didn't make me think that they had always been there or that, once deposited, they didn't begin to be effected by evolutionary mechanisms.

    If our universe is a biologically closed system that began in a totally lifeless state a finite time ago, then, without miracles, it must be possible for life to originate by natural means and make sustained evolutionary progress in it.

    Exactly!

    But if you are willing to admit that our universe may be biologically open, by having not been totally sterilized in its past for example, then most of the disagreement between us has been based on an unfortunate misunderstanding only.

    Sorry, can't do it. Although it is an interesting premise for a story - that our entire Universe always existed and that some mechanism/force/entity from another Universe placed organics here so that life would emerge. (That's the only way I can interpret your statement about the Universe being biologically open.) Actually - even that doesn't really negate evolution does it?

    ...and it touches on cosmology to a certain extent. It is so different that 1) people do not grasp it easily and 2) people resist it instinctively (unscientifically, without thinking). I am going to continue to assume that my main problem here is the former.

    Rest assured - I believe most of us have grasped your argument quite clearly.

    [Dan]


    Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2000 17:09:19 -0500 (CDT)
    From: Dan
    Subject: Re: Is Sustained Macroevolutionary Progress Possible?

    Brig,

    Ok - here's another chance. Never let it be said that my mind is a closed system.

    On your website, you make the statement that Darwinists and Creationists both embrace the closed, finite biological system but for different reasons. Your deliberate separation of a proposed open, infinite biological system from the motives of the Creationists now has me somewhat curious.

    At the risk of encouraging something that probably should just simply be dropped, I'd be more open to this idea if you could explain just how you plan to adjust big bang theory to allow for the eternal presence of life in outer space. The big bang, if it is to exist at all, must take place within the confines of spacetime. How do you propose to reconcile this without completely abandoning the big bang? (...and please don't say that it is for the cosmologists to decide.)

    [Dan]


    Date: Mon, 01 May 2000 03:26:08 -0000
    From: Brigham Klyce
    Subject: Re: Is Sustained Macroevolutionary Progress Possible?

    --- In META@egroups.com, Dan wrote:

    Brig wrote: [...] There is nothing supernatural in the version of panspermia that I am advocating.

    [Dan] But he also wrote:

    [Klyce] If experiments continue to produce no results, how long do you think we wait before deciding that the origin of life by natural means might perhaps be impossible?

    [Dan] Well, it's finally happened. I've finlly become annoyed with this to the point of needing to vent some bewilderment. Please feel free to re-clarify anything that follows. However, If there is nothing supernatural about your theory, yet you wish to question how long we should wait before deciding that natural origins are impossible, then what exactly is left?

    Dear Dan --

    In spite of your annoyance, I feel relief and welcome in your response. Difficulty #1 (this version of panspermia is so different it's hard to grasp) seems to be at work here. -- Not #2 (...so different it gets rejected without consideration.)

    Your question is exactly where I was several years ago. When there's an impasse, the assumptions need to be scrutinized. The assumption that looks weak to me is that life must have a beginning. It is not a worldwide assumption, only a western one. And the direct evidence for it is zero. (The big bang is very indirect.)

    [Klyce] [...]A definitive demonstration that Darwinian evolution can produce sustained evolutionary progress ....

    [Dan] If you had any idea how many Baptist preachers have used that exact same argument with me ... you'd begin to see just how supernatural your theory actually is.

    Guilt by association. I oppose supernatural explanations as much as you do. I promise. Otherwise I'd be a creationist. With millions of comrades instead of about three.

    [Klyce] Darwinism holds that people can evolve from bacteria without any new genes ever being supplied to the bacteria or their descendants. But this claim cannot be sustained by a fossil record when new genes could easily have been supplied all along the way, because Earth is not a closed biological system.

    [Dan] [...] Contamination? I have absolutely no problem with that idea. However, I still am having trouble understanding how this negates Darwinism.

    It only means that the fossil record cannot confirm the ability of Darwinian evolution to produce people from prokaryotes. The process may have utilized genes for more highly evolved life that could have come from elsewhere, just as germs from elsewhere could have first planted life here.

    At which point along the SMP time scale would you argue that contamination took place?[...]

    By the uniformitarian principle the process would be ongoing, although the strength of it probably fluctuates with the comet traffic.

    [...] Let me make sure I have this right...you feel that selection, adaptation, and mutation (the engines of evolution) take place BUT you don't feel that the results of the mechanism - which you agree exists - are conceivable? Isn't that a bit like writing a computer program and then refusing to accept the printout at the end? You can't have it both ways. To deny sustained macro-evolutionary progress, wouldn't you also have to deny the mechanisms which you agree exist?

    Dan, I really appreciate the opportunity to clarify this. You are probably not the only one with this question. The easiest answer is to refer you to the full poster I presented at Ames: http://www.panspermia.org/astrobio02.htm wherein I discuss at some length (300 words?) what I think Darwinian evolution has been shown to do and what it hasn't. But I do not want to be accused of trolling the discussion group. (For the same reason I do not post my What'sNEW items or pointers to them here.)

    For a quick answer, copying errors and shuffling (mutation and recombination) can apparently occasionally be helpful and allow adaptation. For example nonsense mutations can disable promoter or repressor genes that turn on or off other genes. Gene duplication can increase the production of certain proteins. A single nucleotide substitution can even optimise a protein, as appears to have happened with visual pigments in coelacanths (or maybe their pigments were the earlier ones.)

    But copying errors and shuffling have not been shown to be capable of inventing new functions that require genes that differ from any available predecessor by more than a very few essential nucleotides -- say a dozen, to be definite. The mathematics of unlikelihood take over.

    One Darwinian rebuttal is that when we know the full story we will see that there are no new genes. In this account, every functional gene comes from a prior functional gene that differs from it by only one or two essential nucleotides. But this is pure speculation, supported by very few rather strained examples and a keen desire to defend Darwinism.

    To me the biggest problem for Darwinism is still the one that the creationists raise -- it is implausible. If anyone said that Wordperfect version 6.2 came from version 6.1 after it was slightly randomized, no one would believe it. (Conversely, if a computer model could be made to mimic evolutionary progress, I will be out of business.)

    You want to adjust the big bang to allow for the existence of eternity. Sorry. That's not a slight adjustment.

    Opinions differ. Other more qualified cosmologists are advocating the same thing I am.

    [...] I figured you were going to use the Stardust data to help support your version of panspermia. I must admit that I found that data intriguing as well.

    Yeah, it's cool. Are you the one who asked if anyone "in the know" (over which I paused a moment) knew what it meant? It is very interesting to me that so little has been said about it, and that NASA has pulled its news release about it. News that supports the existing paradigm gets a different reception from news that challenges it.

    [Klyce] If our universe is a biologically closed system that began in a totally lifeless state a finite time ago, then, without miracles, it must be possible for life to originate by natural means and make sustained evolutionary progress in it.

    [Dan] Exactly!

    There are at least five points of attack in that premise -- "our universe..., closed system..., began..., lifeless state..., finite time ago." (Creationists would defend all of these and attack "without miracles.")

    [...] Sorry, can't do it. Although it is an interesting premise for a story - that our entire Universe always existed and that some mechanism/force/entity from another Universe placed organics here so that life would emerge. (That's the only way I can interpret your statement about the Universe being biologically open.) Actually - even that doesn't really negate evolution does it?

    No. But your comments demonstrate that this concept is hard to grasp at first. It's not about placing organics. It is that life can only descend from prior life that is at least as highly evolved as itself.

    [Klyce] ...It is so different that 1) people do not grasp it easily and 2) people resist it instinctively (unscientifically, without thinking). I am going to continue to assume that my main problem here is the former.

    [Dan] Rest assured - I believe most of us have grasped your argument quite clearly.

    I think we are getting there, and I really appreciate your efforts. Once the theory is understood, I hope we will still discuss hard evidence pertaining to this version of panspermia and to Darwinism. I didn't realize that simply explaining the theory would be so important.

    [Dan's second post, coupla hours later]

    Brig,
    Ok - here's another chance. Never let it be said that my mind is a closed system.

    On your website, you make the statement that Darwinists and Creationists both embrace the closed, finite biological system but for different reasons. Your deliberate separation of a proposed open, infinite biological system from the motives of the Creationists now has me somewhat curious.

    Thank you for being interested enough to look at the website!

    At the risk of encouraging something that probably should just simply be dropped, I'd be more open to this idea if you could explain just how you plan to adjust big bang theory to allow for the eternal presence of life in outer space. The big bang, if it is to exist at all, must take place within the confines of spacetime. How do you propose to reconcile this without completely abandoning the big bang? (...and please don't say that it is for the cosmologists to decide.)

    Sorry pal. There are people in this group who know a lot more about cosmology than I do, and if I try to get specific, they'll shoot me down in a minute.

    Having said that, I'll ramble for a few lines. The BB theory is not very old, and if the history of science is any guide, it could change immensely as it matures. Already, both Alan Guth and Andre Linde, the cofounders of inflation, say there probably were, are, and will be infinitely many universes that bud off previous ones. (Did you already know that?) Somebody recently said that travel through wormholes by macroscopic objects is not impossible. (Do not ask me for details.) Hoyle, Burbidge and Narlikar (the last of whom Calvin respects) have a modified steady state theory that I am planning to read about. Hoyle incidentally was a pioneer in figuring out how elements from Lithium to Iron are created from plasma and Hydrogen and Helium, so he would know how the elemental abundances affect a steady state theory.

    Calvin, your comments are welcome of course, but there's no need to remind us that I am not an expert in cosmology, we already know it.

    Dan, thanks for your interest -- it seems very genuine.
    ---
    Brig Klyce * http://www.panspermia.org


    That was the end of my participation in the discussion group. They "excommunicated" me. The last post in the thread was a mafia-syle kissoff message from the computer graphics guy. It was actually funny, but not in any way relevant to the issues here. The following exchange with the moderator was by normal email.

    Subject: META subscription
    Date: Mon, 1 May 2000 12:39:01 -0500
    From: Athena A...
    To: bklyce@panspermia.org

    Dear Brig:

    I sent you this message yesterday. Perhaps you didn't receive it, or decided not to take it seriously. This is not open to further discussion, because we are all busy people. Please respect my wishes as moderator of the META list.

    Best regards,
    Athena

    Dear Brig:

    when you asked to join META, I outlined several requirements for membership. One was that creationism was out of bounds in any form; another, that you could not twist evidence to fit preconceived moulds. You have repeatedly done both, despite my frequent requests to desist.

    Science will always have a long way to go, and it can and does go astray, though it's kept on an even keel by its in-built self-correcting mechanism. I have also said that several (in fact, most) variants of panspermia are easily compatible with both Darwinism and the Big Bang. Your response is to keep asserting that life cannot arise from non-life and hence must have existed forever in its present state, thereby invalidating evolution in both biology and cosmology. Why are you so hung up on the particular version of panspermia which contradicts most data? And why do you quote facts out of context, reversing their true implications? To me, such rigid opinions -- contained in points 5 and 6 of your latest post [or in statements such as "Life can only arise from Life that is at least as highly complex as itself."] -- constitute creationism regardless of label.

    I do not intend to have this list used as a platform for missionary efforts. Therefore, I must regretfully ask you to leave META. If you prefer, I can unsubscribe you in my capacity as moderator. I think we have reached the end of any productive exchange; what looms ahead is acrimony and tedious repetition.

    -- Athena


    Subject: Re: META subscription
    Date: Mon, 01 May 2000 12:38:09 -0500
    From: Brig Klyce
    To: Athena A...

    Dear Athena --

    (The attached message is the only one I have received from you recently.)

    I have to respect your wishes.

    I do not advocate creationism.

    The "rigid opinions" I express [in brackets] in points 5 and 6 are actually 3 questions and a suggestion with conditional verbs. How are they rigid opinions? Your reactions to my thoughts seem to blur your judgment.

    My only rigid assertion is that Darwinism's ability to produce evolutionary progress has not been demonstrated. I will defend that one. All the rest is simply to counter the claim that there is no other way.

    I realize that you are too busy to read everything, but if lengthy posts were the problem, you'd be banning Larry, not me.

    It seems obvious to me that the real problem is that you cannot tolerate my ideas. That's OK, there are some ideas I can't tolerate. Naziism for example. But you could at least be honest about it.

    Tell Ken I thought his kissoff post was funny -- if he wrote it himself, nice job.
    --
    Brig Klyce...

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