March 30, 2004

Another Creationista Argument Bites The Dust

One of the reasons (perhaps the only real reason) Creationism continues to have any traction in the U.S. is that it's very easy to raise doubts about evolution in a way the layman can understand. Every one of those pseudo-arguments is answerable, but the explanation generally requires a strong scientific background (like BS-level Biology, Geology, or Chemistry) to understand. Creationistas like Hovind and Gish know this -- their entire schtick is based on it. That's why they spread their BS by doing tours talking to crowds (usually 80% or more bused-in fundamentalists) and consistently dodge offers to debate in writing with review by people actually cognizant of the subject matter.

One of their standard arguments goes like this: "You expect us to believe that life arose from nothing, where a cosmic stew of chemicals just happens to arrange itself the right way and SHAZAM! we get life? Are you serious?" Scientists at Los Alamos are pretty close to saying "Yes. And we can prove it could have happened that way:"

Researchers argue over the definition of life, but they generally agree that it must have three elements: a container, such as the membrane wall of a cell; metabolism, the ability to convert basic nutrients into a cell's working parts; and genes, chemical instructions for building a cell that can be passed on to progeny and change as conditions change.

Each of these critical elements has now been achieved in the laboratory, albeit in rudimentary form, and scientists say they are ready to try to put them all together in one working unit.

"We have quite a bit of knowledge about how these different systems work independently," said microbiologist Martin Hanczyc of Massachusetts General Hospital. "We are at a point where we can start taking these things into the laboratory and do experiments.

"Whether we'll be able to synthesize a living cell in the near future is a big question. But we can start exploring that possibility with what we have available now," said Hanczyc, who along with Harvard's Jack Szostak is able to make artificial cellular membranes grow and divide.
I extended the quote to include the 'big question' reference so I can't be accused of selective quotation. But the fact that we can synthesize all the critical elements now is more than the creationistas will concede.

Posted by Chris at March 30, 2004 03:00 PM

Category: Dangerous Stupidity