Synthetic life.
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23-03-2013, 09:51 AM
RE: Synthetic life.
(23-03-2013 01:51 AM)Heywood Jahblome Wrote:  Synthetic life is life designed and constructed by an intellect from previously non living componets. Now there are two possible ways life originated on this planet(there's really 3 but I am ignoring panspermia for simplicity). One way it could have happened is via abiogenesis, or life arising naturally from previously non living components. The other way is life could have originated as a construction of some intellect. Neither of these "possibilities" have ever been demonstrated so we can't say even say for certain that they are really possible.

What happens if synthetic life is created by humans? Well such an event would demonstrate that it is possible life can originate as a construction of intellect. If synthetic life is demonstrated and abiogenesis isn't, doesn't that strengthen the theists position? Couldn't a theist claim in an argument that intelligent creation of life is a demonstrated fact, while abiogenesis remains just an assertion? Where would that put atheists like Bearded Dude who maintain you shouldn't believe in something until it is observed? He would be forced to concede that intelligent creation of life is believable while abiogenesis is only something worthy of research.
I don't think that many of us here claim that the purposeful construction of life is impossible, in the sense of what modern science can produce. But it would be false analogy almost to the point of equivocation of to compare THAT sort of "intelligent design" to the ID proposals that have been plaguing our school boards, or to suggest that it in any way addresses the objection of ID's detractors. In particular:
  • Current scientific advances are based on study of existing life. The "designs" of synthetic life, while artificially created, are cribbed from natural DNA, and then mixed, matched, and modified based on an understanding of genetics arising from the study of natural life. This is hugely different from something designing life from scratch.
  • There is a world of difference between scientists with supercomputers, a huge knowledge pool built on centuries of observing life, gene sequencers, heavy financial support, sterile environments, on and on, synthetically creating a few microbes, and it being done without all that support infrastructure. That one can be done in no way suggests that the other can.
  • Even were that not the case, ID has still offered no objective evidence to the effect that life was intelligently designed in fact prior to us doing it. ID all boils down to a subjective "it feels intelligent to me".
  • ID has not addressed the objections that, if existing life is intelligently designed, it is POORLY designed.
  • Evolution as an ongoing and chaotic process (even were we to ignore its implications in the origin of species) is not addressed by the OP's argument. Scientists cannot predict the evolutionary destiny of their creations, and that would be required for an intelligent designer hoping to create a macro organism (like humans) capable of withstanding thousands of years of evolution by diseases. This weakens the analogy to the point of unworkability.
  • ID still does not adequately address a fossil record which, incomplete though it is, presents a far more thoroughly self-consistent and compelling history of life than ID's own concoction.
  • Because "it COULDN'T have been done that way" was never a strong objection (rather, "the evidence suggests that WASN'T what happened"), evidence that synthetic life can be done does not remove objections to ID, anymore than it strengthens support for it.
Bottom line, ID still suffers all the faults it suffered before and provides not one whit more of evidence for itself than it did before. So no, synthetic life as created in laboratories does not strengthen the ID position.

"If I ignore the alternatives, the only option is God; I ignore them; therefore God." -- The Syllogism of Fail
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23-03-2013, 12:35 PM
RE: Synthetic life.
(23-03-2013 02:38 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  The intelligent creation proposal destroys itself because there's nothing to create the intelligent creator.

Theism basically boils down to intellect being fundamental.
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23-03-2013, 12:46 PM
RE: Synthetic life.
(23-03-2013 06:28 AM)Ghost Wrote:  Hey, Wood.

Two things.

1 - Man has created life. We successfully designed an organism, with an invented genome, in a computer, printed that genome, inserted it into an egg, enseminated a mother, who carried it to term. First known organism ever born that didn't have parents. So we KNOW we can design life.

2 - It says nothing of creationism. If we determine that masturbation causes ejaculation, that doesn't mean that intercourse does not. It is possible that something engineered life on Earth, but unlikely, if it's the case, that it did anything but knock over the first domino, as evolution is an automated process.

As an Agnostic, I don't pretend that things are proven when they are neither demonstrated nor if they are indemonstrable. The origin of life (on Earth) is as yet an undemonstrated mystery with three candidates that we know of. The development of life is not a mystery however. The fact that we can engineer life is not proof that something did. It merely lends credence to the idea in the same way that the Miller-Urey and Fox experiments lend credence to abiogenesis.

Peace and Love and Empathy,



I am familiar with Venter's claim that he created synthetic life. I don't except it. He didn't design the organism or the genome but rather just copied an existing genome, tossing in a few water marks to track the lineages. I expect Venter will be successful in creating synthetic life in a year or two. At the moment Venter has shown that in principle it can be done.

I agree that synthetic life does not disprove abiogenesis. I am merely pointing out that synthetic life proves that intellect is a viable origin for life, while abiogenesis remains unproven.
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23-03-2013, 12:50 PM
RE: Synthetic life.
Why is there this inability to accept that something can happen naturally ?
We are surrounded by natural processes every day of our lives.
Our own births, plants, insects, trees, other animals, the sun, the moon, storms, gravity. (all natural)

As natural life forms we can make tools and build structures that make our lives more comfortable.

The nature of the universe brought forth matter and energy (in the most simplest terms)
Gravity helped to bring stars, planets, galaxies together.
Inorganic molecules form into the basic building blocks of life when the right conditions are present.
On our planet, strands of protein began a natural process of self replication.
Evolutionary life, over billions of years, brought forth billions of different kinds of life forms. Some survived, most did not.

As one of those surviving life forms, we developed awareness of our own existence and now contemplate how it all happened.
We observe the world around us and construct tools to help us better understand this universe.

We don't want to be alone. We don't want to only have finite lives, but so far that appears to be the harsh reality of it all.

Those who can't deal with that reality, make up a comfortable fantasy.

Nature is a place where life can grow. From that life, intelligence can arise.
From that intelligence, artificial tools and synthetic, man made simulations of living organisms can be crafted.


Organic Chemistry
Time (lots of it)

These are the NUTS and BOLTS of our existence as we observe it.

Insanity - doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results
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23-03-2013, 12:52 PM
RE: Synthetic life.
(23-03-2013 09:12 AM)devilsadvoc8 Wrote:  If I start a forest fire does that mean all forest fires are man-made?

Your analogy fails because it has been demonstrated that some fires are not man made. If abiogenesis can be demonstrated then it becomes a fact instead of an assertion.
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23-03-2013, 01:03 PM
RE: Synthetic life.
(23-03-2013 08:41 AM)FSM_scot Wrote:  It weakens the argument that life was started by god since it shows that all it takes to create life is technology, magic powers not required.

Technology can't really make life from scratch because that requires first making the universe. An act which might require what you call "magic powers". All I am saying is that we've essentially "proved" that life can originate via intelligent design, yet we haven't proved that it can originate naturally. This state of affairs weakens the atheist position.
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23-03-2013, 01:13 PM
RE: Synthetic life.
(23-03-2013 07:25 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  Heywood,

I think your argument is:
(a) Intelligences (as distinct from undirected natural processes) can create life
(b) Life exists
Therefore: It is credible to believe that our life was created by an intelligence, and the possibility of life emerging from undirected natural processes is undemonstrated.

(a) certainly appears to be true - there is nothing known to science that would prevent us from replicating existing forms of life and creating new forms of life. We have created synthetic genomes and used existing cell machinery to replicate the genome[1]. (b) certainly appears to be true.

The conclusion is where we seem to go a bit wrong. We have created simple forms of "life" in computer models - philosophers argue about what makes something alive... I personally think the simplest definitions relates to evolution.. essentially "A genome that sustains itself is able to change over time in response to environmental changes". We have created chemical components of life using natural chemical processes designed to replicate "early earth" states[2]. It seems as credible as any life intelligence-directed life creation we have so far put forward.

Moreover, assuming no natural cause for life leads to the infinite regress problem. If natural processes cannot cause life, how was the intelligence that caused life itself caused? A natural explanation for abiogenesis is simpler (from an Occam's Razor perspective) and thus more likely to be correct based on our limited knowledge.

Also - are we really only talking about the origin of life here, or are we talking about evolution since that time?



The probability of life originating on this planet via an intellect can never exceed the probability of an intellect capable of creating life existing at the time life originated on this planet. Does that make sense? Anyways what I am making here is not an argument for God, but rather pointing out that science has "proved" that intellect can be the origination of life, while abiogenesis remains largely unproven.
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23-03-2013, 01:23 PM (This post was last modified: 23-03-2013 01:27 PM by Vosur.)
RE: Synthetic life.
(23-03-2013 01:03 PM)Heywood Jahblome Wrote:  All I am saying is that we've essentially "proved" that life can originate via intelligent design
It has never been shown that life on Earth could have originated as the creation of an intelligent being.

(23-03-2013 01:03 PM)Heywood Jahblome Wrote:  yet we haven't proved that it can originate naturally.
Your ignorance of the current state of scientific research in no way negates the evidence we have to support abiogenesis.

(23-03-2013 01:03 PM)Heywood Jahblome Wrote:  This state of affairs weakens the atheist position.
What "atheist position"?

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23-03-2013, 01:37 PM
RE: Synthetic life.
(23-03-2013 01:03 PM)Heywood Jahblome Wrote:  Technology can't really make life from scratch because that requires first making the universe. An act which might require what you call "magic powers". All I am saying is that we've essentially "proved" that life can originate via intelligent design, yet we haven't proved that it can originate naturally. This state of affairs weakens the atheist position.
Why does it require magic for a universe to appear? Surely we once thought that lightning was magical. You haven't demonstrated that an intelligence is required for the creation of universes. I don't know the specifics of the cause, and we shouldn't pretend we do by saying it was an intelligence.

Answering a mystery of a cause with another mystery without a cause isn't really answering the question.

We could have an eternal and intelligent god that created the universe, one that interferes or one that doesn't.
We could also have eternal natural laws that inevitably resulted in the creation of our universe.

Why does it seem more likely that an intelligence rather than physical laws existed forever and created the universe?

Physical laws in our universe are much less temporal than intelligence. Why would the same not be true if there exists anything beyond our universe?

2.5 billion seconds total
1.67 billion seconds conscious

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23-03-2013, 02:00 PM (This post was last modified: 23-03-2013 02:11 PM by Ghost.)
RE: Synthetic life.
Hey, Wood.

Did you not just contradict yourself? If you don't accept Venter, then synthetic life HASN'T been proven, so you're back to square one.

I agree that intellect is a viable candidate for the formation of life. But it has been pointed out that if panspermia is correct, life still had to originate somewhere. Also, if life was created by some naturally occurring intellect, then that intellect is not God, it's just a naturally occurring phenomenon like the rest of us. It's also been pointed out that if God did the work, then he used magical powers to do so, so it's less intellect as is comparable to our own, and more about having supernatural powers; in which case, our achievements are meaningless. Any way you slice it, if humans have/will produce synthetic life, it in no way comments on whether God created life and merely opens the door for aliens. In terms of its commentary on abiogenesis, if the intellect was natural, then it had to come from somewhere; suggesting abiogenesis. If the intellect was Godlike, then our abilities are irrelevant.

The great difficulty for the intellect argument is evolution. Evolution doesn't require a bus driver. It is an automated system. So if an intellect created the first life, it's unlikely that it created anything else... actually, that's not fair... it could very well make adjustments or introduce entirely new organisms as it saw fit, but it wouldn't have had to. If I set a ball rolling down a hill, I can interfere however I like. I can block it, slow it, divert it, blow it up, add more balls, whatever. But if I did nothing, the ball would still roll down the hill. Once I set it in motion, it no longer needs me.

Now I know that you haven't used either God or creationism, so I understand that your argument is broader than that (too bad not everyone can see that). So while I feel that our creating life would have no commentary on any divine influence, it would prove that it was possible that a naturally occurring alien intellect could plausibly have created us. But there's so much information missing, that it's pure conjecture.

For me, abiogenesis is the simplest answer. We know that molecules form, we know that life is a molecular process, so it's likely just a mundane molecular process that occurs wherever it can occur. I feel that Miller-Uray's discovery of how amino acids may have formed and Fox's discovery of how microspheres form lends a lot to the idea, but yes, it's not proven.

At the end of the day, the only two possibilities are God or natural process. Because alien engineers (real ones, not those stupid ones from that sack of shit Prometheus) would have to either be created by God or natural process.

As an Agnostic, I hold that the existence of God or the question of God's actions are indemonstrable. So even if it's true, we'll never know. Abiogenesis is demonstrable, but is undemonstrated, so I can't accept that either. What I can and do accept is that it just took one single-celled organism to put the development of all life on Earth into motion.


Hey, Asp.

What you wrote doesn't really speak to the argument as presented. It's not a matter of "have to" or not. If the evidence tells us that a creating intellect is a possibility, then we have to accept that. Wood basically echoed what others have said. If a naturally occurring intellect created life, there's still the question of where that technology wielding intellect came from.

Hey, Vosur.

Don't get your knickers in a bunch, you know exactly what he means by Atheist position. Technically it's correct, because while Atheism makes no positive statements, Theism does, one of which is that God created life and the universe; ergo, if someone is saying that life arose as a natural process, then it is a non-Theist position; ergo, an Atheist position Cool

Peace and Love and Empathy,

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