Secular Web Kiosk and Bookstore

[ Recently Published Articles | Editor's Choice | Featured Books | Search | Categories ]

A Review of Hugh Ross' More Than a Theory

Nick Covington

The Origin of Life

Ross asserts (p. 139) that scientific analyses have established that "a primordial soup, or mineral substrate of prebiotic molecules, never existed on earth." Ross cites several articles to support this contention, however, I was able to find two abstracts and one full article[1] of the articles he cites, and I must say that it is not obvious to me how these publications disprove the primordial-soup hypothesis. This is something Ross needs to clarify.

Ross also misunderstands the panspermia hypothesis, the hypothesis that extraterrestrial life forms (ETs) "seeded" life on earth. He seems to be under the impression that the ETs would have had to travel to earth themselves to deliver the bacteria. He concludes that ETs could not have made it here safely, or in a reasonable time span. Yet he does not consider that they might have sent a small, automated ship boarded only by a few bacteria.

Ross also asserts, without reference, that the universe would have been too young for a highly advanced species to evolve. Yet this ignores Crick and Orgel's classic panspermia article in which they calculate that there has indeed been enough time for this to happen: After the big bang, the first generation stars would have been born, producing some heavy elements, and from there we have about 6 billion years until life on earth appears, allowing plausible time for the formation of a suitable planet and evolution of an advanced species.[2]

Perhaps the most revealing comment Ross makes about Panspermia is that he believes it does not solve the problem of the origin of life, but "merely transfers the concerns to another time and place." I say that this is revealing because throughout the book Ross marvels at the alleged improbability of life, and constantly seeks to solve the problem by invoking God, who is, in all his complexity, improbable on a level hardly imaginable to human beings.[3]

I am not saying that life on earth was seeded by extraterrestrials. My own private study has lead me to the conclusion that life almost certainly began naturally and without guidance on the early earth. Yet I do think that directed panspermia, in spite of the ridicule it receives for sounding like a sci-fi fantasy, is a plausible hypothesis which deserves to be recognized as a legitimate possible explanation of the first life on earth.

Ross criticizes (p.144) the conjectures of Stuart Kauffman, who believes self-organization played a role in the origin of life on the grounds that this contradicts the second law of thermodynamics (which Ross defines as "all systems in the universe proceed towards increasing disorder and decreasing complexity"). Yet the second law of thermodynamics says absolutely nothing about "complexity" and it is completely disingenuous for Ross to pretend it does.[4]

Other problems with Ross' case against a naturalistic origin of life include:

1. His use of the creationist canard (p.140) that too much UV light would destroy prebiotic molecules, but the only thing to block UV light would be oxygen, which would also destroy prebiotic molecules. Two points must be made: This paradox would not apply to origin of life hypotheses which take place in hydrothermal vents (deep in the ocean). Secondly, UV light has actually been shown to produce prebiotic molecules such as amino acids.[5]

2. Ross asserts the late-heavy bombardment of meteors (which took place about 3.85 billion years ago) would have wiped out all life on earth, and since the first life appears at about 3.8 billion years, this would leave only a narrow window of time for life to originate and evolve. This, Ross thinks, makes sense if there was a creator who created life as soon as the planet became habitable, but problematic for naturalistic theories because it leaves so little time for life to form. However, recent calculations have shown that the late-heavy bombardment was not intense enough to wipe out all life, and therefore life may have originated as early as 4.4 billion years ago.[6]

Evolution

In what is perhaps the first anti-evolution argument in the book, Dr. Ross brings up the old argument about the Cambrian "explosion" and how most major phyla evolved in a very short period of time (p.162). He views this as very good evidence for instantaneous creation of these phyla. However, as Dr. Larry Martin put it:

Actually, the fossil record and theory make a good fit. The higher a unit of classification is placed in the hierarchy, the earlier it is supposed to have appeared in time. Phyla are higher taxonomic levels and might be expected to appear before modern classes and orders. That is exactly what we see. We might also expect a few experiments that finally failed. They were not that different from their neighbors but lacked the marker characters of any modern phylum and so get to be phyla of their own. This inflates diversity if that is how we count it, but if we could go back in a time machine, the most impressive thing would be how uniform life was in the Cambrian.[7]

Ross also asserts (p.164) that most species have a high deleterious mutation rate, and therefore "natural selection cannot be expected to remove both the deleterious and near neutral mutations as quickly as they arise." But this is simply a subjective argument. No data is cited to back it up. The two nearest footnotes I could find referred me to a book called Genetic Entropy by John Sanford, which does not appear to have been published by an academic press. The book's description on Amazon (which claims it disproves the foundation of Darwinian Evolution) makes me suspicious of it, since a book that really did refute evolutionary theory should have no problem finding a decent publisher. The other footnote simply referred to a paper which showed that the deleterious mutation rate in humans (not "most species") was near the upper limit tolerable for survival of the species.

Ross makes several strange assertions in chapters 10-12, all of which contain no references to any peer-reviewed literature. If these assertions are not simply "arguments from personal incredulity" then Ross would strengthen his case by providing references:

1. Horse and whale species manifest no realistic probability of evolutionary advance. (p.167)

2. Vascular plants produce huge quantities of food for Earth's advanced life. Some altruistic vascular plants even make and give away food that in no way assists the plants to reproduce. (p. 175, emphasis mine)

Ross needs to back up the sentence which I placed in italics. For readers who do not know, the point Ross makes, if true, would tend to falsify evolutionary theory. As Darwin put it:

If it could be proved that any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory, for such could not have been produced through natural selection. (Origin of Species, Chapter 6).

If there were some plant which produced far more food than was beneficial to its reproductive success, and was not the byproduct of some other process necessary to the plant, this might be good evidence against evolutionary theory. However, Ross has not backed this up, so it need not be refuted.

Conclusion

Ross has a long way to go before he constructs an adequate creation model (if such a thing is possible). He needs to make sure that he cites sources for all of his claims, that his sources are trustworthy, and that his own conjectures make it into the scientific literature.

The "predictions" of Ross' creation model: www.reasons.org/rsources/predictions

I found most of the predictions listed to be very weak, though I ask the reader to judge for himself.

References

[1] DL Pinti, K Hashizume, J Matsuda "Nitrogen and argon signatures in 3.8 to 2.8 Ga metasediments: clues on the chemical state of the archean ocean and the deep biosphere" Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta Volume 65, Issue 14, 1 July 2001, pp. 2301-2315.

"13C-Depleted Carbon Microparticles in >3700-Ma Sea-Floor Sedimentary Rocks from West Greenland" Minik T. Rosing (29 January 1999) Science 283 (5402), 674. [DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5402.674] Available at: www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/283/5402/674

John Hayes, "The Earliest Memories of Life on Earth" Nature 384, 21-22 (1996). Available at: www.geol.umd.edu/~kaufman/ppt/G436/G436_PDF_library/Hayes_96.pdf All three articles were accessed 6/19/09

[2] FHC Crick and LE Orgel, "Directed Panspermia" Icarus 19 341-346 (1973) Accessed at: profiles.nlm.nih.gov/SC/B/C/C/P/_/scbccp.pdf Accessed 5/14/09

[3] See Pages 111-117, Nicholas Covington, Atheism and Naturalism

[4] www.chem1.com/acad/webtext/thermeq/TE2.html Accessed 6/12/09

Also see: "Entropy Explained" by Richard Carrier: www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/entropy.html Accessed 6/12/09

[5] Jerry S. Hubbard, James P. Hardy, Gerald E. Voecks and Ellis E. Golub "Photocatalytic synthesis of organic compounds from CO and water: Involvement of surfaces in the formation and stabilization of products" Journal of Molecular Evolution Volume 2, Numbers 2-3 / June, 1973 www.springerlink.com/content/q7744k3450n52641/

E. A. Kuzicheva, M. B. Simakov, I. L. Mal'ko, N. Ya. Dodonova and N. B. Gontareva "Role of vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) radiation in abiogenic synthesis of adenine nucleotides" Advances in Space Research Volume 18, Issue 12, 1996, Pages 65-68

K Kobayashi, M Tsuchiya, T Oshima and H Yanagawa, "Abiotic synthesis of amino acids and imidazole by proton irradiation of simulated primitive earth atmospheres." Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres 20, 99-109 (1990). Available at: www.springerlink.com/content/g1431n5k50g8r257/ All three articles were accessed 6/12/09

[6] University of Colorado at Boulder (2009, May 20). Asteroid Attack 3.9 Billion Years Ago May Have Enhanced Early Life On Earth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 13, 2009, from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090520140403.htm

[7] www.arn.org/docs/wells/jw_iconoclast0201.htm Accessed 6/19/09


Interested in publishing on the Secular Web? See the Submission Guidelines & Instructions.

Disclaimer: Kiosk articles represent the viewpoint of their authors and should not be taken as necessarily representative of the viewpoint of Internet Infidels and/or the Secular Web. Full disclaimer here.

Copyright 2009, Internet Infidels, Inc. Copyright info here.

Published:
  2009-07-14

Categories:
  Book Reviews, Evolution vs. Creationism

Top