For this exercise, visit the “Talk.Origins” website linked to the BIOL 471 homepage. Talk.Origins is a site devoted to the evolution/creation controversy, and provides information or links to both sides of the argument (although it takes a scientific view itself), so a visitor can obtain unedited information directly from the sources (both scientific and creationist), overviews of various evolution topics, discussion sites and other interesting information. For the quiz this week you need to link only to the page on abiogenesis that provides several discussions about creationist calculations that are used to demonstrate the improbability of abiogenesis. After reading this material, be prepared to answer the questions below.
1. A common creationist claim is that life is too complex to arise
spontaneously by random processes. According to Musgrave ( Lies, Damned
Lies, Statistics, and Probability of Abiogenesis
Calculations), does the mainstream scientific view (basically the Oparin-Haldane hypothesis) actually say that life arose
spontaneously by random processes?
2. Self-replication is a basic feature of all living organisms, and this
requires self-replicating molecules. Give an example of a self-replicating
molecule. Is there only one type of self-replicating molecule known to science?
3. Creationists frequently cite "Borel's
Law" as evidence that abiogenesis too unlikely
to have ever actually happened. What is "Borel's
Law" (Borel's Law and the Origin of Many Creationist Probability
Assertions by John Stockwell)? What (if anything)
did Borel actually say about abiogenesis
4. One of the more familiar creationist books
is Jonathan Wells' Icons of
Evolution: Science or Myth? Why Much of What We Teach About Evolution Is Wrong.
To see specifically what Wells says about about
abiogenesis and prebiotic
earth conditions you have to buy his book. But you can get the general idea
from this website What does he imply about the
scientific evidence concerning abiotic earth
conditions? What does he leave out of the discussion? By the way, you should
look at the coverage of the rest of his book. This has become a standard
creationist textbook since it's publication.
5. A very good overview of origin of life theory can be found here (by Albrecht Moritz). You will find, for example, that the widely-held view that "genes came first, then metabolism" is being challenged by many workers in the field. Why is this? The "RNA World hypothesis" is also being questioned (why?). These ideas are also available in Gen-e-sis: The Scientific Quest for Life’s Origins (2005) by Robert Hazen (A GMU Robisnson Professor). For our purposes, it is worth noting that controversy in science is a sign of healthy scientific debate and activity. It makes a field attractive to scientists and funding agencies. However, when there is controversy over theories in science, creationists use this to argue that theories are wrong and should not be taught (especially if they upset the deeply religious). The difference between scientific controversies in the field and the politically-charged attacks by creationists should be obvious to you as you read this and the other articles.