Intelligent Agency is the best explanation for the origin of life in this universe
First round is for acceptance only
The question of the origin of life is directly tied in a fundamental way to our worldview. We must keep in mind that we are not only struggling toward truth here; we need to decide how to balance the very real influence of our worldview. The relationship that we establish between the truth and our worldview is critical in approaching this subject in a way that it would not be if we were exploring a metaphysically neutral question. If we value truth above our worldview, then the truth will tend to inform and shape our worldview. If, on the other hand, we value our worldview more than truth, we will be happy to embrace truth insofar as it is consistent with our worldview, but when it becomes problematic to our worldview, we will tend to treat the truth with contempt; twisting it, rationalizing against it, or ignoring it as we see fit in the service of protecting our worldview. This debate should serve only those who are willing to put truth ahead of worldview.
Origin of life research is rooted in and dedicated to the primary axiom that purely natural processes are capable of producing life from non-life. If the primary axiom is wrong, the entire research program is doomed to failure. Where does the confidence for this axiom come from? Does any empirical basis exist? If my opponent is to succeed in advancing a more plausible explanation for the origin of life than intelligent agency, these are two of the many fundamental questions he must address. In the course of this debate, I will develop the case that this primary axiom is rooted in blind faith. I will also show that all empirical data point unambiguously toward the necessary role of intelligent agency - a Creator - in the origin of life.
Specifically, I will defend two fundamental premises which flow logically into the conclusion that intelligent agency is the best explanation for life:
1. All organisms that can be unambiguously identified as "being alive" manifest and owe their existence to Universal Information/Prescriptive Information (both terms are defined below).
2. Intelligent Agency is the only known cause capable of producing Universal Information/Prescriptive Information.
As I develop my case, con will be obliged to demonstrate that at least one of the two premises is incorrect, or that the conclusion does not follow from the premises if he is to have any chance of success. The successful defense of my case depends to no small extent on an understanding of several precisely defined terms. I devote the rest of my opening statement to defining several of these key terms:
*Agency: the capacity of an agent (a person or other entity, human, or living being in general, or soul conscious in religion) to act in a world .
*Universal Information (UI): a symbolically encoded, abstractly represented message conveying the expected action(s) and intended purpose(s) .
*Prescriptive Information (PI): PI either tells us what choices to make, or is a recordation of wise choices already made...PI does far more than merely describe...(it) designs, creates, engineers, controls, and regulates. PI requires anticipation and choice with intent
*Symbol system: a means of recordation or communication that employs symbols to represent and encode meaning. Symbol systems allow recordation of deliberate choices and the transmission of linear digital PI. Formal symbol selection can be instantiated into physicality using physical symbol vehicles (tokens). Material symbol systems (MSS) formally assign representational meaning to physical objects.
*Formalism: A system of rules of thought or action typically involving symbol systems and requiring choices to be made at decision nodes, logic gates, or configurable switch settings. Formalisms employ conceptual representationalism, mathematics, and/or categorical groupings of related ideas.
*Code: A representation symbol system used to assign associations (e.g. via a codon table) or to convey meaningful messages (e.g., messenger molecules).
*Contingency: In a past-tense context, contingency means that an event could have happened other than how it happened. In a present and future context, contingency means that events can unfold in multiple ways.
*Choice Contingency: freedom from determinism involving a purposeful selection from among real options. Choice contingency is exercised by agents with intent for a reason and a purpose. The goal of choice contingency is almost always some form of utility that is valued by the chooser.
 Babylon online dictionary; also Wikipedia
 Gitt, "Without Excuse," 2011
 The First Gene, edited by David Abel, 2011
I appreciate joepalcsak for his remarks towards embracing the truth rather than protecting a worldview. However, it seems we have a very different methodology for discovering these truths. I will support my case below with rigorous scientific studies based on solid evidence (as well as some probability inferences) but my opponent has not laid even one piece of evidence on the table. What my opponent has done is make a fairly vague (even with definitions) and weak two premise argument that is supposed to show why intelligent agency is the best explanation for the origin of life. The main problem with his argument is that there is absolutely no evidence to back it up. There are also definitions written by my opponent which aren’t used at all in his argument, I hope he can connect those dots for me and the audience in the next round. Abiogenesis is the natural process by which life arose from non-living matter such as simple organic compounds. In this round I will show the mounds of evidence supporting abiogenesis which on it's own is an argument against creation from some "intelligent agency."
Probabilities and Rationality:
If the chances of abiogenesis occurring in any one habitable planet in our universe was one in a hundred million, it would be not only probable but extremely likely. Estimates predict that the number of habitable planets in the milky way alone is 100 billion, while the total in our entire universe is 50 sextillion [1. http://www.extremetech.com...]. When we consider the probabilities of abiogenesis taking place anywhere on a habitable planet in our universe then even a one in a hundred million chance would result in 500,000,000,000 (five hundred trillion) instances. Therefore, even an extremely low probability of abiogenesis taking place in any one habitable planet could result in highly frequent instances as the universe is unimaginably vast. However, I hope my opponent can agree that finding out an accurate probability of these types of events are ridiculous as there are many different theories regarding abiogenesis and none of them can be quantified precisely. The core of the errors in the probability calculations is a failure to assume that life evolved in steps, with each step governed by physical laws. For example, calculate the probability of a snowflake forming. If one supposes that each of the illions of water molecules randomly arrives at its position in a six-pointed snowflake, then there is no chance of a single snowflake forming in the history of the universe. In fact, snowflakes form as a consequence of rules that are part of the properties of water molecules. The probability is correctly calculated only from an understanding of the governing laws and the process. For these reasons, I will be discussing the evidence, tests, hypotheses, and theories instead of probabilities to support the justification and rationality of believing in abiogenesis as the primary source of life.
Theories and Supporting Evidence of Abiogenesis:
There is no one “standard” model of the origin of life. Many accepted models draw from the outline described under the Oparin-Haldane hypothesis. This hypothesis postulates a reduced atmosphere when life began around 3.5 billion years ago. One of the main sources I will be using comes from the Wikipedia page for abiogenesis which contains around 176 different scientific references and several relevant hypotheses/theories [2. http://en.wikipedia.org...].
There is no "standard model" of the origin of life. Most currently accepted models draw at least some elements from the framework laid out by the Oparin-Haldane hypothesis. The Oparin-Haldane hypothesis poses that the early Earth’s atmosphere was chemically reducing and primarily consisted of methane (CH4), ammonia (NH3), water (H2O), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), carbon dioxide (CO2) orcarbon monoxide (CO), and phosphate (PO43-), with molecular oxygen (O2) and ozone (O3) either rare or absent. In this atmosphere electrical activity, impact shocks, and ultraviolet light has the potential to catalyze the creation of the basic molecules (and monomers) of life.
The Miller-Urey experiment showed that this is possible under simulated conditions of the early earth [3. http://en.wikipedia.org...]. It confirmed the hypothesis that our Earth favored the synthesis of organic compounds from inorganic compounds. The experiment produces over 20 different amino acids all of which are seen naturally in living organisms to this day. It must also be noted that even if our Earth didn’t synthesize organic compounds (evidence says it does and that it is a highly favored reaction) many organic compounds may have come to earth via meteorites. Over 27,000 of these types of meteorites called chondrites [4. http://en.wikipedia.org...] have already been discovered and many are shown to be rich with organic molecules. One specific example is a very popular chondrite known as the Murchison meteorite [5. http://en.wikipedia.org...]; it has been thoroughly researched and shown to contain organic compounds.
Sidney W. Fox studied the spontaneous formation of peptide structures under conditions early Earth conditions. He demonstrated that amino acids could spontaneously form small peptides. These amino acids and peptides could then form proteinoid microspheres which have multiple properties that are similar to cells. The microspheres are able to asexually divide via binary fission, could form junctions with other microspheres, and developed a double membrane corresponding to that of a cell [6. http://en.wikipedia.org...].
The RNA world hypothesis says that the polymerization of nucleotides into RNA may be the result of self-replicating ribozymes [7. http://en.wikipedia.org...]. Selection pressures for catalytic efficiency and diversity may have resulted in ribozymes which catalysepeptidyl transfer (hence formation of small proteins), since oligopeptides complex with RNA to form better catalysts. The first ribosomemay have been created by such a process, resulting in more prevalent protein synthesis. Synthesized proteins might then outcompete ribozymes in catalytic ability, and therefore become the dominant biopolymer, relegating nucleic acids to their modern use, predominantly as a carrier of genomic information.
Expert opinion says abiogenesis is inevitable:
Forty of the top scientists studying abiogenesis have collaborated on a book Origins, Abiogenesis and the Search for Life in the Universe, Michael Russell, etc... They conclude that abiogenesis is not merely likely, but inevitable. It seems all but impossible for abiogenesis to not occur in someplace at sometime it is all just a consequence of chemistry.
Shortly after elucidating the DNA structure with James Watson, Francis Crick discovered that DNA is actually a genetic code. We now know that the DNA/RNA/protein synthesis system is a genetic information system. Moreover, this information system manifests code, syntax, and semantics, just as information systems we are familiar with do; information systems such as human language and computer language. This specific type of information has been called Universal Information(UI), and Prescriptive Information(PI).
As defined earlier, code is a representational symbol system. The symbols of the DNA/RNA/protein synthesis system are the four nucleotides(adenine, cytocine, guanine and thyamine/uracil). Syntax is defined as the rules of grammar. The syntax of this system recognizes that the string of nucleotides must be read as unbroken triplets (codons). Semantics is defined as abstract (representational) meaning. For example, the symbols d-o-g in our language combine to represent that loveable four legged creature. They are not a dog. They represent a dog. In genetic language, the symbols TAA represent a command to stop building the growing chain of nucleotides. They are not the command. They represent the command.
Crick understood the implications. He knew that the presence of UI meant that intelligent agency had to be the cause. True to his atheistic worldview, he proposed an alien intelligence as the agent behind life on earth. It is worth noting that in their paper proposing directed panspermia as an explanation for the origin of the information of life, Crick and Orgel confessed that they were biased and their proposition lacked scientific support. In other words, it was scientific discovery that led them to realize the essential role of intelligent agency in the OOL, and it was their worldview which drove them to conclude that "aliens done it".
Crick's discovery changed everything. At least it should have. Before the sequence hypothesis, the working assumption was that the mystery of the OOL was a matter of understanding the right physiochemical pathway. Therefore, the study of the OOL was wholly devoted to discovering that pathway. But this was an assumption that was ignorant of the inner workings of the cell. Knowledge has replaced ignorance.
In the wake of the sequence hypothesis, there are those who have come to terms with the new reality: "The genetic information system is the software of life and, like the symbols in a computer, it is purely symbolic and independent of its environment", "It is sequences and codes that make the difference between life and matter. It is semiosis (symbol translation system) that does not exist in the inanimate world, and that is why biology is not a complex form of chemistry", "DNA is a neutral carrier of information, independent of its physics and chemistry". In fact, new research fields have opened up under the inspiration of the new paradigm. Bioinformatics studies the information of living systems. Biosemiosis looks at the symbol systems of life.
Symbol systems are distinguished by their immaterial nature. Yockey recognizes this:"The existence of a genome and the genetic code divides living organisms from non-living matter,". Norbert Weiner, the father of Cybernetics adds, "Information is Information, neither matter nor energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day". Such a materialism my opponent suffers from. Note that his opening argument does not address genetic information at all!
Recall that in round two I observed that if the primary axiom (life is the result of purely natural processes) that drives OOL research is false, the entire enterprise is doomed to failure. We have seen that genetic information undergirds all life. Unless purely natural processes are capable of creating UI, the primary axiom is false. Things do not look good:
*UI requires the intentional states of agents. Natural processes are incapable of intentional states.
*UI is an immaterial, abstract reality. Natural processes are purely physicochemical reality every step of the way.
*UI is based on voluntary, arbitrary rules. Natural processes are governed by deterministic laws. There is no choice.
*UI requires choice contingency at the decision node level, free from determinism. Deterministic law destroys the ability to create UI by freezing logic gates.
Based on everything we know about the properties and qualities of abstract reality and of natural processes, both the causal sufficiency of intelligent agency and the casual insufficiency of purely natural processes seem to be ontologically evident. I make the bold claim that intelligent agency is the only cause capable of producing the UI of life. This claim is remarkably easy to falsify: produce a single empirical example of natural processes creating UI.
At this time it is impossible to discern my opponent's insights into the origin of the UI of life, as he has yet to even address it. Thus far, his entire argument is built upon a pre-Watson/Crick understanding - or to be more accurate, a lack of understanding - of the genetic information that drives all life. While it is now known that abstract information systems, symbol systems, arbitrary rule based assignments, and holistic cybernetic networks are what need to be explained, my opponent remains content to wallow in the tar  of the Miller/Urey experiment.
Indeed, in his opening argument, my opponent promises a "mountain of evidence," but delivers instead a mountain of speculation. For example, one short paragraph on the hypothetical "RNA world" hypothesis contains as many speculative musings as it does sentences: "may be...may have...may have been...might then." Note that where speculation exists, empirical confirmation does not. In other words, even before he addresses biological information, my opponent has failed to support even his pre-Watson/Crick position.
In addition to being completely beside the point and unable to defend even the outdated model it defends , my opponent's argument suffers from many other problems. While I intend to continue to focus on my own positive argument, I will highlight these problems as space allows.
 "The Sequence Hypothesis," Crick
 "Directed Panspermia," Crick and Orgel, 1972
 " Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life," Yockey, 2005
 "Life is Semiosis - the Biosemiotic View of Nature," Barbieri
 "Evolution and Me," National Review 7/17/06, Gilder
 "Cybernetics," 2nd edition, p. 132
"The predominant product (produced by the Miller/Urey experiment) was a sticky, black substance made up of numerous carbon atoms strung together in what was essentially a tar," Thompson and Harrub. Note that Thompson and Harrub are merely stating here that which is commonly reported. The fact is that biologically relevant molecules do not hang around, waiting for other biologically relevant molecules to bind to. The physical world contains many more non-relevant molecules than relevant. This is major problem for any purely physicochemical OOL model
I appreciate joepalcsak for extrapolating on his round one definitions and piecing together a new argument relating DNA to universal information (UI). Regardless of the new argument my opponent still has yet to provide a shred of evidence which would suggest his position to be true. He relies solely on the soundness of his argument. In this round I will show the points of inconsistency in his arguments and respond to his rebuttals of mine.
Rebuttal to Round 2 Argument
Comparing DNA to Universal Information (UI) is an equivocation fallacy. In an evolutionary sense DNA could be loosely comparable to a type of information represented as a sequence of nucleotide triplets (codons) but it is all within the grounds of complex biological chemistry (as opposed to something abstract and immaterial posited by UI). The useful DNA sequences with proper transcription definitely have potential to eventuality produce various physical traits through transcription of DNA into protein structures and eventually whole organisms. But no physics and chemistry-based process in between requires any appeal to anything metaphysical or any intelligent agency, in fact the inefficiency our biological processes and the many errors involved in DNA transcription infer otherwise. The only symbols that arise from these codons are the ones we assign to them: A for Adenine, G for Guanine, C for Cytosine, and T for Thymine (in DNA and U for Uracil in RNA). The only reason we assign these symbols is so we can specify, communicate, and study them in a more precise manner. Therefore DNA is not at all a message or a language in the same sense as a phrase in English they are chemical structures which have evolved over a very long span of time to produce a wide array of simple and complex organisms. Premise (2) is just another unfalsifiable assumption.
Rebuttal to Round 3 Arguments
The central issue with joepalcsak’s argument is that he assigns DNA to be some sort of non-physical type of symbolic information. He quotes, "The genetic information system is the software of life and, like the symbols in a computer, it is purely symbolic and independent of its environment" and "DNA is a neutral carrier of information, independent of its physics and chemistry.” The main problem here is that my opponent fails to recognize that DNA is in fact nothing more than complex chemistry, and it is exactly what one would expect if evolution by natural selection would take place. Yes specific codons do eventually code for specific body parts but none of this would take place if it were not for all the physics and chemistry which systematically transcribe these codons into protein structures one by one. The entirety of the process works perfectly without any assumption of some nonphysical/symbolic information system and especially without any intelligent design. My opponent fails to reveal to the audience that over 98% of human DNA is junk DNA, so they do not encode any meaningful or functional protein sequences. Yes, there is some evidence that small portions of this junk DNA still may have some other miniscule functions (such as being transcribed into functional non-coding RNA sequences) but it is not conceivable that all of this DNA is actually utilized by cells. A significant portion of the non-coding DNA isn’t even transcribed in some cells at all. This serves as two points against any type of intelligent creation as well as against any meaningful symbol as a large portion of DNA is inactive and makes for a very inefficient design flaw. Furthermore many of the biological processes involved in transcribing this DNA are vulnerable and actually highly likely to perform errors in DNA replication. This is what leads us all to have slight genetic mutations and diverse physical characteristics. These various mutations may be beneficial, detrimental, or completely neutral for any particular organism. If this biological process were highly efficient, there were less transcription errors, less junk DNA, and mutations were significantly more beneficial then we may then begin to suspect some type of intelligent creator but all the evidence thus far says otherwise. The error prone, inefficient, chemically composed and overall indifferent biological processes which govern our cells and our existence is exactly what one would expect from abiogenesis along with evolution through natural selection. My opponent may add as many unnecessary assumptions as he likes but he is blatantly breaking Ockham’s razor as well as Hitchens razor which states, “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”
Joepalcsak writes: “ …it was scientific discovery that led them to realize the essential role of intelligent agency in the OOL[Origin of Life], and it was their worldview which drove them to conclude that "aliens done it.”
Even if aliens DID create DNA for life on earth, this would still not prove that intelligent agency is the best explanation for the origin of life in this universe. The aliens themselves could have developed through completely naturalistic causes in their own environment. There are many different pathways to abiogenesis which I listed in round 2 we may not know with absolute certainty which occurred or even if all possibilities have been listed. Nonetheless, we can say these naturalistic explanations are much more likely than some intelligent agency because they actually have various sources of evidence.
Joepalcsak writes: "Symbol systems are distinguished by their immaterial nature. Yockey recognizes this:"The existence of a genome and the genetic code divides living organisms from non-living matter,". Norbert Weiner, the father of Cybernetics adds, "Information is Information, neither matter nor energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day". Such a materialism my opponent suffers from. Note that his opening argument does not address genetic information at all!"
I do not see any reason to assume that symbols are immaterial. Symbols are represented by various physical mediums how does my opponent even know that something nonphysical exists (I include energy as physical)? Colloquially, information is some amount of data, code or text that is stored, sent, received or manipulated in any medium so yes it exists as materials. I do not see any reason why my materialism is challenged by this quote, you have not shown any inconsistencies in my position nor shown any evidence to support the assertion that symbols or information are anything more than material representations of what we conceive in our brains.
Joepalcsak writes: Indeed, in his opening argument, my opponent promises a "mountain of evidence," but delivers instead a mountain of speculation.
Well I did provide tons of evidence just look through all the possible sources referenced in my wiki entries and other linked articles. No amount of evidence will ever tell us with absolute certainty which exact path actually took place 3.5 billion years ago. It is long past any direct empirical observation and is indeed impossible (with the limited technology we have now). The best we can do is replicate early Earth conditions and see if organic compounds form which they do spontaneously and in abundance! I’m sorry joepalcsak that scientists are only being too honest and humble in speculating (with valid experimental data) things that may have happened 3.5 billion years ago. I do not have the intellectual dishonesty nor the audacity that my opponent seems to have in asserting life was created through an intelligent agency with no evidence at all. My opponent blatantly mischaracterizes what DNA truly is throughout this debate using customized definitions and semantic games for his benefit. Considering that my opponent has yet to provide a shred of evidence for his position, I do not expect any to be forthcoming and it will be his greatest downfall among the others. I await my opponent’s response.
I promised to defend two premises which flow logically into the conclusion that life is the result of intelligent agency. I have done exactly that. My opponent raised no objection at all against my second premise, therefore it is safe to assume that we are in agreement that intelligent agency is the only cause capable of producing UI/PI, It is my first premise, then, to which he objects.
Orangatang accuses me of an equivocation fallacy in referring to the DNA/RNA protein synthesis system as UI. Yet as much as he wishes he could, he is not able to distance himself from the truth. Notice:"DNA could be loosely comparable to a type of information represented as a sequence of nucleotide triplets (codons)," and, "Yes, specific codons do eventually code for specific body parts." (this is a little incomplete. Specific codons code for specific amino acids. Growing linear chains of amino acids then prescribe specific proteins). In these two brief passages, con admits to all of the attributes of UI (code, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics)! He simply attributes the process purely to physics and chemistry and denies that what is being described in his own words is information. He won't get away with either.
Orangatang claims: "No physics and chemistry based process in between (the DNA to protein process) requires any appeal to...intelligent agency." Later he adds, "DNA is...nothing more than complex chemistry." Note that by his own (albeit inaccurate) admission, he is aware that it is the specific sequence of nucleotides that prescribe each successive amino acid (aa), and the specific sequence of aa's that prescribe proteins. Thus, it is the sequence that is of paramount importance. But contra Orangatang, the sequencing of the nucleotides is physico-chemically inert! In other words, there is NO physical determinism in the sequencing! Yet the sequences are clearly meaningful, and they are meaningful in an abstract way!
Similarly, there is no physico-chemical determinism involved in the codon assignments. For example, I pointed out earlier that TAA represents a "stop" command.
To my statement that symbol systems are distinguished by their abstract nature, Orangatang replies:"I do not see any reason to assume that symbols are immaterial" This reply betrays a foundational misunderstanding of UI. It is not the symbols themselves that are immaterial; it is the abstract representation - the information flowing from the specific sequence of symbols that is immaterial. Apart from the rybozome and the lab, and absent the syntax and semantics of the UI of life, TAA will never influence a growing chain of aa's to stop growing. The problems for a physico-chemical explanation for this abstract representation is indeed very real and despite my opponent's bravado, physics and chemistry alone do not explain the UI system of life. They do not explain the sequences nor the symbolic meaning.
Three different times in round 3, Orangatang claims that I have not produced any evidence at all to support my position. In defending my first premise (All organisms that can be unambiguously defined as being alive manifest and owe their existence to UI/PI), I have allowed recognized giants and pioneers in their relevant disciplines to make my case: Crick(biology), Orgel(chemistry), Yockey(information theory), Barbieri(biosemiosis), and Weiner(cybernetics). With the possible exception of Barbieri, all of these men desperately hope(d) for a naturalistic pathway to the origin of life. To this collection, permit me to add one more: Richard Dawkins is arguably the world's most recognizable apologist for both atheism and Darwinian evolution. In this embedded interview, he says, "genes are...coded information," and that "a chromosome is a great long computer tape."
Furthermore, I have pointed to not just one, but two new scientific research fields which have arisen out of the reality of genetic information: bioinformatics and biosemiosis. For my opponent to insist over and over that I have presented no evidence is unhelpful and clearly dishonest. But please allow me to add even greater evidence:
Until this point, the case for the UI of life has been made solely on the DNA/RNA protein synthesis system. Let us now turn to yet another profound misunderstanding revealed by Orangatang in the last round. He charged: "My opponent fails to reveal...that over 98% of human DNA is junk DNA, so they do not encode any meaningful or functional protein sequences." If I had claimed that over 98% of the genome is "junk," I would be lying. The assumption that non-protein coding DNA was "junk" was an assumption from the evolutionary paradigm. The assumption was dead wrong. In just a little more than a decade, function has been discovered for more than 80% of the genome, and this number only gets higher as ignorance and wrong-headed assumption is replaced with knowledge and understanding.
The function being discovered reveals higher level function (termed "epi-genome," or 'above the genome"). These are additional information systems which control expression of the protein coding system. We have also learned that a single line of DNA can produce multiple independent messages, and that separate codes exist for splicing and transcription. In this century alone, 20 new independent genetic codes have been discovered, each operating according to arbitrary conventions, not physical determinism. Some examples: protein address codes, acetylation codes, and cytoskeleton codes. The deeper we look into life, the more cybernetic and the more advanced it becomes. This is not at all what we would expect from natural processes.
My case is very well substantiated, and the more we learn about living systems, the stronger it grows. The support I have produced is 100% empirical: UI clearly exists in the world in many ways, including in the genome. Indeed, the genome manifests the most advanced UI system we have ever encountered. Intelligent agency is always the source of UI. No counter example exists. On the other hand, my opponent continues to insist that he has presented evidence, when in reality all he has presented to this point is speculation. He has invoked more than once, 176 Wikipedia references supporting abiogenesis. Indeed, he triumphantly claims that "abiogenesis is not only likely, but inevitable." This appears under the round 2 heading, "Expert opinion..."
The truth is that when those who hope for an abiogenesis epiphany are honest, they sing a much different tune. Here is Richard Dawkins: "Nobody knows how it happened", and Klaus Dose from the 7th annual conference for the international society of the OOL: "here, for the first time, several scientists attested without contradiction that all theses on the evolution of living systems from spontaneously occurring polynucleotides are totally without experimental basis"
Of course, one empirical example from my opponent could settle the issue! In round 3, Orangatang adapted a strategy of pure denial and avoidance, riddled with falsehoods and misunderstandings. The challenge remains: defend a purely naturalistic origin for the UI of life!
 the encode project has many public access papers available online
 "The Programming of Life," Johnson, 2010
 "Without Excuse," Gitt, 2011
 "Climbing Mount Improbable," Dawkins
My opponent accuses me of misunderstanding his argument. However, as I read his rebuttals the statement remains ironic. It seems that Joe would invoke this statement regardless of my argument as long as it is not in agreement with his. It is imminent in his strategy to degrade his opponents and try to portray them as confused in conjunction with his vague definitions and disingenuous argumentative approach. In all of my arguments throughout the debate I took the time to assess my opponent’s arguments in only the most impactful possible interpretation. I demand precision especially in semantic riddled debates. I will continue to assess all new arguments in an intellectually honest way and have/will back up every statement I made thus far. I accused my opponent of not providing any relevant evidence pertaining to the resolution of the debate and I stick with it 100%. Quote mining specific individuals who agree with your position or made some analogy between DNA and code does not in any sense count as evidence. The theory in which you are trying to prove (by your own definition) is innately unfalsifiable, untestable, and therefore you will never be able to produce any such evidence. I touched on this point briefly with my appeal to a blatant violation of Ockham’s Razor but it seems exceedingly significant to extrapolate further. My opponent says:
“It is not the symbols themselves that are immaterial; it is the abstract representation - the information flowing from the specific sequence of symbols that is immaterial. “
He also labeled my quote, “I do not see any reason to assume that symbols are immaterial” as a fundamental misunderstanding of UI. He gets desperately nitpicky here because I didn’t say symbol “representations” so all of a sudden I have a profound misunderstanding. The point I was conveying is that how do you even know these abstract messages/immaterial information/whatever you want to call it actually even exist at all? How does my opponent know that individual sequences of DNA have some corresponding abstract message/action/intended purpose? Where and how would this abstract information exist? In some metaphysical dimension? In our brains/minds? What is the message, action, and intended purpose of the sequence of physical nucleotides AATGCTCGGA? The best Joe can muster is:
“There is no physico-chemical determinism involved in the codon assignments... I pointed out earlier that TAA represents a "stop" command.”
TAA is one of many stop codons which only through physio-chemical reactions will in eventuality terminate some mRNA translation [8. http://en.wikipedia.org...]. Specifically, “Stop codons signal the termination of this process by binding release factors, which cause the ribosomal subunits to disassociate, releasing the amino acid chain” [9.http://en.wikipedia.org...]. My opponent should have chosen a codon that has not yet been well studied perhaps it would strengthen his argument in his eyes. This entire process doesn’t require any abstract message to be explained, it is nothing more than a physical sequence with physical consequences. So no, my opponent has not provided any relevant evidence to show that abstract information is possible, let alone that it exists. I must also add that even if it were true that physical DNA somehow did correspond to abstractly represented information this would not prove that any intelligent agency created the first life form. Therefore, my opponent is again mistaken in assuming I agree with his second premise.
I must apologize to the audience as well as my opponent for claiming that 98% of human DNA is junk DNA (from: http://en.wikipedia.org...), apparently the more correct statement is that 65% of human DNA is known to be junk DNA. There is a significant difference in these two terms which neither I nor my opponent seemed to realize. I found a brilliant article [10. http://rationalwiki.org...] which clears this up. Noncoding DNA discusses DNA that does not code for proteins but may still have some other utility in cell processes. Junk DNA is DNA that has no functionality whatsoever. It goes on to show that 8.7% of the human genome is known to be protein coding and noncoding DNA, 65% is known to be junk DNA, and the other 26.3% is unknown but most likely still junk DNA. This article also exposes how my opponent can inflate functioning DNA to a dishonest 80% using selective data from ENCODE. The reason is that ENCODE members assume functionality as their null hypothesis. All other real scientists who seek truth assume non-functionality until evidence is forthcoming.
Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary scientific field that develops methods for storing, retrieving, organizing and analyzing biological data. Says absolutely nothing about abstract representations of DNA sir be honest. Biosemiotics is a growing field of semiotics and biology that studies the production and interpretation of signs and codes in the biological realm. Basically they do not approach biology from the perspective of molecules and chemistry rather as “signs” conveyed and interpreted by other living signs in a variety of ways. This doesn’t count as evidence towards abstract information either, why would it? It is a truly useless field that cannot be categorized under any significant scientific discipline. People are basically assigning and interpreting biological processes as symbols/meanings, what a waste of time.
Throughout the debate my opponent conflates the terms: DNA, message, universal information, prescriptive information, code, syntax, language, and sign. These are all ultimately metaphoric and help us understand DNA but can all be effectively reduced to physio-chemical interactions. DNA is not language because it has no abstract or objective meaning no matter how much my opponent likes to assert it. Nor is DNA like computer code as it has no operands. Take the example of 200 codons vs. 200 letters. If the codons correspond to a specific protein, and the codons were significantly randomly rearranged, these codons would most likely still code for a protein (yes probably a different one). However this is not the case for language or code. Only very limited combinations of language/code will produce meaningful or valid output. Rearranging 200 letters in any code or phrase will almost never yield any valid message but will yield many crashes. This is why DNA doesn’t need any intelligence behind it; ALL changes in DNA are allowable in terms of the resulting output. Many other variants of DNA mutations that do exist still allow the organism to continue without any degrading effects. The biologically complex and adaptive life forms we see today are indeed naturally realized through the trial and error process of evolution.
I believe my opponent accused me denying some challenge: “to defend a purely naturalistic origin for the UI of life.” I don’t agree that UI is “of” life in the sense that it corresponds to DNA. That is what you have failed to prove since Round 3. The only information system I think exists is entirely man-made and is real rather than abstract. We humans assign meaning to a great number of things but I do not agree that DNA has some abstract representative message or objective meaning, that is unfalsifiable nonsense. It has the same weight in evidence of the claim that: “the entire universe was created 20 seconds ago including all of our memories.” Next time make me a valid challenge I am eager to answer anything.
I had to delete 1000+ characters from this round to post it. So if I missed something please excuse it and refer to it with enthusiasm in the next round. Although I do try to maintain some level of respect for my opponent’s professionalism and skill as a debater, his arguments as a whole involves an unimpressive and wasteful semantic game based on vaguely defined terminology, quote mining, and unfalsifiable theories for which no evidence exists.
Orangatang claims that the "theory (I)... am trying to prove is innately unfalsifiable, untestable." In fact,I have offered a very simple, concrete falsification: provide a single empirical example of natural processes creating UI. For the record, I have now invited this falsification in each of the last three rounds! Every OOL experiment amounts to a test seeking to falsify agent creation! One wonders, given that life is information based and always proceeds from life, what it would take to falsify abiogenesis?
Orangatang asks how we know that this (genetic) material symbol system exists. The answer is because we observe it. "A linear string of discreet symbols that prescribes non-trivial function" precisely describes human language, computer language, and genetic language. Crick was the first to recognize this. "What is the message, action, and intended purpose of the sequence of physical nucleotides AATGCTCGGA?," con asks. My answer: the digital linear instructions for either the construction of a three dimensional functional protein needed in a living system via a 3-1 bijection code, , or for controls regulating the process. This process is aided by splicing codes, editing codes, and many other brilliantly organized information systems which constantly communicate with each other, analyzing data, and implementing solutions. Con wants us to believe that these very real information processes are nothing more than the product of our imagination. But this is not possible. Such data processing goes on in every single living cell. It has been a reality of life for billions of years before we came along! We did not construct it. We discovered it, and only recently.
I have pointed out that as we replace our ignorance with knowledge, we continue to discover more and more function for the genome. Note that in the space of one round of debate, Orangatang has gone from claiming that 98% of the genome is "junk" to 65%. That's quite a leap! It is gratifying to see that he has begun to see the light! I only hope his research will take him beyond the outdated, slanted, contradictory Wiki article he has cited.
Orangatang correctly notes that we cannot know the origin of life. The question before us here is this: Given what we do know, what is most reasonable to believe about the origin of life? Here are some of the relevant facts:
*UI undergirds all life
*Intelligent agency is the only known cause capable of creating UI
*natural processes have never been observed to produce the abstract representational meaning of UI
*Even the best hypothetical abiogenesis proposal is operationally falsified (as a point of reference, consider that peer reviewed literature estimates the chance formation of a single protein at 1 in 10^77. This is well beyond both Borel's Theorem and the Universal Plausibility Metric. It also puts the lie to this round 4 claim: "If...codons were significantly randomly rearranged, these codons would still code for a protein." Not even close!).
My case springs from our observation that the genome IS an information storage and processing system, that this system is what makes all life possible, that this system operates in every single living cell, and that the more we study this system, the more we recognize that we are looking at an interdependent holistic data sharing network. This is empirical reality. My case acknowledges our most current understandings. I have called to the stand a collection of formidable witnesses. Their testimony is magnified in two ways: 1) each is a recognized giant and pioneer in his respective relevant discipline, 2) most, if not all of them would prefer that the truth were otherwise(contra con's claim that they agree with me, they seek a naturalistic OOL). I have pointed to new fields of research that have sprung from our new knowledge (note con's own definitions of the fields. His own terms - "data, signs, codes" - only make sense in a UI context).
Life is a state of existence far from equilibrium. This state is achieved and maintained by the most advanced information storage and processing system we have ever encountered. We have every reason to believe that this system is a necessary condition for all life, to include any other life form that may exist elsewhere in the universe. We have absolutely no reason to believe otherwise.
On the other hand, my opponent brings no empirical evidence to the table at all: abiogenesis simply states that it happened. No good evidence exists, only speculations springing from the faith that it must be so. He insists on defending a pre-Watson/Crick paradigm which views the revelations of the past six decades as a dark, mysterious forest which must not be entered, and still believes that most of a genome that is now known to be almost completely functional, is "junk." Most of his case is an exercise in rationalizing why he does not need to engage the issue of genetic information!
I believe I have earned your vote, but more than that, I urge you to consider the implications that arise from the reality of the UI of life. For 30 years I believed as Orangatang does. Sometimes we need to decide whether we will cling to the truth or cling to our worldview. Sometimes, unless we allow truth to guide us, we cannot have both.
 This article merely asserts that 65% of the genome is "know junk" without defending the claim at all. It downplays the small amount of function that it concedes. It still calls this portion of the genome "non-coding." It may be non-protein coding, but it certainly codes for something! Telling is the following: "It is assumed that the unknown 26.3% is most likely junk." Why, in an era where hardly a month goes by without the discovery of more function, is this an assumption? It is both nonsense and bad math to assert that 65% of a genome which is known to be 80% functional ( a figure that is constantly rising) is junk
 Axe, 2008
Note: every argument deserves a response. Should con introduce a new argument in his conclusion, I reserve the right to address it in the comment section of this debate. For example, there is a TED video that is popular with abiogenesis fans. It is very misleading. If introduced, it should not enjoy unique immunity.
The definitions provided by Joe in Round 2 are indeed quite vague and become even less differentiable with his conflation of many other terms. The definition of UI includes “abstractly represented message” which requires a definition and explanation in itself. So does “linear digital PI” in the definition for symbol system. Throughout the debate he conflated the terms: DNA, message, universal information, prescriptive information, code, syntax, language, sign, and symbol. Regardless of all the possible interpretations of these definitions, the greatest source of confusion comes from these statements: “Information is Information, neither matter nor energy” and “UI is an immaterial, abstract reality.” If information is neither matter nor energy than how could it possibly exist? This entire debate my opponent has ignored providing any type of proof of this so called “abstract reality” where UI allegedly exists. This debate is entirely riddled with semantics because of the horde of synonyms, metaphors, and analogies given to DNA. DNA is nothing more than complex chemistry which has developed through natural evolutionary processes. Positing abstract representations that are instantiated into physicality (through some unexplained unfalsifiable process) and correspondent to DNA is indeed a vague, unnecessary, and clear violation of Ockham’s razor. The debate has become quite redundant and somewhat boring so I will respond to my opponents Round 5 statements swiftly.
Joe states: “He claims the physical process by which a stop codon executes computational halting IS the information.”
I never said the physical process IS the information that is either a desperate lie, or an oblivious misunderstanding of my argument. I explained how specific stop codons in effect stop a ribosome from continuing to link amino acids. This does not mean I believe in an abstract UI which holds some sort of “stop” message that is instantiated physically. By now my opponent knows very well that I do not believe in UI to be existent so I am inclined to believe he is desperately lying.
Joe states he offered a simple falsification of his argument in this form: “provide a single empirical example of natural processes creating UI.” As an side, if I did provide such an example, it wouldn’t disprove that an intelligent agency created UI. Joe’s claim is unfalsifiable because the very existence of UI is impossible to prove or disprove due to it’s being nonphysical but abstract.
Joe says: “The answer is because we observe it.” And claims that is his answer to me asking for “(genetic) material symbol system.” No I asked for proof of the existence of abstract UI stop conflating terminology here. I am aware that genetic materials exist and that symbol systems exist physically. I am not aware of some abstract UI nor is it possible to observe it (how convenient).
Joe states my wiki article labeled  is: “outdated, slanted, contradictory Wiki article he has cited.” This has to be the most predictable response so far. Joe claims to be seeking the truth yet he has constantly rejected every piece of evidence presented to him thus far. He rejects ALL experiments regarding the creation of amino acids from organic materials as well as all the other experiments relating to the origins of life. He huddles with his one savior of data (80% of DNA is functional) from the heavily criticized ENCORE group and will continue to do so in light of any actually reliable data. He later states “65% of DNA is known junk” is an undefended claim in the article. Here is only (1) of the 10 footnoted sources present in that article: [11. http://sandwalk.blogspot.ca...]
This won’t matter for Joe though; rest assured he will find a way to deny any real information and suggest abstract information at the same time.
Just to repeat my key points:
If these biological processes were highly efficient, there were less transcription errors, less junk DNA, and mutations were significantly more beneficial then we may then begin to suspect some type of intelligent creator but all the evidence thus far says otherwise. ALL changes in DNA are allowable in terms of the resulting output and a great deal of mutations (beneficial or not) are constantly generated. The trial and error function of evolution makes it such that DNA need no intelligence behind it at all. Furthermore DNA has sequences that are highly repetitive which even further alienates it from any type of intelligent or human language/code.
I would like to extend all my round 2 arguments as none of them have actually been shown to be inaccurate or false rather they are asserted to be (to no effect). I find it incredibly dishonest of my opponent to state that I “bring no empirical evidence to the table at all.” It is cute because he is now trying to use my statements in Round 5. This statement is clearly indefensible, I provided the best possible evidence for abiogenesis in Round 2 which is in itself much more than simple speculation. I provided more evidence of junk DNA and the physical process behind stop codons in Round 4. I invite the audience to see it all for themselves. My opponent made a note of addressing new arguments in the comments section. Of course he can do so but I urge voters to vote on what is strictly within the context of the debate. The only reason I desire this is because I simply do not have the time to respond to each comment (thoroughly) due to my double commitment of being a full-time student with a part-time job. I thank my opponent for the lively debate but alas it has come to an end. The resolution falls as all the evidence, probabilities, and rational inferences converge towards one satisfying answer: Abiogenesis is the best explanation for the origin of life in this universe.
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