Is the JCVI Syn3 argument flawed?

(Jon Earnshaw) #1

This argument appears too easy. So is there a fatal flaw in it?

In 2010 the John Craig Venter Institute in Maryland USA, successfully made a synthetic bacterium which can replicate itself millions of times over. There are many definitions of ‘what is life?’ but one is that there must be a form of self-replication. The clue (not evidence) to a supernatural creator is the fact that jcvi syn3 did not make itself and did not arise out of nothing. It took over 20 scientists and 10 years of hard work.

(Randy) #2

Thanks. Can you link the report?

I would agree with you, from what I understand your saying, that inability to make life is not evidence for a creator, any more than any other gaps argument is. I’m pretty much an ignoramus about a lot of things, but theologically I think I’m OK with abiogenesis. @pevaquark can likely comment more.

Here’s Wikipedia: On May 21, 2010, Science reported that the Venter group had successfully synthesized the genome of the bacterium Mycoplasma mycoides from a computer record and transplanted it into an existing cell of Mycoplasma capricolum that had its DNA removed. The team used M. mycoides instead of M. genitalium because it grew faster. The new bacterium was viable—that is, capable of replicating billions of times—but not, strictly speaking, a truly synthetic life form.[b 1] (emphasis mine)

(Matthew Pevarnik) #3

Er, that sounds like what this one blogger once called the Ten Laws of Creationism. In particular this one seems to apply here:

The Law of Reproducible Results : Anything found in nature was Designed, unless it can be reproduced in the lab. Corollary: Anything intentionally done in a lab is not natural; it’s a purposeful result. Therefore, all lab results are evidence of Intelligent Design.

My take is that there is no excluding God by finding natural explanations to things since I believe He created and upholds the laws of nature. So I don’t really have a bone to pick nor particularly recommend trying to find evidence of God in scientific experiments.

(Mitchell W McKain) #4


The same result can come about by different causes. So…

  1. If we see window broken by some complete random accident then does that mean that windows can only be broken by accident?
  2. A student solving a math problem when he knows the answer can come up with some pretty bizarre methods of getting that answer. Does that mean that doing it the right way cannot produce the same answer?
  3. Evolutionary algorithms can make superior designs for things like an antenna which we never thought of. But does that mean human engineers could never have come up with a design like that themselves? I don’t think so.

And self replication is not an adequate definition of life. Not even close. Life is a self-organizing process with the ability to learn and adapt with bifurcation (choices). A synthetic bacterium is just a machine not a living organism.

(Jon Earnshaw) #5

I dont think ‘The Law of Reproducable Results’ actually exists as a scientific law or law of nature such as ‘The Law of Gravity’. Or perhaps it has a different name. If it does exist then please send me link or a definition. I can then comment on the other things you said

(Phil) #6

No, it was sarcasm from a site that is a bit more biting than this one. While the accomplishment of synthesizing DNA and putting it in a cell and having it work is pretty remarkable, it is still a long way from synthetic life.

That is the question, isn’t it. In the back of my mind, though I feel while evolution is the process God used to get us here, there is a little something that makes me think God had to nudge or jump start here and there to get it over the hump, to energize the starting capacitors. Like @Randy, I think I am Ok with abiogenesis, but can understand if someone is not.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #7

Ah sorry, @jpm is correct as the link I shared is meant to be a joke. If you read enough intelligent design literature you will find the blog post characterizes their main arguments pretty well. Intelligent design is a philosophical or theological position, but isn’t scientific. I think that it by and large leaves the realm of scientific inquiry when someone makes the claim such and such wasn’t designed or such and such was clearly designed. By and large such arguments left scientific literature in the mid 1800s when we began to discover that species could go extinct. That was troubling for many people from a natural theology perspective (i.e. that meant that God didn’t perfectly design all creatures for their environments). What does this mean for OoL research or arguments regarding God and abiogenesis? Well, no experiment will either demonstrate anything for or against God. For the theist, like many here, it all is handiwork of God regardless of whether we have a sufficient natural explanation or not. For others in the Christian camp, the lack of explanation is typically regarded as evidence for God but is shaky ground to stand on.

(system) closed #8

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