Another lame justification for "intelligent design"
This is an argument from incredulity (a. k. a. a divine fallacy) of the worst sort, with a false dilemma thrown in for good measure. The false dilemma (a. k. a. the false dichotomy) is Dembski's apparent implication that, because Dr. Morowitz (or anyone else) hasn't yet been able to reconstitute a biochemical pathway without using enzymes, it must mean that these pathways couldn't have come about by evolution. In other words, either we can somehow recreate networks of biochemical pathways in a test tube now without enzymes, or evolution must be incorrect. Never mind that he is mixing abiogenesis (how life came about from nonlife) with evolution, which says nothing about how life originally came about, only how it evolves after coming into existence. This is a favorite stupid ID trick, mainly because evolution is so well supported by the evidence but we know much less about abiogenesis, making it more speculative science. In any case, it is disingenuous to argue that, because metabolic pathways are so complex now and because they can't be reproduced in a test tube without enzymes, that God--excuse me, a "designer"--must have done it. It has taken billions of years of evolution to come up with the network of enzymes that catalyze the reactions, and scientists are developing plausible evolutionary mechanisms that could account for such pathways, despite ID advocates' claims otherwise. Just because Dembski can't imagine how such complex metabolic pathways might have developed through naturalistic processes (making them "irreducibly complex," according to his terminology), he concludes that God--sorry, I mean a "designer"--must have done it.At the time, Morowitz was quite taken with the biochemical and metabolic pathways in the human body and was examining possible self-organizational scenarios for how they might have emerged (for the staggering complexity of what needs to be explained, go here — click on portions of this “map” to zoom in). I asked him if he had made any progress in creating any portions of these pathways without using biogenic materials. He immediately replied, “You mean without enzymes.” I said, “yes.” He said, “no.”
I take this NO to be a huge admission and concession. Brute chemistry, as in the Miller-Urey experiment, can produce certain primitive building blocks of life. But to get anywhere beyond that, biologists studying the emergence of biological complexity invariably require biomacromolecules extracted from preexisting living systems. There appears to be no direct route through brute chemistry to the functionally integrated molecular systems that make biological organisms interesting.
Arguments from incredulity stop science dead. After all, if, whenever scientists come up against a biological phenomenon that science can't yet explain, they were to automatically declare it "irreducibly complex" or invoke God--sorry again, I mean a "designer"--it would produce an attitude that science can't ever figure out the question. Invoking God or a "designer" is simply a way of throwing up one's hands and declaring a natural phenomenon too complex for us ever to understand.
Fortunately, real scientists don't behave this way.
I will, however, thank Dembski for turning me on to this über-cool link to a map of metabolic pathways. I've added it to my bookmarks.