Today, dear reader, we shall consider the discredited and useless pseudo-scientific concept of Vitalism, about which Wikipedia says:
Vitalism is the doctrine, often advocated in the past but now rejected by mainstream science, that “living organisms are fundamentally different from non-living entities because they contain some non-physical element or are governed by different principles than are inanimate things”. Where vitalism explicitly invokes a vital principle, that element is often referred to as the “vital spark”, “energy” or “élan vital”, which some equate with the “soul”.
It also says this:
The vitalists strongly rejected Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Because of their teleological leanings, they strongly rejected his selectionism. As Darwin’s theory of evolution denied the existence of any cosmic teleology, the vitalists saw Darwin’s theories as too materialistic to explain the complexity of life.
Alfred Russel Wallace believed qualitative novelties could arise through the process of evolution, in particular the phenomena of life and mind; like the vitalists Wallace attributed these novelties to a supernatural agency. Later in his life, Wallace was an advocate of spiritualism and believed in a non-material origin for the higher mental faculties of humans.
On discussing the history of vitalism in biology Ernst Mayr wrote in 1988: “Vitalism has become so disreputable a belief in the last fifty years that no biologist alive today would want to be classified as a vitalist.”
Vitalism has sometimes been criticized as begging the question by inventing a name. … Thomas Henry Huxley compared vitalism to stating that water is the way it is because of its “aquosity”.
In 1967, Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, stated “And so to those of you who may be vitalists I would make this prophecy: what everyone believed yesterday, and you believe today, only cranks will believe tomorrow.”
That’s enough background. You’ve got the general idea — vitalism has as much scientific credibility as the phlogiston theory. Wikipedia also has a related article on Élan vital. Okay, so where are we going with all of this? You know. What we’re getting at is that the creationists are vitalists, but they don’t use that term.
At the website of Answers in Genesis (AIG), described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page, they just posted this article: What Is Life? The Informational View. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
Matter and energy are necessary aspects of living forms, but they do not fundamentally distinguish between living and inanimate systems. “Information” is, however, a basic characteristic of all sentient beings.
It’s no mystery what they’re saying. It’s good old vitalism, but with a new name. “Information” sounds so … so scientific. That’s why creation scientists like to use it. And so do the Discoveroids. But don’t be confused by their ever-changing terminology. Whenever they mention “information” as an unexplained component of life, they’re really talking about vitalism.
AIG’s article continues, and now they give us what they call a “formula”:
Life = material part (physical and chemical aspects) + + non-material part (information having an intellectual source)
Looks good, huh? Then they talk about three different kinds of “information”: structural, operational, and communicative. Yes, we know, it just keeps getting crazier. But don’t be discouraged. Click over there and slog through the whole article. See if you can make any sense of it. Anyway, here’s how it ends:
All these information systems require an intellectual source according to the information theorems mentioned above. The endeavors of evolutionists to explain life as a purely mechanistic phenomenon gloss over these facts and ignore these verifiable theorems.
What does that mean — Information requires an Informer? Yeah, probably. Oh, we don’t know what “verifiable theorems” they’re talking about. Presumably those “theorems” are discussed in earlier articles. Go ahead and hunt for them if you like. For us, it’s sufficient to realize that all the creationists’ jargon-filled blather about “information” is nothing more than old-fashioned vitalism. And it’s just as nonsensical.
See also: Creationism and Vitalism, Part 2.
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