Discovery Institute Says Life Is Unnatural

The Discovery Institute never stops claiming that the existence and activities of their supernatural designer is a scientific theory. The latest article in their crusade is Recognizing Life Is Different from Natural Processes, Science Balances on the Edge of ID. It has no author’s by-line. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Scientific materialists must live in a state of cognitive dissonance. [Hee hee!] They believe everything is “natural” (within nature), but they don’t hesitate to look for decidedly “un”-natural things about life. Consider this from New Scientist about how to detect alien life:

They quote from this article: We could detect alien life by finding complex molecules:

Now Lee Cronin, a chemist at the University of Glasgow, UK, argues that complexity could be a biosignature that doesn’t depend on any assumptions about the life forms that produce it. “Biology has one signature: the ability to produce complex things that could not arise in the natural environment,” Cronin says.

We think Cronin probably intended to say something like “complex things that do not routinely arise in the natural environment.” That’s made fairly clear by the next paragraph in the New Scientist article:

Obviously, an aircraft or a mobile phone could not assemble spontaneously, so their existence points to a living – and even intelligent – being that built them. But simpler things like proteins, DNA molecules or steroid hormones are also highly unlikely to occur without being assembled by a living organism, Cronin says.

The Discoveroids quote that paragraph too, but they introduce it by saying:

There is one thing that would distinguish life from non-life, Cronin reasons: its complex organization. Here, the article by Bob Holmes engages in a delicate balancing act, coming dangerously close to intelligent design:

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! This is Discoveroid research at its finest! Then they say:

Now that is dancing on the edge! We presume Cronin and Holmes are being careful not to topple over into the ID camp, but their ideas are closer than the usual materialist/reductionist talk of spontaneous emergence that makes life out to be a natural byproduct of matter.

But life — or its complex building blocks — are a natural byproduct of matter — see Miller–Urey experiment. After that he tells us:

Cronin proposes a method for measuring complexity that doesn’t depend on life as we know it. He counts the number of unique steps required to get a molecule. Some molecules require so few steps that they can be explained by natural causes. But for a molecule of sufficient complexity, at some point in the sequence of events in its formation, probability would demand a “life inference” if not an inference to intelligence:

[They quote from the article again:] Any structure requiring more than about 15 steps is so complex it must be biological in origin, he said this week at the Astrobiology Science Conference in Mesa, Arizona.

Note, dear reader, that the article the Discoveroids are quoting doesn’t mention any “inference to intelligence.” Then, relying on their own interjection, they completely detach themselves from reality and present their own fanciful interpretation of the article:

Let’s pause to consider what this means. For something to be “biological in origin,” it cannot have emerged by natural law alone. It would be “un”-natural enough to warrant the inference that life or intelligence caused it to come into being.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! They continue:

One might argue that purely physical things can have unique signatures as well. For instance, planetary scientists find signatures of volcanism on the surfaces of Mercury, Io, and even Pluto and Ceres (ice volcanism). What’s the difference, then, between looking for a biosignature in one scientific context and a heat signature in another context? Clearly, it must be the degree of complexity.


With volcanoes, laws of heat and buoyancy are sufficient to figure out how material makes its way up through a crust. If a volcano had to take a sequence of 15 unique steps, however, then we might be justified in looking into non-natural causes at work. That’s not likely, since well-known laws of physics can account for eruptions, and we witness volcanoes all the time. We never witness unguided chemical reactions going through 15 or more unique independent steps to arrive at a complex molecule, much less to produce a coding system with transcription, translation, and reproduction. That’s why the “complexity” Cronin tries to measure must equate to specified complexity.

[*Groan*] Specified complexity. It means “This is complicated; therefore Oogity Boogity!” Let’s skip several paragraphs and jump right to the end:

ID is the science [Hee hee!] of determining “definitive signs” that “someone” (a mind) has been at work; a mind with the intelligence, intention, and ability to take natural materials and organize them into complex structures unreachable by unguided natural processes. For SETI, the inference to intelligent causation is intuitive and direct. For astrobiology, the inference is indirect, but logically similar: a biosignature points to a non-natural chain of events that had a goal and a purpose (life). These scientists may not call it intelligent design, but ID is alive and well in their work. The challenge is to help them recognize it.

That’s the Discoveroids’ challenge — convincing real scientists that even though they deny it, they’re creationists. Quite a challenge!

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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8 responses to “Discovery Institute Says Life Is Unnatural

  1. “We think Cronin probably intended to say something like”
    without intervention of humans of other intelligent agents that are part of our natural reality. Of course this is the point that IDiots get all excited and make their beloved salto mortale towards a supernatural reality.

    “coming dangerously close to intelligent design”
    Sure – natural intelligence and natural design, following natural procedures and using natural means. Verily, fans of ID are IDiots. I’m very sure Cronin doesn’t have any problem with natural designers of Paley’s natural watch.
    The sad thing is that we could actually use a reliable design filter, because there are quite some objects we are not sure of if they are the result of human intelligence or of natural processes, ie without human intervention.

  2. We have no concept of what would be supernatural design. Design only seems to make sense when it is taking account of natural laws. To make wings in order to fly, that is because of the properties of air and the force of gravity. That is natural design answering to the natural world.
    I can’t think of what a supernatural design for flight would be like.
    And, as far as I am aware, no one in the ID movement has told us what laws supernatural design obeys.

  3. Ross Cameron

    Unfortunately, ID proponents NEVER grapple with the fact that no intelligent designer would create 33,000 diseases to attack the human race,unless he/she was the most malevolent entity in existence.

  4. ID proponents never grapple with design.
    If the parameters of natural laws are fine-tuned to make life possible, then why is there a difficulty with the laws of thermodynamics to such a degree that it takes supernatural intervention – intelligent design – to bypass the laws of thermodynamics?
    And how is it that design can bypass a natural law? None of the designs of humans can bypass natural laws. How is intelligent design different from human design?

  5. Eric Lipps

    Good point. Creationists apparently assume a Designer so bad at his job that after establishing a set of natural laws He has to keep breaking them in order to make the universe work as He wants it to.

  6. The entire point of Cronin’s research programme is to sketch out ways in which life could come into existence *without* supernatural intervention. I have alerted him to the existence of the Evolution News article. What a pity they don’t have a comments section!

  7. Michael Fugate

    The insanity spreads – the DI must be so proud!

    Irrational doctrine
    Serbia’s evolutionary society has expressed concern over a renewed attack on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by some 170 Serbian academics, including engineers, physicians, artists, philosophers, journalists, teachers and clergy. On 3 May, the group signed a petition to include the teaching of creationist theory in schools and universities. The academics also claim in a letter to the education and science ministry, the parliament, Serbia’s Academy of Sciences and Arts and its leading universities that Darwin’s “dogmatic” theory lacks scientific confirmation. In response, scientists with the evolutionary society said that the signatories and their creationist reasoning lack understanding of simple biology. In 2004, the Serbian education ministry had attempted in vain to ban evolutionary theory from school curricula.

  8. engineers, physicians, artists, philosophers, journalists, teachers and clergy
    No mention of scientists. Of any kind, physicists, astronomers, chemists, let alone biologists. Of course, there are engineers.