On this episode of ID the Future, Andrew McDiarmid concludes his conversation with Eric Anderson, one of the co-authors of the new Discovery Institute Press book Evolution and Intelligent Design in a Nutshell. Today they talk about Anderson’s second of two chapters in the book, where he explores the challenges of building a self-replicating 3D printer, and the light this sheds on the origin-of-life community’s search for their Holy Grail, a self-reproducing molecule that could have kickstarted the evolutionary process on the early earth. In their conversation, Anderson suggests that there are engineering principles involved in the origin of life that may mean that a naturalistic origin of life is less like winning a long-odds lottery, and more like the chances of an inventor successfully building a perpetual motion machine. That is, it isn’t just a tough probability problem; there are reasons for concluding that it’s impossible in principle. Also, Anderson notes, the early Earth wasn’t the kinder, gentler place for simple self-replicators that Darwin or Dawkins has imagined.
On this episode of ID the Future, Eric H. Anderson reads from his newly co-authored book Evolution and Intelligent Design in a Nutshell, written to provide a clear and simple introduction to the evolution/ID controversy, and broad overview of the evidence for design in nature — including fine tuning and the Big Bang, the origin of life, irreducibly complex machines, and the Cambrian Explosion. In this chapter excerpt, Anderson tells of Richard Dawkins’ glib assurances that the mystery of the origin of life is one not far from being solved. Not so, Anderson says. Origin-of-life researchers haven’t found a pathway to a self-replicating biological entity, the beginning point for any sort of Darwinian evolution. And it’s not for lack of time, effort, or funding. The single cell that Darwin saw as a relatively simple blob has proven to be far more complex than anything imagined. What about a self-reproducing molecule, thought to be easier to evolve than a full-blown cell? As Anderson explains in Chapter 3 of the book, the idea remains a purple unicorn, and for reasons that are perhaps most easily appreciated by looking at the ongoing attempts to build a self-reproducing 3D printer.