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91 of 105 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2000
McGintry may have glanced through this book and then written his review. The book clearly states that self-organization can produce ordered patterns in systems with an energy flow. But equally clearly, and repeatedly, the book persuasively demonstrates that ordered patterns are irrelevant to the origin of life. No plausible theory has ever been developed whereby self-organizing systems could produce INFORMATION. The origin of information, not the origin of complex patterns, is the central problem in origin of life scenarios. McGintry is clearly unfamiliar with Shannon's theory of information which contains universal laws which demonstrate that living matter could not have come from the laws of physics and chemistry. See Yockey's book by Cambridge University Press. All McGintry had to do was read even a portion of the conclusions to understand the difference between ordered patterns and biologically relevant information. For example from page 185 of Overman's book:
"To construct a plausible theory for the origin of life, scientists need to discover a theory which explains the generation of complexity, not the generation of order. In terms of the formation of life, information content, such as found in the genetic code, is the stumbling block."
As Overman plainly demonstrates, Sim's ordered patterns in the evolution of a fish are irrelevant to the origin of life. The problem, as constantly argued in the book, is the impossiblity of generating INFORMATION (instructions in DNA) from the laws of physics and chemistry. McGintry should also read the book to see that Dawkins book is dealt with in two separate places.
If McGintry has "seen" self-organization work to create life (which means create information), he should put himself up for the Nobel Prize; because no one has any plausible ideas concerning the source of biologically relevant information.
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45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2002
Overman has written the obvious truth in the matter of self organization and accident as it relates to any origin of life scenario. What he clearly spells out in his book cannot honestly be disputed even though he humbly suggests that he is only presenting a "case" that should be evaluated by reasonable persons. Of course this subject is often NOT evaluated by reasonable persons but by fanatics and people with preconceived mind sets on one side or the other.
Reading some of the reviews here I find the usual practice of building straw men and setting fire to them. Overman is not a fanatic with an agenda but he does have an ability that many scientists have long lost in the continuing debate of theism v. atheism. Logic and facts are supposed to be the realm of science but when words are twisted and redefined one can only assume that the truth is not the final goal but rather the promotion of an ideology. The facts however speak for themselves and twisting them does not change reality. The essence of the book is that biological laws do not spring "accidently" or even on purpose from the laws of physics and chemistry. Self organization of a biological system is impossible. Of course theists have long believed in miracles so I supposed that atheists are entitled to believe in them as well. The point is that miracles are supposed to be "unscientific" yet now materialistic science believes in them and they peddle their wares as if they were the latest thing produced form rational minds.
The key word is "information". Information theory has nothing to do with the laws of physics except in the sense that the words printed in a book relate to those laws. Yes, DNA and RNA obey chemical laws quite obediently and so does the chalk that the teacher uses to write her lesson on the blackboard. In fact the whole universe and everything in it obeys those laws. But, DNA as it is used in an organism in real life is not organized according to the laws of physics. As an example, if we took some square blocks that were identical except that each one had a different letter of the alphabet printed on it we could soon see that we could arrange them in any order we chose and still not violate any laws of physics. Whether they were arranged to spell "building blocks" or "dingbats" the laws are not violated.
DNA is arranged the same way. It contains useful INFORMATION. The laws of physics have nothing to do with that arrangement. DNA can be ordered in any arrangement just like the blocks, and still obey chemical laws. The information comes from somewhere but not from the laws of physics. It cannot arrange itself accidently into any meaningful order because the information must be interpreted, translated and actually used in a practical way in order for life to come forth. Time is the worst enemy of the materialist fanatic. He does not have infinite time for his monkeys to type endlessly on their trillions of typewriters. He is limited by the age of the universe and by constraints brought about by extreme temperatures and so forth. Only one who believes in miracles can believe that the volumes of specified and instructive information contained in even the simplest conceived biological cell came about by accident. And evolution cannot help him because the information is the essential ingredient of life and must exist before evolution can even operate! The catch all phrase "evolution did it" does not work here. The fanatics will have to try another catch phrase now in order to perpetuate their delusion that there is no God except evolution.
Of course the latest thing now is "the edge of chaos". There are interesting books on this with interesting pictures. Some (like Richard Dawkins) apparently think that if you give your audience clever computer generated pictures they will think that you have actually produced life without all of the mess. Dawkins is more of the "evolution did it" crowd however. He is now being left behind by the "chaos theory" people. Of course they cannot produce information of the type in question either but the pictures are pretty anyway. In a nut shell, all of these new ideas brought forth by people playing with computers ignore the source of information. They happily punch their keys and create their programs with their own intelligent input and their "simple rules" and still they cannot produce information but only order. Of course even the wind can stack our blocks into some type of order. But that order has nothing to do with meaningful information that is produced by the teacher writing on the blackboard or the child who arranges the blocks to spell out "information is not physics!"
There is much more to the book and it is written so that people can understand it without resorting to bind faith in the opinions of experts who for some reason do not care for the idea that there just may be a God and they may not be one.
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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 1998
The December 7 review of a USA reader refers to a typographical error of a single digit in a very minor calculation in a short paragraph in the logic section of the book. The typo does not affect the many calculations and arguments contained in the sections concerning molecular biology and particle astrophysics. If the reader had referred to the citation at the end of the paragraph, the reader would have realized that the number 5 should have been typed instead of the number 7 (similar to a typing of "e" instead of "a" in "emphasis"). The probability calculation is correct when one uses the number 5. The probability of throwing the number 5 in one throw of a die is 1/6, the probability of obtaining the number 5 twice in succession is 1/36, and the probability of obtaining the number 5 ten times in succession is 1/60,466,176. The point is that the chances of a favorable outcome decrease rapidly when successive favorable outcomes are required. The genetic code requires a sequencing with many successive favorable outcomes and that point is made in the paragraphs immediately following the paragraph with the single digit typo. The book contains many arguments which I have not seen in any other books, including the evidence concerning ALH84001,the rock allegedly from Mars, the argument which answers Hawking's question ("What place, then, for a creator?"), and the analysis of new self-organization theories. The book, as noted in the title, presents a "case" which requires the gathering and analysis of evidence from many sources and disciplines. As Pannenberg notes, the origin of life, which in turn requires the origin of a universe in which life could exist, must be accounted for as a coherent whole. This requirement is well emphasized when one reads the summary and conclusion section of the book.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2005
If this treatment of the subject of origins doesn't convince skeptics that holding onto the belief that life arose from non-life is an operation of faith rather than science, then nothing will. Over and over, Overman (no pun intended) demonstrates, in exhaustive detail, the fact that there is absolutely no principle in the laws of physics, chemistry, or astronomy that speaks to the origin of INFORMATION necessary for life to exist. And not just a little information; MILLIONS of specific, different, instructions necessary for the simplest form of life to exist. The belief (which is exactly how to describe the view: a belief) that information arose from non-information defies all logical limits, even based upon the most conservative estimates, and is simply not scientific.

Now, I am not saying that "faith" is a foolish position. In fact, to believe in the possibility of something existing that is merely beyond our ability to measure is a reasonable position. It simply and humbly admits that our knowledge and ability to measure is, and always will be, finite. Therefore, we must always admit that some non-material, non-energy, non-dimension things may exist that we simply lack the ability to detect. Such a faith is simply a logical conclusion in the face of our finiteness in the universe. To the contrary, a faith in the mathematically impossible, as defined and limited to a known set of parameters (the laws of nature and the irreducible complexity of the genetic code), is beyond all reasonable definitions of faith and just plain fool hearty. It reminds me of Jim Carrey's memorable line in the movie Dumb and Dumber when the female lead tells him that he only has a one in a million chance of getting a date with her, to which he exclaims, "So your saying I have a chance!" The only difference is that the probability of the simplest DNA or RNA molecule forming by accident in the best case scenario conceivable, is one in a million, million, million, million, million, million chance. Now, if Intelligent Design proponents are made out to be as dumb as Jim Carrey's character with a one in a million chance, then I wonder who's dumber?
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2001
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book (Certainly, I received more pleasure than an evolutionist). The book was meant, IMO, to examine the possibility of life arising purely by chance, as opposed to one guided by an intelligent hand.
Dean Overman has an excellent grasp on the issues, and is able to command the proper usage of scientific terms. Equally, his grasp on mathematics in explaining the issues is firm.
Overman has examined many of the scenarios which have been offered up as explanations by naturalistic minds, in their endeavor to exclude any possibility of a supernatural Creator.
If you are looking for a book that validates the mathematical possibility of life arising purely by chance, then you will need to look elsewhere. It is not brutal in its assessment, but rather thorough.
Virtually anyone can understand the material offered in this book, even the more 'difficult' math. Overman does a decent job in keeping the material at the level of understanding of the general public.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2006
Actually, this book is an excellent gift to anyone who has an "inquiring mind". I think this book is a *must* read for everyone, regardless of your particular belief, or lack thereof, in a Supreme Being. It is a bit tedious at points, as are most "legal cases". Be warned that some of the arguments are math-heavy, but well worth understanding.

This is not a book that says, "There, I've proven that God exists!". It certainly doesn't attempt to make a case for "Creationism". It also doesn't claim that "Evolution" is a hoax, etc.

This book simply attempts to explain why existing theories, regarding the creation of the universe, and life on this planet, are not "air tight", and thus, proven "beyond a reasonable doubt". Logic and reason are the tools used. And math, as I mentioned

Also, note the following quote from one recent Nobel Prize winner, an astronomer who received the Nobel for his work on the Big Bang Theory:

"There really is not a good alternative explanation for having such a perfect black body spectrum. Many people looked, but no good explanation was found, so the Big Bang theory is confirmed by that spectrum," - John C. Mather, in an interview with the Nobel Foundation

With all due respect to Mr. Mather and his work, this book will help you understand why his statement would not "stand up in court".

While the book isn't completely up-to-date on all "evidence", all of the arguments are still valid and can be applied to all new "evidence". Specifically, unlike in Las Vegas Casinos, the "rules" haven't changed and neither have the "odds".

If you don't like my review, at least you have to admit that it's cool that I was able to put references to a Supreme Being, the Nobel Prize, Atheists and Creationists in the same context as Las Vegas Casinos. :)
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32 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 1999
This book is very well written in a clear style that is enjoyable to read. It is technical in its details, which for me was a plus. The treatment of the standard evolutionary myth of how life arose from non-life is quite illuminating. In response to the Dec. 7 review, the probability of throwing a seven in a game of dice is 1/6. The total number of outcomes for throwing the dice is 36 and not 22. The fact that I throw a "one" first and a "six" second is to be counted seperately from the case of throwing a "six" first and a "one" second, even though they make look like the same result. There are six possibilities on the first throw and six on the second, for a total of 36 possible outcomes. The number of outcomes for "seven" is six (1,6) (2,5) (3,4) (4,3) (5,2) (6,1). With six possible outcomes equalling "seven", and 36 total possible outcomes, the probability is thus 6/36 or 1/6. Maybe you should reread the book and learn a little more on probability theory.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 1999
This book presents the distinction between order and complexityin a very logical and persuasive framework. The evidence fromphysics, molecular biology,and mathematics is structured in a very tightly reasoned format which should promote a high quality of thinking among atheists and theists.
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24 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2002
The Darwin debate seems to attract lawyers, as well it might. Macbeth's Darwin Retried, Johnson's Darwin on Trial, now Overman's book on the issues of chance and self-organization in theories of evolution. This book is a razor-sharp and welcome addition to the literature on the statistical critiques of evolutionary hypotheses. From there the book embarks on a challenge to theories of self-organization, and various issues of the fine-tuning argument. The case against self-organization, with its distinction of order and complexity, is very provocative and correctly indicates the way in which the mechanization of 'information' in much of the theory of information fails to really explicate its place in a true theory of biological systems as meaningful. There can be no doubt this critique puts the proponent of self-organization in a tight spot, from which he must plead for mercy, and a time extension. Something like self-organization seems right, yet no such theory as yet is able to bypass Overman's objection.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In it Dean Overman uses the principles of logic and recent scientific evidence to answer the big questions. It is a very concise book with excellent arguments. A good summary of information dispelling the myth of an accidental universe. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in origins.
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