No One Knows Anything
There was this article in the Sunday Washington Post on origins of life research. Not much new here-- generally a discussion of how much we do not know based on scientific evidence, and how scientists bicker a lot. But I find it refreshing to see the mainstream media acknowledge how little we know in a field so related to macroevolution and intelligent design. Here are some excerpts:
They are wrestling with basic questions: What is life, exactly? Does it always require liquid water and those long Tinkertoy carbon molecules? Does life require a cell? Did life begin with a hereditary molecule or with some kind of metabolic chemical reaction? Where did life begin on Earth? Was there a single moment that could be described as the "origin of life," or did life sort of creep into existence gradually?
All that is very much in play. In the words of George Cody, an origin-of-life researcher, "No one knows anything about the origin of life.". . .
Amid all the chemistry are scenes of scientific rancor, as when Hazen describes a face-off between two scientists, Martin Brasier and William Schopf, over some alleged 3.5-billion-year-old fossils:
"As Brasier calmly outlined his arguments, the scene on stage shifted from awkwardly tense to utterly bizarre. We watched amazed as Schopf paced forward to a position just a few feet to the right of the speaker's podium. He leaned sharply toward Brazier and seemed to glare, his eyes boring holes in the unperturbed speaker."
Hazen writes that the origin-of-life field is "at times tarnished by questionable data, contentious debates, or even outright quackery."
Now you can see how all this might get a bit delicate given the current debate about intelligent design. Hazen knows that by exposing the backstage bickering on the origin of life, he may give ammunition to the critics of the scientific community: "Anything I say that shows any uncertainty or doubt, they will use as evidence that scientists are baffled."
. . .
Why is the field so contentious?
Hazen says, "I've heard it said that the less certain we are about a field of knowledge, the louder we have to shout to get our point across. Back when I was doing crystallography, no one shouted. And maybe that's why it was a little boring."
Nothing's ever dull in the OOL world.