Monday, January 09, 2006

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.


At January 09, 2006 7:38 PM, Blogger Benjii said...

Hey Lawrence, are you a christian?

At January 10, 2006 12:56 AM, Blogger Christopher said...

Life comes from life. This is all we ever see. Information comes from a mind, this is all we ever see.

What is life? Why, dear scientist, what are you? You say all things are nothing from nothing, for no reason whatsoever. You say life is an accident, consciousness - an illusion; and love, a mutation made solid by selection.

But if this is true, there is no you and there is no me. If consciousness, if mind is an illusion... WHO is the one you are trying to communicate this imaginitive idea to?

Who is the one who speaks, and who is the one who hears... if we are ..~not~..

But we are minds, made in the image of a Mind, after the likeness of a Person, after the likeness of the One Whose name is "I Am". This is the Origin of life.

At January 11, 2006 4:50 AM, Blogger stewie said...

Ha ha, we know how bees fly. ID loses... again.


I need to introduce you to the notion of a straw man:

"A straw-man argument is the practice of refuting a weaker argument than an opponent actually offers. To "set up a straw man" or "set up a straw-man argument" is to create a position that is easy to refute, then attribute that position to your opponent. A straw-man argument can be a successful rhetorical technique (that is, it may succeed in persuading people) but it is also a logical fallacy, since the argument actually presented by your opponent has not been refuted, only a weaker argument."

No "scientist" says "that things come from nothing" nor do they claim anything would do so "for no reason whatsoever." There are natural explanations and mechanisms for the diversification and evolution of life. Keep your pathetically phrased drivel out of the mouths of respectable researchers - you cannot count yourself among them.

At January 13, 2006 4:27 PM, Anonymous Christopher said...

Pathetic drivel? Bit of an a-hole aren't ya? Wow, why even respond to you.... but, I guess I'm just a sucker.

The universe has either always been here, or it hasn't. If the Big Bang is true, it had a beginning. If there are infinite beginnings and endings, this "reality" is still "in and of" something, is it not?

But what is the naturalist consensus regarding the origing, the "source" of this reality? That is, from what did the Universe burst forth?

There is no satisfactory answer from the naturalist. Thus, I say that they say that all things have come from "no thing".

When I say "no reason whatsoever", I mean that the naturalist ascribes the origin of the universe, the earth and all life, all that is to the result of blind, mindless chance, or nothing whatsoever. If the source of all that is has no mind, then there is no purpose and it did not "will" us into being for a "cause". Thus, I say: "for no reason whatsoever".

Do you disagree? What is the reason we are here? Why, ultimately, has this universe come about?

And if we are the result of "no mind", how could a "mind" ever have arisen?

Let me, dear naturalist, introduce you to Einstein's Gulf. Quoth Einstein " We have the habit of combining certain concepts and conceptual relations (propositions) so definitely with certain sense experiences that we do not become conscious of the gulf—logically unbridgeable—which separates the world of sensory experiences from the world of concepts and propositions".

That is, Einstein here shows how the "gulf" between the material world and the "mind" is "logically unbridgeable". And this is precisely what I am trying to say here.

The effect is not greater than the cause.

If the source of all is "no-mind", from whence cometh "mind?" Or... I suppose you'll say it's just an illusion...

At January 27, 2006 8:26 AM, Blogger stewie said...

And in responding you create yet another straw man argument.

There is no consensus concerning an absolute answer to the beginning of the universe. No reputable scientist claims to have an irrefutable answer. Devolving such a statement into saying they "believe" that all things come from nothing or no thing is a gross misrepresentation of educated claims and the work of good scientists, and completely misses the point.

Naturalists do not ascribe "all that is to the result of blind, mindless chance" - though that's the straw man you vapid evangelists have worked so hard to create. There are natural laws and mechanisms which guide evolution - that is a far cry from your blind mindless chance. You just fear that there's no large person in the sky controlling everything, watching out for you. Yours is a small God designed for an especially small person, and it's a pitiful conception which is not worthy of our reason and senses.


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