Uncommon Descent Contest Question 9 winner announcement:
|September 24, 2009||Posted by O'Leary under Intelligent Design|
The prize? A free copy of Steven Meyer’s Signature in the Cell (Harper One, 2009). (But StephenB must send me a working postal address at email@example.com)
The accidental origin of life idea hurts science because it militates against the vital principle of causation, the rational and indispensible standard on which science is based. The first question any researcher asks is this: “How did it happen? or—What caused it? Yet, the concept of spontaneous generation popularizes the idea that physical events can occur without causes—that there need not be a “how”—that they can “just happen.”
Consider the following proposition: Streets don’t just “get wet.” Using the scientific and philosophical principle of causation, we understand that something had to cause the streets to get wet. So, we say that if the streets are wet, then it must be raining, or else someone turned on a fire hydrant, or we look for some other reason. But if, as Darwinists or postmodern cosmologists claim, physical events do not always need causes or necessary conditions, that is, if something really can come from nothing, then streets can indeed just get wet. With this mind set, science is severely compromised. If, indeed, something can appear spontaneously or without a cause, why cannot it happen again somewhere else in some other situation?
In keeping with that point, if one thing can “just happen,” then why cannot anything just happen? Why not everything? Under these circumstances, how could the scientist know which things were caused and which ones were not? Science would become an intellectual madhouse where the impossible is affirmed with confidence and the obvious is dismissed with disdain, which, come to think of it, is not a bad description of Darwinst epistemology. For Darwinists, and for postmodern cosmologists, a universe can pop into existence, life can come from non-life, and, yes, streets could, in principle, just “get wet.” Science cannot survive this irrational mind set indefinitely.
As all reasonable people know, facts and evidence do not just interpret themselves. One reason why Darwinists cannot or will not follow where the evidence leads is because they refuse to interpret evidence according to the principles of right reason, one of which is the aforementioned principle of causation. How can scientists interpret evidence reasonably when they are hell bent on rejecting reason itself? As we already know, those dedicated to this principle of selective causation will avoid all the relevant questions about the information code in a DNA molecule. Perhaps it, too, was just another one of those events or circumstances that needs no cause—perhaps it, too, “just happened.”
Thus, in order to preserve their paradigm, Darwinsts practice selective causation, that is, they pick and choose which events need to be explained, which ones do not, and at what times an explanation is needed at all, without, of course, explicitly admitting that they have abandoned causation at the preferred times. To keep everyone confused, they play with the language and use words that sound like, but really are not, explanations —words like, “spontaneous generation,” or “emergence,” or “vitalism,” or anything else that creates the illusion of intellectual rigor. The doctrine of accidental origins, complete with its deceptive language, provides Darwinists with the anti-intellectual framework for institutionalizing the practice of selective causation. Of course, aggressive deception cannot survive without a protective front and a strong institutional barrier. Thus, Darwinists practice “selective causation” on offense and “methodological naturalism” on defense.
Science is, or should be, about pursuing truth, and the search begins with an honest admission of the relevant evidence and a willingness to interpret it reasonably. Scientific research stands on the metaphysical assumption that our universe is rational and its physical components can be reasonably understood in light of their cause-effect relationships. That is why the practice of appealing to accidents in lieu of causal explanations harms science. By treating these alleged accidents as explanations, partisan scientists challenge the assumption of a rational universe, corrupt the practice of science, and politicize the institutions that support it.
I particularly liked the part about “selective causation,” because one sees a lot of that these days – attempts to force one particular cause*, real or imagined – to bear a far heavier burden than it can, with all other causes of events discredited or discounted. It is one of the evils of reductionism, I suppose.
[*We see this all the time in the newspapers, of course. Consider, for example, when “lack of self-esteem” rolled through the Nineties as the supposed cause of student failure. Obviously it wasn’t true because A- students can be suicidal and F- students can be very proud of “not letting THEM make me learn stuff I don’t care about.” Lack of study is a far more likely cause of failure than lack of self-esteem, but it received little attention at the time. ]
Comments I found interesting:
naontiotami at 1 told me,
You have to have a sterile environment for abiogenesis to take place
Of course, this assumes that solutions of precursor molecules still exist that are stable enough to last the millions of years it would take to gradually produce proto-life. I don’t think those exist anymore, or at least not ones that have no bacteria or other living creatures in them.
So, that’s why life does not spontaneously form in the lab or hospital (other than the fact that you don’t run a lab for millions of years). I hope you found that revelatory.
I did, yes, find Naontiami’s comments revelatory (?) but perhaps not in the manner supposed or hoped for.
Okay, so magic is always in the past, always somewhere we are not looking?
Naontiami also attempted to further instruct me at 5:
Operating rooms don’t produce life because they have none of the right precursor molecules. I don’t need to identify what *exactly* they would be (eg. amino acids, nucleic acids etc.), but biomolecules, even simple ones, do not abound in sterile, human environments like operating rooms.
Oh, but that’s just the problem. You do need to identify exactly what they would be, for the same reasons as a surgeon needs to exactly identify the location of a tumour she plans to remove and a mechanic needs to explain exactly what is wrong with your car.
Most people care about specific answers and solutions.
Why does this question even come up? For millennia, accidental origin of life did hold back science. They believed that life could originate from nothing and nowhere. At first they thought it could be traditional magic (= mice witched from garbage, bacteria from rotting food).
Sterile operating room conditions? Why bother? Life can self-generate! Easy and lazy.
But that monster was killed by clear demonstrations that there is no such thing – on this planet – as self-originating life (abiogenesis). Life comes from life, period. In Latin, one would say “omne vivum ex vivo”. But you don’t need to know a dead language to get the point.
Why does this matter? Well, if you completely scrub down an operating theatre, you can be sure that life won’t just self-generate. A non-sterile condition must be introduced, and therefore it can be investigated. Who? When? Where? How? So now we can do real science.
Okay, that’s my view, here are some others:
Frost [+ numbers] said
The of accidental origin of life absolutely holds back scientific progress. Isaac Newton accomplished more for the sciences than perhaps any other man on his own because he saw nature as something that was perfectly intelligible and therefore made for comprehension and discovery
Now with that I entirely agree. Newton’s view has been especially helpful for women, if I may say so. Obstetrics has proved far more useful for us than witching bones.
I once watched a TV doc with an MD acquaintance where a sick child was laid on some prophet’s tomb somewhere. My MD acquaintance blanched, and said, “You know, that baby is really sick.” The kid may well have died before the documentary was even aired. My MD acquaintance would have loved to just grab that kid off the tomb and run with him to any children’s hospital in Canada. We don’t know the origin of life, but we do know how to save it. People come to us from all over the world.
At 35 kairosfocus warned me that
Your contest attempts 8 and 9 are being overwhelmed by waves of darwinist distractive talking points. (It does not matter that hey have long since been adequately answered, the intent is to distract, distort and polarise.)
Perhaps you should propose a format for recognising entries and distinguishing them from commentary; then moderate those who abuse it. – GEM of TKI
We do have a troll monitor who quickly gets rid of posters who – how may I decently put this? – eff and dam and defame. Just so you know, our whole leadership team are traditional Christians, so we do not intentionally tolerate incivility.** But if people choose to submit entries that probably won’t win, what can I do? They are entitled to lose, just as they are entitled to win.
**Incivility: Stuff that would get you landed on your butt out the back door of a bar. Save it for After the Bar Closes. They’ll understand, but we don’t.
At 42, yakky d remarked, “Nobody knows in detail how flagella came about. It’s an area of ongoing research.” It’s actually an area of ongoing speculation, substituting for research and propped up by Internet abuse.
Mike Behe made a shrewd choice when he tackled the Darwinists on this one because nowhere do they more tellingly reveal their agenda than when they hazard a guess at something that might have happened and say “There! Now we have an answer!”
Try that in a courtroom and see what happens. = “We have figured out some way the wretch on the defense bench might possibly have done the crime and therefore we know he is guilty!” If you pay taxes in a jurisdiction where the courts tolerate such arguments, please hold a revolution soon.
Using non-specialist dictionaries to define an often-misunderstood scientific term is a cheap tactic. What a dictionary writer and what a biologist has to say on the matter should not be equated.
Then, I recommend replacing the dictionary. A good reference work does not leave the reader stranded.
At 58, camanintx asks “Why do people think they can assign probabilities to a process that they don’t understand?” Well, I don’t understand how lotteries work, but I knew something was wrong when far more people who owned the right to sell tickets were winning prizes than probability would allow. Our Ontario premier must agree because he just recently fired the chair and the whole Board.
And the beat goes on.