Intelligent Design

Abiogenesis – Unfalsifiable Pseudo-Science?

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Commenter Tom English admonishes us for mocking “legitimate scientists” (these I presume are like real Scotsmen) in their inquiries into how abiogenesis could be accomplished. This raised a question in my mind. If abiogenesis is real science then how may it be falsified in principle? It seems to me that legitimate scientists (TM, Pat. Pending) could look for plausible paths for abiogenesis from now until forever, come up empty handed, and continue to claim as Tom does that any question of its legitimacy is nothing but an argument from incredulity. How convenient. Abiogenesis “research” has everything to win and nothing to lose. So tell me, Tom English, how can abiogenesis be falsified? What prevents it from being a hypothesis that cannot die and with its immortality its eternal eligibility for research grants?

53 Replies to “Abiogenesis – Unfalsifiable Pseudo-Science?

  1. 1
    mike1962 says:

    You falsify abiogenesis by proving that a designer is responsible.

    This could take a couple of different forms, such as finding an undeniable signature within the genome. Of course, if the designer showed up and took credit, that would effectively do the job, esp if he/she/they could reproduce how they did it.

  2. 2
    mike1962 says:

    To continue:

    On the other hand, how could the ID view of OOL be falsified? Some would say ID would be falsified if scientists could show how abiogenesis could occur. But the kooky thing about this is, a designer could still show up, take credit in some verifiable way, and ruin the whole game. One “falsification” would be falsified by another. This shows that such “falsification” by scientists is really just a sop. Things like this can happen when one assumes an inti-ID position as an article of faith.

  3. 3
    Carlos says:

    Abiogenesis, not being a theory, cannot be falsified. What can be falsified — if they are falsifiable — are specific theories of abiogenesis. Some of them have been rejected due to considerations other than falsifiability. (E.g. Oparin’s coacervate theory or Cairns-Smith’s genetic takeover theory.) I don’t know of any theories of abiogenesis which are currently falsifiable, although there are some likely contenders. (Personally, I find Kauffman’s autocatalytic set theory very strong, but it is not yet falsifiable.)

    Now, does that mean that abiogenesis is not a science, or not yet a science? Here’s where I take issue with Popper; I think that Popper’s constraint is too severe, because it excludes too much of what’s interesting about science. There needs to be room in science for the not-yet-falsifiable.

    And this is one of the reasons why I’m willing to be tolerant and open-minded towards intelligent design. I personally don’t think it’s going to pan out, but I could be wrong; I don’t think there’s anything wrong with scientists trying to give it more content and specificity than it currently has. Maybe we’ll arrive at an ID theory which is falsifiable. What I object to are attempts to promote ID, particularly in the public school science curricula, in anticipation of that day.

    But then, shouldn’t I say the same about abiogenesis, on pain of consistency? I don’t think so, and here’s why: although abiogenesis has not yet turned out a falsifiable theory, it nevertheless function as a research program which churns out experiments (both real and “thought experiments”), speculations, proto-theories, and in working through them, we keep learning something new about the distinctions between living cells and “mere” molecules. ID, by contrast, doesn’t seem to be churning out anything. It’s a mildly interesting idea, but in it’s present form, it lacks fecundity. Abiogenesis, while also unfalsifiable, is fecund, and that counts for something.

    By the way, I seriously doubt that abiogenesis research is a money-maker.

  4. 4
    Ekstasis says:

    Carlos,

    So, all the scientists and engineers studying the incredibly brilliant and innovative design in organisms are not fecund? And the real life applications that result are not fecund. Oh, don’t misunderstand me, I am saying that their efforts are a result of ID theory. No, that is just the point — ID is a reflection of what really exists. ID is plausible because it is consistent with, and mirrors, reality found in the attributes of living organisms.

    Darwinian evolution, on the other hand, is not a reflection of reality as we perceive it. In fact, it seems to be much more a reflection of 19th century economic theory. You know, Malthus and the crew.

    Once, when I was searching for a needle in a haystack that really was not there, I found all sorts of other missing articles of clothing, tools, etc. So, the adventure was certainly fecund, but I never found the needle.

  5. 5
    Ekstasis says:

    Carlos,

    Typo, I meant “not saying”

  6. 6
    Carlos says:

    Studying the structure and dynamics of living organisms is certaintly fruitful — “fecund” — but I can’t see how it counts as ID theory. ID is a proposal as to the origins of complex biological structures. It says, in effect, that teleological structures (organisms) must have teleological causes (intelligence). If it’s not about origins, then I must confess that I have no idea what it could possibly be.

    Now, beyond asserting that organisms are too complex to not be designed, and providing some interesting (though not water-tight) arguments for that assertion, what has ID produced? I don’t even care all that much about falsifiability — although it is desirable, I place less emphasis on it than DaveScot does — but I do care about fecundity, and thus far I don’t see it.

    Of course, that’s no reason why ID theorists shouldn’t continue with what they’re doing — I’m all in favor of the marketplace of ideas! — but that is a good reason why the Dover case was ruled correctly. And if ID does manage to produce something interesting, and does prove to be a useful and interesting way of producing scientific theories, then hopefully there won’t need to be another court case — ID will win on its merits, when it has them.

  7. 7
    SteveB says:

    Carlos:
    “There needs to be room in science for the not-yet-falsifiable. …What I object to are attempts to promote ID, particularly in the public school science curricula, in anticipation of that day.”

    I’m inclined to agree–ID is not yet ready for prime time. Like many IDophiles, I think that kids should learn more about evolutionary theory; not less.

    I am intrigued about the implications of your statement though. You seem to be saying more generally that unfalsifiable theories should not be taught in public school. Since you “don’t know of any theories of abiogenesis which are currently falsifiable,” should this topic also removed from public school curricula (ie, Miller/Urey)? How about other unfalsifiable elements of the neodarwinian synthesis?

    -sb

  8. 8
    BarryA says:

    Ekstasis writes: “So, all the scientists and engineers studying the incredibly brilliant and innovative design in organisms are not fecund?”

    We can resolve this question very easily by doing paternity tests on the scientists’ putative children. If the children really are theirs, then we know the scientists are (or at least were) fecund.

  9. 9
    Chris Hyland says:

    I would say origin of life research is more of a protoscience.

    “You falsify abiogenesis by proving that a designer is responsible.”

    And evolution as well.

  10. 10
    BarryA says:

    Chris Hyland, and vice versa. See DaveScot’s later post.

  11. 11
    DaveScot says:

    Carlos

    I’ve already given you a falsifiable hypothesis of biological ID in another article today. If abiogenesis absent intelligent intervention can be demonstrated in a lab it will falsify biological ID which claims abiogenesis is for all practical purposes impossible without intelligent agency. There is much active interest in falsifying ID through demonstration of unguided abiogenesis. The most recent such active interest is Harvard’s OoL project which they’ve committed to funding at $1M/yr.

    I’m sure no one would believe that self-professed ID researchers are seriously trying to falsify ID by the above means so we must rely on researchers who a priori believe abiogenesis w/o intelligent agency can be done and are doing their best to find out how.

  12. 12
    pk4_paul says:

    You falsify abiogenesis by proving that a designer is responsible. This could take a couple of different forms, such as finding an undeniable signature within the genome.

    The signature is the gentic code.

  13. 13
    Carlos says:

    (7) I am intrigued about the implications of your statement though. You seem to be saying more generally that unfalsifiable theories should not be taught in public school. Since you “don’t know of any theories of abiogenesis which are currently falsifiable,” should this topic also removed from public school curricula (ie, Miller/Urey)? How about other unfalsifiable elements of the neodarwinian synthesis?

    I would like the problem of abiogenesis presented this way, in a high school setting: “scientists presently do not know how life arose on Earth, and it may never be known. Nevertheless, here are some different scenarios that have been entertained, both in the past and in the present . . . There are a few things that we do know — for example, that organic molecules can be synthesized from inorganic molecules — and there are many things that we don’t know.”

    So, I’m in favor of having this in public schools, but not ID, because abiogenesis is fecund — in terms of opening up new ways of thinking about chemical interactions, about what life is, about the difference between life and non-life. I don’t see fecundity in ID; by contrast, ID seems to consist of saying, “the designer did it.”

    Thus, while abiogenetic theories are not (yet?) falsifiable, their fecundity gives them a different status than ID theories.

  14. 14
    trrll says:

    I agree that abiogenesis, simply as a concept, is not a scientific theory. Like ID, it is simply too vague to make testable predictions. On the other hand, specific theories of the origin of life do make predictions. For example, the RNA world hypothesis predicts that RNA alone can catalyze a wide range of chemical reactions, including the fundamental ligation reactions and replication reactions. Kauffman’s autocatalytic set theory predicts that catalytic activity can be found in relatively short random polymers with fairly high probability. All polymer-based theories predict that it should be possible to identify conditions in which the required monomers form spontaneously, etc. Protocell based theories predict that it should be possible to identify non-biological conditions under which membrane like structures spontaneously self-assemble and reproduce, etc.

  15. 15
    Joseph says:

    trrll:
    Like ID, it is simply too vague to make testable predictions.

    But ID makes testable predictions. On the other hand evolutionism can only make post-hoc accomodations as we don’t know what mutation will cause what change or whether or not the environment it crops up in will favor or reject it.

    But anyway- the following is an interesting erad:

    Falsificationism

    It would also be interesting to see how many (if any) “theories” made “correct” predictions but the “theory” turned out to be bogus. If I remember correctly I believe the geocebtric view made predictions that were borne out…

    ————————————————————————————–

    Carlos:
    I don’t see fecundity in ID; by contrast, ID seems to consist of saying, “the designer did it.”

    Well we know there isn’t any “fecundity” related to evolutionism, and only those really trying to misrepresent ID would say that “ID seems to consist of saying, “the designer did it”.” ID is no more like that than archaeology is. As I told you before ID is about the detection AND study- do you think SETI researchers would, after determining the signal was from some intelligence, just throw a party, say the search is over and go home?

  16. 16
    trrll says:

    But ID makes testable predictions. On the other hand evolutionism can only make post-hoc accomodations as we don’t know what mutation will cause what change or whether or not the environment it crops up in will favor or reject it.

    I’ve never heard any testable predictions of ID, discounting vacuous negative claims like “experimenters will never manage to turn a dog into a horse in the laboratory.” Note that a theory must make testable predictions, but it is not required to predict every specific thing that you might wish to know. For example, quantum theory is not required to predict (and indeed, is fundamentally incapable of predicting) the trajectory of a photon after passing through a narrow slit.

    It would also be interesting to see how many (if any) “theories” made “correct” predictions but the “theory” turned out to be bogus. If I remember correctly I believe the geocebtric view made predictions that were borne out…

    It happens all the time. That’s why no scientific theory can ever be proven to be true, because even if experiments 1 through n confirm the predictions of the theory, it is always possible that experiment n+1 will disconfirm it. There are thousands of experiments that confirm Newton’s laws of motion. It’s only when you start working with things moving at very high speeds that you discover that the theory is wrong. Science doesn’t offer Truth, it offers discovery.

  17. 17
    DaveScot says:

    trrll

    I’ve never heard any testable predictions of ID, discounting vacuous negative claims like “experimenters will never manage to turn a dog into a horse in the laboratory.”

    As far a vacuous claims – when in Rome, do as the Romans do (or what’s good for the goose is good for the gander). Your side makes the vacuous positive claim that bacteria can turn into a horse. Then you get offended if we a) ask you to prove it or b) make hard to prove claims ourselves such as “you’ll never be able to demonstrate your claims”.

  18. 18
    Joseph says:

    trrll:
    I’ve never heard any testable predictions of ID, discounting vacuous negative claims like “experimenters will never manage to turn a dog into a horse in the laboratory.”

    Just because you never heard of something should mean wj=hat to the rest of us who have? In general biological ID predicts CSI and IC (at a minimum). Both these concepts can be tested against their respective definitions.

    Then there is “The Privileged Planet” which demonstrates that ID extends beyond biology. In TPP the authors make several predictions based on their design inference.

    And science does offer truth- truth as in the reality to the existence to what we are observing.

    “A healthy science is a science that seeks the truth.”[/B] Paul Nelson, Ph. D., philosophy of biology.

    Linus Pauling, winner of 2 Nobel prizes wrote, “Science is the search for the truth.”

    “But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding.” Albert Einstein

    The truth need not be an absolute truth. Truth in the sense that Drs. Pauling, Einstein & Nelson are speaking is the reality in which we find ourselves. We exist. Science is to help us understand that existence and how it came to be.

    As I like to say- science is our search for the truth, i.e. the reality, to our existence via our never-ending quest for knowledge.

  19. 19
    Joseph says:

    trrll:
    Science doesn’t offer Truth, it offers discovery.

    And most of the greatest scientists that have graced our planet understood they were discovering the handiwork of the Creator.

    Also, if TPP has it correctly, science offers discovery because that is what the universe was designed for- scientific discovery:

    “The same narrow circumstances that allow for our existence also provide us with the best over all conditions for making scientific discoveries.”

    “The combined circumstance that we live on Earth and are able to see stars- that the conditions necessary for life do not exclude those necessary for vision, and vice versa- is a remarkably improbable one.

    This is because the medium we live is, on one hand, just thick enough to enable us to breathe and prevent us from being burned up by cosmic rays, while, on the other hand, it is not so opaque as to absorb entirely the light of the stars and block the view of the universe. What a fragile balance between the indispensable and the sublime.” Hans Blumenberg- thoughts independent of the research done by Gonzalez & Richards.

  20. 20
    John A. Davison says:

    Abiogenesis is a cosmic joke.

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  21. 21
    Hawks says:

    “I’ve already given you a falsifiable hypothesis of biological ID in another article today. If abiogenesis absent intelligent intervention can be demonstrated in a lab it will falsify biological ID which claims abiogenesis is for all practical purposes impossible without intelligent agency. ”

    But this hypothesis was, of course, not falsifiable. First off, experiments are mostly not even allowed to be conducted. But, more importantly, achieving abiogenesis does not exclude the existence, presence or intervention by a designer. You claimed in another thread that abiogenesis would require essentially the creation of something similar to a modern microoranism (a big ask to start off with). Your claim was that this would essentially falsify ID (or at least convince you that it was not necessary). But then you go and say – on this very page – “Your side makes the vacuous positive claim that bacteria can turn into a horse. “. In other words, a succesful demonstration of abiogenesis would not change your mind about the existence of a designer – and I find it hard understanding how ID would be falsified. How do you reconcile these statements?

  22. 22
    Hawks says:

    My comment in post#21 was in regards to DaveScot’s post#11 (just thought I’d point it out in case it was confusing).

  23. 23
    DaveScot says:

    Hawks

    Demonstration of abiogenesis in a lab in simulated natural environments will falsfiy ID for me. This statement doesn’t seem hard to understand and your response seems to be a claim that I’m lying and that it won’t in fact convince me.

    I have no clue why you think these experiments aren’t allowed. Synthetic biology, which among other things attempts to create life artificially, is a rapidly growing field.

    Your response is nonsense and I strongly suggest you don’t put words in my mouth or presume to tell me what I will or won’t believe again.

  24. 24
    Joseph says:

    DaveScot is right on pertaining to unguided abiogenesis falsifying ID. Allow Dr Behe to explain:

    “Coyne’s conclusion that design is unfalsifiable, however, seems to be at odds with the arguments of other reviewers of my book. Clearly, Russell Doolittle (Doolittle 1997), Kenneth Miller (Miller 1999), and others have advanced scientific arguments aimed at falsifying ID. (See my articles on blood clotting and the “acid test” on this web site.) If the results with knock-out mice (Bugge et al. 1996) had been as Doolittle first thought, or if Barry Hall’s work (Hall 1999) had indeed shown what Miller implied, then they correctly believed my claims about irreducible complexity would have suffered quite a blow. And since my claim for intelligent design requires that no unintelligent process be sufficient to produce such irreducibly complex systems, then the plausibility of ID would suffer enormously. Other scientists, including those on the National Academy of Science’s Steering Committee on Science and Creationism, in commenting on my book have also pointed to physical evidence (such as the similar structures of hemoglobin and myoglobin) which they think shows that irreducibly complex biochemical systems can be produced by natural selection: “However, structures and processes that are claimed to be ‘irreducibly’ complex typically are not on closer inspection.” (National Academy of Sciences 1999, p. 22)
    Now, one can’t have it both ways. One can’t say both that ID is unfalsifiable (or untestable) and that there is evidence against it. Either it is unfalsifiable and floats serenely beyond experimental reproach, or it can be criticized on the basis of our observations and is therefore testable. The fact that critical reviewers advance scientific arguments against ID (whether successfully or not) shows that intelligent design is indeed falsifiable.

    In fact, my argument for intelligent design is open to direct experimental rebuttal. Here is a thought experiment that makes the point clear. In Darwin’s Black Box (Behe 1996) I claimed that the bacterial flagellum was irreducibly complex and so required deliberate intelligent design. The flip side of this claim is that the flagellum can’t be produced by natural selection acting on random mutation, or any other unintelligent process. To falsify such a claim, a scientist could go into the laboratory, place a bacterial species lacking a flagellum under some selective pressure (for mobility, say), grow it for ten thousand generations, and see if a flagellum–or any equally complex system–was produced. If that happened, my claims would be neatly disproven.

    How about Professor Coyne’s concern that, if one system were shown to be the result of natural selection, proponents of ID could just claim that some other system was designed? I think the objection has little force. If natural selection were shown to be capable of producing a system of a certain degree of complexity, then the assumption would be that it could produce any other system of an equal or lesser degree of complexity. If Coyne demonstrated that the flagellum (which requires approximately forty gene products) could be produced by selection, I would be rather foolish to then assert that the blood clotting system (which consists of about twenty proteins) required intelligent design.”

    If it can be shown that living organisms, being the ultimate in biological IC, could arise via unguided, purpose-less processes biological ID would be falsified as Occam’s Razor would neatly slice of any requirement for an intelligent designer.

  25. 25
    John A. Davison says:

    Karl Popper didn’t do us any favors with all this falsifiable nonsense. The truth has been disclosed only by discovering what is real, never by claiming what cannot be real.

    “Facts which at first seem improbable will, even on scant explanation, drop the cloak which has hidden them and stand forth in naked and simple beauty.”
    Galileo

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  26. 26
    Hawks says:

    DaveScot,

    “Demonstration of abiogenesis in a lab in simulated natural environments will falsfiy ID for me. This statement doesn’t seem hard to understand and your response seems to be a claim that I’m lying and that it won’t in fact convince me. ”

    Lying would mean that you knowingly tell something you know is wrong. I certainly never said you did that. But even if abiogenesis was performed satisfactory, the positive claim that a bacteria can turn into a horse would still be “vacuous”. But OK, YOU would be convinced.

    “I have no clue why you think these experiments aren’t allowed. Synthetic biology, which among other things attempts to create life artificially, is a rapidly growing field.”

    In Abiogenesis research is ID research you state: “Therefore all attempts to demonstrate that abiogenesis is possible absent intelligent intervention is an attempt to falsify biological ID.”. All experiments have some form of intelligent intervention. I have yet to see you define how much of this intervention would be allowed.

  27. 27
    Hawks says:

    Joseph,

    falsifying IC would not falsify ID.

  28. 28
    DaveScot says:

    the positive claim that a bacteria can turn into a horse would still be “vacuous”.

    My understanding of concensus thought in evolution is that bacteria are the ancestors of eukaryotes. A horse is a horse of course of course but everyone knows of course that the horse is a bunch of eukaryotes. Is this not correct? If it is then the statement that bacteria can turn into a horse is a claim of (Neo)Darwianian evolution. Given that horses and bacteria share a common genetic code and life comes from life, why is it a vacuous claim? I think it happened. I just don’t agree it happened by accident.

  29. 29
    DaveScot says:

    I have yet to see you define how much of this intervention would be allowed.

    As little as humanly possible in order to simulate the natural environment in a laboratory.

    Muller-Urey is a good example of one step of the process. It failed for various reasons but not because of cheating.

  30. 30
    John A. Davison says:

    The Miller/Urey experiment was a glittering success for 30 minutes during which time a number of organic molecules were produced. After that time the rate of synthesis of the newly formed molecules equaled the rate of their degradation and no further net increase took place. An equilibrium cannot be established until the components of that equilibrium are present which is all that experiment ever demonstrated. We already knew that anyway.

    So much for abiogenesis.

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  31. 31
    Joseph says:

    Hawks:
    falsifying IC would not falsify ID.

    Seeing that IC is one of ID tenets:

    ID is based on three premises and the inference that follows (DeWolf et al., “Darwinism, Design and Public Education”, pg. 92):

    1) High information content (or specified complexity) and irreducible complexity constitute strong indicators or hallmarks of (past) intelligent design.
    2) Biological systems have a high information content (or specified complexity) and utilize subsystems that manifest irreducible complexity.
    3) Naturalistic mechanisms or undirected causes do not suffice to explain the origin of information (specified complexity) or irreducible complexity.
    4) Therefore, intelligent design constitutes the best explanations for the origin of information and irreducible complexity in biological systems.

    demonstrating that IC can arise via unguided, purposeless processes would bring down ID. I know all IDists who are also in some field of biology would consider ID to be proven incoreect if that happened.

    But anyway Hawks, what do YOU know about ID and from whom did you learn it?

  32. 32
    Joseph says:

    It is also nice to see that Hawks dismisses Dr Behe’s statement, apparently without even considering it.

  33. 33
    Hawks says:

    DaveScot,

    “Muller-Urey is a good example of one step of the process. ”

    Didn’t you claim in “Abiogenesis research is ID research” that the Muller-Urey experiment was ID research?

  34. 34
    Hawks says:

    Joseph,

    “Seeing that IC is one of ID tenets:
    ID is based on three premises and the inference that follows (DeWolf et al., “Darwinism, Design and Public Education”, pg. 92):
    1) High information content (or specified complexity) and irreducible complexity constitute strong indicators or hallmarks of (past) intelligent design.
    2) Biological systems have a high information content (or specified complexity) and utilize subsystems that manifest irreducible complexity.
    3) Naturalistic mechanisms or undirected causes do not suffice to explain the origin of information (specified complexity) or irreducible complexity.
    4) Therefore, intelligent design constitutes the best explanations for the origin of information and irreducible complexity in biological systems.
    demonstrating that IC can arise via unguided, purposeless processes would bring down ID. I know all IDists who are also in some field of biology would consider ID to be proven incoreect if that happened.”

    IC is ONE of ID tenets. Specified complexity would still be a strong indicator of intelligent design, would it not?

  35. 35
    DaveScot says:

    Didn’t you claim in “Abiogenesis research is ID research” that the Muller-Urey experiment was ID research?

    Not specifically but yes, any research into possible mechanisms for abiogenesis is in fact research that can potentially falsify biological ID. What’s your point?

  36. 36
    John A. Davison says:

    The only way ID will ever be falsified is when, after we have created life (fat chance), we can then cause it progressively to evolve. Let’s get real shall we? Probably not.

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable,”
    John A. Davison

  37. 37
    Joseph says:

    Hawks:
    IC is ONE of ID tenets. Specified complexity would still be a strong indicator of intelligent design, would it not?

    IC is a special case of SC. And if it is demonstrated that life cane arise from non-living matter via unguided, purpose-less processes BOTH IC and CSI criteria would be satisfied.

    And again Hawks just dismisses what Dr Behe stated.

    —————————————————————————————

    John Davison:
    The only way ID will ever be falsified is when, after we have created life (fat chance), we can then cause it progressively to evolve.

    Only if it is demonstrated that “progressive evolution” is via unguided, purposeless processes. And that would depend upon the origins…

  38. 38
    John A. Davison says:

    Whatever you say joseph.

  39. 39
    Hawks says:

    DaveScot and Joseph,

    I’d like to write my viewpoint in a more concise way, but before I do, i just want to make sure that when we are talking about falsification here, we mean falsification to the extent of the total rejection of ID, not its mere modification. If this was never accepted by any of you, then this discussion has been “much ado about nothing”. In this post I shall not use the word falsification, but instead, in order to avoid confusion, use the words rejection and modification.

    A successful abiogenesis experiment would not necessarily cause rejection of ID, because the life created might not be IC. The life created might (how, I have no idea) be totally reducibly complex (is that the opposite?). How could the demonstration of something that is not IC cause rejection of IC? And if one of IDs tenets is not rejected, how could, then, ID be rejected?

    While IC might be a special base of SC, rejecting IC would not necessarily lead to the rejection of SC – and by extension ID. A simple modification of the tenets (one that does not include IC) could salvage ID from rejection. Michael Behe’s example, from 1996, before SC was introduced in 1998, that the demonstration of IC causes rejection of ID is, thus, not necessarily true. (Joseph, I have considered Behe’s statement, and found it wanting).

    While ID might be rejected in principle by showing abiogenesis that is SC and IC, in practice, this is virtually impossible. The life form I’ve seen (sort of) required to arise would not be expected to do so tomorrow, next week or even the next millenium. Do you think you would get a research grant for this? And if the experiment was to be left to its own devices, do you think anyone would remember about it? Would even society exist by then? Would humans exist? Somehow I agree that showing abiogenesis could in principle cause the rejection of ID, but since it, in practice, is virtually impossible, I somehow don’t. Your reliance on a direct observation for the rejection of ID has made the probability of this rejection happening virtually indistinguishabe from not being able to do it at all.

    The Behe example from above, where the addition of more tenets means that the rejection of a previous tenet would not lead to the rejection of ID could also be a problem. This is why I said that “the positive claim that a bacteria can turn into a horse would still be “vacuous”.”. Since the abiogenesis rejection of ID relies solely on gaps in our knowledge, it would be easy to salvage ID by pointing to other existing gaps (I.e. OK you’ve shown how a prokaryote can form, but how could a horse possibly form from a prokaryote). You might think that I’m grasping for straws here, and maybe I am. But given the time we can expect for an abiogenesis rejection of ID to come through, there is plenty of time to think of new tenets.

    DaveScot,
    “Not specifically but yes, any research into possible mechanisms for abiogenesis is in fact research that can potentially falsify biological ID. What’s your point? ”

    What I thought you meant was that Urey-Miller showed how ID could form biological molecules. This would, then, hardly have been a good example of the amount of intervention researchers could do in an experiment. If that was not what you meant, then I simply misunderstood you.

  40. 40
    DaveScot says:

    Hawks

    I have no idea what you’re talking about with abiogenesis and IC. Obviously if it can be demonstrated that life can evolve from random interaction of chemicals in a natural environment the life that emerges isn’t going to be irreducibly complex – the reduction pathway will have been revealed.

    As far as falsification that’ll do it for me. Abiogenesis is the highest mountain IMO. If chance & necessity can climb that it can climb anything. I can’t speak for anyone else of course. It won’t put much of dent in cosmological ID, which is why I was careful to say biological ID, but CID doesn’t hold any interest for me. If the whole universe is contrived and everything that happened was predetermined it becomes boring beyond words – pointless.

  41. 41
    DaveScot says:

    Hawks

    And just so you know, if I had my druthers, I’d rather abiogenesis was successfully demonstrated. It would be very cool if it were demonstrated that life could evolve wherever the conditions were suitable. I’d love to see life discovered elsewhere in the universe. I’d be delighted to see some non-DNA based microbes discovered on Mars or Europa or IO or Titan or anywhere else in solar system. Nothing would make me happier than SETI hearing from someone else. But above all that I want THE TRUTH. Sometimes the truth hurts.

  42. 42
    John A. Davison says:

    I think a predetermined universe is a beautiful universe myself, especially since it is in perfect accord with my Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis.

    “Everything is determined … by forces over which we have no control.”
    Albert Einstein

    Amen

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  43. 43
    DaveScot says:

    If everything is predetermined why bother getting out of bed in the morning? If you do, it’s only because you had no choice and if you don’t well that’s also not under your control. And why prosecute criminals since they had no choice?

    We can woolgather about the universe being predetermined but we’d better not act like it’s true as that’s a flat out denial of personal responsibility for one’s actions. Liberals probably love the idea.

  44. 44
    John A. Davison says:

    I have no problem getting out of bed in the morning. I will stick with big Al, thank you very much. I don’t believe predetermination is woolgathering either as I believe it is true. It is implicit in my Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis. I am also not a liberal. Liberals dont believe in anything for sure. I sure do and so did Einstein.

    “Our actions should be based on the ever-present awareness that human beings in their thinking, feeling , and acting ARE NOT FREE but are just as causally bound as the stars in their motion.”
    Albert Einstein, my emphasis.

    Einstein lived and died a convinced determinist and so will I. Furthermore, I believe that it is my predetermined Providence to do everything in my power to expose the atheist Darwinian deceit for all to see and to resurrect my sources from the oblivion to which those “prescribed” intellectual lightweights have relegated them. I cannot imagine a more important enterprise and I am delighted to be part of it. IT WAS MEANT TO BE. Robert Broom felt exactly the same way about his discoveries in the lime quarries of South Africa. He was a great scientist like all my other sources. To deny predermination is to grant credence to Darwinian randomness. That I am not prepared to do.

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  45. 45
    John A. Davison says:

    Here goes one more thread into oblivion never to be heard from again.

  46. 46
    Joseph says:

    OK if life could arise from non-living matter that would refute both IC and CSI as IDists claim that living organisms contain both. ID would fall.

    Picture the three premises of ID like a tripod with the inference resting on top. Take away one leg of that tripod and it falls. It is as simple as that.

  47. 47
    Hawks says:

    Jospeh,

    “OK if life could arise from non-living matter that would refute both IC and CSI as IDists claim that living organisms contain both. ID would fall.
    Picture the three premises of ID like a tripod with the inference resting on top. Take away one leg of that tripod and it falls. It is as simple as that. ”

    You may claim that life contains both IC and CSI, but if IC was rejected, there would still be CSI. While IC might make great CSI, it is not a necessity. Both IC and CSI claim to be able to detect design. If one method is wrong, it does not follow that the other must also be. That is just illogical. I.e., rejecting IC would falsify ID in the sense of modifying it (removing IC but retaining CSI), but not in the sense of rejecting it. The tripod analogy is nice, and to an IDist it might actually make sense – but it does not from a logical perspective.

  48. 48
    Hawks says:

    DaveScot,

    “I have no idea what you’re talking about with abiogenesis and IC. ”

    I was trying to post a reply to both you and Jospeh (who originally brought in IC). I thought this might my viewpoint easier to understand – but maybe it had the opposite effect?

    “Obviously if it can be demonstrated that life can evolve from random interaction of chemicals in a natural environment the life that emerges isn’t going to be irreducibly complex – the reduction pathway will have been revealed. ”

    1) The pathway might be known if you sample this emerging life form all along and don’t just describe the final product.
    2) Maybe the final product is not actually IC anyway.

    “Abiogenesis is the highest mountain IMO. If chance & necessity can climb that it can climb anything. I can’t speak for anyone else of course.”

    I realise that YOU will be convinced.

    “And just so you know, if I had my druthers, I’d rather abiogenesis was successfully demonstrated.”

    Never heard the word druthers before – but I sure will use it from now. I’d also like abiogenesis demonstrated. Unfortunately, considering the level of evidence required of you for this to come about, it won’t happen in our lifetimes. I’d also like life to be discovered elsewhere in the universe. I’d also like it if aliens landed on our planet and claimed that their ancestors designed life on Earth.

  49. 49
    DaveScot says:

    Hawks

    it won’t happen in our lifetimes

    A bit of a defeatist attitude, one I share with you, but not for the same reasons. I don’t think it will happen because it’s not possible to demonstrate the impossible. You just despair the task is possible but difficult. But a laboratory demonstration isn’t the only way. One microbe found on another planet or moon that is based on something substantially different from the common genetic code on earth would also be enough to demonstrate the feasibility of undirected abiogenesis to me. In fact one microbe found on the EARTH that isn’t based on the same genetic code would do it for me.

    Are you sure your defeatism isn’t an unadmitted fear that abiogenesis isn’t possible without intelligent agency? Maybe a little introspection of what you really believe is in order, Hawks.

  50. 50
    Joseph says:

    Hawks:
    You may claim that life contains both IC and CSI, but if IC was rejected, there would still be CSI.

    The claim of IDists is that living organsims are both IC and contain CSI. IC because we know there is a minimum number of necessary components and CSI because that minimum number of necessary components is derived from over 500 bits of complex and specified information.

    Hawks:
    While IC might make great CSI, it is not a necessity.

    If you are saying that one can be present in the absence of the other, sure.

    Hawks:
    Both IC and CSI claim to be able to detect design.

    We claim that design is detected because both IC and CSI are observed.

    Hawks:
    If one method is wrong, it does not follow that the other must also be.

    I never said nor implied that. But that is why I specified that living organisms encapsule both.

    Hawks:
    The tripod analogy is nice, and to an IDist it might actually make sense – but it does not from a logical perspective.

    How would you know? About a logical perspective that is- I say that considering the materialistic alternative to ID is “sheer-dumb-luck”, which defies all logic…

  51. 51
    Hawks says:

    DaveScot,

    “But a laboratory demonstration isn’t the only way. One microbe found on another planet or moon that is based on something substantially different from the common genetic code on earth would also be enough to demonstrate the feasibility of undirected abiogenesis to me. In fact one microbe found on the EARTH that isn’t based on the same genetic code would do it for me.”

    Why would you or any IDist conclude that undirected abiogenesis is possible given the above scenarios? In neither example has abiogenesis been observed. Would you not be more likely to conclude that these were instances of design? And if not – why not???

    “Maybe a little introspection of what you really believe is in order, Hawks. ”

    Spare me the new-age psycho-babble. I do think that decent evidence for abiogenesis will come in my life-time. It just won’t consist of an uninterupted chain of observations.

  52. 52
    Hawks says:

    Joseph,

    “IC because we know there is a minimum number of necessary components…”

    Your assumption here is, of course, that life would have to be IC.

    “How would you know? About a logical perspective that is- I say that considering the materialistic alternative to ID is “sheer-dumb-luck”, which defies all logic… ”

    Brilliant response. Built and attack a straw-man – and a straw-man does not defy logic at that. Good work.

  53. 53
    DaveScot says:

    Hawks

    Introspection hardly qualifies as psycho-babble.

    I can’t speak for any other IDists. For me, finding a microbe that uses something other than the universal genetic code on earth would be sufficient evidence that abiogenesis is possible. Why not further instances of design? Because the common genetic code is strong evidence that there’s a single original source for life. If a non-DNA scheme is discovered here or elsewhere it is indicative of multiple sources and multiple designs using different core machinery seems too much of a stretch. There’s no adequate explanation at this time how abiogenesis in multiple instances would generate the same genetic code so finding life with a different code would be strong evidence of a chance mechanism behind it.

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