Culture Intelligent Design Naturalism

Catholic astronomer on Canada’s government’s universe of randomness (“Stuff happens.”)

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Readers may remember that late last year, Canada’s governor-general got some attention for ridiculing Canadians who do not think that life is random process. The Prime Minister supported her, though her job is essentially to speak on behalf of the Queen, who apparently does not support such views:

Can you believe that still today in learned society, in houses of government, unfortunately… we are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, a random process.

Julie Payette

From Christopher Graney at the Vatican Observatory Foundation Blog:

Stuff happens?

Apparently both my students and the governor have somehow been taught that randomness is just part of the universe, and is an acceptable explanation for things. Stuff just happens. As a scientist, that bothers me.

But the bottom line is this: “stuff just happens” is an idea that has been dumped into the trash bin of science history. Neither my students nor Canada’s Governor General should be casually making reference to this discarded idea. That they do is bothersome. It says that something is wrong in how we scientists talk about science, because I can’t imagine that anyone who thinks that stuff just happens would ever be motivated to try to study why anything happens. That study of why stuff happens is an important part of science. Thus stuff just happens is bad science, and bad for science. More.

Dr. Graney offers an informative look at the notion of spontaneous generation (“stuff happens”) in biology.

“Stuff happens” is the ultimate statement of post-modernism, the creed in which the students were educated, and it is killing science.

See also: Here are some astronauts who are not named Julie Payette who doubt that life has a random origin

Biophysicist Kirk Durston: Canada’s governor general as a highly visible example of scientism 

Can science survive long in a post-modern world? It’s not clear.

and

How naturalism morphed into a state religion

4 Replies to “Catholic astronomer on Canada’s government’s universe of randomness (“Stuff happens.”)

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    As I understand it, the mutations that occur in our genome are random with respect to the fitness or survivability of the organism in which they occur, as far as we can tell. . In other words, there is no indication that they are the effect of some purposive intelligent agency. That is the extent of randomness in the evolution of life.

  2. 2
    ET says:

    Seversky:

    As I understand it, the mutations that occur in our genome are random with respect to the fitness or survivability of the organism in which they occur, as far as we can tell.

    The work of James Shapiro and Barbara McClintok before, say otherwise.

    But that is moot as the actual claim is that they are chance events- accidents, errors and mistakes. Then add the elimination process of natural selection and start culling those changes that are less fit. And what is less fit can change with the environment.

    The role of just-so chance events in the evolution of life reigns supreme if indeed the blind watchmaker did it. The right mutations to the right DNA sequences at the right time- and no one can be watching.

    The problem is there isn’t any justification in calling genetic recombination, transposons, insertions, deletions, and duplications genetic accidents, errors and mistakes. To say “they just happen” is an argument from ignorance. And as our computer software demonstrates the intelligent designer need not be present as the program runs the show.

  3. 3
    aarceng says:

    As I understand it, the mutations that occur in our genome are random with respect to the fitness or survivability of the organism in which they occur, as far as we can tell.

    Perhaps, so long as you don’t suggest that means equal harmful and beneficial mutations. The effects distribution is highly skewed with only perhaps only one in a million being beneficial.

  4. 4
    Seversky says:

    aarceng @ 3

    Perhaps, so long as you don’t suggest that means equal harmful and beneficial mutations. The effects distribution is highly skewed with only perhaps only one in a million being beneficial.

    Understandable if you assume there are many more ways for a complex system to go wrong than to go right. The advantage of evolution by natural selection is that in principle, given time, the detrimental mutations get filtered out leaving only the beneficial ones. Neat, huh?

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