Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

ID types are unfair to panspermia? Eric Anderson replies


Rob Sheldon has written to say that ID types unfairly accuse panspermia advocates (those who think life on Earth came from comets) of kicking the can down the road. Here is Eric Anderson’s view:

The analogies of unfair criticism are conflating issues. If we had asked the doctor what caused the cancer and he did nothing more than cheerfully reply that he had removed it, then we would most certainly have a legitimate complaint that he didn’t answer our question. The ID approach to OOL is nothing like this.

The primary question on the table with abiogenesis/OOL research for generations has always been “How did life arise?” The location is secondary, almost to the point of being a bit player in the discussion.

So if someone is trying to explain life on Earth by claiming that life arose elsewhere and came to Earth, then they are not even touching the primary question. Yes, logically, it is certainly possible that life existed outside of Earth and then came to Earth, and we need to be open to that possibility. But it doesn’t help explain how life arose.

So to the extent that one is interested in how life arose (the OOL question that has always been on the table, after all), then any version of panspermia is most definitely kicking the can down the road, both practically and logically, and it is fair to point that out.

It is also not philosophical to ask about conditions elsewhere. That is a perfectly legitimate scientific question. And so far as we know, from everything observed at a distance and from the small-scale off-Earth explorations done to date, there is no reason to think that any other conditions elsewhere in the known universe are going to suddenly radically change the analysis and explain OOL. (Then we add in the transport question, which is a perfectly legitimate additional challenge.)

None of the 4 possible panspermia approaches you listed provide any help at all in explaining what we know is required for living organisms: sophisticated, complex, integrated, nano-technology-based machinery, information-rich systems with storage, retrieval and translation mechanisms, controls, regulatory networks and the like.

Whether life arose early in the universe, or there was high radioactivity, or there was a magnetic Big Bang — all of these are utterly impotent to explain what actually needs to be explained. And saying that life has always existed in an eternal universe just avoids the question and doesn’t hold a lot of water today.

So I don’t think it is at all fair to say that ID proponents are engaging in philosophy and refusing to engage with the science. Personally, I would be perfectly happy to see some kind of panspermia proposal that helps explain life on Earth. But so far, there has been precious little even on the transportation side, and absolutely nothing that helps explain the underlying primary question on the table: How did life arise?

Is panspermia a sound idea in origin of life studies? Readers are encouraged to weigh in.

Note: One thing panspermia should certainly do is gladden the hearts of the searchers for life on exoplanets. If life by comet happened even once…

Have a look at: Rob Sheldon: ID types are unfair to panspermia (the hypothesis that life came from space). Sheldon: The answer to critics of panspermia, is that it is not intended as an origin of life (OOL) theory; rather, it answers the question “Where did life on Earth come from?” So indeed, it is erroneous to accuse panspermia advocates of “kicking the can down the road.”

Without evidence, life beginning on Earth and originating elsewhere is hypothetical, not theoretical. Origin of life research should not be based on what is assumed, but what is known. As long as life in not found elsewhere, the research must remain Earth based. How hard could it be? It is just bringing life to something lifeless, which takes incredibly long odds to have happened, not too mention the vast amount of time it would take for everything to line up just right. With God, all things are possible. With man and nature, not so much. Why is it easier to believe life arose, either here or elsewhere, by chance and randomness, than believe life was created by intelligence. BobRyan
It IS kicking it down the road. Scientifically qualified life-from-another-planet or molecular-building-blacks-forming-on- comets advocates reached their position when satisfied there was no identified, undirected, natural mechanism which could have accumulated the massive quantities of multi-layered, digitally stored, information in the coding fractions of DNA. Therefore, following an a’priori rejection of a Creator, the only hypothetical source is either a planet with features superior to earth’s for originating life-forms that managed safe interplanetary travel, or a cosmic chemistry set producing carbon-based molecules. Given the immensity of the universe it is not so much kicking the can down the road as kicking it out of sight. [Which is not to say that life could be Created elsewhere, but that defeats the ‘natural origin’ argument, anyway.] Belfast
"dynamite drop in, monty" zweston
Everyone knows that, as revealed to Joseph Smith, life began in Jackson County, Missouri. Why all the debate and speculation? chuckdarwin
"it is erroneous to accuse panspermia advocates of “kicking the can down the road.” Except for the scientific mind is going to perceive that it's a Really Big Universe(?)-Sized Can and it really can't be moved with an earth-sized kick, anyway. Andrew asauber

Leave a Reply