Moshe Averick, author of Nonsense of a High Order , writing at Algemeiner, asks us to picture scientists receiving a Morse code message from outer space, purportedly sent by aliens offering a cure for cancer. Will they respond by claiming that there must be some explanation for the message other than an intelligence?:
Imagine further that the following exchange then takes place between two SETI scientists:
– “Hold on, stop the party! How do you know the source is an intelligent alien life form, maybe there is some naturalistic unguided process that is the source of these transmissions?”
– (Incredulously) “What unguided, naturalistic process do you know of that can produce intelligible Morse code messages?!”
– “Aha! The Argument from Ignorance! Just because you don’t know, does that mean there must be an intelligent creative force behind these messages? After all, did you meet these aliens? Do you know who, where, or what they are?
Is the conclusion that these transmissions originated from an intelligent source an Argument from Ignorance or is it simply as obvious as 2+2=4? The simple truth is that we are not ignorant of how specified information – like Morse code messages – arises. The only known source of such information is creative, conscious, and intelligent activity. More.
And life, even at its humblest, is full of specified information.
Note: The difficulty with the origin of life is that it is a historical event in time, as opposed to a law of physics or chemistry.
We could find out how to produce an event that creates life in a test tube. But that would not tell us whether it arose that way. We would know only that it might have arisen that way.
Suppose further research turns up 297 other scenarios that also produce life? Then we know of 298 ways life could have arisen, which is pretty much what we have today with the origin of life community’s Theory of the Month approach— except that our approaches would be complete, detailed and backed by hard evidence of success.
There are two other possibilities: We could try 180,000 events that produce life and discover that only one of them works. Then it is reasonable to conclude that that event or a very similar one took place. We can’t go back in a time machine to check. But we can live with Sherlock Holmes’ principle that if we have ruled out all the other suspects, this is likely the one.
The third possibility is that we will discover certain laws of physics and chemistry which reliably generate life under certain conditions. See Does Nature Just “Naturally” Produce Life? This was the view of biochemist Christian de Duve (1917-2013), a Nobelist (1974). In that case, we could say that life will get started when certain external conditions are right. But no one has discovered the conditions that generate life, only conditions under which it can exist.
We will be at this a long time.
See also: Moshe Averick in USA Today on the confusion around origin of life
Is origin of life really a science problem?
What we know and don’t know about the origin of life