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Non-materialist atheist philosopher James Barham rates an attack at Huffpo


Huh? Here.  Yeah, that guy, at the Best Schools blog.

On the second level Barham has implicitly included an origin-of-life question: When in the history of the first cells did natural genetic engineering appear? My own guess is quite early. I think the ability to change the genome is a basic vital function. Change is repeatedly necessary to adapt to a dynamic environment, as the fossil record demonstrates so well. Life is the story of organisms that succeeded in changing in response to periodic evolutionary crises.

I took pains in the book to say that origins-of-life questions are still beyond rigorous scientific investigation. We do not yet understand enough about life as we find it. This gap in understanding includes the issues of agency and teleology so fascinating to Barham:

Actually, it s fascinating to lots of people, it’s the only reason we bother to fund that kind of research.

And, this just in, an enraged reader writes to complain that Shapiro seems to say here that, “Natural genetic engineering … does not need explanation.”

Come again??? I’ve seen this move now several times from several distinguished thinkers in the philosophy of science (I recall Arthur Fine using it in a seminar at Northwestern years ago, more recently Bradley Monton used it in his “atheist defends ID” book (fine tuning does not need an explanation); and now we’re seeing this move from Shapiro, who is making it not as a scientist but as a philosopher). Natural genetic engineering has not been around forever even if all life as we know it presupposes it. So how did it arise in the first instance? What makes such an amazing thing possible? I would not let him shift the burden of explanation so easily.


You could get a free education out of Best Schools.


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