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Defining life in a world without Darwin

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At one time, life was simple, and defining it was easy. NASA defined life as: “a self-sustained chemical system capable of undergoing Darwinian evolution.” [1] In that case, what are they to make of recent findings that life’s simplest cells evolve mainly by swapping genes, and not through Darwinian competition? [2] Can they forbid teaching that in publicly funded schools – Texas Darwin lobby-style? But then …

Don Johnson, author of Probability’s Nature and the Nature of Probability offers, on the definition of life:

Although there is no universally accepted definition of life [3], it often includes characteristics like metabolism, growth, adaptation, and reproduction. The existence of a genome and the genetic code divides living organisms from nonliving matter is perhaps the most concise definition of life. [4] 

Concise yes, and it offers no theory of origin. Thoughts?

[1]The wording is attributed to OOL researcher Gerald Joyce, in Foreword, Origins of Life: The Central Concepts, D.W. Deamer and G R Fleischaker, editors (Boston: Jones & Bartlett; 1994). pp. xi–xii. This article from the NASA Astrobiology Institute: Leslie Mullen, “Unfamiliar Life: Why should the particular polymer combinations of Earth reign supreme?” (April 17, 2002) The definition seems to have been accepted.

[2] “Microbes evolve predominantly by acquiring genes from other microbes, new research suggests, challenging previous theories that gene duplication is the primary driver of protein evolution in prokaryotes”, from Megan Scudellari Gene swap key to evolution: Horizontal gene transfer accounts for the majority of prokaryotic protein evolution, The Scientist ( 27th January 2011)

[3] Claus Emmeche, “DefiningLife, Explaining Emergence,” 1997.

[4] Hubert Yockey, Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life, 2005. This definition includes as living (or at least as once living) organisms those that are sterile (e.g. mules and worker ants) and those not having cells (e.g. viruses). While life uses the laws of chemistry and physics, those laws cannot define or explain life any more than the rule of grammar that were used during the preparation of this book define its content. (P. 18)

Comments
Well, thank God scientists don't need to disbelieve anything to do science either! They certainly don't need to disbelieve the miraculous.Mung
July 20, 2011
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Vividbleau,
Doveton “Actually, according to either definition, self-evident requires no belief given the definition of belief I provided. I’m quite fine either way.” I am quite sure that you are fine either way, consistency not being one of your strong points.
You are more than welcome to point out my inconsistencies whenever you find them. However, I'm skeptical of the claim in this case since I provided definitions and stuck to them. But hey...I'm open to being shown otherwise...
“Do you routinely believe that you will not fall asleep at night until you wake up again at some point?” No which means I believe in the opposite. I routinely believe that I will falls asleep at night until I wake up again at some point. To disbelieve is to believe.
Ahh good. Given a few of your questions, I was beginning to think you didn't understand the difference.Doveton
July 20, 2011
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Doveton "Actually, according to either definition, self-evident requires no belief given the definition of belief I provided. I’m quite fine either way." I am quite sure that you are fine either way, consistency not being one of your strong points. "Do you routinely believe that you will not fall asleep at night until you wake up again at some point?" No which means I believe in the opposite. I routinely believe that I will falls asleep at night until I wake up again at some point. To disbelieve is to believe. Vividvividbleau
July 20, 2011
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Vividbleau,
Doveton “Works for me. My point remains the same.”
Ahhh I don’t think so.Your point being that what you hold as self evident is not a belief yet according to your definition it is. Self evident “Without proof or reasoning”
Actually, according to either definition, self-evident requires no belief given the definition of belief I provided. I'm quite fine either way.
Doveton “but I’ve not deployed such a definition of belief. Here’s the definition I’ve been using all along: noun 1 an acceptance that something exists or is true, ESPECIALLY ONE WITHOUT PROOF: his belief in extraterrestrial life [with clause] :a belief that climate can be modified beneficially From the Oxford English Dictionary.”
But once again I am not surprised since you don’t know why you should believe your own words why should you believe your own definitions? At least you are consistent in your incoherency.
This makes no sense, Vivid. I asked the question not because I am uncertain of my words, but because based on the context of your questions and my definitions, the concept of "belief" does not apply. In other words, your question concerning my belief of my words are nonsensical to me. Given the above, I'll pose to you the same question I posted to Mung (who never addressed it): Do you routinely believe that you will not fall asleep at night until you wake up again at some point?Doveton
July 20, 2011
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Doveton "Works for me. My point remains the same." Ahhh I don't think so.Your point being that what you hold as self evident is not a belief yet according to your definition it is. Self evident "Without proof or reasoning" Doveton "but I’ve not deployed such a definition of belief. Here’s the definition I’ve been using all along: noun 1 an acceptance that something exists or is true, ESPECIALLY ONE WITHOUT PROOF: his belief in extraterrestrial life [with clause] :a belief that climate can be modified beneficially From the Oxford English Dictionary." But once again I am not surprised since you don't know why you should believe your own words why should you believe your own definitions? At least you are consistent in your incoherency. Vividvividbleau
July 19, 2011
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Vividbleau,
Doveton “Incorrect. Here’s the definition of self-evident: adjective Not needing to be demonstrated or explained; obvious” Incorrect here is the definition of self evident adjective, Websters evident without proof or reasoning.
Works for me. My point remains the same.
“See definition of moot.” Once again do you believe the definition of moot? “Why would I?” You mean why would you believe your own words? Why am I not surprised?
Once again, since my words are self-evident, the act of believing in them makes no sense. Equivocating the term "believe" to apply to convictions concerning definitions provided doesn't strike me as having any point. So I guess I should ask at this juncture - do you have one?Doveton
July 19, 2011
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Doveton "Incorrect. Here’s the definition of self-evident: adjective? Not needing to be demonstrated or explained; obvious" Incorrect here is the definition of self evident adjective, Websters evident without proof or reasoning. "See definition of moot." Once again do you believe the definition of moot? "Why would I?" You mean why would you believe your own words? Why am I not surprised? Vividvividbleau
July 19, 2011
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Kf,
If science is about knowledge it needs to be about seeking the truth, though err we will; otherwise it simply becomes yet another materialist ideological Trojan Horse, as some are indeed trying to make it into.
All I can say is that I certainly don't seek "truth" in my work and I'm not aware of any scientist out in the world who does.Doveton
July 19, 2011
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Vividbleau,
Doveton “No need; see definition of self-evident.” Let me repeat from 59 According to your definition since what is elf evident requires no proof, indeed cannot be proven, it must be a belief.
Incorrect. Here's the definition of self-evident: adjective? Not needing to be demonstrated or explained; obvious
“Nope, you didn’t, but from my perspective, knowing (or thinking one knows) that something exists is required to believe in it.” Do you believe that from your perspective knowing ( or thinking one knows) that something exists is requires to believe in it?
Why would I?
“The truth or existence of one or the other is irrelevant, so the belief in one or the other is moot.” Do you believe the belief in one or the other is moot? “See definition of moot.” Do you believe the defintion of moot?
See definition of moot.
Mung “I’m not convinced Doveton believes this conversation is taking place.” Thats a moot point :)
Clearly true.
Thus, without anyway of knowing whether something exists, I have no way to believe in it.” So you don’t believe in it?
There's no ability to believe or disbelieve given the context above.Doveton
July 19, 2011
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Mung,
What was said was: Science isn’t about belief and requires no belief But, since it is scientists who do science, and science itself cannot have beliefs, I don’t think it was a completely inaccurate portrayal of what you meant.
It really is and this isn't that hard. It's no different than noting that cooking isn't about belief and requires no belief. Unless one is trying to create a strawman by equivocating the definition of belief, the statement is pretty straight forward - one does not have to hold any specific convictions or accepted truths without evidence in order to cook food.
There is no requirement that scientists have beliefs in order to engage in science. Is that better?
Yes. Nice rewording.
And science most surely is about what scientists believe to be the case.
Not in my experience.Doveton
July 19, 2011
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PS: Knowledge, best summary defn, warranted, credibly true belief. If science is about knowledge it needs to be about seeking the truth, though err we will; otherwise it simply becomes yet another materialist ideological Trojan Horse, as some are indeed trying to make it into. Cf discussion here.kairosfocus
July 18, 2011
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F/N 1: MOOT, AmHD, 2b: "b. Of no practical importance; irrelevant." F/N 2: On self evident first principles of right reason, cf here.kairosfocus
July 18, 2011
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Doveton "Thus, without anyway of knowing whether something exists, I have no way to believe in it.” So you don’t believe in it? Vividvividbleau
July 18, 2011
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Doveton "No need; see definition of self-evident." Let me repeat from 59 According to your definition since what is elf evident requires no proof, indeed cannot be proven, it must be a belief. "Nope, you didn’t, but from my perspective, knowing (or thinking one knows) that something exists is required to believe in it." Do you believe that from your perspective knowing ( or thinking one knows) that something exists is requires to believe in it? "The truth or existence of one or the other is irrelevant, so the belief in one or the other is moot.” Do you believe the belief in one or the other is moot? "See definition of moot." Do you believe the defintion of moot? Mung "I’m not convinced Doveton believes this conversation is taking place." Thats a moot point :) Vivid Thus, without anyway of knowing whether something exists, I have no way to believe in it." So you don't believe in it?vividbleau
July 18, 2011
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“He says scientists have no beliefs.” Yes, that was a mistake. I meant to delete it but hit the comment button before I could do so. What was said was:
Science isn’t about belief and requires no belief
But, since it is scientists who do science, and science itself cannot have beliefs, I don't think it was a completely inaccurate portrayal of what you meant. There is no requirement that scientists have beliefs in order to engage in science. Is that better? And science most surely is about what scientists believe to be the case.Mung
July 18, 2011
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I'm not convinced Doveton believes this conversation is taking place.Mung
July 18, 2011
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Vividbleau,
“In the case of whether what I perceive is real or an illusion, I have no way of knowing.” I did not ask about knowing?
Nope, you didn't, but from my perspective, knowing (or thinking one knows) that something exists is required to believe in it. Thus, without anyway of knowing whether something exists, I have no way to believe in it.
“Thus, I can’t say whether my memories exist or are true,” Do you believe that you cant say whether your memories exist or are true?
See above concerning knowing.
The truth or existence of one or the other is irrelevant, so the belief in one or the other is moot.” Do you believe the truth or exietence of one or the other is irrelevant, so the belief in one or the other is moot?
See definition of moot.Doveton
July 18, 2011
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"In the case of whether what I perceive is real or an illusion, I have no way of knowing." I did not ask about knowing? "Thus, I can’t say whether my memories exist or are true," Do you believe that you cant say whether your memories exist or are true? The truth or existence of one or the other is irrelevant, so the belief in one or the other is moot." Do you believe the truth or exietence of one or the other is irrelevant, so the belief in one or the other is moot? Vivid The truth or existence of one or the other is irrelevant, so the belief in one or the other is moot.vividbleau
July 18, 2011
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Vividbleau,
“I don’t care one way or the other.” I did not ask whenther you cared one way or the other. I asked You either belive your memories are an illusion or you dont believe they are an illusion. Which is it?
Here we clearly differ on the concept of "belief". In my understanding (which goes along with the definition I provided), the term belief only applies to an acceptance of something I find exists or is true. In the case of whether what I perceive is real or an illusion, I have no way of knowing. Thus, I can't say whether my memories exist or are true, but since it does not matter, I don't care either way. It could be both as well and still would not matter. The truth or existence of one or the other is irrelevant, so the belief in one or the other is moot.
“Do you believe the definition you provided?” No need – it has utility and is thus self-evident. Do you believe it has utility and is thus self evident?
No need; see definition of self-evident.Doveton
July 18, 2011
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re 58 "Do you believe it has utility and is thus self evident?" According to your definition since what is elf evident requires no proof, indeed cannot be proven, it must be a belief. Vivid Vividvividbleau
July 18, 2011
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re 57 "I don’t care one way or the other." I did not ask whenther you cared one way or the other. I asked You either belive your memories are an illusion or you dont believe they are an illusion. Which is it? "Do you believe the definition you provided?" No need – it has utility and is thus self-evident. Do you believe it has utility and is thus self evident? Vividvividbleau
July 18, 2011
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Vividbleau,
Do you believe your memories are not an illusion?
I don't care one way or the other.
Do you believe the definition you provided?
No need - it has utility and is thus self-evident.Doveton
July 18, 2011
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"No need. They are based upon my memories and if my memories are an illusion, all aspects of my reality are an illusion" Do you believe your memories are not an illusion? "Why would I need to when I have provided the definition?" Do you believe the definition you provided? Vividvividbleau
July 18, 2011
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Vividbleau,
“The statements I have made about science are based upon my experience in the science” Do you believe that your statements about science are based upon your experience in the science?
No need. They are based upon my memories and if my memories are an illusion, all aspects of my reality are an illusion. Given that, since I have no way of knowing if reality (and by association my memories) is an illusion, it is, from my POV, identical to reality. Thus I will rely upon my memories as being consistent with the framework of this illusion or reality since that is the perception provided. No belief required in either case.
“The statements I have made about beliefs are based upon the definitions of belief.” Do you believe the statements you have made about beliefs are based upon the definitions of belief?
Why would I need to when I have provided the definition?
“In the former case, relating experience is not commonly referred to as a product of belief, but rather a product of observation” Do you believe this?
Yes.
“In the latter case, making statements about defined terms is generally not referred to as being based upon belief, but rather upon awareness of the definition.” Do you believe making statemments about defined terms is generally not referred to as being based upon belief, but rather upon awareness of the definition?
Yes.Doveton
July 18, 2011
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Ilion,
“He says scientists have no beliefs.”
Perhaps he means “there is no truth in them.”
Well, I've never said that scientists have no beliefs and pointed this out to Mung. I'm not sure who Mung is referring to in fact since I can't find an example of anyone here stating that scientists have no beliefs.
Isn’t it odd that he says “BINGO!” about my post @ 32 — while apparently deploying the tendentious “definition” of ‘belief’ used by no one but atheistic polemicists — and simultaneously ignores my post @ 34?
It would be odd under those conditions, but I've not deployed such a definition of belief. Here's the definition I've been using all along: noun 1 an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof: his belief in extraterrestrial life [with clause] :a belief that climate can be modified beneficially From the Oxford English Dictionary. In any event, I find your previous statement quite accurate, so I agree with it. As for 34, since you didn't address it to me, I thought you wanted only Mung to address it. Here's my response now:
Isn’t it amusing that almost all scientistes (think ‘artiste‘ a la Miss Piggy) will proclaim, night and day, that “science isn’t about belief and requires no belief” … and then they spend inordinate amounts of time faulting the intellect and/or morals of persons who simply do not believe the stupid things they insist are “scientific truths” (which are not to be confused with actual truths).
Well, I don't know what you are thinking of specifically, but since neither I nor Lizzie (to my knowledge) has faulted anyone else's intellect or morals, I'm not sure how this even applies to me. Could you elaborate?
What? Are these people stupid — are they incapable of understanding their own claims? — or are they just intellectually dishonest?
Hard to say since I can't find an example of what you are referring to in this thread.Doveton
July 18, 2011
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re 52 "The statements I have made about science are based upon my experience in the science" Do you believe that your statements about science are based upon your experience in the science? "The statements I have made about beliefs are based upon the definitions of belief." Do you believe the statements you have made about beliefs are based upon the definitions of belief? "In the former case, relating experience is not commonly referred to as a product of belief, but rather a product of observation" Do you believe this? "In the latter case, making statements about defined terms is generally not referred to as being based upon belief, but rather upon awareness of the definition." Do you believe making statemments about defined terms is generally not referred to as being based upon belief, but rather upon awareness of the definition? vividvividbleau
July 18, 2011
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Vividbleu,
Mung this is what I want to know from Doveton If the statements he/she has made about what science is, is not,what beliefs are, what beliefs are not, etc, etc, are not beliefs then what are they. Doveton?
The statements I have made about science are based upon my experience in the science. The statements I have made about beliefs are based upon the definitions of belief. In the former case, relating experience is not commonly referred to as a product of belief, but rather a product of observation. In the latter case, making statements about defined terms is generally not referred to as being based upon belief, but rather upon awareness of the definition. Does that answer your question?Doveton
July 18, 2011
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Mung,
it [science] is about utility – what explanations are useful for predicting further aspects of our world’s phenomena.
Which of course is itself a belief.
I disagree. It strikes me as an observation. But then I'm actually in research, so perhaps by practicing it, I'm more aware of it.
And the belief that an explanation may be useful for predicting further aspects of our world’s phenomena is (obviously) a belief.
Except that in science, explanations are not believed to be more useful before they are observed to be; they either objectively are (and thus are labeled as such) or objectively are not (and thus are labeled as such) through use. No belief required. So Mung, just curious, but do you routinely believe that you will not fall asleep at night until you wake up again at some point? Because that is the type of belief process you are describing for science and I don't find it tenable.Doveton
July 18, 2011
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Vividbleu,
“Science isn’t about belief and requires no belief” it’s because science isn’t about truth.” If its not a belief then what do you say it is?
An observation.Doveton
July 18, 2011
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Max Born: "I [still] believe in the possibility of a model of reality... that is to say, of a theory which presents things themselves and not merely the probability of their occurrence."junkdnaforlife
July 15, 2011
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