A self-important prof explained that to me the other day. We would be really troubled if scientists found out the origin of life because then God wouldn’t be needed.
Then – on the principle of two insults for the price of one – he proceeded to tell me that it is all quite understandable, even if a bit immature.
As usual with people who tell us what’s wrong with us on a volunteer basis, he wasn’t interested in feedback. Had he been, I would have pointed out that origin of life studies has been an uninterrupted failure for so long that any such worry is groundless.
In any event, Barry Arrington offered $1000 the other day to anyone could show conclusively that the creation of life requires a supernatural act:
Now, as has been explained on this site many times, while many ID proponents are theists, ID itself stands apart from theistic belief. For the umpteenth time, ID does not posit a supernatural designer. Nor does ID posit any suspension of the laws of nature.
He meekly suggested that they put up or shut up. He must be sure they’ll fail because we don’t have a grand to spare.
One reason the prof can blow hard with little risk is that the word “mystery” has at least three meanings, which allows for easy confusion.
Let’s separate them for a minute:
1. Facts are available but difficult to find. Take Schmeazle, for instance. It’s a mystery how that man afford a Maserati on his salary as a night watchman. We could solve the mystery by hiring a private dick to tail him. But it’s not our business, so we just have our suspicions. One day he’ll get busted, and we’ll read the story in the papers. Most mysteries in science are like this.
2. Facts may not be available. Origin of life is probably one such area, along with many aspects of human evolution. It all happened too long ago, and there are no witnesses. Even successful creation of life in the lab would not demonstrate the actual events. As a result, “research” typically means speculation based on scant evidence. It is as if our suspicions about Schmeazle in 1. were regarded by the police as evidence in themselves.
3. The human mind cannot, in principle, comprehend this matter. A number of doctrines of the Christian religion are like this. The relationship between grace and free will is, finally, a mystery, in this sense. When Christians are asked to have faith, it never means “prefer faith to facts.” The facts are too large for us, and we must have faith that what we know does not conflict with what we cannot know. This is not an area to which science can contribute much.
Analyzed in this light, the prof’s comments are nonsense, because they amounts to saying that origin of life or human evolution are a mystery in the third sense, when they are actually a mystery in the second.
Could design theory shed light on origin of life or human evolution? Probably, because we might well learn much more if we reframe key questions.
As things stand, people who doubt that the mind exists are researching the question of how it evolved. The only mystery there is why anyone should expect progress in such a venture.
Perhaps that’s a fourth type of mystery … why people hold mutually contradictory beliefs. 😉
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