Origin Of Life

What if origin of life research rested on a mistake?

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Roger White portrait A friend suggests we notice a 2007 paper at Nous:

Conclusion

My argument has been that the following combination of attitudes is
misguided:

(i) Even if we do yet have an adequate explanation of life’s emergence, knowledge of the physical, chemical, and biological conditions that life requires makes it extremely implausible that life simply arose by chance. Rather, we have reason to think that there is something about the relevant physical properties, forces, laws, and other conditions (having nothing to do with the purposes of any agent) which make it rather likely that life should come into being. This leaves open atleastthe following options, among which I haven’t attempted to adjudicate.

(ii) There is a non-intentional explanation for life’s existence, one that makes a more limited appeal to chance, or perhaps leaves nothing up to chance at all. But our reason for thinking so is that a specific proposal has been investigated and confirmed to some degree; it is not that we just think there must be such an explanation, given the requirements for life’s existence.

(iii) Life’s emergence was due, at least in part, to the work of an agent.

(iv) Life’s emergence is the extremely improbable result of chance.

I am not entirely comfortable with this conclusion, given that (i) is a very common position among scientists working in fields relevant to the origin of life. There may be some grounds for (i) that I have failed to appreciate. But at the very least, the considerations raised here should encourage us to rethink the assumptions at work in origins of life research.9 (paywall) but pdf here. More. White R, “Does origin of life research rest on a mistake?” Nous 41 (2007): 453-477. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0068.2007.00655.x

Roger White joined the philosophy faculty at MIT in 2006 (papers listed). Has he not yet been hunted down and forced to recant his questions?

See also: What we know and don’t know about the origin of life

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One Reply to “What if origin of life research rested on a mistake?

  1. 1
    Querius says:

    Interesting.

    I wonder why there’s such an aversion in science to simply concede that we don’t know rather than producing wild speculations? Is it due to a fear that this admission might destroy the faith of young, impressionable minds in the Omniscience of Science?

    Has he not yet been hunted down and forced to recant his questions?

    Haha! Love it.

    -Q

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