Joel Cannon (
Mon, 29 Sep 1997 17:02:25 -0400 (EDT)

Keith M says,
>Origin of life studies have been quite active and quite productive in
>recent years. There have been a number of very interesting deveopments
>that show promise in dealing with some of the more difficult problems. For
>example, ...<big snip>...
>Terry Gray's comment that "all claims
>of the impossibility or implausibility of abiogenesis are extremely
>premature" is if anything an understatement.

Thanks for all the useful information, Keith.
I haven't been following this for awhile, and am curious about what has
been happening and how much the "earned status" of prebiotic-E theories has
changed. {a decade ago, the EARNED STATUS was *much lower* than the
ASSIGNED STATUS} In the near future I'll want to take a closer look at
these newer studies, with a critical attitude that asks "how much of the
success is due to very careful design of experiments by the scientists, and
how much is relevant for natural scenarios that are likely to have occurred
on the early earth (or anywhere else in the universe, except in a

Keith also says,
>The fossil record provides very strong evidence for common descent (what
>many would call macroevolution).

Didn't I agree with this in my message? *

>A web article will be placed on the ASA
>webpage in the near future which presents some of the evidence of fossil
>transition among vertebrates. As lineages of fossil organisms are traced
>back in time, they become more similar morphologically to other closely
>related lineages toward their point of divergence from a common ancestor.
>This is often to the extent that fossils near the point of divergence
>cannot easily be classified. Gaps in the fossil record have been steadily
>filled in a manner consistent with the expectation of common descent. I
>accept evolutionary theory because of the vast amount of highly supportive
>data in its support.

* Well, maybe not. I guess the question is whether the evidence can be
used to distinguish between macro-E that is based on "random matter in
motion" and is thus totally undirected, compared with macro-E that is
theistically guided. {the difficulty [or impossibility] of deciding this by
using "science" was the point of Terry Gray's comments about the
metaphysical extrapolations, based partly on personal religious
preferences, made by Darwin and Asa Gray}
This question (random or guided) is especially difficult in macro-E, due
to the retroductive flexibility of neo-Darwinian theory, where it is
possible to come up with a good story for just about anything. {describing
this, Eduardo says that "many times when reading "science" I have the
annoying sensation I'm reading science fiction."}

So one important scientific question is "can we tell the difference?"
A follow-up philosophical question is appropriate if a theistically
guided process (that is not just hands-off deism) appears to produce the
same results as if it was randomly unguided. This is the "trickster God"
question of Elliott Sober -- that asks "Why wasn't God more obvious in the

Craig R