Re: [asa] FYI: Arrogance, dogma and why science - not faith - is the new enemy of

From: Christine Smith <christine_mb_smith@yahoo.com>
Date: Wed Aug 15 2007 - 17:21:53 EDT

David,

Just a point of clarification...you write:

> However, there's
> nothing scientifically wrong with hypothesizing that
> natural selection
> acting on variation in prebiotic organic chemistry
> led to the origin
> of life. There are hints of how it could happen as
> well as
> significant gaps in our knowledge, so it is
> plausible but far from
> proven.

My understanding of the term "natural selection" is
that it describes how the natural environment
constrains the evolutionary pattern of life forms,
such that those who are more fit for a particular
ecological niche survive to pass on their genetic
material, thus shaping the future character of the
species.

Given this understanding, how is it that "natural
selection" gives rise to life, rather than acting upon
it? Isn't an existing life form inherent in the
definition?

Not to say that to hypothesize such a thing is
"scientifically wrong"--I'm more just confused on your
terminology.

Thanks,
Christine

--- David Campbell <pleuronaia@gmail.com> wrote:

> > >I do not have a high regard of the British press
>
> It is true that newspapers are not very reliable as
> sources of
> scientific information, although quality varies a
> good deal between
> papers. Some are simply incompetent, like the time
> the Spartanburg
> Herald-Journal ran the caption "Fossil discovery:
> From left, Joe
> Carter, Brian Coffey, and Todd Pusey unearth a
> fossil reptile..." with
> a picture of a Tyrannosaurus. (Joe said the picture
> was him before he
> had his morning caffeine. Ironically, the reptile
> turned out to look
> a little like Tyrannosaurus though much smaller,
> with bigger arms, and
> closer to crocodiles than dinosaurs.) Others
> represent a credible
> effort to report things, but rarely with adequate
> knowledge to assess
> the claims.
>
> I'd agree with much of the story except where it
> buys into intelligent
> design (and out of date at that):
>
> >The most conspicuous example of this is provided by
> Dawkins himself, who
> breaks the rules of scientific evidence by seeking
> to claim that
> Darwin's theory of evolution - which sought to
> explain how complex
> organisms evolved through random natural selection -
> also accounts for
> the origin of life itself.<
>
> Dawkins is hardly a paragon of logic at many points.
> However, there's
> nothing scientifically wrong with hypothesizing that
> natural selection
> acting on variation in prebiotic organic chemistry
> led to the origin
> of life. There are hints of how it could happen as
> well as
> significant gaps in our knowledge, so it is
> plausible but far from
> proven.
>
> >...Indeed, if the origin of life were truly
> spontaneous, this would
> constitute what religious people would call a
> miracle.<
>
> C. S. Lewis argued that such ought not be called a
> miracle. It's a
> semantic issue rather than a factual error, but it's
> unwise to claim
> that all religious people think alike (just as
> "scientists say" is
> highly problematic given the amount that, e.g., the
> average nuclear
> physicist knows about invertebrate paleontology and
> vice versa).
>
> > ...the findings of more than 50 years of DNA
> research - which have revealed the almost
> unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which
> are needed to produce life - have thrown into doubt
> the theory that life emerged spontaneously in a
> random universe.
>
> These findings have given rise to a school of
> scientists promoting the
> theory of Intelligent Design, which suggests that
> some force embodying
> purpose and foresight lay behind the origin of the
> universe.<
>
> Significant DNA sequencing is only 30 years old,
> though we had some
> ideas of the complexity before that. Random is a
> problematic word.
> Theologically Christians will reject the claim that
> the universe has
> no sovereign guidance by God, but this does not
> entail a lack of
> "randomness" such as that found in the formulas of
> quantum mechanics
> or the humanly unpredictable course of events. The
> claim that DNA
> research has caused doubts about the spontaneous
> origin of life is
> questionable-it's far from clear that many have
> looked at biochemical
> complexity and arrived at a different conclusion
> about life's origin
> than they had coming in. The number of scientists
> promoting
> Intelligent Design is relatively small, though of
> course how one
> defines ID could greatly affect the count (extremes
> of anyone who
> believes in some role for purposeful supernatural
> intelligence in the
> process of creation versus anyone who thinks that
> everything said by
> the Discovery Institute is true).
>
> > While this theory is, of course, open to vigorous
> counter-argument, people
> such as Prof Dawkins and others have gone to great
> lengths to stop it being
> advanced at all, on the grounds that it denies
> scientific evidence such as
> the fossil record and is therefore worthless.<
>
> While much ID denies scientific evidence such as the
> fossil record and
> is therefore scientifically worthless (worth for
> other purposes would
> need to be assessed on other grounds), too much of
> the opposition by
> Dawkins et al is on the grounds of rejecting the
> possibility of
> religion. This in turn lends credibility (at least
> among the
> sympathetic) to ID claims that they are being
> suppressed as part of an
> anti-religious political agenda.
>
> >Yet distinguished scientists have been hounded and
> their careers
> jeopardised for arguing that the fossil record has
> got a giant hole in
> it. Some 570 million years ago, in a period known as
> the Cambrian
> Explosion, most forms of complex animal life emerged
> seemingly without
> any evolutionary trail.<
>
> There's been enough unreasonable hostility in cases
> such as Sternberg
> and Guillermo to lend slight credibility, though
> distinguished
> scientists is probably an overstatement (not to say
> that their work is
> necessarily bad, just that I'd use "distinguished"
> rather sparingly.
> However, the claim that the fossil record has a
> giant hole is untrue.
> The Cambrian radiation at 544 million (the date was
> corrected over a
> decade ago) has some evolutionary precursors in the
> Vendian faunas.
> Notably, structurally primitive animals such as
> sponges and cnidarians
> are aomng the earliest forms. Within the Cambrian
> itself, the first
> forms are typically primitive and show evidence of
> evolutionary
> connections. Molecular and anatomical data also
> point to connections
> between phyla and lower categories. Not to mention
> the less explosive
> patterns seen in other organisms; algae in
> particular having a long
> and evolutionarily informative Precambrian record
> (fungi, bacteria,
> etc. tending to be harder to tell much from
> fossils).
>
> >... their scientific argument about the absence of
> evidence to
> support the claim that life spontaneously created
> itself is being
> stifled - on the totally perverse grounds that this
> argument does not
> conform to the rules of science which require
> evidence to support a theory.<
>
> It's not necessarily perverse to claim that science
> requires
> supporting evidence and that therefore the claim of
> inference from
> lack of evidence is not entirely scientific, as long
> as one makes it
> clear that such inference remains a valid option;
> it's just being
> defined as an inference based on the failure of
> science rather than as
> a scientific inference.
>
> The arguments about the definition of science and ID
> as not truly
> science do seem off the mark and often motivated
> philosophically
> rather than scientifically. In reality, the reason
> ID doesn't belong
> in science classes is because as currently practiced
> it
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Received on Wed Aug 15 17:22:20 2007

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