Re: [asa] Multiverse and ID

From: Nucacids <nucacids@wowway.com>
Date: Sat May 09 2009 - 23:17:41 EDT

I noted, "I suppose many people will get caught up in the specifics of these
arguments. While there is a time and place for that, don't lose sight of the
larger picture: teleology is not treated as "just another possible
explanation." Thanks to the internet, we got to read an exchange between two
scientists that nicely illustrates what Davies was saying - "There seem to
be two reasons for their unease. First, they feel it opens the door to
religious fundamentalists and their god-of-the-gaps pseudo-explanations."
The perceived problem with the model was that it was too friendly to ID and
might open the door to ID, thus the model was defended by insisting there is
no teleology involved and, in fact, the model is deeply anti-ID. Koonin felt
comfortable admitting the dismal state of abiogenesis research, but that is
because he had a non-teleological model in hand that is supposed to help
maintain the taboo against teleology."

This is a crucial point because so many people are under the impression that
if there was anything solid to a design inference behind the origin of life,
science would uncover it. Yet there is no evidence that science can process
such a teleological explanation and there is evidence (such as this
exchange) that it cannot. The objective of science is to explain things in
non-teleological terms - appeals to laws and random processes - things that
can be measured and are known to exist. There is nothing wrong with this.
Such an approach has developed a track record of success and it is not does
not seem possible to objectively measure purpose or foresight. We just
simply need to remember that if life was indeed designed, this fact would
remain in the blind spot of science.

Turning to the arguments themselves, I think it is significant that someone
of Koonin's level of expertise and knowledge felt it was time to offer up
the anthropic explanation. Koonin is a leading expert on using the massive
influx of genomic data to probe the earliest phases of evolution and life.
One might have thought that all that massive new information would have led
to new ideas and optimism, rather than pessimism and an appeal to the
multiverse.

What's more, the experts who reviewed the paper did not blow his pessimism
out of the water by citing all the advances in the origin of life research.
On the contrary, there was an undercurrent of agreement:

but despite much ingenuity and effort, it is fair to say that all origin of
life models suffer from astoundingly low probabilities of actually
occurring. - Itai Yanai

one cannot deny that at the present state of affairs in understanding the
origin of Life the anthropic selection at the very least provides a viable
alternative. - Sergei Maslov

Yet, with all this said, I fully agree with Wayne's words of caution - "We
know very little about the world we live in." My approach has always been
about looking for clues, considering all angles, and remaining aware that in
the end, these are subjective judgment calls dependent on the information
currently available.

After all, there are clues that point in the direction of abiogenesis.
Natural processes can and do generate many of the building blocks of life.
RNA does have the ability to store information and act as a catalyst.

So I cannot agree with those who would declare abiogenesis impossible. But
neither can I agree with those who think science has made great strides in
origin of life research, with the answer just around the corner. For me,
the origin of life remains a deep mystery.

-Mike

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Received on Sat May 9 23:18:22 2009

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