Naked Science Forum

Life Sciences => Plant Sciences, Zoology & Evolution => Topic started by: chris on 04/06/2017 12:19:47

Title: Are we looking for the wrong thing in searching for life's origins?
Post by: chris on 04/06/2017 12:19:47
Doug has been in touch to say:

Your programme today is about the origin of life (https://www.thenakedscientists.com/podcasts/naked-scientists/biologys-biggest-mystery-origin-life).  What you neglected to say at the start of this program is that most scientists today (including all of the scientists interviewed and cited on your program today) are only looking for NATURALISTIC explanations for the origin of life.  If some kind of supernatural being or beings really did design and create the first life on earth, most of today's scientists will never ever discover this fact, because that option has been definitively ruled out right from the beginning. 

If “the best explanation” is understood to be “the explanation which best explains all of the relevant facts”, most scientists today are not trying to find the best explanation for the origin or life.  Rather, the vast majority of scientists today are attempting to answer a very different question, which is:  “If we start by confining ourselves only to purely naturalistic explanations for the origin of life, and if we refuse to even consider the possibility that any kind of intelligent agent might have had something to do with the origin of life on earth, what is the best explanation that we can come up with?” 

In the interests of full disclosure, you should have clearly stated at the start of your programme that every scientist interviewed on the program was only looking for a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life.  Even if they do find evidence which strongly favours a non-naturalistic explanation, that option will not be considered.

No doubt that is why you failed to even mention the 2009 book, “Signature In The Cell”, in which Stephen C Meyer convincingly demonstrates the fact that the evidence overwhelmingly favours intelligent design as the best explanation of the origin of life.


What does everyone here think?
Title: Re: Are we looking for the wrong thing in searching for life's origins?
Post by: RD on 04/06/2017 15:03:08
“If we start by confining ourselves only to purely naturalistic explanations for the origin of life, and if we refuse to even consider the possibility that any kind of intelligent agent might have had something to do with the origin of life on earth, what is the best explanation that we can come up with?” 

Chance mutation causes evolution from life-form-Y to life-form-Z , from  X to Y , from W to X, etc ...
So by induction, chance mutation is sufficient to explain the creation all life-forms, right back to the earliest one (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_universal_common_ancestor). 

To claim abiogenesis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenesis) is due to a supernatural being is an example of "God in the gaps (http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/God_of_the_gaps)" logical fallacy :
where the hypothetical supernatural entity only operates in areas where evidence is currently absent.
Title: Re: Are we looking for the wrong thing in searching for life's origins?
Post by: Tim the Plumber on 04/06/2017 18:01:40
The whole basis of science and rational thought is to look for natural explainations of stuff.

Then you can actually understand it and thus make useful predictions.

If we understand how life can happen from basic carbon chemistry then we have advanced our understanding of the world. If we say God did it! and then don't look for any other possibilites we abandom the quest for knowledge.

I know the the religious don't like this assault on ignorance but unlucky, understanding stuff is what makes us advance.
Title: Re: Are we looking for the wrong thing in searching for life's origins?
Post by: Kryptid on 04/06/2017 18:13:24
How exactly could one investigate a supernatural explanation for the origin of life (or anything for that matter) in a scientific manner? The supernatural, by definition, is not subject to the rigors of experimental investigation. What experiment would you suggest that would allow us to demonstration supernatural causation? I can't think of one.
Title: Re: Are we looking for the wrong thing in searching for life's origins?
Post by: Bored chemist on 04/06/2017 18:16:07
In the interests of full disclosure, you should have clearly stated at the start of your programme that every scientist interviewed on the program was only looking for a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life. 

The programme isn't called the naked theologists.


No doubt that is why you failed to even mention the 2009 book, “Signature In The Cell”, in which Stephen C Meyer convincingly demonstrates the fact that the evidence overwhelmingly favours intelligent design as the best explanation of the origin of life.
For a start why say "no doubt..." when there's obviously doubt.
It's as if you don't know what you are talking about.

Anyway, so called "intelligent design" has been roundly trashed every time it was seriously examined.
For example,
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_design#Status_outside_the_United_States
Title: Re: Are we looking for the wrong thing in searching for life's origins?
Post by: alancalverd on 04/06/2017 22:58:05
The best explanation is always the one with the fewest assumptions, unknowables, or selfcontradictions. Intelligent design and supernatural creation are an assumption and an unknowable, and every attempt to ascribe the status quo  to intelligent design turns out either to be a selfcontradiction (the intelligence apparently demands evolution to solve its problems as it is unable to predict the outcome of its design) or invokes further assumptions.   
Title: Re: Are we looking for the wrong thing in searching for life's origins?
Post by: evan_au on 05/06/2017 21:50:26
Quote from: Doug
What you neglected to say at the start of this program is that most scientists today (including all of the scientists interviewed and cited on your program today) are only looking for NATURALISTIC explanations for the origin of life.
Any field of study contains:
- Axioms: Things which are believed to be true, but are not provable within that field of study.
- Deductions: Things which are derived from the axioms (and other lines of evidence, including everyday experience)

Axioms are so fundamental that practitioners rarely question them - they are often absorbed by osmosis, so practitioners are sometimes not even aware of them.
- An axiom for some theists is "God created the universe"
- An axiom for some scientists is "There is no god" (although technically, this an axiom of atheists, not scientists)
- People with diametrically opposed axioms will often talk at cross purposes
- For a scientist, the fundamental question is "How was the universe formed?"
- For a theist, the fundamental question is "Who formed the universe?"
- The latter question is outside the field of study of today's science, and is not even a valid question within that field

However, an area where there can be a useful dialogue is in the area of evidence. Both theists and atheists believe that at least some parts of the world were formed by mechanisms which we can understand (or could understand, with time and effort). A useful dialogue can occur if all parties look at the evidence which is available, and are willing to adapt their ideas as new evidence becomes available.

Take the example of continental drift:
- At first it was just a random observation: The maps of Africa and South America almost fit together
- Some scientists came to think it was real, but it was rejected by mainstream geology, and by creationists
- As more evidence accumulated, it became mainstream geology, but creationists still rejected it.
- Now, it is an axiom of terrestrial geology (but not its Martian equivalent), and it is now mainstream biology. Creationists accept it too (although a very fast version of it)
- This came about because people were willing to engage with the evidence.

Take the example of the heliocentric model: Galileo was faced with new evidence when he peered into his telescope and saw Jupiter and its orbiting moons. That evidence showed him that the views of the religious establishment of the time were incorrect.
- An axiom held by Christians is that the "Bible is the infallible word of God"
- But the deductions from this axiom are very human, and very fallible
- In the case of the geocentric model of the universe, these deductions were made by Plato, who lived 300 years or so before Christ. They were taught as an axiom in universities, and unquestioned by educated people.
- I am not critical of all the educated people who were misled by an incorrect axiom
- I am critical of the educated people who had access to a telescope, but refused to look through it
- When people engaged with the evidence, they came to an agreement that Plato was wrong, and that the Copernicus' heliocentric model was marginally better than the geocentric model.

So, to the original question:
- Yes, it is an implicit axiom in science that there are naturalistic explanations for most things (for chemistry, make that all things; for physics, make that all things that aren't observer-dependent)
- Because it is an axiom, don't expect it to be stated very frequently (or at all)
- Although occasionally, you will hear the atheist axiom repeated by philosophers on a science show

I think it's worthwhile to question our axioms from time to time:
- It's not worth doing it every day, because axioms are fundamentally unprovable within a field of study, and you want to make some progress in that field of study
- But it's worthwhile occasionally thinking about the basis of your assumptions
- Doing this brought us the helioentric model, continental drift, and Einstein's non-Euclidean geometry
- So keep focussing on the evidence - it is evidence from outside your field of study that will most often cause you to update your axioms.
Title: Re: Are we looking for the wrong thing in searching for life's origins?
Post by: Tim the Plumber on 06/06/2017 20:17:14
^ you could have put that in the Global warming threat thread.
Title: Re: Are we looking for the wrong thing in searching for life's origins?
Post by: puppypower on 09/06/2017 12:11:14
Isn't a random mutation approach another from of intelligent design? Random uses a different god approach, led by a moron god, that can magically make whatever we need happen, eventually. The God of the bible makes the earth appear. The god of random eventually does the same thing. This random god is not intelligent enough to work a sequence of steps so it can get done in a timely manner. There is no conceptual difference in terms of a divine assumption.

When you depart from reason, through an organized or disorganized creative principle, you are in the same boat. Maybe the dumbing down of the creative principle is connected to atheism, since they tend to do the opposite and like god to be subordinate to the ego.

If you look at natural selection, this has both logic and a long term game plan. That is an intelligent design that is not connected to a moron god. No matter what the weather, this ship can right itself. This is not a random process that has bad hair days all the time. Darwin observed a naturally organized design. The pot needs to stop calling the kettle black.

We live in a quantum universe, where not all options are possible. The dice are loaded in advance so designs can appear sooner and remain within useful limits. For example, the DNA has only five known states, each defined by the degree of hydration; A, B, C, D, Z. Water is part of that design, limiting the quantum states of the DNA to five. What appears to be random is really based on loaded dice. The DNA also exhibits areas that mutate less and areas that mutate more. This is not possible in a random universe, but is expected  in a quantum universe which has an ordered design based on loaded dice.

To key to the appearance of life is connected to the conceptual system of water and oil.  If we mix water and oil, by adding energy through agitation, we can increase the entropy of the system to form an emulsion. If stop adding energy, the entropy will spontaneously decrease, back into an order state with only two pure layers. Water loads the dice,when it comes to organics, and eliminates a wide range of possible random states. The amount of water tells the DNA how to orientate in space.

At the interface between the water and oil  is surface tension. There is residual free energy at the interface. To lower the free energy, one can dissolve things into the water; soap, and/or dissolve things into the oil; alcohol. Or one can chemically change the water or the oil; lipids, so they can interact better. Better interaction not only lowers the free energy residual, but it also means the second law of entropy is once again able to increase. Instead of two layers, we can get large numbers of lipid shells.

Water is very simple and stable, so it does not change over time. Water is a pillar of evolution. The organics are higher energy molecules, therefore they have a lot more built in free energy. The organics will change and water will remain the same, all with the goal of lowering free energy of the system.

The DNA is the most hydrated molecule in the cell. It represents the peak in terms of lowering the surface tension with the water and allowing entropy to amplify. This goal was there from day one, since it was/is implicit in the free energy constraints of water/oil.