Friday, 26 June 2009

Intellectual Fulfillment


Most people know Dawkins' famous quote where he says, "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." Most don't know the full quote, however.
An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: "I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn't a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one." I can't help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

There's a very important point in there that often gets overlooked, and that is that "god isn't a good explanation." Yet, this is not what most people claim. The claim that one runs into more often than not is that before Darwin (and even after Darwin) religion has had a good answer to such "why" questions as, "Why are we here?" Religion also supposedly helps us to answer questions about our origins. Rubbish.

In fact, I don't think Dawkins goes far enough here, implying that "goddidit" was an answer before Hume showed how inadequate it was. "goddidit" has never been an answer for anything. In response to how we got here (origins) claiming that some magic entity simply did it is no response at all. It's a guess, and a bad one. Similarly, answering the why are we here question with "Because god made it so," is no better than simply saying, "Because." The only purpose of such "answers" is to placate people who are not inquisitive enough to insist that magic is not a sufficient answer.

So, this leaves me wondering, when will theists have a chance to be intellectually fulfilled?

57 comments:

Makarios said...

Actually, science is making that possible every day.

GCT said...

Making what possible? Theistic intellectual fulfillment? Not at all. The more gaps we close with our knowledge, the less room for god to hide in.

Celestial Teapot said...

So true. One wonders how theists like Isaac Newton were able to invent calculus faster than your average student can learn it today in class. If only Newton had the inquisitive nature of an atheist. Oh well, at least we’ve got real heavyweights like Dawkins to guide us.

ethinethin said...

@Makarios: Science has struck down section after section of every theistic doctrine time and time again. In many cases, things that were considered literal truth have been reclassified as metaphorical truth because science proved that there was no way it could have actually happened.

It has turned certain chapters from "the direct infallible werd of gawd!" to "divinely inspired" (more like divinely insipid).

Who knows where else advances science will lead? Obviously it will lead to the accumulation of more tangible, meaningful knowledge of the universe. What this most likely means is the divinely insipid holy books will, more and more, become classified as complete works of fiction. Even the young earth creationists believe that.

They often say that the reason they take the literal interpretation of the bible because if you can't trust one book to be the "infallible werd of gawd!", then you can't trust any of the others, including the gospels. I couldn't agree more; it's all tripe.

GCT said...

Nice try Celestial Teapot (ah, sarcasm...I see what you did there) but a few points to consider for you:

1. How long do you think it actually took to develop calculus?

2. No one is saying that theists can not and have not contributed to knowledge. They simply have not done so through revelation or praying or religion. Further, "inventing calculus" does not allow for one to actually have an intellectually fulfilling answer to the origins of life or humanity. Your attempts to conflate the concepts are duly noted.

3. I stand by my comment on inquisitive nature when it comes to those who are placated by "goddidit."

4. Your swipe at Dawkins is rather misplaced, as he never said that he was a heavyweight or that he had come up with the theory that allowed atheists to be intellectually fulfilled on this particular question (and remember, we are speaking about a specific question).

Karla said...

Science emerged from a worldview of the middle ages, a Christian worldview. It wasn't really the dark ages, that has been a term placed upon it by secularist who don't want to deal with the contributions of Christianity to the western world.

Karla said...

How would you test whether or not we have received actual knowledge from revelation or prayer? If we told you we did, you wouldn't accept that. How do you know Newton wasn't inspired?

GCT said...

"Science emerged from a worldview of the middle ages, a Christian worldview. It wasn't really the dark ages, that has been a term placed upon it by secularist who don't want to deal with the contributions of Christianity to the western world."

Sigh. No, science has been around for a lot longer than that. The ancient Greeks were practicing it, the Muslims brought it back to the Europeans, the Chinese, Indians, etc. Claiming that science came from Xianity is simply historical revisionism.

Further, it was Petrarch who coined the term, "Dark Ages," not secularists trying to push Xianity down as you so claim.

"How would you test whether or not we have received actual knowledge from revelation or prayer?"

Devise an objective test and tell me how. Show me the test set-up and results. Provide rational argumentation and evidence to back yourself up. Why is it up to me to verify your claims?

"If we told you we did, you wouldn't accept that."

I would if you were capable of presenting a compelling argument. Unfortunately for you, you are not capable.

"How do you know Newton wasn't inspired?"

Because we know what experiments he performed, etc.

Celestial Teapot said...

GCT,
Bless your heart. I was starting to think no one would pick up on my sarcasm.

What was Darwin’s intellectually fulfilling explanation of the origin of life?

I find the notion of common descent quite satisfying and fulfilling. I let out a satisfying intellectual belch every time that is served up. However, I find the actual origins of life scraps (those primordial soup critters) less appetizing. They seem a bit half-baked. I’ve tried to scarf em’ down, but somehow I am still left intellectually unsatisfied. Where did those things come from anyway? Goddidit sure doesn’t cut it. We both know that, right? But how will evolution fill our cerebral bellies on this one?

I’m no expert on religion (perhaps we should confer with Dawkins about this), but I don’t think that Christianity was ever intended to provide an intellectually satisfying explanation of the origin of life or of humanity.

GCT said...

Celestial Teapot,
"Bless your heart. I was starting to think no one would pick up on my sarcasm."

I got it right away, I was simply away from the blog all weekend.

"What was Darwin’s intellectually fulfilling explanation of the origin of life?"

OK, that was sloppy on my part. Abiogenesis is working on getting us an answer that is intellectually fulfilling. Evolution is an intellectually fulfilling answer for the origin of humans and the other lifeforms on the planet today from the first self-replicating organisms.

"I find the notion of common descent quite satisfying and fulfilling."

It's much better than "goddidit."

"However, I find the actual origins of life scraps (those primordial soup critters) less appetizing."

The hypotheses that we have are more fulfilling than "goddidit" no matter how you slice it. Simply claiming that they aren't enough for you does not give you license to simply throw up your hands and proclaim that god did do it, nor does it make for an actual answer, intellectually fulfilling or not.

"But how will evolution fill our cerebral bellies on this one?"

Evolution and abiogenesis are different theories, so evolution will not fulfill this requirement. As I said, sloppy on my part.

"I’m no expert on religion (perhaps we should confer with Dawkins about this), but I don’t think that Christianity was ever intended to provide an intellectually satisfying explanation of the origin of life or of humanity."

Then, why do so many believe that it does and claim that it does?

Celestial Teapot said...

GCT,

As I said, I don’t think Christianity has anything to do with being intellectually satisfied. If there are Christians who do, I can’t explain their thinking.

Christians just don’t have very high standards for intellectual pursuits, do they? If they did they would not be intellectually satisfied with “Goddidit” as an explanation for the origin of life. Where is the scientific evidence that Goddidit? There isn’t any. Of course, there is no scientific evidence for abiogenesis either. As you said, anything is a better explanation than Goddidit, but if there is equally poor evidence for abiogenesis, doesn’t that mean atheists and Christians have equally low intellectual standards?

GCT said...

Celestial Teapot,
"As I said, I don’t think Christianity has anything to do with being intellectually satisfied. If there are Christians who do, I can’t explain their thinking."

The point was that it offers no answers. If you agree with that, then yay, we can move on.

"Of course, there is no scientific evidence for abiogenesis either."

Actually, there is. Starting with the self-organization of organic compounds in the various Miller-Urey experiments and subsequent ones, and going into studies on the RNA world hypotheses, etc, abiogenesis is a robust area of study that is yielding results. It's still early, but saying that no evidence exists is simply not correct.

"As you said, anything is a better explanation than Goddidit, but if there is equally poor evidence for abiogenesis, doesn’t that mean atheists and Christians have equally low intellectual standards?"

No, because we have more evidence for abiogenesis than we do for god (zero evidence for god). And, what I said was that "goddidit" is not an explanation. Further, Dawkins' quote clearly states that evolution made atheism intellectually fulfilling because it provided an answer, not because it wasn't "goddidit."

Modusoperandi said...

Karla "Science emerged from a worldview of the middle ages, a Christian worldview."
And Islam. And the Greeks and others. Also…
Which was why from the very beginning of modern science, even the most religious of scientists found they had to drop "God did it" explanations in order to focus their field research and lab work on natural causes and effects and their complex relationships. By doing so, they learned a great deal more about the ways of the natural world as compared to those guided by the Bible and Aristotle.
Many scientists are still religious. But what they do as scientists ceased being religious centuries ago.
The world is indeed a very complex place. We humans have been fooled by it over and over again, seeing meaningful patterns--gods, demons, other spirits--where there were merely natural processes--thunder and lightning, light refraction, unusually high seasonal amounts of rainfall and snowfall. We have "disenchanted the world" when we booted out Thor, Covenant Rainbows, and Noah's Flood from our explanatory toolkit...
As I said in an earlier post, these devout, Christians discovered that they simply had to stick to analyses of natural causes and effects, leaving religious dogma out of their work as scientists, in order to deepen their understanding of the natural processes under study. Modern science began when scientists stopped answering all questions with "God did it."
The seriousness with which they took the study of nature, minus any supernatural storytelling is what distinguishes, say, modern astronomy from traditional astrology, or modern chemistry from traditional alchemy. Astrology and alchemy dealt with the universe as if it had human characteristics, desires, fears, anger--anthropomorphism. Astronomy and chemistry rely on the default assumption that nature is unthinking and uncaring, heedless of what human beings do, and so, not at all like human beings.
And as I said above, many scientists today are still religious, but what they do as scientists is wholly non-religious.
(fm townhall.com, believe it or not)

"How would you test whether or not we have received actual knowledge from revelation or prayer?
See whether it matches reality. Gen1? Scratch that. Gen2? Scratch that. Gen…?

"How do you know Newton wasn't inspired?"
We know that it wasn't Revelation because he got the right answer.

Celestial Teapot "However, I find the actual origins of life scraps (those primordial soup critters) less appetizing. They seem a bit half-baked. I’ve tried to scarf em’ down, but somehow I am still left intellectually unsatisfied. Where did those things come from anyway?"
It's tough to come to a solid conclusion when the actual path left virtually no evidence (Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins is a good primer). It gets worse; even if we figure out a plausible pathway there's no way to know if it was the one.

GCT "And, what I said was that "goddidit" is not an explanation."
The problem with supernatural explanations, as I see it, is that the only correct answer is all of them. You obviously haven't read any of the deep theology that proves the Norse gods to be the True ones.
"God did it" is essentially the ultimate "just so story". It fits everything perfectly, explains nothing (and is consistently wrong).

Celestial Teapot said...

“The point was that it offers no answers. If you agree with that, then yay, we can move on.”

I agree with you completely that the the Bible is a lousy scientific textbook. It's also a lousy cookbook. Why leave out the yeast? Why so many barbecue recipes? Further, it's a complete waste of time for answering questions on automotive repair.

I believe it does offer answers of another kind, but having read some of your blog I wouldn’t expect you to agree.

“Actually, there is. Starting with the self-organization of organic compounds in the various Miller-Urey experiments and subsequent ones, and going into studies on the RNA world hypotheses, etc, abiogenesis is a robust area of study that is yielding results. It's still early, but saying that no evidence exists is simply not correct.”

I suppose that depends on what you consider evidence. I personally don’t find that work very compelling. Has anyone shown the self-organization of organic compounds into DNA yet? That would seem to be a necessary first step toward validating an abiogenesis hypothesis. It would get you about 1 inch towards first base, but it’s then still a long way to home from there.

Self-organizing DNA would be good scientific evidence for abiogenesis, unfortunately that evidence is not forthcoming (just like the scientific evidence for the Christian God). Don’t despair, though. Maybe it’s just around the corner. Keep the faith.

“No, because we have more evidence for abiogenesis than we do for god (zero evidence for god). And, what I said was that "goddidit" is not an explanation. Further, Dawkins' quote clearly states that evolution made atheism intellectually fulfilling because it provided an answer, not because it wasn't "goddidit."

Is evolution really a stand alone answer? Doesn’t it first require that abiogenesis occurs? How can we be intellectually fulfilled with evolution if it depends on a prior process which is founded on pure speculation? I would say that it could only be a partial answer, and as such it could only be partially satisfying (but therefore less filling!!!…*burp*…).

As far as the evidence for abiogenesis vs.Goddidit goes, I would say that the evidence is zero for both (0=0). If you want to imagine that the Miller-Urey experiments provide good support for abiogenesis (that is to say, 10^-100>0), fine. It still looks like zero to me.

GCT said...

Celestial Teapot,
Nice name BTW, Russell's influence?

"I believe it does offer answers of another kind, but having read some of your blog I wouldn’t expect you to agree."

What "answers" does it offer? Seems to me that you can find whatever "answer" you've already decided on.

"Has anyone shown the self-organization of organic compounds into DNA yet? That would seem to be a necessary first step toward validating an abiogenesis hypothesis. It would get you about 1 inch towards first base, but it’s then still a long way to home from there."

I suggest that you do some research and find out how far along we are. The first steps, however, are not showing how DNA forms, but how self-replicating organic molecules form and continue to organize into smaller building blocks than DNA. DNA is a relatively large building block, which would come later in the process.

"Self-organizing DNA would be good scientific evidence for abiogenesis, unfortunately that evidence is not forthcoming (just like the scientific evidence for the Christian God)."

This is shades of the 747 in a junkyard argument. We know that larger organics don't simply self-organize, and it's completely unrealistic to assume that they should or demand so before you'll accept all the other evidence that has been presented.

"Don’t despair, though. Maybe it’s just around the corner. Keep the faith. "

Your attempts to label my stance as a type of faith are sorely misplaced and absurd.

"Is evolution really a stand alone answer?"

For the questions that it purports to answer it is.

"Doesn’t it first require that abiogenesis occurs?"

No.

"How can we be intellectually fulfilled with evolution if it depends on a prior process which is founded on pure speculation?"

Because it answers the questions that it sets out to answer.

"As far as the evidence for abiogenesis vs.Goddidit goes, I would say that the evidence is zero for both (0=0). If you want to imagine that the Miller-Urey experiments provide good support for abiogenesis (that is to say, 10^-100>0), fine. It still looks like zero to me."

There is a wealth of abiogenetic study that has been done and is going on. For you to discount all of it as zero evidence is both ignorant and smacks of arguing in bad faith. I can't believe that you actually wrote that. What you are doing is a classic creationist blunder. You set the bar much higher for science than it should be set (i.e. that abiogenesis must provide self-organizing DNA) using a scenario that no one is proposing and doesn't make sense, then declare victory (and that no evidence exists) because reality doesn't conform to your warped demands. It's like the creationists who claim that there is no evidence for evolution because of the 747 in a junkyard argument. We know the wind doesn't form 747's in junkyards, so therefore evolution is wrong. Once you see why that argument is wrong, it should show you why your argument is wrong.

Celestial Teapot said...

“What "answers" does it offer? Seems to me that you can find whatever "answer" you've already decided on.”

You got that right. I thought the Bible was total BS the first time through. If the truth be told, I’m kind of an arrogant SOB at heart and that was a bit of a problem. The whole humility thing didn’t appeal to me at all. I can’t imagine you would have that kind of difficulty yourself. What answer had you already decided on when you read it?

"Doesn’t it [evolution] first require that abiogenesis occurs?

No.”

Not sure what you’re thinking here. For evolution to take place, don’t you first need to have replicating PSCs (Primordial Soup Critters) packed with DNA, RNA and protein, raring to compete in their own episode of “Survivor?” Maybe you’re arguing that the mechanism of evolution does not depend on the mechanism of abiogenesis? Still seems like abiogenesis must precede evolution to me, however it occurs.

“You set the bar much higher for science than it should be set (i.e. that abiogenesis must provide self-organizing DNA) using a scenario that no one is proposing and doesn't make sense, then declare victory (and that no evidence exists) because reality doesn't conform to your warped demands.”

Usually the bar is set high in science when researchers propose something remarkable. I don’t think the first paper on self-splicing RNAs would have ever been published had the researchers not set the bar as high as possible when validating their results. We shouldn’t have to lower the standard for abiogenesis. Let’s lower it anyway, for the sake of argument. Would it be a warped demand if I asked how one gets a ribonucleotide through abiogenesis? That would seem a reasonable request if one were proposing an RNA world.

“The first steps, however, are not showing how DNA forms, but how self-replicating organic molecules form and continue to organize into smaller building blocks than DNA.”

What would be an example of a self-replicating organic molecule that could “organize” into building blocks of DNA (nucleotides)?

“There is a wealth of abiogenetic study that has been done and is going on. For you to discount all of it as zero evidence is both ignorant and smacks of arguing in bad faith.”

I’m sorry to be such an ignorant dolt on this subject, but despite the wealth of information on abiogenesis I find there are very few facts on it out there. It’s hard not to be ignorant about it since there doesn’t appear to be much that is actually known.

Re arguing in bad faith - I agree with you that there is no scientific evidence for the Christian God. I didn’t come to a belief in God through scientific evidence. Unlike you, I’m also saying that I think there is additionally no real scientific evidence for abiogenesis. If I were to believe in abiogenesis, it would have to be for some other reason than the available scientific evidence (like my belief in God). No bad faith here.

“Celestial Teapot,
Nice name BTW”

Thank you. I knew you would appreciate it.

GCT said...

Celestial Teapot,
"What answer had you already decided on when you read it?"

I used to be a Xian. I read the Bible thinking it was true.

"Not sure what you’re thinking here. For evolution to take place, don’t you first need to have replicating PSCs (Primordial Soup Critters) packed with DNA, RNA and protein, raring to compete in their own episode of “Survivor?”"

Evolution takes over once we have replicating life. How that life got there is immaterial as far as evolution is concerned. If it was seeded from an asteroid, for instance, then abiogenesis would not have taken place here on Earth and evolution would still be correct.

"Usually the bar is set high in science when researchers propose something remarkable."

That's correct, but we don't expect theorems and hypotheses to solve questions they don't pose.

"We shouldn’t have to lower the standard for abiogenesis."

I'm not saying that at all. What I am saying is that claiming that no evidence exists, unless they can meet your impossibly high idea of what abiogenesis should find (contrary to what is actually being proposed) is absurd.

"Would it be a warped demand if I asked how one gets a ribonucleotide through abiogenesis? That would seem a reasonable request if one were proposing an RNA world."

I suggest you actually research the RNA world then.

"What would be an example of a self-replicating organic molecule that could “organize” into building blocks of DNA (nucleotides)?"

Is DNA self-replicating? The amino acids and proteins that make up the cell are self-replicating and are what constitute life. DNA would likely have arisen as an evolved system of organization.

"I’m sorry to be such an ignorant dolt on this subject, but despite the wealth of information on abiogenesis I find there are very few facts on it out there."

Google is your friend. You could start here.

"It’s hard not to be ignorant about it since there doesn’t appear to be much that is actually known."

Being ignorant of the hard facts is one thing. Claiming they don't even exist is another.

"Unlike you, I’m also saying that I think there is additionally no real scientific evidence for abiogenesis. If I were to believe in abiogenesis, it would have to be for some other reason than the available scientific evidence (like my belief in God). No bad faith here.
"

Claiming there is no evidence is simply absurd. I know that you are aware of the Miller/Urey and subsequent Miller experiments, since you demonstrate some knowledge of them. Claiming that these do not constitute evidence of abiogenesis? C'mon.

Celestial Teapot said...

GCT,
What makes the Miller/Urey and subsequent Miller experiments stand out as evidence for abiogenesis as opposed to just another method for the chemical synthesis of amino acids? Is it the particular conditions used for synthesis, possibly resembling conditions of a primordial earth? Is that it? Since abiogenesis requires so much more than amino acid synthesis to occur I don’t think these experiments alone stand as evidence for abiogeneisis. There has to be evidence beyond these experiments showing that the many other hurdles involved could be overcome. You can call me ignorant, warped, absurd, whatever you like, but you are simply overinterpreting the data if you think this is evidence for abiogenesis.

“DNA would likely have arisen as an evolved system of organization.”

I would agree, but this would seem to add to the hurdles I referred to above. Any ideas as to how this could happen (that is, any ideas beyond the referral to stock Talk Origins talking points)?

“Being ignorant of the hard facts is one thing. Claiming they don't even exist is another.”

What “hard facts” are you referring to exactly? The hard fact that a chemist synthesized amino acids under presumed conditions of a primordial earth? I don’t deny that hard fact at all. I just don’t think it leads to the same conclusion that you do.

GCT said...

Celestial Teapot,
"What makes the Miller/Urey and subsequent Miller experiments stand out as evidence for abiogenesis as opposed to just another method for the chemical synthesis of amino acids?"

The fact that it demonstrated self-organization.

"Is it the particular conditions used for synthesis, possibly resembling conditions of a primordial earth?"

That's part of it, although the conditions used in the first experiment may not have been as accurate as subsequent experiments, but the subsequent ones also showed the same results.

"Since abiogenesis requires so much more than amino acid synthesis to occur I don’t think these experiments alone stand as evidence for abiogeneisis."

Of course they do. They show that the building blocks of life most likely will form in just about any environment, which is a major piece of the puzzle.

"There has to be evidence beyond these experiments showing that the many other hurdles involved could be overcome."

What you are claiming is nonsense. That the evidence we have isn't actually evidence unless we have enough evidence? That's absurd. You can argue that we don't have enough evidence to support the conclusion that abiogenesis did happen in the way it is thought that it did (and you'll find little argument there) but you can't simply claim no evidence exists.

"You can call me ignorant, warped, absurd, whatever you like, but you are simply overinterpreting the data if you think this is evidence for abiogenesis."

I haven't called you anything. I've said your stance was absurd, and it is.

"I would agree, but this would seem to add to the hurdles I referred to above. Any ideas as to how this could happen (that is, any ideas beyond the referral to stock Talk Origins talking points)?"

Have you even looked at TO, or do you simply dismiss it out of hand like so many other creationists, without even knowing what it says? And, no it doesn't add to the hurdles, especially not the hurdles that you claim exist, considering you are trying to claim that DNA has to form by self-organization before you'll consider anything to be evidence for abiogenesis.

"What “hard facts” are you referring to exactly? "

The ones I've been talking about.

"The hard fact that a chemist synthesized amino acids under presumed conditions of a primordial earth? I don’t deny that hard fact at all. I just don’t think it leads to the same conclusion that you do."

You do deny it, because you seem to claim that it isn't evidence of anything. Sorry, but you are simply wrong on that account, and making grandiose claims on the order of the 747 argument aren't going to cut it.

Celestial Teapot said...

GCT,
“The fact that it demonstrated self-organization.”

Are you taking about the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen atoms becoming “organized” into an amino acid? If this constitutes organization, then we didn’t really need the Miller/Urey experiments as evidence for abiogenesis. Hydrogen and oxygen become “organized” into water if combine them in the presence of a flame. Is that evidence for abiogenesis?

“Of course they do. They show that the building blocks of life most likely will form in just about any environment, which is a major piece of the puzzle.”

Really? I would say that these experiments show one building block of life can form under one particular set of conditions. I don’t think that the experiment really speaks to the formation of any other building blocks of life, of which there many. Seems like you might be overinterpreting the data here again, extrapolating a bit too far based on one result.

“What you are claiming is nonsense. That the evidence we have isn't actually evidence unless we have enough evidence? That's absurd. You can argue that we don't have enough evidence to support the conclusion that abiogenesis did happen in the way it is thought that it did (and you'll find little argument there) but you can't simply claim no evidence exists.”

OK, I’ll go along with that. We don’t have enough evidence to support the conclusion that abiogeneisis did happen the way that it is thought that it did.

“Have you even looked at TO, or do you simply dismiss it out of hand like so many other creationists, without even knowing what it says?“

Sure I have. I get a bit frustrated with TO sometimes because they seem to equate scientific speculation with scientific fact.

And, no it doesn't add to the hurdles, especially not the hurdles that you claim exist, considering you are trying to claim that DNA has to form by self-organization before you'll consider anything to be evidence for abiogenesis.”

Sorry to be so unreasonable. I just need to it explained to me a bit better. Could you help me with that? I’m guessing that you are suggesting that some other self-organizing molecules play an important role in forming DNA. What are these molecules thought to be exactly? Couldn’t find anything about them on TO.

“The ones [hard facts] I've been talking about.”
I love this answer! I guess there is no point in me questioning whether anything you say is a hard fact or not. Nothing but the facts, maam.

“You do deny it, because you seem to claim that it isn't evidence of anything.“

I think it’s good evidence that amino acids could arise under these conditions. I don’t think of it as evidence for abiogenesis, that’s all.

“Sorry, but you are simply wrong on that account, and making grandiose claims on the order of the 747 argument aren't going to cut it.”

I haven’t said anything about a 747at all (with the possible exception of this sentence). You seem to like the idea though. If you’ve had enough with grandiose claims about 747’s, then stop talking about them.

GCT said...

Celestial Teapot,
"Are you taking about the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen atoms becoming “organized” into an amino acid? If this constitutes organization, then we didn’t really need the Miller/Urey experiments as evidence for abiogenesis."

Actually, we did. We did not know this would be the case.

"Hydrogen and oxygen become “organized” into water if combine them in the presence of a flame. Is that evidence for abiogenesis?"

Not even remotely the same thing.

"Really? I would say that these experiments show one building block of life can form under one particular set of conditions."

Sorry, but multiple sets of conditions were used and multiple amino acids resulted.

"OK, I’ll go along with that. We don’t have enough evidence to support the conclusion that abiogeneisis did happen the way that it is thought that it did."

No one is saying that we do. I am saying, however, that we do have evidence for abiogenesis of some type which makes it an infinitely better idea than "goddidit."

"Sure I have. I get a bit frustrated with TO sometimes because they seem to equate scientific speculation with scientific fact."

Backed up with peer-reviewed papers, etc.

"I’m guessing that you are suggesting that some other self-organizing molecules play an important role in forming DNA."

No, I'm saying that DNA is probably not self-forming from scratch, but is something that comes about most likely thru evolutionary-like processes.

"I love this answer! I guess there is no point in me questioning whether anything you say is a hard fact or not. Nothing but the facts, maam."

So, you're denying that Miller and Urey performed experiments using different examples of possible conditions and found multiple amino acids had formed? That's a reversal from your previous position.

"I think it’s good evidence that amino acids could arise under these conditions. I don’t think of it as evidence for abiogenesis, that’s all."

It's evidence that the pieces needed for living organisms can and do self-organize, which is a short step from them coming together into more complex structures that become life.

"I haven’t said anything about a 747at all (with the possible exception of this sentence). You seem to like the idea though. If you’ve had enough with grandiose claims about 747’s, then stop talking about them."

What I mean is that you are basically using an old creationist argument. It goes like this:

The chances of a tornado going thru a junkyard and forming a 747 are so remote that we don't take them seriously. They then contrast that with the formation of a complex cell from scratch and claim that abiogenesis could not have happened. You're basically doing the same thing by claiming that unless specific complex parts can self-organize, then nothing counts as evidence and abiogenesis is nonsense. The argument, however is what is nonsense.

All of this, however, gets you no closer to being in intellectual fulfillment. Even if you can show that we know nothing about abiogenesis, it still doesn't give license for theists to claim intellectual fulfillment. IOW, you're fighting a losing battle.

Celestial Teapot said...

“All of this, however, gets you no closer to being in intellectual fulfillment. Even if you can show that we know nothing about abiogenesis, it still doesn't give license for theists to claim intellectual fulfillment. IOW, you're fighting a losing battle.”

So are you taking your ball and going home now?

How astonishing. Atheist have a lock on intellectual fulfillment. Another hard fact of yours that can’t be disputed? Oh well, I hope you won’t be turning me in for operating without a license.

GCT said...

Celestial Teapot,
"So are you taking your ball and going home now?"

Not at all, just pointing out that even if you show that I don't have a good model with which to claim intellectual fulfillment, that you are no closer to being able to claim it yourself...just in case you were thinking in terms of false dichotomies.

"How astonishing. Atheist have a lock on intellectual fulfillment. Another hard fact of yours that can’t be disputed?"

OK, you can knock off the BS that you've been using since the start. Your over-the-top comments is what I'm talking about. When it comes to human origins, theists do not have a good argument or explanation, so anyone relying on a theistic "explanation" does not have intellectual fulfillment in that regard. I've not said anything about other areas of knowledge, etc. So, you can save it.

And, you can play games all you want about the hard facts we've been talking about, but you agreed with those facts that I stated, so I find it rather dishonest of you to now try to use it as a club against me, as if I'm declaring my opinions to be facts, which is something I have not done. When theists must resort to such tactics, are you surprised when I don't take your arguments seriously?

Celestial Teapot said...

“Not at all, just pointing out that even if you show that I don't have a good model with which to claim intellectual fulfillment, that you are no closer to being able to claim it yourself...”

This was exactly my point early on. I don’t think Dawkins (or anyone else, creationist included) can claim intellectual fulfillment when it comes to origins. Do we agree?

“just in case you were thinking in terms of false dichotomies.”

I wasn’t actually planning to go for a false dichotomy here. Is this some kind of proactive defense against the dark arts? Is that why you felt compelled to argue so strongly against 747’s assembling in the junkyard, just in case I was headed that way? What’s next, the proactive No True Scotsman Defense?

"OK, you can knock off the BS that you've been using since the start."

BS? Not sure what you’re referring to here, but I’m a little bit afraid to ask. I’m guessing you’ll say “everything.”

Your over-the-top comments is what I'm talking about.

Over the top? Not sure what you’re referring to here, but I’m a little bit afraid to ask. I’m guessing you’ll say “everything.”

“When it comes to human origins, theists do not have a good argument or explanation, so anyone relying on a theistic "explanation" does not have intellectual fulfillment in that regard. I've not said anything about other areas of knowledge, etc. So, you can save it."

Yes, yes, yes…“in that regard.” That’s what I meant as well, atheist must have a lock on intellectual fulfillment (in that regard). Do they? Or are both atheists and theists intellectual unfulfilled, in that regard?

"And, you can play games all you want about the hard facts we've been talking about, but you agreed with those facts that I stated, so I find it rather dishonest of you to now try to use it as a club against me, as if I'm declaring my opinions to be facts, which is something I have not done."

No idea what you’re talking about here. I “clubbed” you? Games? What games?

“When theists must resort to such tactics, are you surprised when I don't take your arguments seriously?”

Just two guys speculating on the origins of life. No harm done I hope. No Truly Intellectually Satisfied Atheist would get bent out of shape about it (I told you…you should have gone with the No True Scotsman Defense over the 747’s).

Modusoperandi said...

Celestial Teapot: That book I linked earlier should help to dispel some (but not all) of the fog.

Also...
"Has anyone shown the self-organization of organic compounds into DNA yet?"
Is a textbook junkyard 747 argument.

GCT said...

Celestial Teapot,
"This was exactly my point early on. I don’t think Dawkins (or anyone else, creationist included) can claim intellectual fulfillment when it comes to origins. Do we agree?"

I think rationalists are well on the way, and there are plausible pathways with some evidence. Theists are nowhere even close.

"I wasn’t actually planning to go for a false dichotomy here. Is this some kind of proactive defense against the dark arts? Is that why you felt compelled to argue so strongly against 747’s assembling in the junkyard, just in case I was headed that way? What’s next, the proactive No True Scotsman Defense?"

First off, I was heading you off at the pass. Second, you did try to make a variation of the 747 argument, as I (and Modus) point out.

"Your over-the-top comments is what I'm talking about."

What is over the top is your insistence on putting words in my mouth that I'm not saying. For instance, your claims that I'm saying that theists are not inquisitive, that they are not intellectually fulfilled in any respect, etc.

"That’s what I meant as well, atheist must have a lock on intellectual fulfillment (in that regard). Do they? Or are both atheists and theists intellectual unfulfilled, in that regard?"

Atheists have plausible explanations with some evidence. We're not all the way there yet, but we are a lot closer than any "goddidit" user.

"No idea what you’re talking about here. I “clubbed” you? Games? What games? "

I know you are playing dumb. We've both agreed that amino acids have self-assembled in a variety of different potential conditions of the early Earth - these are hard facts. Denying them now (especially after accepting them) will only prove that you are not interested in intellectually honest discussion, but are only trying to stir the pot.

"Just two guys speculating on the origins of life."

Oh please. You've been putting words in my mouth and arguing from absurdity since you got here. Now, you're playing dumb about the facts that have been presented?

"No harm done I hope."

Not if you quit playing games.

"No Truly Intellectually Satisfied Atheist would get bent out of shape about it (I told you…you should have gone with the No True Scotsman Defense over the 747’s)."

I'm not bent out of shape, I'm simply pointing out the less than honest tactics that I see you deploying. It hurts your argument when you have to resort to such rhetorical tricks.

Celestial Teapot said...

Modusoperandi,
I just requested the book you suggested from the library. I'll have to shuffle about in the fog until it get's here. Until then, perhaps you can help me get my thinking straight on this abiogenesis question.

You answered the question "Has anyone shown the self-organization of organic compounds into DNA yet?" with the 747/junkyard response (ie. I don't have to respond to this because it is a straw man. No one is suggesting that DNA arose by the self-organization of organic compounds. Since it is the wrong question to be asking, I don't have to answer).

What would be the right question to ask? If I asked "Has anyone shown the self-organization of organic compounds into amino acids yet?", you could say "Yes, Miller showed that."

If abiogeneisis actually occurred, there would have to be a whole set of molecules (more complex than amino acids, but less complex than DNA) that would have had to arise from organic compounds. At some point, they would have had to "organize" in some fashion to reproduce themselves. What is the the best guess as to what any of these molecules could have been?

I'm hoping you won't cry "Foul! The creationist is trying to set up some unreasonable expectation for proof of abiogenesis that no one ever suggested could happen!
747 alert! 747 alert!"

It would be nice if there could be at least be one molecule named that is thought to have played a role in abiogenesis. Otherwise the mere mention of He Who Must Not Be Named puts the whole discussion into the junkyard.

My next question would then be

"Has anyone shown the self-organization of organic compounds into HWMNBN?"

Modusoperandi said...

"What is the the best guess as to what any of these molecules could have been?"
(Sorry for the wikipedia links, but it's been ages since I made it halfway through that book. It's still beside the toilet. I'm sure I'll get to it the next time I get backed up.)
Try Abiogenesis (current models). I'm pretty sure that, to one degree or another, they're all wrong.
The RNA world hypothesis is kind of neat, though.

Celestial Teapot said...

Modusoperandi,
An RNA world doesn’t seem to be all that it’s cracked up to be. Even the proponents of an RNA world seem to find difficulties with it.

http://www.talkorigins.org
/faqs/abioprob/originoflife.html

“After describing a chemically more plausible scenario, PNA (peptide nucleic acid) as a precursor to RNA, the authors point to the enormous difficulties of a transition from PNA to RNA, and to the fact that it yet has to be established that PNA could result in a replicating system. They go on to say that although the presumed RNA World should be considered a milestone and a plateau in the early history of the earth, the concept "does not explain how life originated" (p.74). They conclude (p. 74): "One can sketch out a logical order of events, beginning with prebiotic chemistry and ending with DNA/protein based life. However, it must be said that the details of these events remain obscure and are not likely to be known in the near future."

I think this provides an intellectually satisfying alternative to “Goddidit,” namely “Godidntdoit.”

Modusoperandi said...

Celestial Teapot "An RNA world doesn’t seem to be all that it’s cracked up to be."
Yes. Welcome to abiogenesis; the elusive search for things that, before a certain point, left no evidence (at least none that survived), and after a certain point, left things like chemical traces (like a tire's burnout instead of a tire).

"Even the proponents of an RNA world seem to find difficulties with it."
"I'm pretty sure that, to one degree or another, they're all wrong".

"I think this provides an intellectually satisfying alternative to “Goddidit,” namely “Godidntdoit.”"
Wow. Zing. Etc.
Perhaps you could get off of your false equivalence high-horse and meet us down in the real world. "Plausible", "could" and "maybe", while not the solid declarations of absolute and unchanging (and almost invariably wrong) Truth™ that some brands of theistry profess, is an honest reply. I prefer "I don't know".

Celestial Teapot said...

Modusoperandi,
Is there really a false equivalence in comparing an abiogenesis explanation for the origin of life vs. Goddidit? Both are faith-based beliefs. If you believe in an RNA world, it is not because there is any evidence that an RNA world could have existed or did exist at one time. The best research out there falls far short of evidence for an RNA world. There is a huge gap between self-splicing RNAs and an RNA world that gave rise to life. Fill that gap with Goddidit or Godidntdoit, take your pick. Both cross the gap by a process that we cannot conceive. You can regard them both as mythology if you like, but it seems biased to call one mythology and the other not.

GCT said...

"Is there really a false equivalence in comparing an abiogenesis explanation for the origin of life vs. Goddidit?"

Yes. I'll change my mind once you start showing some evidence that god did indeed do it.

"Both are faith-based beliefs."

Wrong. One is based on faith, the other is based on empirical science. Although there are some gaps, having some evidence on the side of abiogenesis puts it leaps and bounds ahead of "goddidit." Trying to equate the two is simply absurd (but I repeat myself).

"Fill that gap with Goddidit or Godidntdoit, take your pick."

It's not a gap filler to say "goddidntdoit." No one is using that as an "answer" to anything. Again, you are making absurd arguments in a vain attempt to conflate the two positions.

"Both cross the gap by a process that we cannot conceive."

Wrong again. The process we can't conceive is "goddidit." The other gap is simply not filled yet, but is being tested and tried - yet another difference between the two.

"You can regard them both as mythology if you like, but it seems biased to call one mythology and the other not."

Again, this is wrong. Your insistence that everything is mythology until it raises to the level of what you demand in terms of evidence, else there is no evidence at all, is (once again) absurd. You're basically claiming that until we know everything there is to know, that we can't claim that any evidence exists. I think you and I both know that that's a load of BS, however, and you should be a little embarrassed to be arguing it.

Celestial Teapot said...

GCT,
“Although there are some gaps, having some evidence on the side of abiogenesis puts it leaps and bounds ahead of "goddidit."

I guess you find the gaps to be rather insignificant and the evidence for abiogenesis quite strong. I would say it is the other way around.

"The other gap is simply not filled yet, but is being tested and tried."

This is great news. Here I thought that there were enormous scientific obstacles to overcome and it turns out that it's just a matter of testing at this point. Somehow I missed it. I’ll really have to try and do a better job of keeping up on the scientific literature.

Regarding my standards for scientific evidence, I would have to agree that my standards are higher than yours. You are content to believe abiogenesis based on a handful of experiments that show that amino acids can be synthesized without enzymes. That’s it. Faith gets you the rest of the way home.

I would like to see more before I buy in. It’s pretty clear that amino acids don’t spontaneously form proteins, and even if they could, they would have no way to self-replicate. Nucleotides are no better off (ribonucleotides are particularly unstable). So what could be the primordial precursors to proteins and nucleic acids? Something else? Like what? If we are close to wrapping this all up as you imply, tell me what the key players are. How do they catalyze bond formation to generate macromolecules? How did they transition into the present day system of RNA, DNA, and proteins? Show me an experiment that addresses any of these questions and I’ll say that you are on your way to a hypothesis for abiogenesis.

I would like to say something like “We both know that none of these questions have been answered (or are even close to being answered) at this point,” but I’m not completely sure you know this. Maybe you really do think that it’s all pretty much worked out at this point. Maybe you take it on faith that if Talk Origins says abiogenesis is a good bet, it must be so.

I think that would be preferable to the alternative, which is that you actually know it’s a pretty weak scientific explanation for the origin of life at this point, but you feel compelled to defend it anyway, simply because it offers an alternative to God (and if you know anything at all, it is that there is no God).

GCT said...

CT,
Your comments, dripping with sarcasm and rhetorical tricks are rather tedious to deal with. Having to correct you over and over on what I said and where I stand is pretty tedious as well. When I tell you where I stand on something, it's rather dishonest to continually argue as if I have said nothing.

"I guess you find the gaps to be rather insignificant and the evidence for abiogenesis quite strong. I would say it is the other way around."

I've not said that. What I have said is that your insistence that either we know all or no evidence exists is quite wrong and absurd. I've also said that we have some evidence, which puts us way ahead of your preferred "explanation" of "goddidit" which has no evidence at all.

"Here I thought that there were enormous scientific obstacles to overcome and it turns out that it's just a matter of testing at this point."

There is more to learn - I've never said otherwise or denied that. To claim that I'm arguing otherwise is highly dishonest.

"Regarding my standards for scientific evidence, I would have to agree that my standards are higher than yours."

Your standards are absurd and unrealistic, much like most creationists. Your stance that no evidence exists unless everything is explained to absurd detail that you claim must exist (even when it doesn't jibe with the scientific theories that exist) is nothing to be proud of. Do not make this sound like I accept anything and everything, because that is simply untrue.

"Faith gets you the rest of the way home."

Do not try to put my position into the faith camp, because your attempts at conflating our positions is equal parts lame and dishonest. I'm accepting the latest and greatest scientific knowledge (based on the evidence we do have) while still holding possibilities open and holding our current ideas provisionally. You throw it all out in favor of an unevidenced belief that you hope is true.

"I would like to see more before I buy in."

You will never buy in.

"If we are close to wrapping this all up as you imply..."

I have never done that. In fact, I've repeatedly talked about how we don't know quite a few things. Again, stop putting words in my mouth.

"Show me an experiment that addresses any of these questions and I’ll say that you are on your way to a hypothesis for abiogenesis."

On the way to a hypothesis? Surely you jest.

"I think that would be preferable to the alternative, which is that you actually know it’s a pretty weak scientific explanation for the origin of life at this point, but you feel compelled to defend it anyway, simply because it offers an alternative to God (and if you know anything at all, it is that there is no God)."

Anything offers an alternative to god that is just as strong as "goddidit." Why don't you present some evidence that "goddidit" if you can. From where I sit, "leprechaunsdidit," "FSMdidit," and "unknownblobfromplanetX19334didit" are just as good as "goddidit" as they all hold the same amount of explanatory power and all have the same amount of evidence for them. IOW, I don't need an alternative to "goddidit" because "goddidit" is not a viable option anyway.

Celestial Teapot said...

GCT,
Am I misrepresenting your position? Sorry. I somehow got the impression that you thought it was actually only a short step from amino acids to life.

[CT-"I think it’s [Miller’s experiments] good evidence that amino acids could arise under these conditions. I don’t think of it as evidence for abiogenesis, that’s all."

GCT-It's evidence that the pieces needed for living organisms can and do self-organize, which is a short step from them coming together into more complex structures that become life.]

I also somehow got the impression that you thought the potential barriers to producing the building blocks of life through abiogenesis were low (not high as I suggest), that amino acids could form in just about any environment. Again, sorry.

[CT-"Since abiogenesis requires so much more than amino acid synthesis to occur I don’t think these experiments alone stand as evidence for abiogeneisis."

GCT-Of course they do. They show that the building blocks of life most likely will form in just about any environment, which is a major piece of the puzzle.]

Am I misreading you’re intent?

[CT-"Since abiogenesis requires so much more than amino acid synthesis to occur” I guess you find the gaps to be rather insignificant and the evidence for abiogenesis quite strong. I would say it is the other way around."

GCT-I've not said that.]

Not wanting to trigger a hyperactive apoplectic false dichotomy response here, but which is it? I don’t think you can hold both positions.

GCT said...

CT,
Thank you for your smug, condescension. It's so nice to start the day to it. I'm also glad that you can pull out the things I've said and still get it all spectacularly wrong. And, I'm glad to see that you are still conflating terms in order to argue with your usual lack of intellectual honesty.

"Short step != Insignificant"

Amino acids did form in just about every environment proposed for early life (latest ideas are sea vents and clay).

You are not misreading my intent, you simply pretend to and then dishonestly argue as if you have.

"Not wanting to trigger a hyperactive apoplectic false dichotomy response here, but which is it? I don’t think you can hold both positions."

Are you serious? No apoplexy here, just calling you out as I usually do. Yes, I call people out on their sh*t. Get over it. If you are throwing BS my way, you're gonna get called.

Secondly, there is evidence, which is what I've maintained all along. You can continue to deny that point, but it simply makes your argument specious.

I'll also note that you have not bothered to acknowledge my point about alternatives to "goddidit" which is typical, since you can't answer it.

Celestial Teapot said...

GCT,
Again, sorry about that. The tedium of it all. Think of your efforts as a public service to educate Christians, well worth all the trouble if you can bring just one more Christian out of the Middle Ages and into the light of the modern world. Perhaps it is your special purpose.

I know you’ve done your best to explain it to me but I am still struggling with the faith issue. It seems to me that you think it rather foolish to believe in things for which there is no evidence, yet you seem to believe that abiogenesis occurred, based only upon the evidence from the experiments of Miller and others showing the production of amino acids in the absence of enzymes. You seem to agree that there is no scientific evidence to suggest the identity of any transitional intermediate molecules for RNA, DNA and protein, but you still believe that they must have existed. You also believe that transitional molecules ultimately gave rise to RNA, DNA, and protein, again without any concept of how this could occur.

It seems to me that one who bases his beliefs solely upon scientific evidence would have to say “There is no scientific basis for abiogenesis at this time. “ To say anything further brings requires faith (even a provisional belief in abiogenesis), because there is no available science to bring to bear on the issue.

What’s a struggling Christian to do? I can trade in my faith in God for faith in abiogenesis, but then I’m still stuck with this medieval notion of basing my beliefs on faith rather than scientific evidence.

Please, help me out here. I’m tired of eating Rats-on-a-Stick.

Modusoperandi said...

"It seems to me that one who bases his beliefs solely upon scientific evidence would have to say 'There is no scientific basis for abiogenesis at this time.' To say anything further brings requires faith (even a provisional belief in abiogenesis), because there is no available science to bring to bear on the issue."
No. There is some. Radically incomplete, yes (which is why they tend to form hypotheses rather than theories, and, yes, I do shudder a bit when its subgroups get called "theories"), but it's there. What is there form the "transitional fossils", to purloin a term, of abiogenesis.
I'm not sure what'll end up being "the" answer, but I lean towards it being naturalistic in nature. Call it "That "Naturalism of the Gaps", if you like, but it's history shows that it ends up working much better than "God of the Gaps". For one thing, NotG means that people are still looking for "the" answer (and even then, "the" answer only stands until new data points to an improved or new model). GotG is an excuse not to bother.
This all, of course, depends on which definition of "faith" you're using. Faith that the sun will rise tomorrow (because it has an unbroken history of doing so) is in an entirely different league than faith that Lourdes' water will cure my (hypothetical, as far as I know) kid's cancer (because some guy says it's an Official Miracle™).

"What’s a struggling Christian to do? I can trade in my faith in God for faith in abiogenesis, but then I’m still stuck with this medieval notion of basing my beliefs on faith rather than scientific evidence."
You don't have to give up the former to accept the latter. There are plenty of theists who accept the Theory of Evolution and plenty more who've abandoned geocentricism while keeping their God. Don't ask me how they did it. I'm not in their heads, man.

Modusoperandi said...

I should also point out that the only person I speak for is me. I tried speaking for others, but they wouldn't stop "shushing" me. Jerks.

GCT said...

To add to what Modus said...

No one is uncritically accepting "abiogenesisdidit" as the unquestioned truth. It's a provisional acceptance because it's the best thing we've got! We have some evidence for it, so we are going to proceed along those lines, note that we don't have all the answers, search for the answers, and provisionally hold that it's the best thing we've got going.

Again, CT, I note that you continually ignore my counter about alternatives to "goddidit" which I'll once again point out it's because you can't answer.

Celestial Teapot said...

Modusoperandi,
I started reading Gen-e-sis last night, which I got through an interlibrary loan. My copy looks pristine, like it has hardly been read. You didn’t take your half-read copy from next to the toilet and donate it to the library did you?

GCT,
Scientific evidence for Goddidit? There isn’t any that I know of. I think we are dancing cheek to cheek on this particular point. Complete agreement, mon petit chou chou.

GCT said...

"Scientific evidence for Goddidit?"

I'd take any evidence....there still isn't any.

Modusoperandi said...

Celestial Teapot "You didn’t take your half-read copy from next to the toilet and donate it to the library did you?"
No. I live in the library. Obviously.

Celestial Teapot said...

GCT,

"I'd take any evidence....there still isn't any."

This statement implies that you would accept some kind of evidence other than scientific evidence. What kind of evidence would that be?

Celestial Teapot said...

Modusoperandi,
In order to get the full experience reading this book, I placed it next to the toilet as per your instructions. It's actually sitting on top of Mere Christianity right now. Are you now telling me that it is actually the toilet at the library where I ought to be setting up?

That is a great idea. What better way to get the public to read? Next time I request a book I'm going to ask the librarian to just leave it next to the library toilet.

Modusoperandi said...

Whatever. I say reading is more important than location. This is why I'm not a pilot anymore. Stupid FAA...

GCT said...

"This statement implies that you would accept some kind of evidence other than scientific evidence. What kind of evidence would that be?"

A cogent, rational, logical argument perhaps?

Celestial Teapot said...

Modusoperandi,
I just finished Gen-e-sis, by Hazen. I’m not quite sure what Hazen was hoping to accomplish with this book. It was sort of like reading “The Double Helix,” by Watson in that it was filled with anecdotal stories about the key scientists and their personalities, but there was really not a lot said about corresponding key scientific advancements ( in the field of abiogeneis) to go with them. I was particularly struck by the story of Nick Platte and his theory of a pre-RNA world. He had an interesting idea for creating a template molecule for aligning nitrogenous bases as a possible precursor for producing RNA (although it wasn’t really clear how you then get to an RNA molecule from there). He was so proud of this idea, he expected Nature to publish it without any data. Did he really think his idea was so good that that it didn’t require any experiments to support it? In some ways, this was a theme throughout the book, lengthy discussions about how abiogenesis must have occurred without really having much science to go with it. I was hoping there would be more.

Modusoperandi said...

And? What were you expecting? Revelation?

Celestial Teapot said...

No, I wasn't expecting revelation. I was looking for a rational basis for a belief in abiogenesis. There doesn't seem to be a scientific basis for that belief, so I'm trying to understand what else would support a belief in abiogenesis.

It seems that one has to want to believe in it for some reason other than the science. Hazen seems to really want to believe in it. In his case I think it provides an area for research in which he can thrive with little more than enthusiasm.

GCT said...

Um, the only evidence we have supports accepting abiogenesis as the best explanation that we currently have.

Celestial Teapot said...

GCT,
I'm thinking I may become an abiogenesis researcher myself. It seems like an easy gig, at least easier than doing conventional science. One thing I especially like is that you can't ever be proven wrong. Any experiment that you choose to do counts as evidence for abiogenesis. Since no one can identify the pieces of the puzzle, it’s perfectly legitimate to cut some pieces yourself and claim that that they fit in the puzzle somewhere. Best of all, you’ve got an eager audience of atheists to champion your work unconditionally.

Modusoperandi said...

Can't ever be proven wrong? Harldy. If the chemistry doesn't add up, your hypothesis needs rehypothesization (note: not a word).

Unconditionally? How many times do we have to use terms like "plausible pathways", "maybe", "based on how chemistry/bio-chemistry works" or "could've"?
We will never know how it actually happened. At best we'll figure out ...pause....plausible pathways for it.

Celestial Teapot said...

Modusoperandi,
What would be an example of an abiogenisis experiment where the chemistry "adds up?"

Modusoperandi said...

Miller-Urey (at the time, anyway). Currently, the modern equivalent.

Modusoperandi said...

Heck, even panspermia has some evidence (which can be investigated experimentally. Hypothesis: if comets/asteroids brought some organic material-slash-life's precursors, then samples of same should contain them. And, spookily, they do. Weirder, the heat and pressure of impact makes more stuff).

Celestial Teapot said...

Modusoperandi,
I think I’m getting it now. It’s like looking at the glass and seeing it as half full or half empty. I see the glass as 99.999% empty and you see it as .001% full. All the missing chemistry is there, but it’s like dark matter. It all adds up when you balance the equation with “dark” chemistry.

That’s why I want to get into this kind of research. What other field of science gets you so much for so little? Attitude is everything. One man’s lipid vesicle is another man’s protocell.