Is Abiogenesis an hypothesis in distress?

Interesting. Okay, so you are not ID associated. James Tour, however, still is ID associated. Perry was, but no longer is (as I understand it). Also, the articles you linked to are from an ID associated publication by the way. But I’ll take your word for it. Sometime I want to know the story here.

Yup maybe he is.

Not true. I’m the counter example. I have no problem with God’s action in the world. I am not a philosophical naturalist. I even just argued for the de novo creation of Adam. In my scientific work, however, I rely on the long Christian theological tradition of methodological naturalism, though its called the wrong thing. I just know that science is not the whole story.

You work with students. It is critical you help them understand these distinctions, you could lead them into a whole ton of avoidable conflict. It does not appear you read the links I gave you. I hope you do. Three of the key ones:

The Rules of the Game

Methodological Naturalism, So Falsely Called

Dr James Tour and the Great Pascal

Do you mind taking a look at those? To be clear, I see your proposals:

Except none of us have the authority to change the rules of science. It seems to be doing just fine as it is.

Except that is not philosophical naturalism.

Except that is not how science works. I can’t imagine how it could possibly do this.

Except, as a scientist, I cannot see how that is the case. That is just not what we do in science.

I know of no agreed upon case that satisfies that criteria.

The viable third option: “we have not yet understood or learned the explanation.” In a word, “ignorance.”

Nope. It is not possible to estimate the odds of an unknown process.

How much do you know about OOL of research? This does not make much sense. Our current “natural setting” is nothing like the “natural setting” billions of years ago on earth. Why would we try and run OOL experiments in the wrong setting?

Not really. I’m just not sure you know how science works. This is not how we do it.

Just ask him directly. He is very optimistic that someone will collect.

Oh, he still thinks DNA is an “information system.” He is wrong, in my view, but he still thinks that. The change is that he now thinks someone will eventually collect on his prize. He thought it was unsolvable, but now no longer.

Methodological naturalism does call abiogenesis an axiom. I’m not sure why you would disagree. In scientific work, we only consider natural processes. We only consider abiogenesis, not God’s creative act. Panspermia, sure, but that just postpones the abiogenesis question, as you rightly pointed out. By definition, no one is around to make that cell but God, and science does not consider God’s action. It is designed to study creation (that which is created) not the Creator.

@Ronald_Cram you seem like a smart guy who is well read. I appreciate that. I just think that science works differently than you know. You may really like the upcoming discussion on Divine Action with @rcohlers (Clinton Ohlers: Two Parables on Divine Action). This may clarify why exactly science can’t give you what you want, and why I’m not appealing to philosophical naturalism. Rather, I’m solidly in a theological tradition. It is the same tradition as Francis Bacon, James Tour, and Blaise Pascal. Maybe you can join us…

I suppose I haven’t come a long way from him. He is focused on Jesus. He sees Jesus as the center to which all tends, and all truth is found.

We know God only by Jesus Christ. Without this mediator all communion with God is taken away; through Jesus Christ we know God. All those who have claimed to know God, and to prove Him without Jesus Christ, have had only weak proofs. But in proof of Jesus Christ we have the prophecies, which are solid and palpable proofs. And these prophecies, being accomplished and proved true by the event, mark the certainty of these truths, and therefore the divinity of Christ.

I’m pretty happy with that view. All those who have claimed to know God, and to prove Him without Jesus Christ, have had only weak proofs. Now that I have the strong proof that God offers in Jesus, I have no need for weak proofs. Do you?

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For what’s it worth, no OOL researcher takes the “warm little pond” seriously anymore, it’s thermodynamically flat. And the overwhelming majority think panspermia fails as well. There has been great progress the last ten years. Especially out of the Yarus and Zagrovic labs.


You might be right, but incredulity is not an argument.

This, however, is just false. There has been real progress, despite your doubts.

@T.j_Runyon is right. There has been a lot of progress in the last five years. We still do not know how the first life arose, but there has been progress in our understanding.

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Sorry, the quoting feature is giving me fits. You said: “It is the same tradition as Francis Bacon, James Tour, and Blaise Pascal. Maybe you can join us…”
I’d like to learn more about that tradition

Start here:

Then have fun next week here: Clinton Ohlers: Two Parables on Divine Action. The parables are scheduled to go up tomorrow or the day afterwards, so there are several days to think about them before we kick off the discussion.

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Whenever ID or Discovery Institute is mentioned, it is almost always with an element of derision or condescension. If one is painted with the ID brush, then no matter the strength of his evidence or how tightly his case is argued, it may be dismissed with an arm wave. I don’t want to be dismissed that easily. And neither do James Tour or Perry Marshall, which is why both have publicly stated they do not want to be associated with ID in capital letters. If you want to treat people fairly, never assume they are associated with ID or Discovery Institute.

No, Inference is not an ID-associated publication. They publish essays by a wide variety of authors, including Noam Chomsky. You can learn more about Inference here. About | Inference

I’m not sure why you think James Tour is associated with Discovery Institute. He has never written an article for their publication. He’s not a fellow of the institute nor does he have any formal association that I know of. Tour did contribute to an anthology titled Theistic Evolution and this book had other contributors some of whom were from Discovery Institute and some who were not.

The same is true of Perry Marshall. He has never written an article for Discovery Institute’s website. He’s not a fellow nor does he have any official link.

I’m sorry, Joshua, but this shows confused thinking. I defined Philosophical Naturalism as “the belief that God does not exist or cannot be known to act in the material world.” If you believe that it is impossible to know that God has acted in the material world, then you are, by definition, a Philosophical Naturalist. I don’t see how it is possible to escape this.

Newton was certainly not a Philosophical Naturalist, perhaps not even a Methodological Naturalist. He hoped that his scientific endeavors would prove the existence of God, as he wrote in his famous letters to Dr Bentley. I don’t believe Newtonian gravity actually supports the existence of God, but the groundwork laid by Newton did make it possible for science to show God’s existence later on.

Just to demonstrate that Sean Carroll does not believe, as you do, that scientists are required to never consider the possibility of God, I will provide a quote from his appearance at the Greer Heard Forum when he debated Wiliam Lane Craig.

The quote begins 1:39:55 into the talk. I hope the time stamp works properly for you. I provide a transcript just below the URL.

“Some people try to sometimes say that science or naturalists start from an assumption of naturalism so they just simply won’t consider alternatives. I’m very happy to consider alternatives. I think if there was some phenomena in the world which really looked exactly like some religious tradition was saying should happen and was miraculous, was seemingly violating the laws of physics, what would scientists do in that situation? They would not say “We are not allowed to think about this because we agreed yesterday at faculty tea that the world is a natural world.” I think they would try to come up with the best explanation. If the best explanation is not naturalism, then I would buy that.” - Sean Carroll

Carroll goes on to say:

“In a proper, quantitative Bayesian probability analysis my prior for naturalism is higher than my prior for theism, but overwhelming evidence will always take care of that.”

Regarding my proposal to move away from Methodological Naturalism (because it so often slides into Philosophical Naturalism) to Regularism, you give a rather disdainful reply. Perhaps you are unaware of the growing philosophical unease with Philosophical Naturalism. I would suggest to you the following book, especially Chapter Three on Regularism by my friend Tom Gilson. The book is taken from “Proceedings of the 2016 Conference on Alternatives to Methodological Naturalism.”

Your next series of comments show that you are not taking my comments seriously. To say “I can’t imagine this” or “I can’t imagine that” or “science doesn’t work that way” doesn’t really help to advance the discussion. As I have made clear in this comment, Sean Carroll can imagine a situation in which it is possible for science to prove that something could not have happened through natural processes. The hypothesis that life arose from chemical evolution is one such situation. If it is not possible to disprove this hypothesis, then it is not scientific.

Regarding my proposal that OOL research be done in natural settings, I’m attempting to raise the bar. You ask:

But that is what is happening now. The reactions are being done in changing environments - from low temperature to high temperature back to low temperature and from low atmospheric pressure to high atmospheric pressure back to low - all with the goal of trying to improve yields with no thought as to how realistic these changing conditions are to early earth.

My proposal is to run the same experiments in conditions closer to the early earth and do it with a view toward falsifying the hypothesis. As you know, scientists have a responsibility to try to falsify their own work. It is not a task that humans love to do. That’s why I am also proposing that each research team try to falsify the work of other teams. Those who hold to DNA first can attempt to falsify the RNA World hypothesis, the metabolism first hypothesis and the cell membrane first hypothesis. The other teams can do the same.

There is no question in my mind that abiogenesis is falsifiable and would be falsified within a few short years if researchers actually held to the standards of science.

Regarding Perry Marshall, why not invite him here to discuss his book and his $5 million challenge. I think he would be willing to invest some time discussing his thoughts.

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3 posts were merged into an existing topic: Swamidass is Inescapably a Philosophical Naturalist

Joshua, I would like to clarify a couple of points. In one of your comments you said that James Tour was associated with ID. But on the blog you linked, you quote Tour:

“I (Dr. James Tour) have been labeled as an Intelligent Design (ID) proponent. I am not. I do not know how to use science to prove intelligent design although some others might. I am sympathetic to the arguments on the matter and I find some of them intriguing, but the scientific proof is not there, in my opinion. So I prefer to be free of that ID label.”

I think it is very clear that saying Tour is associated with ID is very unfair to him. He admits that he doesn’t know how to use science to prove intelligent design but “some others might.” He doesn’t claim it is impossible for science to prove that God exists. And I think Tour would be pleased if OOL researchers took their responsibility to test abiogenesis in an attempt to falsify it as welcome progress. Why don’t you invite him to participate in this thread and we can ask him?

My work is not related to showing a requirement for divine intelligence, although Perry Marshall’s work looks promising in that area.

My own interest has been in showing that certain events in history, specifically in cosmology and the origin of life, could not have happened through natural processes. I hope this clears up the earlier confusion.

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Umm. Everything you are asking of scientists they are doing

And it’s actually going the opposite way that you think it is…

No, they are not. I suggest you read the articles by Tour I linked above. The ones that were not printed in an ID-related journal.

Yes they are! Do you keep up with literature? Do you have private correspondence with OOL of researchers like I do? I can’t believe you said what you just said with a straight face.

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I notice that the level of discourse has devolved precipitously.

You’re right and I apoligize. Just tired of seeing work and people misinterpreted. I’m out

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Please read Tour’s essays and watch his video and then get back to me.

Good news, that is what they already do!!

So much falsification! Did you just read Popper?

That is not really how science works. At least, it is not how we do things in the context I was trained and am a scientist.

I hope it does. I’m just point out the places that you lost me. Maybe instead of the super long posts, let’s focus on one thing at a time.

And I am well aware of this. You are getting catfished. We’ve covered this before: Miracles and Methodological Naturalism

Also, it is clear you are not reading the links I’m putting up. Can we try a reset here? Instead of trying to convince me, maybe we should try and understand each other first. I want to understand you too, and build some bridges. It is hard with all the (what appear to be) pre-canned polemics.

Really, can you give me some examples of the work that comes out of Discovery Institute that is good?

Prediction: A purely natural explanation for the origin of life will be found in the next 10 to 15 years, perhaps sooner.