Scrutinizing Our Own Hypotheses

I wasn’t referring to ID, but only making a general point. Thus, if I claim that a way has been discovered by which human beings can fly by flapping their arms, and people show skepticism, I can’t say: “Unless you guys can give me a rigorous proof that it’s impossible for a man to fly by flapping his arms, my claim is correct.” Skeptics aren’t required to prove a negative. I’m required to provide evidence that people can fly in that way. Otherwise, the world is justified in ignoring me.

One of the mistakes some ID people make in debate is getting suckered into trying to prove a negative. For example, some might argue that it is impossible that life could have originated by unguided chemical combinations. I think that’s a massive tactical error which puts an unnecessary burden on those who assert it. I think the onus is on the people who say, “Sure, life could have arisen by unguided chemical combinations.” It’s up to them to provide evidence that such a thing could have happened, by suggesting plausible steps, testing them, and so on. The general public is under no obligation to accept a speculation as fact. Nor is it under the obligation to prove that the speculation is impossible. The onus is on those who are convinced that life came into existence without any guidance or planning, due to chance combinations of atoms and molecules plus later chemical developments, to give a credible account of how it could have happened. If they fail to give a credible account, there is nothing “unscientific” or “ignorant” or “anti-science” in saying that the speculation has not presented convincing support, and that they withhold consent.


Sorry @eddie I see what you are getting at, that isn’t how science works.

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You just massively contradicted yourself, Joshua. You said the very opposite to Faisal Ali. Read what I said carefully. (The timing of your answer indicates you barely had time to read my reply before reacting.)

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It is a subtle, by precise. I know ID really well, and why it struggles. And I know you. I do not think I contradicted myself.

That is the part that is not how science works.

That is true but irrelevant. We are all free to disagree with scientists.

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Let’s not drag out a side point unnecessarily, Joshua. Here is what you originally wrote:

Unless you now retract this, you and I are in agreement on the general principle of where the onus lies in scientific hypothesizing.

So if you disagree with me, it must be over my application of that principle, i.e., over one or more of my examples.

So either you think the guy who claims that you can fly by flapping your arms has no onus on him to give a credible account, or you think that origin-of-life theorists who are very confident that life did not need any planning or guidance to arise have no onus on them to give a credible account.

Which is it?

James Tour believes that so far, the origin-of-life theorists have not provided a credible account, so he withholds assent to their conclusions. I’m with him. I think that withholding assent (not declaring their conclusions false, just withholding assent) is exactly what a scientifically minded person would do at this point of progress of origin-of-life research.


That is a selective quote. Look what I wrote:

In context, I have been explaining that if I propose a hypothesis the onus is on me to falsify it. That is how science works. We are supposed to argue against our own positions, to the point our critics think we have done their job for them.

The design hypothesis has not been subjected to such self scrutiny.


And also to present confirming evidence for them, where it exists.


@eddie a distinction here is that with the GAE I did attempt to falsify it to the satisfaction of scientists. ID does not have this track record with their own hypothesis, nor does @Faizal_Ali. I would be really impressed of IDists tried to falsify theor theory, but I have yet to see this.


This last one is out of order. Missed it in the split.

You are not following logic here. If you believe that the statement “It is impossible that life could have originated by unguided chemical processes” cannot be supported, then the claim "Life could have arisen by unguided chemical combinations” is true.

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And the guy who cleans the toilets at my work thinks the origin of life models currently being investigated are very plausible. His opinion means just as much as Tour’s. Moreso, actually, since he is not motivated by a religious agenda.

You have it exactly backwards.

The people who doubt that the guy cannot fly by flapping his arms because this would violate natural laws are in the same position of those who doubt the claim that life was magically created by some invisible being who violates natural laws.

Any number of things could have happened. Lungs could have evolved from swimbladders, as Darwin suggested. They didn’t, though (it was swimbladders which evolved from lungs).

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Certain ID claims have also been tested. I don’t think you have differentiation here.

That is silly. Tour might be wrong but his opinion certainly matters more.


Why? You have no idea how well-read our toilet-cleaner is on the latest origin of life research. Also, he has never declared to the world on the internet that he does no understand evolutionary biology, which is important for understanding OOL research.

Unless you mean that Tour’s uniformed opinion “matters more” because it gets more publicity. In which case, I would agree.

Yes. So it is perfectly reasonable to say that “Life could have arisen thru unguided chemical reactions.” Actually, I would think that would be understating the situation, and say that just because we do not know the precise steps in the chemical process by which life arose, it remains the only plausible scientific explanation, just as we do not need to know the precise steps in the evolution of lungs to state with confidence that they arose from swim bladders.

If you consider it an explanation as there is no mechanism offered.

The mechanism is chemistry.