Yes. People often mistakenly believe science is in the business of determining The Truth. It is not. Rather, it is in the business of devising theories and models that can explain the observations that are made, and predict which observations will and will not be made in the future.
This doesn’t make much sense to me.
What are scientific models and theories, if not for coming up with an approximation of how nature truly operates?
… it is tempting to conclude that the phenomenal successes achieved thru the scientific method are because it does determine The Truth regarding how the universe in which we exist objectively behaves. But that is a metaphysical position that cannot itself be judged scientifically.
So what are you trying to say? That because science cannot be used to determine its own applicability to the world, that the question of whether scientific knowledge actually corresponds to actual states of the world is unanswerable?
I would sure hope not!
Such a view strikes me as much more typical of new age thinkers and postmodernist philosophers than scientists. In all my exposure to philosophy of science, I know of no sufficient reason to doubt that science has a strong correspondence to reality; at least, more often than not.
These ideas really do strike me as an unjustifiable skepticism about the scientific method, or perhaps even sense-based knowledge in general.
My intuition is that whether it’s more parsimonious would depend on how the background details (all prior knowledge of evolutionary theory) fit into the details that surround this particular case (the context around the discovery of Venters organism itself).
I think given the nature of a lot of the evidence for evolution, there is greater care required when extrapolating from natural observations compared to the care that’s required for (for example) controlled experiments, which (should) have a lot of the care built in to the process of observation itself.
In the case of alien scientists assessing Venters organism, I think we should expect that the extra care they take knowing that their observation was not made under controlled conditions would be more likely to lead them to conclude rightly than not.
It seems to me that this is true even though it is the case that they might still be more likely to get it wrong than right.
I’m not sure this is the case.
Instead of a synthetic organism, perhaps we stumble across what seems to be a previously undiscovered natural wonder. We have with us a friend that has majored in all the primary engineering specialties who tells us, after some time investigating this natural wonder, that he strongly suspects that it is not actually a product of nature, but that it has been designed by someone who has directly utilized in the structure a knowledge of modern architecture in such a way as to convincingly mimic natural formations.
While we might find this statement of suspicion surprising (given the face value of the “natural wonder”), would we really expect ourselves to think that he is being ridiculous for making this suggestion?
More specifically, would we really think that in order for it to be reasonable for our engineer friend to conclude that the wonder was designed, that he must first be able to explain who designed the designer of this fake “natural wonder”?
It doesn’t seem to me that this question actually has, or should have any impact on our assessment of how likely it is that the natural wonder was really designed.
Now, you might respond by saying that these situations are not analogous. However, I’m not sure that the primary difference in these scenario’s - chiefly, life - makes much of a difference when we consider that the nature of Venter’s design of the synthetic organism is in oversimplified terms, an elaborate and purposeful reconstruction of natural elements, with the intent to mimic what we observe in nature.
It seems to me, more likely than not, that the assessment of Venter’s synthetic organism is quite plausibly analogous to an engineers design of a fake, but convincing “natural wonder”.