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  Topic: Official Uncommonly Dense Discussion Thread< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

Posts: 1948
Joined: Mar. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: April 01 2007,09:49   

Quote (Zachriel @ April 01 2007,16:16)
Quote (N.Wells @ Mar. 31 2007,21:53)
Dave Scot quotes a speech by Priestley Medalist George Whitesides on the origin of life:                                
Most chemists believe, as do I, that life emerged spontaneously from mixtures of molecules in the prebiotic Earth.  How? I have no idea.

In the comments, C. Bass says,
Isn’t this the sort of thing Richard Dawkins is talking about when he defines “faith” as “belief without evidence”? I mean, why do “most chemists believe…that life emerged spontaneously” if there is no evidence as to how that can happen?

I've got to agree with Bass, for much the same reason that Zachriel disagrees with GilDodgen.  

Whitesides is clearly talking very loosely and is exaggerating for rhetorical effect, but nonetheless scientists shouldn't be dealing in beliefs and shouldn't be using that sort of language.  In parallel with what Zachriel said, the default here is, we know very little about the origin of life, but we're working on it, and we have some suspicions and some hypotheses.  Whitesides is welcome to his personal hunches, and is certainly welcome to state the reasons behind his hunches, but this is otherwise regrettable language.

You're right in that Whitesides's language might lead to a bit of conflation on the term "believe". There are two different definitions at work here.

 1) to have a firm religious faith
 2) to hold as an opinion

We can presume that Whitesides is using the second definition (deduced from his appeal to authority). There is ample reason to suggest that life arose due to naturalistic mechanisms: We know that life is a chemical process. We know that the basic principles of chemistry (though perhaps not the particulars) were the same on the primordial Earth. We know that life once did not exist on Earth; but once it began, it evolved and diversified from primitive ancestors; and as we peer further back in time, we peer further back into this ancestry. The more closely we look, the more reasonable natural abiogenesis appears.

As an analogy, Kekulé might not have known how a benzene molecule was constructed, but he could make a reasonable scientific inference (based on what was already known about chemistry) that the atoms were held together by naturalistic mechanisms. "How? He had no idea." But from there, he could hypothesize various structures. (The solution actually appeared to Kekulé in a dream.)          
I was sitting writing on my textbook, but the work did not progress; my thoughts were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gamboling before my eyes. This time the smaller groups kept modestly in the background. My mental eye, rendered more acute by the repeated visions of the kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold conformation; long rows sometimes more closely fitted together all twining and twisting in snake-like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightning I awoke; and this time also I spent the rest of the night in working out the consequences of the hypothesis.

On Blipey's point. I think most people make a real attempt to communicate with one another. If a word such as "believe" is subject to misunderstanding, they simply ask for clarification rather than trying to manipulate the language for rhetorical purposes. IDers seem to believe that perceived rhetoric victory inevitably results in scientific acceptance.

There is no complete theory of abiogenesis. The general hypothesis is that chemicals can form primitive replicators. Abiogenesis is not a component of the Theory of Evolution, or Germ Theory for that matter. The first life form on Earth may have been a lucky accident, a natural property of carbon and liquid water, a unique circumstance, seeded by comets, or even a Divine Miracle. The Theory of Evolution concerns the diversification of life, not its origin. However, it is known that life did not always exist on Earth, but that once it began, it diversified into a variety of forms.

Another truly most excellent post oh great President of Jupiter.

Complete with a little cameo of a great mind unraveling the secrets of nature as found (which is another way of saying created).

Note the means by which Friedrich August Kekulé arrived at his conclusion.

His unrestrained primitive subconscious mind served up an explanation in a visual language during a dream that explained a conundrum not available to conscious thought.

That is exactly how mythology including Christianity originated.

Stories harvested from dreams to explain the world and told as though they were real and since they resonate at a primitive subconscious level seem true.

Even though they are not true in the absolute waking world they  blur the line between fiction and fact in the suggestive world of public fantasy and the super ego.

The idea that the world is created by a super human like being is a childish projection of the first order and comes direct from the subconscious mind which for some unfortunates is indistinguishable from reality.

Practically all the semiotic symbols of the modern religion (I know that's an oxymoron) talking snakes, magic fruit trees, flud myths, self immolating bushes, babies in tiny boats, a one and only ‘ Son of God’ (the Egyptians had one of those), rising from the dead, life after death, virgin births etc etc are drawn from older myths.

Even the trope of the snake eating its own tail is a common mythological symbol.

As is the idea death is a punishment from god because a man can’t keep from stealing money from blind idiots (Geez Bill that record is so warn …oh woe is me boo hoo hoo…can we have something new?)

The creativity of the human brain is almost boundless and would shame most gods even if they existed. In some ways as long as idiots like Dembski and his loyal cadres constantly froth to the surface of the cess pool that represents the boundary between reality and dream  ……the idea of a god  may be a good thing.

Otherwise who else will take the litany of excuses when he shuffles off his mortal coils?

If he has an invisible sky daddy he can make his apologies to for being his own talking snake……hiss…… who am I to complain?

Dembskis deathbed confession:

I’m sorry god, nobody important believed you created ID.
I’m sorry god, nobody important believed I created ID for you but only for my personal pecuniary interest.
I’m sorry god but the TLC thought $20k was well spent even though I ran squawking like a chicken from Barbara Forrest’s Deposition for the Dover trial…..and no it wasn’t because I don’t believe in you….(WMaD crosses fingers and closes eyes).
I’m sorry god  for my last book …..You didn’t read it did you? I know…it was shit…but hey……. the wages of sin and all that.

The conservative has but little to fear from the man whose reason is the servant of his passions, but let him beware of him in whom reason has become the greatest and most terrible of the passions.These are the wreckers of outworn empires and civilisations, doubters, disintegrators, deicides.Haldane

  29999 replies since Jan. 16 2006,11:43 < Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

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