Monday, September 13, 2004

Finley's Comment

If you go well into this thread over at ISCID (it's the one started by Cornelius Hunter in response to my criticism's of his essay in Uncommon Dissent) you will find this comment from Darel Finley, reproduced here in its entirety:


I think that it might be legitimate for Rosenhouse et al to cite the universality of the DNA code as powerful evidence of common ancestry, while keeping OOL (origin of life) separate. This is because DNA code universality could illustrate the common descent of all existing organisms from the first microbe to use the DNA code, without regard to how that microbe came to be.

That said, I still agree with pretty much everything you are saying, and I think that the evolutionary community is obligated to address OOL as long as they insist on a purely naturalistic worldview in general.

And while we're on the subject, I would also like to stress that Behe's irreducible complexity is sometimes dismissed as an OOL issue, but it is much more, since the first microbes would not have any use for blood clotting, immunity, vision, and other systems Behe examines.


Of course, I agree completely with the first paragraph, and I appreciate Finley's clear statement of what I consider to be a very sensible position.

Alas, we run into trouble with the second paragraph. “Insisting on a purely naturalistic worldview” is not something “the evolutionary community” does, at least not in their roles as evolutionary biologists. There is no shortage of sensible people who adhere to various forms of theistic evolutionism. They are certainly part of the evolutionary community, but they do not adhere to a fully naturalistic worldview. People like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett are certainly not bashful about expressing their atheistic sympathies, but they are not speaking on behalf of the evolutionary community when they do so.

As it happens, I number myself among those who believe that a fully naturalistic worldview is the one most likely to be correct, but I hold that view for reasons having almost nothing to do with evolution. I would certainly be happier if we had a more persuasive explanation for how life came to be. But even if we had a good explanation for how life emerged from simpler components, Finley could still challenge naturalists to explain where the simpler components came from. The infinite regress beckons...

I do think we know enough about the origin of life to say that it is unnecessary to invoke supernatural entities to explain it. And for those theists inclined to thurst the origin of life in the face of atheists, I would simply point out that I have yet to meet the theologian who can explain where God came from.

As for the third paragraph, perhaps Finley could provide an example of a scientist dismissing irreducible complexity as an OOL issue. To the extent that Behe applies his argument to the origin of the first cell, it is an OOL issue. But the answer to Behe's claims about blood clotting, immunity and the like comes in two parts: (1) Behe is wrong as a matter of logic, since there are plenty of scenarios through which natural selection can craft IC systems in a gradual, step-by-step manner. This point is strengthened by the fact that IC structures routinely appear in the course of artificial life experiments. (2) For many of the systems Behe cites, blood clotting and immunity among them, rather a lot is known about how they evolved.

3 Comments:

At 11:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason -- thanks for your intelligent comments on my ISCID post. My response below:

Evolution is often defended on the grounds that only purely naturalistic explanations are scientific. If that is so, then one cannot argue that the first cells appeared on Earth by directed panspermia, or supernatural creation, or cosmologically improbable accident, and then prohibit those same sorts of explanations in the microbe-to-human history that follows.

However, you are right to point out that many evolutionists (a majority, perhaps?) are not atheists or even strict naturalists. In the U.S., they are typically mainstream Christians who accept Darwinian evolution as something that God set up to happen. My current position is about 180 degrees from these people; I now believe that both evolution and mainstream religion (even in a non-fundamentalist, evolution-compatible form) are false. See my book for further details: http://alienryderflex.com/mechanism

In the third paragraph which you quote, I didn't say anything about scientists. I was actually referring to the way Behe's thesis gets summarized in the press. I don't have a quote handy, but have seen many cases where it is described in a way that makes it sound like Behe might be opposing only a naturalistic origin of life, and that his thesis is irrelevant to the primary contention of evolution which concerns what happened after microbes already existed.

DarelRex@gmail.com

 
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