Proof

This is for the people back in the American midwest. For those all a-flutter with “Expelled” (regardless of the factual inaccuracies portrayed in the context of tenure) let’s review the methods of science and hypotheses. The origin of life on this planet is not a falsifiable hypothesis. You cannot prove God created life. Nor can you prove it wasn’t created. You cannot prove life formed spontaneously from a primordial soup. Nor can you prove it didn’t. You can, however, “create” (ha ha) life from a primordial soup by trying to reproduce the conditions under which life was formed. You then produce evidence–not proof–that life could have begun that way.  We deal a lot in likelihood in science, it’s easy to disprove, hard if not impossible to prove.  Unless you witness a supreme being starting a new Universe, you do not have the same option to try and reproduce conditions for creation or ID. Intelligent design and other similar thoughts are assertions, not hypotheses, because they cannot be disproven. However, most scientists (yours truly included) believe that if (and that’s a big IF) life can be made from non-life in the lab, that lends strong support to the idea that life could have begun that way. Not DID begin that way, but could. It’s not proof and it does not fall within a strict definition of a scientific hypothesis, but it’s actually as good as it gets for much of the fields like paleontology where also you have to surmise based on evidence. (And this is where the Physicists tend to take a dim view of biological sciences, unwarranted in my opinion but it’s out there.  It’s the level of uncertainty in the likelihood of the remaining circumstance that causes trouble.)

There is a difference here. This is not belief vs belief. This does carry a distinction, although subtle, and not quite the religion vs science absolutes that liberal people like to portray (nor the religion vs religion-like science that the happy-clappies like to claim). Therefore the people asserting ID are philosophers (note you cannot prove something is too complicated to have been made by natural processes) and there are some other people using scientific techniques in a “what if” exploratory sort of manner to see if they can shed some light on the problem. I’m guessing that in this and many lifetimes, it will be as elusive as the Higgs boson and for good reasons. Hmmm maybe the biologists and physicists aren’t that different after all…

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One response to “Proof

  1. My own favorite is the “multiverse” or “landscape” of string theory, where the anthropic principle is accounted for by assuming infinite universes to get around the inconvenient fact that cosmoligal fine-tuning looks a lot like there is some kind of “original intelligence” that got this started.

    I think that Stein’s point is that there is a valid debate to be had away from any religious issue, and one side simply defines its way out of the debate by muzzling its opponents and mischaracterizing the nature of the issue.

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