Friday, June 16, 2006

My Response to John Rennie

Today I posted this response to Rennie's comments directed at what I had previously written. The website address is provided.

Comment from: John Rennie [Member]
William Bradford: When I asked you for a scientific investigation into the origin of life that built on I.D., you replied:

Since the hypothesis indicates that life and critical cellular systems do not arise in the absence of intelligence any experiment testing the capacity of such a system to evolve under conditions involving selective pressure could either substantiate standard theories or provide evidence that the first hypothesis is correct. Knocking out targeted genes of a biological system in question could simulate a point in time prior to their evolution.

The italicized words are what led me to say you were suggesting that selective pressure (obviously imposed by human intelligence in this case) could help to prove the case for I.D. But if I've misunderstood your proposal, let's scratch that and try again. Please restate exactly what experiment(s) you are proposing one could do, and what conclusions we could draw from them that aren't simply reassertions of I.D.'s tenets.

Bradford: Here is a quote of yours that you left out:

"It's nonsense to say that experiments showing that selective pressure could produce life prove your hypothesis--for one thing, you didn't try to disprove the hypothesis."

Bradford: I did not use the term "prove" the hypothesis but rather stated that the experimental outcome would provide evidence that the first hypothesis is correct. These hypotheses are supported or debunked based on a broad range of evidence. If you're looking for proofs look toward mathematics.

See my comments above to Aleph Wilson about the practical necessity of defining in some way the Intelligence behind I.D. and its capabilities if you're to test I.D. hypotheses.

Bradford: What is required is evidence consistent with intelligent causality- the hypothesis. By the way, practical necessities entail falsification criteria. How is abiogenesis falsified?

IDers look at the only actual evidence we have- life itself. Biological systems provide evidence inconsistent with the hypothesis that life arises in an extra-cellular environment. There is no need to make assumptions for we know that a functional, replicating cell is the end result. Investigations as to how chemical reactions produce an encoded genome will continue to be fruitless because the orderly arrangement of codons is not generated by organic chemical reactions unless a precoded nucleic acid template already exists. Encoded conventions are evidence for intelligence.

Thanks for a fine example of I.D. circular logic. You're saying that biological systems are inconsistent with abiogenesis because, well, they just are.

Bradford: No. I'm stating that a biological system whose synthesized end products are part of the synthesis mechanism indicates an insurmountable obstacle to OOL theories. How do 20 tRNA amino acyl synthetases "arise" under prebiotic conditions? Is there a genetic encoding mechanism in place and if so how is it expressed? If not what would be the basis for a selection process and how would selected changes be conserved? Do you even have a coherent theoretical mechanism allowing for a logical explanation as to how events unfolded? Can you explain the sequence of events that led to the generation of universal metabolic pathways? Did they follow or preceed the "arising" of encoded nucleic acids? Can OOLers at least tell us how natural selection would operate in a prebiotic environment?

What you're missing is that abiogenesis researchers are not claiming that whole, complex cells suddenly assemble themselves out of the dust. They're investigating how simple molecules can organize into more complicated systems, and how these in turn might gradually evolve toward structures more and more like living cells.

Bradford: What you're missing is a theoretical framework that provides any guidance as to how a transition process from non-life to a replicating cell proceeds. Simple molecules do not organize themselves into nucleic acids with protein encoding capacities. The encoded nature of nucleic acids is a function of their codon make-up and sequential order as well as a capacity to replicate it. You won't get that from reactions in a prebiotic environment. But you are invited to explain how a gradual process leads to a cell. How does natural selection apply?

Perhaps that quest will fail, and science will never learn how life arose. That's a very real possibility. But I.D. explanations will never be scientific ones until you can present evidence for the existence of the Designing Intelligence that comes from something other than the phenomenon you're trying to explain.

Bradford: Why should future space explorers not infer an intelligent cause if they find engraved life forms on mountains of a newly visited planet even if no intelligent life is found on that planet?

Bradford: If you anti-IDists would be willing to concede that intelligent causality is a reasonable inference about which reasonable people differ it would be good for all.

Now you're making exactly the same silly argument that Nelson did. Scientists have no problem with invoking intelligent causality when the existence of the intelligence in question is already an established fact.

Bradford: Scientists and non-scientists alike would have no trouble inferring an intelligent cause even when the intelligent agent is not identifiable. Intelligence is associated with unique properties. Biology is excluded from the mix a priori by some because secondary implications make them uncomfortable.

When we see the scene of a robbery, we can attribute it the cause to an unseen thief because we know that thieves exist. But it would be crazy to attribute the disappearance of a CD player to, say, invisible robotic termites that eat consumer electronics. Invoking "intelligence" as a causal agent doesn't mean anything unless you're willing to define that intelligence in some embodied way. I.D. is not a spur for further research; it's an excuse to stop asking questions.

Bradford: Nonsense. The questions asked become the important ones. Rather than waste resources on origin of life research we can divert them to asking what is the cause of a health malady and what would remedy the problem. Those kinds of questions will always exist and those asking the questions are not confined to believers in life from unspecifed and unknown prebiotic pathways. The stop asking questions canard is an invented dilemna.


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