Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Darwinians' Learned Desperation

Eugene Koonin has written a paper on the origin of life in which he acknowledges that, given what we know, the odds of any system capable of replication of genetic material and translation (replication and translation: R&T) into proteins of that genetic material arising by chance are exceedingly close to zero.

That being so how can we account for the appearance and existence of life? We must certainly increase the odds somehow, but there are really only two ways of doing that - either introduce intentionality (Intelligent Design)or postulate a near infinite number of worlds in which chance operates.

Koonin explicitly wants to avoid the former so he embraces the latter and plunges himself into the very metaphysical speculation he wants to avoid:

I only discuss here what is often called "weak" anthropic principle and is the only acceptable scientific rendering of this concept. The so-called "strong" anthropic principle is the teleological notion that our (human) existence is, in some mysterious sense, the "goal" of the evolution of the universe; as such, this idea does not belong in the scientific domain.

Having discarded an explanation because he considers it metaphysical and unscientific he then adopts a second hypothesis that is itself metaphysical and unscientific.

He argues that the universe is really a multiverse, infinite in extent, containing every possible kind of universe consistent with the laws of physics (I'm not sure why he adds this qualifier since there could certainly be universes which are inconsistent with the laws of physics, at least as we know them). If that is so, and given that a universe in which R&T occurs by pure chance is a possible universe, no matter how unlikely, such a universe must exist and we're in it. In other words given enough trials anything that is possible to happen, no matter how improbable, will happen. Since our universe is a possible universe, given an infinite number of worlds and an infinite amount of diversity, our universe must exist.

This is a wonderful piece of metaphysical legerdemain. Simply postulate the existence of a near infinite number of worlds, never mind about adducing evidence for them, stir in the tacit but crucial assumption that those worlds would be infinitely diverse, and presto, a world with life in it just has to exist.

Koonin's goal in writing this paper is, as he makes clear, to allow his fellow materialists to avoid the despair which results from having no answer to those pesky Intelligent Design people. He writes:

A final comment on "irreducible complexity" and "intelligent design". By showing that highly complex systems, actually, can emerge by chance and, moreover, are inevitable, if extremely rare, in the universe, the present model sidesteps the issue of irreducibility and leaves no room whatsoever for any form of intelligent design.

Perhaps, but at what cost? After all, if we are to accept the assumption that in an infinite number of worlds all possibilities consistent with the laws of physics become actual (and they must do so an infinite number of times) then it follows that there must be an infinite number of worlds that are intentionally designed since that is certainly a possibility consistent with the laws of physics.

But set that aside and note the implicit admission in Koonin's words. Unless there are an infinite number of worlds representing all possible biological histories the idea of Intelligent Design becomes very difficult to avoid.

Note, too, that Koonin purports to be advancing a legitimate scientific hypothesis even though it's full of metaphysical speculation. Yet Intelligent Design is condemned by the scientific establishment because it has metaphysical implications.

Koonin's paper is very learned, but it's really an act of learned desperation.


BDS in Seattle

How deep is the hatred for George W. Bush among Democrats in this country? How completely irrational is it? Well, this story out of Seattle might offer us some insight:

Are you still fans of Matt Hasselbeck and Mack Strong after they visited President Bush last week in Bellevue? Or have their political leanings turned you against them?

The Seahawks quarterback and fullback gave the 43rd president a No. 43 jersey with his name on it at a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser for Rep. Dave Reichert at the Hyatt.

At the time, Hasselbeck called it a thrill and said it was a win-win, this opportunity to meet the president and get out of a team meeting.

But as soon as he saw the picture of the two players with Bush, Gary Wright, the team's vice president of administration, said he was concerned about negative reaction.

Maybe in really red Republican states, it would not have been a big deal. But Washington is a blue state, and deep, deep Democratic blue in King County. So objections were raised, and Hasselbeck heard them and read them. He got nasty voice mails, e-mails and text messages.

"I had no idea," Hasselbeck said.

One guy told him: "I hate you, I'll never wear your jersey, I'll never like the Seahawks again."

"Huh?" Hasselbeck thought. "Seriously?"

"Politics can be very mean and dirty," he said. "The things politicians say about each other, and what activists say, I had a brief glimpse of that for a couple of days.

"If I ever had any questions about whether I wanted to run for office, I now know the answer -- I don't."

As a quarterback, he's used to getting booed. "But this was a whole new level," he said. "I was very surprised how mean (they were)."

As evidence were these responses to Angelo Bruscas' blog posting on

"How dare Hasselbeck declare Bush an honorary Seahawk," wrote one. "Who is Matt speaking for? Bush is no Seahawk. He is the worst president of my lifetime, and I'm almost 60. Shame on you, Matt."

"To learn that two of the most popular Seahawks are strong (Bush) supporters ruins the season for me and my family," wrote another.

And Timothy P. wrote: "Just goes to show you that being a great athlete doesn't make you smart."

The rest of this sad story can be read at the link. Evidently, there are quite a few people in the northwest who need to get a life. It may be comforting to the left to hear that Bush Derangement Syndrome is flourishing in Seattle, but it's certainly disturbing to the mentally sane to read this stuff.


Terrorist Takedown

ABCNews has a few details on the German investigation that led to the arrests of three German Muslims who plotted to kill Americans in night spots near Ramstein Air Force base in Germany (Yes, our military is still in Germany sixty seven years after the end of WWII).