Thursday, December 30, 2010

Origin of life: At least one swish of chemicals must win the lottery ...

Friend Stephen E. Jones was reading The Origin of Life by Paul Davies (2003) and came up with this nice paragraph:
Many investigators feel uneasy about stating in public that the origin of life is a mystery, even though behind closed doors they freely admit that they are baffled. There seems to be two reasons for their unease. Firstly, they feel it opens the door to religious fundamentalists and their god-of-the-gaps pseudo-explanations. Secondly, they worry that a frank admission of ignorance will undermine funding, especially for the search for life in space.

- Paul Davies, The Origin of Life, Penguin Books, London, 2003, p. xxiv
He comments,
An interpretation of this is that origin of life researchers don't tell in public that they are in a crisis, because if they did so, they would give ammunition to Intelligent Design and lose a great deal of money ...

They are die-hard materialists in both senses.
Actually, most people would probably cheer them on if they did find the origin of life, but the reason it is a mystery is their unwillingness to consider whether some features are best explained by design. They want chance to do the legwork, which is somewhat like wanting to get rich on one lottery ticket win.