New Origin-of-Life Proposal Revives a Hopeful Monster

Golden bubbles of sludge gas on a swamp

On this episode of ID the Future, host Eric Anderson talks with scientist and fellow engineer Rob Stadler about a recent origin-of-life paper and how the authors paint themselves into a corner. The context for the paper is this: Decades of research have undermined the three great hopes for a purely naturalistic origin of life — scenarios starting with some sort of metabolism, scenarios starting with some kind of membrane, and scenarios starting with RNA. All three are necessary for cellular life; none seems able to have come ahead of the others. So now some recent work described in an article in New Scientist suggests it all happened at once in a sort of “chemical big bang.” It’s the return of an old idea long ago dismissed as too improbable. Is this “hopeful monster” plausible after all? As Anderson and Stadler show, there are numerous hidden assumptions and imaginary entities lurking in the proposal, which when surfaced, call its soundness into question.



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Paul Nelson on Listening to Nature for Her Answers

On this episode of ID the Future, philosopher of science Paul Nelson concludes his talk with host Andrew McDiarmid on what it takes to converse effectively with scientists who are trapped in a naturalistic parabola — that is, researchers who draw their conclusions from naturalism’s authority rather than following the evidence wherever it leads. Nelson urges us to keep the third party in the conversation: Nature herself. We listen to nature through experiment, he says, and warns against the message from scientists such as CalTech’s Sean Carroll who have suggested that testing is “overrated.” If we listen and test, nature can keep revealing herself in surprising ways, says Nelson, which is what makes science so fun.



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Stephen Meyer’s Advice to Science Students

Work up of a reaction sketched on fume hood sash glass

On this episode of ID the Future, Stephen Meyer, director of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture and author of Darwin’s Doubt, gives advice to students and recent graduates interested in intelligent design.

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