Creationism and Artificial Life

I find it ironic that the revival of creationism that I spoke of earlier is taking place during a decade where research into artificial life is making enormous strides. Now I’ve been following developments in artificial life ever since reading about it in Steven Levy’s book and I’ve spoken about artificial life many, many, many, many times but I was prompt yet again by a recent article (and another and still another) about synthetic biology.

The point is this. If artificial life demonstrates that ordinary humans can create life from scratch (Today polio viruses, tomorrow–well–where will it end?), is there really a need for some divine being? Of course it doesn’t really settle the god issue because true believers have an infinite regress of first causes to fall back to. All the synthetic biology really does is flog the long dead horse of vitalism–which I’ve also written about before.

This entry was posted in Science and Engineering. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Creationism and Artificial Life

  1. Odin says:

    Have I mentioned that I think you are dead wrong on all of this– so you have flogged the vitalism horse to death have you? what I find irritating is the note of derision that you seem to denote that anyone would disagree with this proscience view of life– when you say that when all the arguments are done, religionists and mystics only have their faith to fall back on it seems as well that you are wrong- -there is far too much evidence of the paranormal and the ‘holistic’for you to casually brush it aside- simply because it cant be codified in a laboratory– also there is the life experience of so many many people- you may call this ‘faith’ but it is based upon so much more– but I am curious about your atatement that science doesnt really say anything about ‘purpose and meaning’– is this really true?
    I have a LOT more to say on this topic but I have been at the keyboard for a few hours and I need to go and get a massage

  2. Pace Arko says:

    Perhaps I am too derisive. I will grant that. I’ll try to avoid that in the future but, I’d be less than honest if I didn’t state my opinions on these matters.

    I think it is a misconception of many people when they think that science is purely reductionist.
    Time and again in the history of science, holistic ideas appear. For example, when Christian Huuygens, a contemporary of Newton, noticed that the pendulums of a wall of clocks were all exactly in phase or exactly in opposite phase.

    Upon repeated experiment he found this pattern would appear again and again. He speculated, and this was later found to be true, that the wall itself was transmitting vibrations to each clock that would slowly cause the pendulums to fall into phase or antiphase.

    This is an example were reductionism won’t help. You have to look at the whole system to understand it. Context matters, even, or perhaps especially, in science. So I am not dismissing holism as a philosophical viewpoint. Reductionism and holism both are needed to understand the universe.

    What I am disputing is the interpretation that some make of the things they observe. If a someone tells me they see lights in the sky and I see them as well, there is no problem. But if he tells me that he thinks they are flying saucers and they don’t look that way to me, there is going to be a disagreement.

    Just because emergent patterns occur in nature or in systems doesn’t necessarily imply that there is some mystical force at work. Synchronicity doesn’t always imply hidden meaning. Sometimes coincidences just happen. In fact probability would be very strange if coincidences were forbidden from happening.

    As to psychic phenomena–well–it has yet to be proven to my satisfaction that any of that exists.
    That’s my opinion. Later experiment could prove me wrong but, I’m willing to bet 5 bucks that it won’t. The whole area of research is shot through with fraud and naive misinterpretation. When experiments a conducted under rigorous conditions the phenomena disappear. Maybe one day this will change.

    The problem that I have with vitalism is that it’s contradictory. It implies something special about the carbon atoms of living things that isn’t found in the carbon atoms of nonliving things.
    To date I haven’t found any satisfactory explanation as what this “extra essence” is. It can’t be measured, examined or experimented with and, if it’s outside the empirical realm, for me to be consistent in my opinions, I have to dismiss it.

    But all of this ultimately my opinion and for some reason I felt it necessary to share it with the world. I have strong feeling that you and I will have to agree to disagree on this. I think it’s unlikely either of us will convince the other and there is no reason we should get pissed off about it when there so much other commonality between us.

    Tell you what, I stop being so preachy about it. In fact I won’t mention it in such a confrontational way again. I’ll avoid mentioning much at all in fact.

    But it worries me that the President of the United States can say such nonsense and no one calls him on it. It pissed me off. Creationism pisses me off so, I fired up this rant.

Comments are closed.