Philosophical Objections—Not Science—Guides Origin of Life Research

From Casey Luskin and

“Michael Egnor recently wrote about the great difficulties faced by origin of life researchers and the great speculation they are willing to undertake to retain natural chemical explanations for origin of life. This reminds of events in the early 1900’s, when leading scientists opposed ideas about cosmology for philosophical (but not scientific) reasons. In 1931, leading cosmologist Sir Arthur Eddington wrote in response to Big Bang cosmology, “Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of Nature is repugnant . . . I should like to find a genuine loophole.” Even Einstein was troubled by the fact that his own theories showed “the necessity for a beginning.” In fact, he added a “cosmological constant” to his equations to avoid that necessity of a beginning to the universe. Decades later, after the cosmological constant was disproved, Einstein called the way he allowed his personal philosophy to override science the biggest blunder of his life.

Now it’s Eugene V. Koonin’s turn. Koonin, a biologist with the National Institutes of Health, is again letting philosophical preferences influence his cosmology. This time, however, it has to do not with the implications of the origin of the universe, but regarding the origin of life. In a recent article in Biology Direct entitled, “The cosmological model of eternal inflation and the transition from chance to biological evolution in the history of life,” Koonin realizes that the natural chemical origin of life is highly unlikely if there is only one finite universe. Koonin writes, “The RNA world faces its own hard problems as ribozyme-catalyzed RNA replication remains a hypothesis and the selective pressures behind the origin of translation remain mysterious.”

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