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Author Topic:   On the Origin of Life and Falsifiability
bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1260 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


Message 99 of 108 (784158)
05-13-2016 5:00 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Genomicus
03-08-2016 3:23 AM


Genomicus writes:

So we can see that falsifiability as a criterion for truly scientific hypotheses has become well-established within the scientific community, the objections from certain philosophical schools of thought notwithstanding.

It was considered perfectly reasonable to hypothesise the existence of planets outside our solar system before their existence was verified, but as we could never conceivably positively establish their absence from all stars in all galaxies, the hypothesis wasn't falsifiable.

Panspermia relies on the hypothesis that there is (or has been) life elsewhere in the universe. That's hypothetically verifiable, but not falsifiable. For me, that's absolutely no reason to exclude Panspermia from science. Of course it's a scientific hypothesis, although it's not actually an OOL one, of course.

The strange thing about your post is that the hypotheses you're suggesting aren't falsifiable actually are. For a start, the general hypothesis of the origin of life being on earth would have been falsified by the discovery that the planet was too young or that it was frozen for the first 4 billion years, or that it had been subject to a massive recent impact that would have sterilized it etc. etc. The fact that it's still looking O.K. for OOL on earth is a bit like the fact that we haven't observed "planets moving in squares", as Ruse puts it in the example you quote. And the general hypothesis being falsifiable in its nature means that all specific ones are.

Beyond that, some of the objections you list for "RNA" world and "Metabolism first" could conceivably be confirmed, which would be falsification. It's always hypothetical. I'd give them a better chance than observing planets moving in squares to falsify Kepler, wouldn't you?!

Genomicus writes:

Indeed, this criterion [falsifiability] has been used extensively in the debate over whether intelligent design qualifies as a scientific concept.

Usually, wrongly. Although a general hypothesis of intelligent design isn't falsifiable, neither are the planets or life elsewhere hypotheses I mentioned above. It could conceivably be verified. But many specific intelligent design hypotheses could be regarded as falsifiable, as you know. The standard YEC model is an obvious example that can and has been reasonably falsified.

I've not been around for a while, and haven't read the thread, so what I'm saying may well have already been said. Firstly, Popper's falsifiability notion can easily be questioned as in the examples I've given. Secondly, the OOL hypotheses you've discussed would be regarded as falsifiable anyway. Thirdly, I'm sure there are specific Panspermia hypotheses that are falsifiable, although it's difficult to think of a falsification of the general proposition. That, however, doesn't make it unscientific, just possibly un-Popperific, and who cares?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Genomicus, posted 03-08-2016 3:23 AM Genomicus has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 100 by Genomicus, posted 05-13-2016 10:15 AM bluegenes has responded

  
bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1260 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


(1)
Message 102 of 108 (784206)
05-14-2016 8:40 AM
Reply to: Message 100 by Genomicus
05-13-2016 10:15 AM


Popperific hypotheses
Genomicus writes:

Hey bluegenes, and welcome back.

Cheers.

Geno writes:

In this thread, I've contrasted exploratory science from properly constructed scientific hypotheses. So the notion of extrasolar planets does/did fit under the umbrella of exploratory science, but as this idea wasn't falsifiable, it could not be considered a properly constructed scientific hypothesis in the Popperian sense.

That it wasn't Popperian was my point. But it was, demonstrably, a damned good scientific induction.

Geno writes:

The broad idea of panspermia is not falsifiable precisely because it is a general idea and not a specific model; however, lithopanspermia is falsifiable (as I've argued here) and thus qualifies as a scientific hypothesis.

You mean "Popperian" hypothesis, or "properly constructed" as you put it. I might have been wrong about general panspermia being unfalsifiable. When initially proposed, it could have been falsified if it could have been demonstrated that no organism could possibly survive in space. As that doesn't appear to be the case, we could say that the general idea has passed a falsification test.

Geno writes:

Sure, but that would falsify virtually all non-teleological models for the origin of life on Earth, including panspermia -- for the simple reason that if the Earth was, say, frozen for the first 4 billion years, then there would be only 500 million years to get from prokaryotes to fully-fledged mammalian organisms.

So this falsification scenario falsifies the general premise of a non-teleological origin of life; however, it does not allow us to falsify specific abiogenesis models in a way that would be relevant only to those models.

Hypotheses don't become any less Popperian if possible falsifications also falsify other hypotheses. Think of your own chosen example from Ruse of "planets moving in squares". I don't know how many hypotheses that would falsify, but we could probably give the whole set an umbrella description like "cosmology"!

Geno writes:

Some of the objections have been confirmed, but I don't see any OoL researchers abandoning the RNA world in droves. The reason is simple: the RNA world model functions as a good framework for exploratory science; but this does not make it a properly constructed scientific hypothesis.

It's certainly Popperian. To add to the things I've already mentioned that would falsify it, future experimentation could establish that RNA is definitely too unstable to support even the simplest life forms on its own. Future experimentation could also confirm an alternative hypothesis beyond all reasonable doubt.

Genomicus writes:

Well, I'd hesitate to say that the standard YEC model is falsifiable, precisely because "Goddidit" can always be invoked when there's a seemingly insurmountable problem. That creationism has this magic card -- Goddidit -- means it's really not falsifiable and so never qualified as a properly constructed scientific hypothesis.

Not really, because their standard model is meant to be testable. The earth should appear 6,500 yrs. old and that should fit the data. That differs from other YEC models, particularly my favourite, the Omphalist version. That's the perfect example of an untestable, unfalsifiable model, because any and all data will fit.

Geno writes:

Popperian falsification is IMHO a very good criterion to determine whether something is to be considered a scientific hypothesis; that exploratory science still goes on does not mean that Popperian falsificationism is a flawed concept.

The problem arises if someone implies that the hypothesis that the moon is made of cheese (Popperian) is inherently more scientific than the hypothesis that there are planets outside this solar system. The thing about the planets hypothesis is that the only reason it could be described as unfalsifiable is practical, unlike the Omphalist idea, which is untestable by its nature.

Geno writes:

The abiogenesis models for the origin of life are exploratory, and not hypotheses of the Popperian kind.

They're definitely falsifiable.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 100 by Genomicus, posted 05-13-2016 10:15 AM Genomicus has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 103 by Genomicus, posted 05-15-2016 1:23 AM bluegenes has responded

  
bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1260 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


Message 106 of 108 (784276)
05-15-2016 9:17 PM
Reply to: Message 103 by Genomicus
05-15-2016 1:23 AM


Re: Popperific hypotheses
Geno writes:

bluegenes writes:

Hypotheses don't become any less Popperian if possible falsifications also falsify other hypotheses. Think of your own chosen example from Ruse of "planets moving in squares". I don't know how many hypotheses that would falsify, but we could probably give the whole set an umbrella description like "cosmology"!

That would seem to eliminate the utility or purpose of Popperian falsificationism though, wouldn't it? Indeed, I suspect that if extrasolar planets were to be observed orbiting in squares throughout much of the cosmos, then the RNA World model would be falsified, as would lithopanspermia (as such an observation would have profound implications on physics and thus chemistry).

Nor does it seem to be a notion that Popper ever espoused, as all his examples of the application of falsification -- e.g., Einstein's theory of relativity -- dealt with predictions made specifically and exclusively by Einstein's theory.

Well, you're the big Popper fan. Does this mean that you consider Kepler's laws to be improperly constructed? When I suggested that RNA could have turned out to be far more unstable than it actually is and incapable of supporting life in any circumstances, was that hypothetical falsification less plausible than "planets moving in squares"?

Genomics writes:

I agree that is problematic, but that is not what I am contending here. First, I am arguing that the lithopanspermia hypothesis should be considered as a "properly constructed" -- that is, Popperian -- scientific hypothesis, by virtue of its falsifiability through phylogenomics.

There might be problems with that. Firstly, you seem to regard the hypothesis that a simple organism without complex radiation protection could be sufficiently protected in some meteorites to survive a transfer as being both falsifiable and falsified, because you're treating the opposite as a fact. Are you sure of this? Then there's the Fuca - Luca problem you've been discussing with others. However, whatever the value of your suggested falsification, lithopanspermia is a perfectly respectable scientific hypothesis that has already passed falsification tests (it could have transpired that all organisms would have been destroyed in space).

Geno writes:

bluegenes writes:

They're definitely falsifiable.

You may very well be right; however, I have yet to see a compelling, detailed falsification scenario for the RNA World model, so consider this your opportunity to present just such a scenario.

You certainly haven't seen a compelling, detailed falsification scenario for the hypothesis that life exists off this planet yet, but it doesn't stop you assuming it without testing, does it?

As you like the historical approach, this abstract actually claims to have falsified RNA world.

http://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/346551


This message is a reply to:
 Message 103 by Genomicus, posted 05-15-2016 1:23 AM Genomicus has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 107 by Genomicus, posted 05-23-2016 9:33 PM bluegenes has responded

  
bluegenes
Member (Idle past 1260 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


(1)
Message 108 of 108 (784830)
05-24-2016 4:50 AM
Reply to: Message 107 by Genomicus
05-23-2016 9:33 PM


Re: Popperific hypotheses
Genomicus writes:

This means the core argument in my OP has been knocked down.

It's gracious of you to say so (it's rare to read a phrase like that on EvC!).

We could have a Popper thread, but then I personally don't like the idea of reading his science related stuff beyond short extracts.

I'm sure that you'd get participation if you wanted to start a thread on falsification, which is certainly a valuable concept, whether I'm enthralled by Popper or not.

Thanks for the O.P. anyway, and for an interesting discussion. Panspermia is definitely good science, anyway. I'd be surprised if it hadn't happened somewhere in the universe at some time, whether it's part of our own story or not.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 107 by Genomicus, posted 05-23-2016 9:33 PM Genomicus has acknowledged this reply

  
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