Before and After

Over in the comments section at BioLogos, Bilbo summarizes my position:

He begins with the hypothesis that the first cells were designed to make evolving (by neo-Darwinian processes) in a certain direction more likely.

And someone then asks: What does he think happened before life was cellular, then?

Given the paucity of solid information,  I’m not quite sure what to think. However, there are really only two options: the planet was seeded with life or the planet spawned life.  Both explanations are supported by circumstantial evidence.

For example, the spawning perspective is supported by the conceptual links between DNA and proteins, pointing toward a biology-friendly logic inherent in the laws of nature.  Yet the seeding perspective is supported by the various core, universal features of life, pointing toward the most extreme founder effect known in earth’s history.

I focus primarily on the history subsequent to the introduction or emergence of life, as this is where most of the information is.  As such, it is becoming more clear that there is a logic to evolution.  I explore another glimmer of this logic here.

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8 responses to “Before and After

  1. At first, I was going to describe your hypothesis to Sy as “front-loaded evolution.” Then I realized that “front-loaded” often carries the with it the idea of putting in a lot of genes that don’t have any present use, but will be used some time in the future. So I came up with:

    He begins with the hypothesis that the first cells were designed to make evolving (by neo-Darwinian processes) in a certain direction more likely.

    I think that’s how I’ll describe you hypothesis to people from now on.

  2. One thing that got to me about the ol’ Francis Crick ‘directed panspermia’ bit – and you may be able to appreciate this…

    Have you ever thought of how odd ‘directed panspermia’ conjoined with the Darwinian view seems?

    Directed panspermia: We’re going to seed the universe with life for some reason!
    Darwinism: Life develops without foresight, and has no preordained paths, goals and/or end-states.

    But that makes me wonder.. who would want to seed the universe with, put frankly, “whatever-the-hell”? (A side question: And wouldn’t anyone taking the steps to seed the universe so automatically be thinking ‘We better do this, because the universe damn sure won’t do it on its own’?) Who feels the urge to engage in an act with totally unpredictable consequences, so far away that they could never hope to be observed? (Unless we also assume they have some kind of weird tech that makes it so they CAN observe it.. but in that case, what else can they do?)

    Yet if we drop that assumption – if we reason, “They seeded life throughout the universe and had expectations of it” – then it seems the panspermia hypothesis comes with teleology built into it. That life (even if it’s, at least, the life THEY will be seeding) really does, over time, develop in certain predictable ways – even if they aren’t there to make that happen.

    I bring it up only because A) It seems that if you think about Crick’s hypothesis for a moment, it naturally seems to conflict with Darwinism (In the anti-teleology sense), and B) I don’t recall anyone ever suggesting this about Crick’s thoughts.

    Go figure.

  3. Crick came up with the idea of Directed Panspermia because of the “short” amount of time that Earth had to produce life on its own. Since the discovery of how complex life appeared to be at the cellular level, this seemed almost “miraculous” (Crick’s word for it).

    So if we expanded the amount of time available for abiogenesis to occur, by hypothesizing that it happened previously on a different planet, this might make the idea more plausible. But then the question would be, how did it get here? Well, Directed Panspermia, of course.

    I read his book, Life Itself, once. But I can’t recall if he discussed the motivation for seeding other planets. I’m guessing he probably did, since he tried to be pretty thorough.

  4. Bilbo,

    Sure, I realize why he was suggesting directed panspermia. I even recall reading a part where Crick described how some advanced civilization could seed life. The problem is that the moment we’re talking about a civilization seeding life, we’re talking about evolution being used purposefully towards a goal. And it implies that the civilization knows, to whatever degree, just what ‘has to happen’ in evolutionary history. Which has teleological overtones. Which, in turn, undercuts the standard view of Darwinism.

    Which, finally, lands the consideration in the same awkward boat as we had with Gribbin and Bostrom: “Darwin-denying.”

  5. Nulla: Which, in turn, undercuts the standard view of Darwinism.

    I guess it depends upon what the “standard” view is. Gould said that evolution was completely unpredictable, so that the chances of ending up with intelligent life would be small.

    Morris would say that the evidence of convergence suggests that there is considerable predictability to evolution, so that the chances of ending up with intelligent life could be large.

    But even given Gould’s view, the dying alien civilization might say, “What the heck? Let’s give it a shot somewhere else.”

  6. “I guess it depends upon what the “standard” view is. Gould said that evolution was completely unpredictable, so that the chances of ending up with intelligent life would be small. ”

    Morris, when describing his views on that front, describes himself as bucking (Neo?-)Darwinians. Oddly, Gould was viewed as bucking Darwinists too. From what I’ve heard Dawkins favors Morris’ view. It’s a mess.

    All I’m stressing here is that the very idea of a civilization ‘seeding life’ throughout the galaxy strongly implies that the evolutionary process is directed, that certain goals and end-states are reliable. So much so that an intelligent being could employ it to achieve ends (and in Crick’s case, that such beings did employ it for exactly that reason.) And that seems to run smack up against a/the key claim of Darwinism.

  7. Bilbo:

    “He begins with the hypothesis that the first cells were designed to make evolving (by neo-Darwinian processes) in a certain direction more likely.”

    Oh the irony! Can’t have a direction and still have neo-darwinian processes.

    It doesn’t work that way.

  8. Nulla: “And that seems to run smack up against a/the key claim of Darwinism.

    And all I’m stressing is that it depends upon which view of Darwinism one is talking about.

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