Job 13: Commentary: Walking Back Job 12 and Filing a Brief Against God
Psalm 49–the Limitations of Wealth

Cool Hand Luke: ‘He Beat You With Nothin!” The Atheist Search for the Origin of Life. Part 3: A Word Experiment to Test the Hypothesis

For best results, begin here.

As the layman reader—not the true science believers, but the laymen—listen through the Great Courses lecture series, ‘The Origins of Life,’ they may begin to suspect they are being played for suckers. They may, therefore, conceive an hypothesis that the series is analogous to Cool Hand Luke holding a handful of ‘nothin.’ Isn’t it top-heavy in wishful thinking from ones who will admit to no other possibility that life arose spontaneously? It doesn’t take much to get them all excited. At least Cool Hand Luke knew he was holding ‘nothin.’

It is important to employ the scientific method. An hypothesis has no value unless it can be tested by experiment. What experiment might be devised to test whether ‘The Origins in Life’ consists of house specialists mostly spinning ‘nothin,’ bluffing you as they bluff themselves, drinking too much of their own Kool Aid? How can one test whether the stuff is more speculation than science?

Since speculation is associated with such terms as ‘may have’ and ‘could have,’ etymology comes to our rescue. Count up those speculative terms and compare them with ones that indicate results—‘happened’ instead of ‘may have happened’—and what do we find?

We hit pay dirt through this method. ‘May have’ occurs 29 times. ‘Could have’ occurs 24 times. ‘Proof,’ on the other hand, occurs 5 times. ‘Proved’ occurred 5 times, ‘proven,’ not at all. Moreover, not one of these ‘proof’ words indicates anyone has any, but either that it still needs to be found or that it is irrelevant to the experiment—such as one of the author’s colleagues, who “proved to be one of the most exacting finicky experimentalists I'd ever met.”

Digging deeper only rewards us more. When ‘may have’ and ‘could have’ is raised to the more imperative ‘must have’—here the experiment returns an astounding 77 hits! In almost every case it is, ‘such-and-such “must have” happened, otherwise the entire assumption that life arose on its own collapses.’ Can’t have that—therefore, it “must have” happened.

‘Happened’ itself seems a good test word. It occurs 23 times. 5 of those times are what ‘might have happened’ or some permutation, reducing the number to 18. 7 of them are things that ‘happened’ in this or that experiment, not the overall picture, reducing the total once more to 11. 4 of them are variations of ‘we don’t know what happened but hope to find out,’ reducing the total to 7. Then there are several hard to classify instances of ‘happened.’ Stanley Miller’s “followers,” whom you could be forgiven for thinking they present almost as a cult, are convinced they have found how things “happened long ago in nature.” Another advancehasn't happened yet but the chemical pieces are certainly close to falling into place.” Yet another researcher was asked to write up “a short speculative paper right away, [which] was a long shot but it's happened before.” There’s not a single instance of ‘happened’ with regard to the overall pre-formed conclusion that life originated by itself.

Many things are “assumed.” That word, along with it’s base, ‘assume’ or its derivative ‘assumption,’ occurs 46 times. Words to indicate definitiveness are less frequent: “Establish” may be the best word in favor of the origin scientists; it (or ‘established’) occurs 26 times. Many are irrelevant, such as the scientist who “established a solid reputation for cautious conservative science,” but the ones that remain refer to experiments that established this-or-that result, and if you could only string together enough of them, you’d have the big kahuna.

The problem is that the situation is “complex.” (215 instances, which includes ‘complexity’) I’m sympathetic. It’s always preferable to solve easy things than hard ones. The wear and tear of time “must have” erased the tons of evidence that would otherwise clinch the deal. Also, the main issue abiogenesis,” I was informed online, “is that probably the most important factor can’t be replicated in a lab.” If it could, I had countered previously, would that show life could originate without intelligent direction? If anything, wouldn’t it prove just the opposite? But I was called “stupid” for that question; all the scientists were doing was replicating conditions that ‘must have’ existed already.

Of course, the above etymology experiment is not conclusive in itself. Any experiment must be corroborated by many others for a theory to emerge. But I have been bitten by the science bug. Recently, I devised an hypothesis that my next book will be a literary masterpiece to make the world’s greatest authors hang their heads in shame. But how to test this hypothesis by 'experiment' (355 occurrences!)? An analysis of Wordle scores ought to do the trick. Scores of 4 shall be irrelevant for this experiment. Any donkey can get 4. However, comparing 3s with 5s should be revealing. If your 3s exceed your 5s, the hypothesis is corroborated. If your 5s exceed your 3s, you are due to write another turkey.

Sigh. My 5s exceed my 3s—though the margin is quite thin. More experiments are obviously needed—maybe just more Wordle tries.

To be continued: Here


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