Monday, January 30, 2012

Parsimony in the historical and descriptive sciences must die for us to make any progress

Parsimony is a device that lets us assume as proven, certain things that if you look at the evidence fairly, are impossible.

 We need to do what greats such as Einstein did - evidence indicates that the speed of light is constant despite a moving frame of reference - make that an assumption and see what the corollary is.

 These following working assumptions are not proved, and have little supporting evidence. The only reason they are taken as fact is because alternative assumptions have the same issues, and are more conceptually complex.

1) non-life to life transition happened on Earth.
2) The Weismann barrier (preventing direct feedback from the environment back to DNA)
3) Modern evolutionary synthesis (micro evolution leading to macro evolution and speciation due to random mutations and selection)
4) selfish gene (decisions based on the individual, rather than group selection)

We need to do what Einstein did, and assume these are all impossible, and see what the corollary is.

Some of the conclusions I came up with - There is no reason to believe that more advanced forms of proto-life destroyed all evidence of previous forms because they would be considered food. All sorts of living things on Earth are considered food for other living things, but even with extinctions evidence is there all the way along the line from bacteria. The lack of evidence of prebiotic processes on Earth is evidence that they didn't happen on Earth.

Evolution on Earth needs random mutations no more than an engineer needs a dice to roll to make decisions on building something.

Pre-biotic evolution *does* need to rely on random mutations and selection, but the further along evolution goes, molecules may rely less and less on blind processes and more on features that made it a surviving self-catalytic species in the first place.

Working backwards from bacteria, cells appear to have evolved the capacity to lay dormant while frozen, and reactivate when thawed. This process is bound to have been the reason they ended up on Earth, and the prebiotic evolution must have been peppered with situations in which this gave a crucial competitive advantage.

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