Yep, Colin .. I'm willing to confess plagiarism .. and, frankly I'm not really too fussed about debating whether he was right, or not. Does this really matter in the end ?Originally Posted by George Gaylord Simpson
I think the point he makes in this prose is pretty valid, however.
I mean, presently, it seems that Astrobiology provides commentary about where life might be found, and under what conditions. Implicit in this commentary, is the affirmation that exo-life exists .. which is fair enough for exploring the optimistic hypothesis, (even though the optimistic hypothesis is not falsifiable in practice, and thus, interestingly, the pessimistic case is unlikely to accumulate supporting evidence at the same rate, if at all, as a direct result of this). Ie: the investigation seems very lopsided.
So, the 'subject matter' ie: 'exo-life', really is being implicitly justified by means of the accumulation of 'Evidence for exo-life', (as Jeff Root has made clear for us) .. like it or not. Further, I'd imagine that if the field of Astrobiology did not exist, then there would probably be little/no evidence accumulating in support of the pro exo-life hypothesis.
The conclusion that exo-life exists being a belief, is pretty-well inescapable, as there is clearly no evidence that it does exist.
That Astrobiology makes no overt attempts to justify the fundamentals of the hypothesis, almost excludes it from 'classical' science and yet, it is not portrayed this way publically. I've seen Chris McKay (for eg) openly admitting this in interviews. The reason cited for not following the traditional scientific process, is simply that it is not possible to move forward with investigating the hypothesis, by taking the traditional 'classical' approach. The point is fair enough.
Nonetheless, I do find that the subject matter is being implicitly justified, covertly, through accumulation of evidence for the exo-life hypothesis.
Gaylord-Simpson's words are simply straight-talk and serve as a reminder that Astrobiology really is disconnected from the scientific process, at least in terms of its fundamental tenets.