April 23, 2024 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Online and in person, Healey Room, Westminster College.

Dr Paul Rimmer

On 23rd April at 1pm Dr Paul Rimmer will give a seminar entitled ‘The Origin of Life: Chance, Necessity or Design?’.

A light sandwich lunch will be provided from 12:30 in the Healey Room, Westminster College, Madingley Road Cambridge.

Abstract: Origins of life research includes a diverse range of views, with more opinions than hard facts. This can stoke a lot of apparently intractable arguments within the research community. Outside the research community, origins of life also ignites debate, but of a very different kind. There, the origins of life problem acts as a lightning rod in the culture wars, especially in America, because it seems to many that God is being banned from consideration as a candidate explanation for an event that appears for anything like a miracle: non-living matter becoming life! For this reason and others, origins of life research has become a subject of great interest for Intelligent Design advocates and Creationists.

Though researchers and culture warriors care about different things when it comes to origins of life, their focus overlaps for one key question:

Did the origin of life take place by chance, necessity or design?

I will talk about where I think this framing came from, and will highlight what I see as its strengths and weaknesses. I will walk through a specific origins of life scenario, one I am helping to develop and test, as a case study to argue that these categories: chance, necessity and design, are neither exclusive nor exhaustive. There may be other options to consider.

I will conclude by suggesting how some apparent consequences of the fine tuning of the universe for life are reflected also in prebiotic chemistry, and that these hint at goal-directed behavior possibly present in some natural environments. This is behavior that seems difficult to attribute to a mix of only chance, necessity and design. I suggest that pursuing these anomalous coincidences and convergences in prebiotic chemistry may provide a productive methodology for future origins of life research.

A link to the webinar will be available below.

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