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Ursula Goodenough

Jennifer — You write “Lots more needs to be said re this subject of “science-based statements” vs. statements that are outside of science — valid and important in other ways, and perhaps will be proven in the future but are not subscribed to by much of the science community at this point.”


My primary concern with Duane’s approach — and he is hardly alone here — is that he takes an “outside of science” position but then goes into science to seek support for it, cherry picking particular articles, or even sentences within those articles, to buttress his case. I analysed in some detail, in an earlier posting, how these moves were made in the case of the observation that homologous DNA helices give evidence of recognising each other without unwinding. Papers subsequent to the one Duane cited show that this is indeed a real phenomenon that may have bearing on how chromosome homologues recognise one another in early meiosis. All of the papers, including “Duane’s,” assume that a structural-chemical basis will be found for this phenomenon. Yet a few words in the abstract that implied “acting at a distance” were picked up by psi websites, and then by Duane, as providing support for psi-type concepts.


As Carl Sagan popularized: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”  I frequently encounter — can’t recall whether Duane used this one or not — the statement that little is known about dark matter yet it has moved into central position in cosmological thinking, suggesting that scientists can be guilty of evidence-lite claims. But the core reasons for positing dark matter — the necessity of some such entity to explain how galaxies hold together, for example — are in fact founded on huge amounts of evidence about the gravitational properties of the universe. 


Returning to the initial matter, whether the universe engages in metabolism and hence is alive, I hope Duane has absorbed the fact that metabolism has a very specific definition for living organisms on this planet, and extrapolating that noun to what e.g. stars do during their energy transductions is a move that is guaranteed to generate a full-court pushback from the scientific community. To attribute our response to our “closed” or “prejudiced” mindset is to deeply misunderstand how our community works.