Dawkins explains why the failure of abiogenesis research is actually predicted by his non-teleological perspective.
We'll pick it up as follows:
Only evolution, or some kind of gradualistic "˜crane' (to use Dennett's neat term), is capable of terminating the regress. Natural selection is an anti-chance process, which gradually builds up complexity, step by tiny step.
It's this type of thinking that led scientists astray when, for example, they believed that microsporidia were primitive eukaryotes.
The end product of this ratcheting process is an eye, or a heart, or a brain "“ a device whose improbable complexity is utterly baffling until you spot the gentle ramp that leads up to it.
Not to mention the deep homology and the manner in which evolution may have been rigged by it.
Whether my conjecture is right that evolution is the only explanation for life in the universe, there is no doubt that it is the explanation for life on this planet. Evolution is a fact, and it is among the more secure facts known to science. But it had to get started somehow.
Finally, Dawkins is starting to sound rational.
Natural selection cannot work its wonders until certain minimal conditions are in place, of which the most important is an accurate system of replication "“ DNA, or something that works like DNA.
The origin of life on this planet "“ which means the origin of the first self-replicating molecule "“ is hard to study, because it (probably) only happened once, 4 billion years ago and under very different conditions. We may never know how it happened.
Notice the change in attitude. The Bold Scientist gives way to hand-waving and timid excuses. We'll overlook the fact that the promissory note about that ever elusive "self-replicating molecule" is starting to look bogus and simply watch how Dawkins turns the failure of a scientific program into evidence for that scientific program:
Unlike the ordinary evolutionary events that followed, it must have been a genuinely very improbable "“ in the sense of unpredictable "“ event: too improbable, perhaps, for chemists to reproduce it in the laboratory or even devise a plausible theory for what happened. This weirdly paradoxical conclusion "“ that a chemical account of the origin of life, in order to be plausible, has to be implausible "“ would follow from the premise that life is extremely rare in the universe. And to be sure, we have never encountered any hint of extraterrestrial life, not even by radio "“ the circumstance that prompted Enrico Fermi's cry: "Where is everybody?"
So why does the government fund abiogenesis research when a leading scientist tells us that abiogenesis is too improbable for chemists to reproduce it in the laboratory or even devise a plausible theory for what happened? There is a simpler explanation "“ the reason chemists have failed to reproduce abiogenesis and have yet to come close to any plausible theory for what happened is because a non-teleological approach cannot process a teleological cause/event.
A billion billion is a conservative estimate for the number of planets in the universe. Suppose life's origin on a planet demands a hugely improbable stroke of luck, so improbable that it happens on only one in a billion planets. The National Science Foundation would laugh at any chemist whose proposed research had only a one in a hundred chance of succeeding, let alone one in a billion. Yet, if there are a billion billion planets in the universe, even such absurdly low odds as these will yield life on a billion planets.
I see. Abiogenesis is just improbable enough so that science cannot verify it, but not improbable enough such that Dawkins has to abandon it. How convenient that the failure of science supports his metaphysics. It looks more to me like how a non-teleologist would rationalize a teleological cause/event.