February, 2010

When was the BioSeTI project started?
        Originally, the project was started in 2000, but shortly thereafter was placed on hold while I spent time pursuing mainstream research.  Active effort on the BioSeTI project resumed in January of 2010.

Why did you start the BioSeTI project?
        A coincidental set of circumstances captured my interest, spuring a new direction of thinking.  For more information, see: How the BioSeTI Project got Started

What are you trying to accomplish with the project?
        Find answers to questions and examine alternate models that appear to fit better than currently accepted models of life and the universe.

What type of success do you expect?
        We've already been successful by identifying a mathematical progression in the genetic code.  The genetic code has been around for more than three decades, so why hasn't someone seen this progression before?  That aside, success should not be measured in it's contribution to technology or practical problem solving.  First and foremost, the BioSeTI project is a scholarly pursuit.  And it is difficult to fail at scholarly pursuits except by not undertaking them.  Outcomes of such pursuits have a high chance of altering our perspective, even when nothing is found that might be considered useful in a practical sense.

Is the BioSeTI project a form of research on Intelligent Design?
        No.  However, some of the ideas proposed by BioSeTI might be shared with those espousing Intelligent Design (ID).  BioSeTI remains separate from ID for a variety of reasons, one being that ID tends to elicit an incendiary response in the halls of established science.  ID tends to be viewed by mainstream scientists as an attempt by religion to reopen a dialog about miraculous creationism as a preeminent model over Darwinian evolution, an argument that mainstream science considers to have won.  Our position is that the BioSeTI project is not well served by associating itself with either side of a debate about ID.  With that said, BioSeTI also does not take a stand against proposals of ID scientists without first hearing what proposal is being considered, nor does it have a goal of refuting Darwinism.

Does BioSeTI agree with Darwin?
        BioSeTI does not disagree with Darwin.  However, what arises out of NeoDarwinism as it is currently constituted might be something that needs refining so that it isn't so closely wed to the proposition that the universe is preexistent to consciousness rather than concurrent with it or that concurrence is a non-existent phenomenon.  Again, the BioSeTI project did not originate with a purpose of reexamining Darwinism nor does it have that as one of its goals.

Do you expect to receive funding for this research and do you expect to publish any results in peer-reviewed journals?
        Based on knowledge and experience of biases in the system of mainstream funding and publishing, it is not reasonable to expect to receive funding through mainstream mechanisms or to be successful in publishing all of our results in mainstream peer-reviewed journals at this time.  However, we hope that many of these barriers will break down as a dialog on the subject starts and continues.

Why do you distance BioSeTI from peer review and mainstream funding?
        Generally speaking, mainstream funding and publishing mechanisms are geared towards mainstream research that has identifiable goals and applications that are of a specific color.  BioSeTI is simply not a mainstream project.  BioSeTI will accept funding and may seek outside resources when we are confident of success and funding is required.  For the time being, our needs are small and we are able to disseminate results via other mechanisms.  In regard to peer reviewed research, we have projects planned that might yield results for publication in mainstream peer-reviewed journals, but we do not limit research to only those projects that meet requirements demanded by the mainstream.  We agree that such a peer-review system is essential to maintain quality in mainstream science, but that peer-review can also have a dampening effect on research operating outside of approved boundaries.  In some of our planned projects, we do not feel that peer review will assist us to achieve a higher standard at this time (because of deficiencies in the system, eg: lack of qualified peers; bias; culture of criticism), but agree that peer review will ultimately have to be brought to bear.  We feel that subjecting this work to peer review immediately would stop some of our projects before they are started, breed frustration on all sides, and waste time.

Isn't carrying out this project a waste of resources?
        Few resources are needed above those provided by infrastructures already in place. Moreover, these infrastructures would not be benefited by elimination of the BioSeTI project. It is asserted that costs for the carrying out the project are minimal and the potential benefits are high.

Where are you intending to publish results of this project?
        For now, our intention is to make results available via the present BioSeTI website as well as in book form (in preparation).  

What advantages do you see in pursuing BioSeTI over a mainstream science project?
        The mainstream science projects I have been involved in over the past twenty five years have all required large amounts of resources in terms of grant funds, physical infrastructures, and specialized technical assistance.  Increasingly, these are more difficult to acquire and newer impedances to carrying out mainstream research have emerged.  Over the past several years, for example, we have expended large amounts of effort and resources to bring existing research laboratories into compliance with environmental safety regulations.  BioSeTI is attractive because it needs few dollars, little space, no special lab equipment, no specialized technical help, and does not threaten safety.  Moreover, the theoretical nature of the project means that we can carry it out without having to be tied to a physical place or working environment.

What benefits might come to student assistants working on the BioSeTI project?
        It might be difficult for the successful work of students to be recognized by the culture now in place, but we are hopeful that will change.  Students can benefit immediately from experiencing scholarship at its most fundamental level of practice.

What do you mean by stating that the scientific method might have misdirected us and could be self-validating?
        It is clear that the scientific method, as it is now constituted, has proven successful in technology development.  However, the following question needs to be addressed:  have these technological advances really improved the human condition?  It might be argued that while technology has released us from many of the maladies in the physical world, it may have resulted in evolving a poorer human being.  With that said, it might be important to take a better look at the process itself, rather than overlook its weaknesses because it successfully delivers in techonolgy development.  Since proper perspective is a significant aspect of scholarship, it might be worth asking if widely-held views of the scientific method are worth reexamining.  For one thing, it is widely held in science that objectivity is a core component of the scientific method.  That is, the observer (the scientist), under ideal conditions, does not affect what is being observed and does not affect experimental outcomes.  But research results in quantum physics suggest that this presumption might be naive.  It may even be that the very reason that the scientific method is successful is because the observer is part of the equation rather than an objective witness to it.  It may be that our perspective of the scientific method is skewed and we need to be more objective about objectivity.

Presuming that the scientific method is self-validating, wouldn't that be a good thing?
        Yes in terms of technological advances, but no in terms of comprehending what is going on.  Since the first purpose of science is to understand the universe rather than to develop technology, it might be more important to understand before we rush to judgment.  In our rush to exploit science into technology, we may have missed important concepts that would lead us to something better.  Pehaps our perception is skewed in such a way that we miss important developments that we have not yet imagined because our minds are predisposed to a certain direction.

Is BioSeTI using the scientific method?
        Yes, mostly.  However, we don't practice it as a law and will freely depart from it when a greater purpose is served.  It might be worth noticing that what is considered to be one of the greatest achievements of biology within the past few decades, sequencing the human genome, did not operate by the scientific method, that is, hypothesis making and testing.  Currently, there are a lot of resources and efforts directed at determining sequences of additional genomes (including mapping of genome differences among individuals) for comparative studies.  Since these important projects operate outside of the scientific method, we should not consider the method itself sarcosanct.

How does the BioSeTI project depart from the scientific method and what do you anticipate in terms of outcomes?
        Many of our projects utilize the scientific method, though some operate similarly to genome projects populating mainstream science.  If our hypothesis is true (that success in the scientific method includes a sort of placebo effect) then we might expect BioSeTI to have some success.  But at the same time, a wider and larger view is sought rather than one that is defined by the narrow constraints of pure reductionist goals and exploitation for technology development.  In particular, success in identifying non-coincidental patterns in the genome (per stated aims of BioSeTI) should not be taken to be our highest goal.  Our goal is to uncover new information that will help us to develop better working models and test them.  At the very least, we hope to open a dialog among scientists who are too busy and too focused on the minutia of their tasks at hand to think about flaws in our classical models of life and the universe.