Why life could not have emerged without God.
“Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist.”
–Charles Darwin, the founder of evolutionary biology, as quoted in his autobiography.
The Atheist-Biologist-in-Chief, Richard Dawkins, writes in his book The Blind Watchmaker: “…Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” But when one looks into the reasoning behind Dawkins’ statement, one quickly realizes that, to hijack a quote from another prominent atheist (the philosopher Bertrand Russell), “This is one of those views which are so absolutely absurd that only very learned men could possibly adopt them.” Indeed, years of intense research by highly credentialed biologists with rigid ideological commitments to atheism are required to concoct a view so ridiculous. The first key point is that Darwinian theory does not even attempt to explain the origin of life. Rather, Darwinian evolution only attempts to explain the diversification of life from a putative common ancestor. The Darwinian mechanism of random mutation and natural selection, quite obviously, applies only to that which has genes to mutate and reproductive offspring to naturally select…namely, living things. So the key question pertinent to God’s existence, here, is not how life diversified, but how it originated. How did the first life emerge from non-living matter? To answer this question, one must first determine just what life is. The simplest living thing (a single celled organism) is described by Oxford University scientist Franklin M. Harold in The Way of the Cell:
“…a high-tech factory, complete with artificial languages and their decoding systems, memory banks for information storage and retrieval, elegant control systems regulating the automated assembly of parts and components, error fail-safe and proof-reading devices utilized for quality control, assembly processes involving the principle of prefabrication and modular construction … [and] a capacity not equaled in any of our own most advanced machines, for it would be capable of replicating its entire structure within a matter of a few hours.”
“…and then there is the uncontested reality that life started immediately on just-cooled earth and not after billions of years as had been once posited. Elso Barghoorn, while at Harvard University, discovered this fact that changed the entire emphasis in origin of life studies.
In short, the simplest living organism is several orders of magnitude more complex than anything humans have ever produced: the space shuttle, supercomputers…anything. And this dizzyingly complex first life appeared in what amounts to a blink of an eye in geologic terms. Astrophysicist Hugh Ross writes in The Creator and the Cosmos:
“When it comes to the origin of life, many biologists (and others) have typically assumed that plenty of time is available for natural processes to perform the necessary assembly. But discoveries about the universe and the solar system have shattered that assumption. What we now see is that life must have originated on Earth quickly.” “In early 1992 Christopher Chyba and Carl Sagan published a review paper on the origins of life. Origins is plural for a good reason. Research indicates that life began, was destroyed, and began again many times during that era before it finally took hold.” “…From 3.8 to 3.5 billion years ago the bombardment [of earth by asteroids, comets, meteors, and dust] gradually decreased to its present comparatively low level. But during those 300 million years at least thirty life-exterminating impacts must have occurred. These findings have enormous significance to our theories about the origin of life. They show that life sprang up on Earth (and re-sprang) in what could be called geologic instants, periods of ten-million years or less (between devastating impacts).” “From the perspective of our life span, a ten-million-year window may seem long, but it is impossibly short to those seeking to explain life’s origins without divine input.”
MIT physicist Gerald Schroeder makes the same point:
“…and then there is the uncontested reality that life started immediately on just-cooled earth and not after billions of years as had been once posited. Elso Barghoorn, while at Harvard University, discovered this fact that changed the entire emphasis in origin of life studies. Barghoorn discovered that the oldest rocks that can bear fossils already have fully formed fossils of one-celled life. And most amazingly, and yet by necessity, those first forms of life already had the ability to reproduce. Reproduction is not something that can gradually evolve. The first cell to survive had to have all the mechanisms for mitosis the first time around since all the attempts at life that came before (if there were other attempts) died without leaving any heritage simply because there was no succeeding generation prior to reproduction.” [italics added]
At this point, one might ask what IS known by the scientific community regarding how unintelligent natural processes could have brought about life. The answer is simple: Absolutely nothing! Zero, zip, zilch! The reader will please forgive me for recycling quotations from another essay at this website, but here it goes: Francis Crick, the Nobel Laureate well known as the co-discoverer of the DNA double-helix, has stated in his book Life Itself:
“An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.”
Similarly, physicist and information scientist Hubert Yockey, who is the leading author of the text on the application of information theory to the origin of life, writes in the Journal of Theoretical Biology:
“Since science does not have the faintest idea how life on earth originated….it would be honest to confess this to other scientists, to grantors, and to the public at large. Prominent scientists speaking ex cathedra, should refrain from polarizing the minds of students and young productive scientists with statements that are based solely on beliefs.”
Theoretical physicist Paul Davies made the same point in his book The Fifth Miracle:
“Many investigators feel uneasy about stating in public that the origin of life is a mystery, even though behind closed doors they freely admit that they are baffled.”
Even prominent theoretical biologist (and atheist) Stuart Kauffman, who is known for his “self-organization” theories regarding the origin of life, admits:
“Anyone who tells you that he or she knows how life started on the earth some 3.45 billion years ago is a fool or a knave. Nobody knows.”
(As an aside, please view this Scientific American article titled Pssst! Don’t Tell the Creationists But Scientists Don’t Have a Clue How Life Began. Predictably, the article ends with a lame atheist attempt at damage control by asking the question “What created the divine creator?”…as if an eternally existing being—without beginning— would require a creator.)
From my online debates with atheists, I know that many skeptical readers are now shouting at the top of their lungs, “You are committing the logical fallacy of argument from ignorance!! Just because science doesn’t currently know how unintelligent natural processes could have produced life doesn’t mean that it never will! We can’t just give up and say, ‘We don’t know how life emerged, so God must be responsible.’ You are using God-of-the-gaps reasoning!!” But the view that life could not have emerged from unintelligent natural processes is not an “argument from ignorance.” Rather, it is an argument from knowledge. Oxford University mathematician John Lennox notes the following in his book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?
“How does one scientifically recognize a message emanating from an intelligent source, and distinguish it from the random background noise that emanates from the cosmos? Clearly the only way this can be done is to compare the signals received with the patterns specified in advance that are deemed to be clear and reliable indicators of intelligence — like a long sequence of prime numbers — and then to make a design inference. In SETI [The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, which was originally a NASA program] the recognition of intelligent agency is regarded as lying within the legitimate scope of natural science. The astronomer Carl Sagan thought that a single message from space would be enough to convince us that there were intelligences in the universe other than our own.” “Writing on paper (or paint on a Rembrandt canvas) exhibits what philosopher Del Ratzsch calls counterflow — phenomena that nature, unaided by agent activity, could not produce. It is because we know that, even in principle, physics and chemistry cannot give an explanation of the counterflow exhibited by the writing, that we reject a purely naturalistic explanation, and we postulate an author. But it needs to be said that postulating an intelligent agent to explain writing is not falling into an ‘author-of-the-gaps’ syndrome; rather it is our knowledge of the nature of the ‘gap’ that demands we postulate an author.”
…And if the complexity contained in a “long set of prime numbers” meets scientific standards for inferring intelligent agency, then why is the far, far, far greater complexity contained in the simplest living thing not enough to convince atheistic scientists of intelligent agency?
And if the complexity contained in a “long set of prime numbers” meets scientific standards for inferring intelligent agency, then why is the far, far, far greater complexity contained in the simplest living thing not enough to convince atheistic scientists of intelligent agency? The answer is that many of the most hardened atheist scientists clearly ARE convinced as such, although they are very reticent to admit it because it is so inconvenient to their ideology. And herein lies a source of enormous entertainment value for theists reading this article. (I never said this website wasn’t supposed to be fun). Outspoken atheistic biologist numero uno, Richard Dawkins, cites “higher intelligence” as a potential explanation for the origin of life in this interview. But what is the source of this intelligent agency, according Dawkins and several other prominent atheists? ALIENS FROM OUTER SPACE! (Or “a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe” to use Dawkins’ exact words).
The hypothesis that life on earth originated when it was brought here by space aliens is known as “directed panspermia,” and has been endorsed by highly prominent atheists such as Dawkins, the biologist Francis Crick (who is famous as the co-discoverer of the DNA double helix) and the British chemist Leslie Orgel. (Click here to read an article regarding Crick’s support of the hypothesis). * Astute readers will immediately recognize the problem with citing space aliens as the source for the origin of life: These aliens would themselves be a life form. The question then becomes, How did the aliens emerge from non-living matter? Dawkins, in the above video, suggests that the aliens “evolved, by probably some kind of Darwinian means.” But please recall that the Darwinian mechanism requires random mutation and natural selection. Because non-living matter has neither genes to mutate nor reproductive offspring to naturally select, citing “some kind of [unknown] Darwinian means” is an open-and-shut case of using one’s worldview to extrapolate far beyond the limits of reason.
But the complexity level of living organisms (as it relates to scientific standards for deducing intelligent agency) is not the only line of evidence that clearly suggests divine creation. As Bernard-Olaf Kuppers, a member of the German Academy of Natural Sciences, states in Information and the Origin of Life, “The problem of the origin of life is clearly basically equivalent to the problem of the origin of biological information.” And therein lies the next problem for those attempting to cite unintelligent, material causes for the origin of life. Even the simplest living organism is an information processing machine that uses the complex coding and decoding of a language that is akin to (but much more complex than) a computer language. Dawkins concedes this point in his book River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life:
“…The machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like. Apart from differences in jargon, the pages of a molecular biology journal might be interchanged with those of a computer engineering journal.”
Elsewhere, Dawkins writes:
“What has happened is that genetics has become a branch of information technology. The genetic code is truly digital, in exactly the same sense as computer codes. This is not some vague analogy, it is the literal truth.”
So what is the relevance of mentioning the informational nature of living things? Informational exchange is fundamentally mental in nature. Coded information is ALWAYS the product of a conscious, intelligent mind. No exceptions. Period. Information scientist Henry Quastler puts it succinctly: “The creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity.” (Please read my post titled How Atheism Relies on ‘Special Pleading’ to gain a more in-depth understanding of why all codes and languages are NECESSARILY the product of a conscious and intelligent mind). (Atheists wishing to dispute this point can go here to participate in an online forum). Information scientist Werner Gitt, a former Director and Professor at the German Federal Institute of Physics and Technology makes this point clear in his book In the Beginning Was Information:
“…According to a frequently quoted statement by the American mathematician Norbert Wiener (1894-1964) information cannot be a physical entity: ‘Information is information, neither matter nor energy. Any materialism which disregards this will not survive one day.’” “Werner Strombach, a German information scientist of Dortmund, emphasizes the nonmaterial nature of information by defining it as an ‘enfolding of order at the level of contemplative cognition.’” “Hans-Joachim Flechtner, a German cyberneticist, referred to the fact that information is of a mental nature, both because of its contents and because of the encoding process. This aspect is, however, frequently underrated: ‘When a message is composed, it involves the coding of its mental content, but the message itself is not concerned about whether the contents are important or unimportant, valuable, useful, or meaningless. Only the recipient can evaluate the message after decoding it.’” “It should now be clear that information, being a fundamental entity, cannot be a property of matter, and its origin cannot be explained in terms of material processes. We therefore formulate the following theorem. Theorem 1: The fundamental quantity of information is a non-material (mental) entity. It is not a property of matter, so that purely material processes are fundamentally precluded as sources of information.”
Meaning and symbolic representation are properties of mind, not of matter or energy. As an illustration of this point, consider the following: A song is a non-material, informational entity that can be stored on a compact disk, in an iPod, on a cassette tape, or in a musician’s head, etc. But these storage devices cannot account for the song itself. Rather, the song exists independently of any storage medium, and resulted from the activity of an intelligent, conscious mind (in this case, the composer of the song). Matter and energy are useful for the transmitting and storing of information, but the information itself is neither matter nor energy and can only be produced by a conscious and intelligent mind.
Just as songs cannot created by unintelligent processes, coded information (such as that stored in the DNA of a living organism) cannot be produced by unintelligent processes. A crucial point to be grasped is that the theories for the origin of life that have been produced cannot even in principle account for the origin of genetic information. Rather, they can only be used to address the origin of the storage medium for genetic information (or the material aspect of the organism). So, in reference to the above analogy, no theory for the origin of life that has been produced so far seriously confronts the issue of the song on the compact disk. Rather, they have only engaged the issue of the emergence of the compact disk itself. This should not be a surprise when one considers that the prevailing cultural context among the ranks of biologists involves a rigid adherence to a materialistic/naturalistic worldview that does not even acknowledge information as a separate category from matter and energy.
(To explore how the deeply entrenched naturalistic/naturalistic cultural context—or ideology—distorts science, please read If the evidence for God is so strong, why are so many smart people unconvinced?) Physicist Paul Davies makes clear the distinction between the medium (the physical aspect of the organism) and the message (the informational aspect of the organism), with regard to the origin of life, in The Fifth Miracle:
“The laws of physics, which determine what atoms react with what, and how, are algorithmically very simple; they themselves contain relatively little information. Consequently they cannot on their own be responsible for creating informational macromolecules [such as even the most simple organism]. Contrary to the oft-repeated claim, then, life cannot be ‘written into’ the laws of physics…Once this essential point is grasped, the real problem of biogenesis [or life emerging through unintelligent processes] is clear. Since the heady success of molecular biology, most investigators have sought the secret of life in the physics and chemistry of molecules. But they will look in vain for conventional physics and chemistry to explain life, for that is the classic case of confusing the medium with the message.” Elsewhere, Davies writes: “Trying to make life by mixing chemicals in a test tube is like soldering switches and wires in an attempt to produce Windows 98. It won’t work because it addresses the problem at the wrong conceptual level.” [italics added]
Perhaps most importantly, it should be noted that the above facts have been more than enough to convince many top-notch scientists and philosophers who are (or were) ideologically opposed to theism. Dr. Hubert Yockey, as I mention above, is the leading author of the text on the application of algorithmic information theory to the origin of life, and is certainly no friend of theism. He is a physicist (who worked on the Manhattan Project) and an information theorist who states in Information Theory, Evolution and the Origin of Life that “the origin of life is unsolvable as a scientific problem.” Note that Yockey does not say “as yet unsolved.” Rather, “unsolvable.” The Nobel Prize winning Harvard University biologist George Wald (also certainly not an ideological ally of theism) stated the following in his address to the Quantum Biology Symposium:
“It has occurred to me lately—I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities—that both questions [the origin of mind and the origin of life from nonliving matter] might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals.”
Dean Kenyon was one of the leading chemical evolutionary theorists in the world, and the author of a best-selling text on chemical evolutionary explanations for the origin of life. But, as the video below reveals, Kenyon was eventually obliged by the weight of the evidence to renounce his naturalistic views and endorse theism:
And perhaps most prominently, the Oxford University philosopher Antony Flew was for 50 years considered to be the intellectual “frontman” for atheism as a philosophical cause. His paper Theology and Falsification was the most reprinted philosophical tract in the world during this period. But as the video below reveals, Flew was forced by the facts of biology to endorse theism in 2004. To learn more, please read Flew’s book There Is A God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.
In light of the preceding facts, perhaps Richard Dawkins’ statement, which is recounted in the first paragraph of this essay, should be rephrased as such: “…Although atheism might have been logically tenable before the magically appearing space aliens, these aliens made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” —————————- *For those not satisfied with the aliens-brought-life-to-earth-in-their-spaceship explanation for the origin of life….do not fear! Atheism has other explanations. The prominent atheist biologist Michael Ruse hypothesizes that the origin of life can be explained by a MAGIC CRYSTAL PIGGYBACK RIDE! Sound bizarre? Click on the preceding link. Still not satisfied? There is more! Other atheists have dropped the “directed” from “directed panspermia” to come up with just plain “panspermia.” In this hypothesis, life came to earth from outer space without the help of aliens. Supporters of this hypothesis include atheists such as the Cambridge University mathematician and astronomer Fred Hoyle, and Chandra Wickramasinghe, the director of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology. Please also read my related posts titled Why evolution cannot be used to rationalize atheism and If the evidence for God is so strong, why are so many smart people unconvinced? and How atheism relies on ‘special pleading‘.