Goals in nature point to God

Posted on January 20, 2016 By

If atheist reasoning is correct, mindless natural processes do God’s job of creating life just fine, and God is therefore unnecessary for the origin of life. But, to paraphrase a statement made by Ronald Reagan, “The trouble with our atheist friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn’t so.” 

Natural processes cannot create life

Everyday experience illustrates how natural process do the exact opposite of organize and create. For example, if one builds a sandcastle at the beach, natural processes will eventually erode the specificity built into the sandcastle. The sand in the sandcastle will eventually return to its original state by blending in with the sand in the surrounding environment. 

At this point, from my debates with atheists, I can almost hear them shouting, “That’s just not true! Natural processes increase complexity all the time!” A very prominent atheist website known as talkorigins.com tries to respond to the theist argument that natural processes do not organize or create:

“This is easy. Are you familiar with a small creature called a ‘Volvox’? This is a small spherical animal that lives in the water and is made up of individual cells of algae.

Separate algae cells have been observed organizing into a Volvox, with the advantage of being able to propel itself in a way similar to an octopus, and capture food inside the sphere. The algae cells operate in a unified manner, just as the cells in a larger organism do.

Here is a clear example of increased complexity for the sake of survival. Since mutation is factual (i.e. we have observed mutation, so it is not conjecture), why do you find it so hard to believe that increasingly complex organizations of cells, combined with favorable mutations, can result in a higher form of life?”

 Living things result from goal directed (not random) processes

The key words to notice in the above atheist argument are “for the sake of survival.” Please recall that survival is a goal, and mindless natural processes cannot be said to have goals. The term teleology (derived from the Greek telos, meaning “goal” or “purpose”) refers to the explanation of phenomena with reference to the purpose they serve. Goal directed (teleological) behavior is an elephant-in-the-room which atheists must try to sweep under the rug in their efforts to deny God.

But, if outspoken atheist biologist Richard Dawkins is correct, there is no reason to cite goal directed behavior with regards to the increasing complexity of living things. In his book The Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins attempts to illustrate how the codified set of biological instructions in DNA (the language of life) can occur randomly by comparing the process to monkeys randomly typing on a keyboard and eventually producing a “target phrase,” such as a line from a Shakespeare play: 

“…Given enough time, a monkey bashing away at random on a typewriter could produce all the works of Shakespeare. The operative phrase is, of course, given enough time. Let us limit the task facing our monkey somewhat. Suppose that he has to produce, not the complete works of Shakespeare but just the short sentence ‘Methinks it is like a weasel’, and we shall make it relatively easy by giving him a typewriter with a restricted keyboard, one with just the 26 (capital) letters, and a space bar. How long will he take to write this one little sentence?”

The problem with this argument, however, is that Methinks it is like a weasel is a “target phrase,” in Dawkins’ own words. As William Dembski has pointed out, progressing towards a “target phrase” is a very teleological or goal directed process. A target is a goal. There is simply no way around this. Oxford University mathematician John Lennox points out this fatal contradiction in his book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?

“Dawkins has solved his problem, only by introducing the two very things he explicitly wishes at all costs to avoid. In his book he tells us that evolution is blind, and without a goal. What, then, does he mean by introducing a target phrase? A target phrase is a precise goal which, according to Dawkins himself, is a profoundly un-Darwinian concept. And how could blind evolution not only see that target, but also compare an attempt with it, in order to select it, if it is nearer than the previous one? Dawkins tells us that evolution is mindless. What, then, does he mean by introducing two mechanisms, each of which bears every evidence of the input of an intelligent mind – a mechanism that compares each attempt with the target phrase, and a mechanism which preserves a successful attempt?”

Progress toward survival is a goal

But wait! Returning to the example of a sandcastle, couldn’t an atheist argue that natural processes such as wind and erosion do occasionally produce arrangements of sand on the beach that resemble elements of a sandcastle? After all, natural processes do often create things containing order, such as snowflakes and salt crystals. With enough time, something resembling a wall could emerge randomly by natural processes, and then, with even more time, something resembling a draw bridge could randomly emerge. Given vast amounts of time, then, a full sandcastle could emerge piece-by-piece.

For such a process to work, however, it must be noted that someone or something must act to preserve the wall from eroding while natural processes work to produce the draw bridge, and eventually the full sandcastle. But if evolution is truly mindless, there can be no such preservation of gradual improvements towards a goal such as a sandcastle. 

And the need to preserve progress towards a goal is also required in creating a set of biological instructions written in the language of DNA. If a monkey were to randomly type a word in Dawkins’ target phrase (such as “Me”), someone or something would need to act to preserve this correctly typed word from being eroded or erased by the same random process which created it. If the word “Me” were not preserved while mindless natural process worked to produce the other words in the target phrase, the target phrase could never be completed. But who or what would act to preserve this progress toward the target phrase of Methinks it is like a weasel ? Regarding this point, John Lennox writes: 

“It should also be noted in passing that the fact that a correctly typed key is retained, never to be lost again, is equivalent to making the assumption that advantageous mutations are always preserved in the population. But, as evolutionary biologist Sir Ronald Fisher showed in his foundational work, this is not the case in nature.’ Most beneficial mutations get wiped out by random effects, or by the likely much larger number of deleterious mutations. This contradicts the idea commonly held since Darwin, that natural selection would preserve the slightest beneficial variation until it took over the population.”

Progressing toward a goal is a process which can only be accomplished by a mind. Atheists cannot get around this by trying to sweep goal directed behavior under the rug. As I point out in How Atheism Relies on Special Pleading, biologists with less unwavering ideological loyalty to atheism (than the average biologist) have been frank enough to admit that life must be the result of a mind. For example, Nobel Prize-winning Harvard University biologist George Wald, although certainly not an ideological ally of theism, is commendable for admitting the following in his address to the Quantum Biology Symposium titled Life and Mind in the Universe:

“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.”

 


8 comments


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    I think that to interpret dawkins’s remark teleologically misses the mark. He is talking about the accumulation of events over time, not that monkeys are driven to type any one phrase. He is just having a conversation. How would he state his comment in a way that you would not consider teleological?


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 44 ) says:

      Dennis,

      There can be no evolution without teleology because evolution relies on survival of the fittest (according to Darwinism), and survival is a goal or purpose. The “target phrases” which Dawkins mentions are the DNA sequences which provide survival advantages.

      Physicist Amit Goswami comments on how Darwinism refutes itself because it is rooted in the materialist view which declares that nothing exists except inanimate matter. But Darwinism relies on survival of the fittest, and survival is a goal…not a property which can be ascribed to inanimate matter:

      The Darwinian theory of evolution is based on natural selection: Nature selects those organisms that are fittest to survive. In the materialist view, an organism is just a bundle of molecules that are completely specified by their physical and chemical properties. Nowhere among these properties will you find a property called survivability. No piece of inanimate matter has ever attempted to survive or in any way tried to maintain its integrity under any circumstances. But living bodies do exhibit a property called survivability. Now the paradox. A Darwinist would say that the survivability of the living form comes from evolutionary adaptation via natural selection. But natural selection itself depends on survival of the fittest.

      See the circularity of the argument? Survival depends on evolution, but evolution depends on survival! A paradox is a sure-fire sign that the basic assumptions of the paradigm are incomplete or inconsistent; they need a reexamination.


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        This snippet – no reference given – is a great argument for Mr. Amit to remain employed in physics and woo-mongering and not jump ship to the Great Science. I wish that he would have defined ‘survivability’. Many molecules would virtually last forever if left alone. It’s a well known problem in medicine, especially with virus based diseases. The stuff never goes away. It has tremendous survivability. Nor am I sure what he’s talking about in relation to organisms: what is the ‘survivability’ of a water bear or an iris or a human? Is it the same?

        “A Darwinist would say that the survivability of the living form comes from evolutionary adaptation via natural selection. But natural selection itself depends on survival of the fittest.”

        This is just gibberish. If there is a survivability it comes from the genetic make-up and alelle frequency within a particular environment. This is exactly the kind of thing I would expect from Goswami – you have seen ‘What The Bleep’? But if you want to flesh it out in real terms so I can understand it that will be great. Meanwhile I’ll be out using Amit’s secret knowledge to attract a 1973 Porsche RS American to my garage!


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          Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 44 ) says:

          Dennis,

          You write, “This is just gibberish. If there is a survivability it comes from the genetic make-up and alelle frequency within a particular environment.”

          I don’t think that you get Goswami’s point. The question of how life could evolve from non-life is not addressed by such things as genetic makeup and allele frequencies. Please read the following snippet from Goswami’s citation again very carefully:

          “No piece of inanimate matter has ever attempted to survive or in any way tried to maintain its integrity under any circumstances. But living bodies do exhibit a property called survivability.”

          Only living things have genetic makeup and allele frequencies. Pieces of inanimate matter (rocks, etc.) do not have genetic makeup or allele frequencies. Goswami’s citation brings to light the question of how a natural mechanism which relies on survivability (the Darwinian mechanism) can be cited to explain how non-living matter evolved into living things (with genetic makeup and allele frequencies). Inanimate things such as rocks do not try to survive or maintain their integrity under any circumstances, and therefore, it is patently absurd to cite a natural mechanism which works upon survivability to explain the origin of life from non-living matter.

          Further, you need to be careful not to commit the logical fallacy known as Ad Hominem (Latin for “against the man”). Yes, I agree that Goswami is a new-age huckster. But that is one reason why I cite him. By citing people with a variety of world views (rather than just Christians) my arguments can be shown to not be the product of biased reasoning.

          Goswami is an accomplished physicist. If you dismiss his arguments because of quirky aspects of his personality, then you are transparently avoiding his arguments. Avoiding his arguments clearly points to the fact that you are not able to coherently rebut his arguments.

          Imagine if I argued that Richard Dawkins arguments against God could all be disregarded because he is a weirdo who thinks that the origin of life can be explained by aliens bringing it to Earth in their spaceship (as he suggests in this interview…please click on the preceding link). If I made such an argument, you would not accept it, and I would be committing the Ad Hominem Logical Fallacy. An excerpt form this post for Ad Hominem fallacy:

          Ad Hominem: You attacked your opponent’s character or personal traits in an attempt to undermine their argument.

          Ad hominem attacks can take the form of overtly attacking somebody, or more subtly casting doubt on their character or personal attributes as a way to discredit their argument. The result of an ad hominem attack can be to undermine someone’s case without actually having to engage with it.

          Example: After Sally presents an eloquent and compelling case for a more equitable taxation system, Sam asks the audience whether we should believe anything from a woman who isn’t married, was once arrested, and smells a bit weird.

          Next, you write, “Many molecules would virtually last forever if left alone. It’s a well known problem in medicine, especially with virus based diseases. The stuff never goes away. It has tremendous survivability.”

          But lasting “lasting forever if left alone” is not the same thing as trying to survive. Trying to survive is teleological (goal driven). Lasting a long time if left alone is not teleological.


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            Thanks for the great advice to avoid logical fallacies! Always a good reminder! I expected, too, that I wouldn’t properly understand either yours or the goofy guru’s points – so far it’s been a bit of a theme with you. But hey! At lease we got here in only six posts!

            Cheers!


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              Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 44 ) says:

              Dennis,

              Again, I fully agree with you that Goswami is a new-age huckster (“goofy guru” as you put it). He holds monistic concepts of God that just don’t hold water. But again, this is one reason that I cite him. If I only cited Christians to make my point, then some readers would assume that a Christian bias taints the arguments that I present.

              And, again, dismissing a person’s arguments because of irrelevant facts about that person is an open-and-shut Ad Hominem logical fallacy. That example of an Ad Hominem logical fallacy again (copied and pasted from the link I provided):

              Example: After Sally presents an eloquent and compelling case for a more equitable taxation system, Sam asks the audience whether we should believe anything from a woman who isn’t married, was once arrested, and smells a bit weird.

              Imagine a Christian argued that we can dismiss the arguments of very prominent atheist biologists because they believe that the origin of life can be explained as the result of aliens bringing it to Earth in their spaceship. Would you accept this argument? I’ll bet not.

              Please recall that many very prominent atheist biologists have endorsed the aliens-brought-life-to-earth-in-their-spaceship explanation for the origin of life.

              This would include Francis Crick, the atheist biologist who is famous as the co-discoverer of the DNA double helix. Click here to read an article which discusses his endorsement of this hypothesis in his book Life Itself.
              Click here to watch Richard Dawkins (the world’s most famous atheist biologist) endorsing this hypothesis in an interview.

              Other very prominent atheist scientists who endorse this hypothesis include the physicist and mathematician Fred Hoyle, the biologist Chandra Wickramsinghe, and the chemist Leslie Orgel.

              Instead of arguing that we should dismiss the arguments of these atheists because they present a weird argument, I use their arguments (both weird and otherwise) to demonstrate that even the most hardened atheist scientists know that life was created by a mind. The aliens-brought-life-to-earth-in-their-spaceship hypothesis is just a symptom of their clear understanding that life was created by a mind, and not random processes.

              For example, Nobel Prize-winning Harvard University biologist George Wald, although certainly not an ideological ally of theism, is commendable for admitting the following in his address to the Quantum Biology Symposium titled Life and Mind in the Universe:

              “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.”

              And the atheist Cambridge University astrophysicist and mathematician Fred Hoyle puts it as follows:

              “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”


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    “Everyday experience illustrates how natural process do the exact opposite of organize and create”

    This, of course, does not help your argument. Just because something does one thing doesn’t mean that it can’t also do another.

    “The key words to notice in the above atheist argument are “for the sake of survival.”

    This isn’t an atheist argument it’s a poor and wrong biologists argument. Argue all you want against people who are wrong.

    ” As William Dembski has pointed out, progressing towards a “target phrase” is a very teleological or goal directed process.”

    This is only a target phrase when you and Dumbski define it as such. Letters can jumble all day and all night for a year and until words pop out. Words are only of importance to you. jijdd? is just as valuable to letters as is Superman. It is you that impose the purpose.

    C’mon Scott. Sharpen that pencil man!


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 44 ) says:

      Dennis,

      Neither Dembski nor I defined it as a “target phrase.” Richard Dawkins, the atheist biologist who suggested that monkeys banging on a typewriter could write the works of Shakespeare, defined it as such.

      I’m glad that you agree that the atheist biologists who cite Darwinian evolution are making a “wrong biologists argument,” in your words. We agree on this, apparently.

      Regarding my point that natural processes do the opposite of organize and create, you write, “Just because something does one thing doesn’t mean that it can’t also do another.” But why should we believe that random natural processes organize and create when this is the opposite of what we observe in nature? For example, regarding the random mutation evolutionary hypothesis, Cambridge University physicist and mathematician Fred Hoyle, despite being atheist, admits in his book Mathematics of Evolution:

      “The reason why most mutations must be bad is of course that random changes made to any complex structure lead to many more downward steps in the operating efficiency of the structure than to upward steps. How the occasional lucky improvement is to lead to positive evolution is a puzzle that has disturbed many mathematicians.”

      In short, the random mutation evolutionary hypothesis of Darwinism cannot work because most mutations are harmful. How can evolution progress when most of these mutations are harmful, downward steps?

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