Goals in nature point to God
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.”