Are we just an accidental byproduct of nature? Or is there something more? Did chance just have it right that somehow in a vat of prebiotic soup a cocktail of life just happened into existence? Is it really likely that this happened and both a male version and female version were born out of this? Does this really seem plausible? Which supposes more faith; the version of the infinitesimally small odds of a male AND female version of something accidentally being created, or that there is truly an Intelligence behind all of this? What if this place we call the world really has order, is really fine-tuned for intelligent life, and really seems to lead us to believe that there is a great Designer, some sort of Intelligence behind it?
I once remarked to the congregation at my church that if my oldest boy Colter were to run into the church holding an object made of some type of natural substance, resembling a human with similar appendages, and that with the push of a few buttons this ‘thing’ would speak and move those appendages, how many in the congregation would really think this object Colter was holding was a product of pure random biological evolution? I can’t think of anyone, even on their most pessimistic day, who would believe this object wasn’t some concoction of intelligent design. Yet how is it when Colter runs out, and then runs back in holding his little brother Kaleb, we somehow think Kaleb has been derived by an accidental process of nature? Do we honestly believe such rubbish?
Well our old friend Darwin was right about one thing, evolution does exist. I believe the evidence of evolution on a micro-type scale seems rather strong and plausible. However for this post I am not going to focus on the semantics of how we define evolution and the different theories regarding it. What I’m presently more concerned with is why is there anything to evolve at all? And that, to this day, is the question that escapes naturalists, materialists, and others who affirm a Darwinian worldview. You see the question of evolution really isn’t that important. The question rightly should be is what is the origin, not the evolution of the species. Even though Darwin’s seminal book appropriated the title to On the Origin of the Species, the question on how anything originated at all continues to elude the greatest minds in the scientific community. (1)
An informed Christian could grant to a Darwinian worldview holder that we are actually primate cousins and descended slowly from some apelike creature called Cronk. What does that prove? That the historical Adam and Eve didn’t exist? Or perhaps the Genesis story isn’t historically accurate? The Christian could grant all of this to the naturalist and it would do nothing to disprove that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Resurrection event was a real event. All this would argue for is how we interpret the Genesis story of scripture, and many Christians are open to the Genesis story as not having to be historically accurate to defend the truth of their faith or even the truth of the Bible. The Christian faith is not a house of cards that falls on biblical inerrancy. It’s a house laid with the foundation of Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead. Unfortunately there are a number of Christians whose center of faith is the Bible, not Christ, and so attacks like this from atheists, naturalists, and Neo-Darwinians are almost impossible for them to defend. And they usually look pretty ignorant and foolish when they try.
However, Jesus and the apostle Paul did have much to say about the man Adam, which lends strong plausibility to him being a historical figure. Nevertheless, how to understand the first 11 chapters of Genesis is open to much interpretation. The Genesis story could be factually true, partially true, or just a myth to relate an instructional story and it wouldn’t make it any less true that mankind has disobeyed God as soon as we had consciousness to do it, and that we are all guilty because of it. And, from a lower scripture point of view, if the first 11 Chapters of Genesis are more of a mytho-history as some theologians believe, this does nothing to dispel the historical accuracy and credibility of New Testament documents like the Gospels, or Paul’s letters. The Christian should always be mindful their faith lies in a Resurrected Christ, not Biblical inerrancy. This is not to cast doubt or importance on Biblical inerrancy, it’s just that Biblical inerrancy lends itself to how one interprets the literature of the Bible, and Christians have disagreed with the finer points on this since the early church. Let’s respectfully remember there would be no Christians without the Resurrection event first. There would be no Bible as we know it (with both the Old and New testaments) without the Resurrection event. Let us never lose sight of which comes first. Perhaps when I have more time I’ll be able to write something on Biblical inerrancy and interpretation of scripture. For this particular post I would like the reader to apprehend what it means for something to come into being, not evolve. Evolution could be something as simple as God continuing to sustain His creation and adapt it as He sees fit. What we are after is origins of life.
So how did the origin of life begin? What would be needed to produce just the right cocktail of life? And why would this perfect cocktail produce consciousness? Why would life spring up with brains, arms, legs, and a mind? How does a reproductive system become established randomly? How does an eye develop randomly? How did the function of clotting blood establish randomly? And what about our intricate, yet sometimes disgusting digestive tract? Another random occurrence? What about a brain? Could a computer within our skull really be random too? Man is the deck really stacking up! How about a mind? Where does a mind come from? How does a material object like a brain form something immaterial like consciousness? Who could actually believe this to be accidental, and then to replicate itself over and over? To what lengths are we willing to go to explain away a designer?
We understand that our DNA reads like digital code, yet we can’t bring ourselves to credit an intelligence beyond us for this code? What information systems do we have available to us presently where there isn’t someone designing code for functional outputs? Random? Really? As some have said, this is worse than magic. At least with magic you have a magician and a hat! Think about the blueprint in which a tiny egg and sperm must have. Literally a blueprint of life to develop appendages, internal organs, a brain, and ultimately a mind. Accidental, random, again, really? And what about our moral code? Just survival and herd instinct? If we are just randomly and accidentally evolved from Cronk then why would my moral code be wrong? Aren’t I, as Dawkins would say, ‘dancing to the tune of my DNA?’ But clearly there are objective moral values and duties (see Moral Argument). And how does intelligence miraculously spring up from non-intelligence? Has the created ever been greater than the creator? Can something come from nothing? Aristotle sagaciously was quoted as saying ‘nothing is what rocks dream about.’
Dr. James Tour has been a significant player in the scientific research of nanotechnology and origin of life. He is a synthetic chemist and nanotechnologist at Rice University and is a self-proclaimed scientist, not a writer. He is very proud of the fact that he actually does science and doesn’t just write books about it. Please enjoy the following presentation as we continue to explore who or what could have created us.
(1) Charles Darwin On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (John Murray, 1859).