Apologetics

Luck and Chance: Can they Account for the Origin of Life?

cri-blog-nelson-paul-origin-evidence-beliefHow does a guy like Richard Dawkins, who probably is the most famous scientific materialist on the planet today, how does he get away with saying such things as “the universe could so easily have remained lifeless, it’s an astonishing stroke of luck that we’re here”?

I think if you imagine the logic tree where at the top is a single cell, and Dawkins is well aware of the complexity of single cells. You work your way down that logic tree, and you end up at a bifurcation where one alternative is design and the other alternative is chance. For all kinds of reasons Dawkins does not want to turn off on that branch that goes to design. The only thing remaining to him is what he calls luck.

Years ago when I was working in England with Bill Dembski and Steve Meyer on intelligent design, we realized that ultimately anyone who wants to can leap into the arms of mother chance. She’s always there waiting with her irrational arms wide open. Frankly, I think in the mystery of faith and in the mystery of the human will, there are plenty of people, very bright people included, Richard Dawkins is no dummy, who will opt for chance when confronted with design. They will say, “Look, we just got lucky, and we’re here.” This is a case of not listening to reason, and in fact turning your back on her, turning your back on wisdom, and saying, “I’m going to choose luck, if the alternative is I have to acknowledge that there was a designer or creator of this universe.”

There is a great scene at the end of C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, book number seven in The Chronicles of Narnia series. There is a circle of dwarves. They are sitting and arguing amongst themselves. Aslan is trying to persuade them to listen to him to keep going up into heaven. Finally, Aslan says to the children I cannot do it, their will, I cannot override their will and their will is so strong that they will not listen to me. It was a terrifying scene when I read it as a kid because I realized that even confronted with Aslan himself, the perversity of the human will can choose something like chance.

It is a puzzle to me because I want to say science ought to be open to all the possibilities no matter what the consequences. Luck is not an explanation. You cannot teach luck in a biology class. Write the word on the blackboard, the class is over.

In essence what you are saying Paul is this: It is not that you cannot believe, it is that many people simply will not believe. I’m reminded of Blaise Pascal who said that God dwells in enough obscurities that if you do not want to find Him you will not, and He dwells in enough light that if you want to find Him you will (Pensees, 7.430).

That’s right. For me one of the most sobering lessons in the New Testament is to look in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and the Gospel of John at how the Pharisees responded to the miracles that they saw right in front of them. You could not ask for better sense data, better evidence that Jesus Himself healing people or casting out demons. But, between what they saw, their heart, and their mind, for the Pharisees, for many of whom there was a disconnect. They would say illogical things like he cast out demons by Beelzebub (Matt. 12:24). Right? Even the direct witness of one of God’s miracles in the person of Jesus healing someone was unable to persuade those Pharisees that this man was who He claimed to be.

I think there is a mystery to faith and there is a mystery on how we respond to evidence. I think scientific evidence is very powerful. It is very compelling. Ultimately, the nature of the human will enter in. I will tell you, after three decades of working in this field, my devotional life matters a lot more to me, because much of the relevant action persuading somebody occurs where we cannot see it. Out of sight in their heart. I love giving people evidence but ultimately I realize there is a lot more to it than just evidence.

—Paul Nelson

“Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20, NIV)

Learn more on the evidence supporting intelligent design in Origin: Design, Chance, and the First Life on Earth by Illustra Media.

This blog adapted from the November 7, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Are Earthlings Really Extraterrestrials?

 

cri-blog-nelson-paul-panspermia_1

Most chemists believe, as do I, that life emerged spontaneously from mixtures of molecules in the prebiotic Earth.

How? I have no idea.

—George Whitesides, professor of chemistry Harvard University

Is there anything in chemistry that scientists hope will actually account for life apart from design?

Well, they are looking. They have been looking for well over a hundred years. But, the point of looking, the point of investigating, is to listen to nature. If I can personify her, to listen to what she is telling us. I think that the clear message from cell biology over the past several decades is this: If you want a cell at all, you need a cell to produce it. All life comes from life is the most reliable generalization that biology offers us.

Really the program of origin of life research is predicated or rests not so much on the evidence because I think the evidence points completely in the other direction, but predicated on the assumption of materialism, or what the film (Origin: Design, Chance, and the First Life on Earth) calls “scientific materialism,” which is the view that to explain anything in biology you can only use natural processes and chance. It is that underlying philosophy that drives origin of life research, and the signal from nature herself is saying, “Hey, maybe it didn’t happen that way.”

One of the things that Origin: Design, Chance, and the First Life on Earth deals with is the whole idea of panspermia. It is dispensed in different varieties the basic notion being that life came to earth via aliens or meteorites. Richard Dawkins considers the notion an intriguing possibility but panspermia—literally seeds everywhere—does little to solve the naturalistic conundrum concerning the origin of life, which were dealing with in the film. While Dawkins is moving in the right direction by entertaining intelligent design, he has not yet arrived at an answer for the origin of life nor can he and this seems like quite a stretch. Your perspective?

In 1981 Francis Crick, who won the Nobel Prize with James Watson, for their discovery of the molecular structure of DNA, Crick published a book called Life Itself (Touchstone) that I recommend. It is a beautifully written not very long serious sober proposal that life on earth did not originate here but was rather sent here by an alien intelligence.

Now Crick was an atheist. In fact, he was motivated to go into science by his atheism. Although I think he was a far better biologist than he was an atheist.

The thesis of Life Itself is this planet was not hospitable and was never hospitable for the formation of the first cell and maybe there was a planet elsewhere in the galaxy that had better geological or geochemical circumstances. But, portions of that book could have been written by an intelligent design advocate. Crick recognized that the origin of life was a deep puzzle for his materialist worldview but he was unwilling to let go of that materialist worldview, so he looked for what appeared to be a kind of solution strictly within physical universe having life start somewhere else and be sent here looked like it could do that.

This does not really solve the problem at all. Let us go to that other planet and all the same problems crop up again. You still have to explain the origin of information, you still have to explain how all these proteins got together, hundreds of them to get a cell up and running. It is a solution that ultimately is really no solution at all.

—Paul Nelson

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1, NIV).

For further related study, please see the following equip.org resources:

Can Aliens Account for the Origin of Life? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Would Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life Spell Doom for Christianity? (Guillermo Gonzalez)

Did Ancient Extraterrestrials Visit Earth? (Robert Velarde)

Learn more on the evidence supporting intelligent design in Origin: Design, Chance, and the First Life on Earth by Illustra Media.

This blog adapted from the November 7, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast.