The history of scientific endeavor to discover a naturalistic origin of life reads like a laboratory version of a demolition derby. A researcher roars into the arena to propose a new theory and is summarily rammed and demolished by another theory driven by its respective theoretician who in turn is rammed and demolished by the next eager contestant. A few examples for the uninitiated reader:
- Dr. Robert Shapiro, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at NYU on the popular RNA-World theory: “Picture a gorilla at an immense keyboard [that] contains not only the symbols used in English and European languages but also…from every other known language and all of the symbol sets stored in a typical computer. The chances [of functional RNA molecules forming by themselves] can be compared to those of the gorilla composing, in English, a coherent recipe for the preparation of chili con carne…the spontaneous appearance of RNA chains on the lifeless Earth would have been a near miracle.”
- Dr. Leslie Orgel – a proponent of the RNA-World theory – on the Metabolism First theory proposed by the aforementioned Dr. Shapiro: “Theories of the origin of life based on metabolic cycles cannot be justified by the inadequacy of competing theories: they must stand on their own…solutions offered by supporters of …metabolist scenarios that are dependent on ‘if pigs could fly’ chemistry are unlikely to help.” Dr. George Whitesides of Harvard University, one of the world’s greatest living chemists, made the following comment on the Metabolism First theory: “It seems to me to be astonishingly improbable.”
- Dr. Hupert Yockey, renowned information theorist on Dr. Graham Cairns-Smith’s Clay Crystal Theory: “Cairns-Smith is grossly mistaken in his hypothesis that the information density in a crystallite is at all similar to the information content in DNA.” Dr. Orgel adds: “On theoretical grounds it seems implausible.”
- Sir Fred Hoyle, renowned physicist, astronomer, and mathematician on the Primeval Organic Soup Theory: “In short there is not a shred of evidence that life began in an organic soup here on earth.” Dr. Yockey on the same subject: “The entire effort in the primeval soup paradigm is self-deception.”
- Dr. Stanley Miller – whose famous 1953 experiment electrified the world of science – also does not escape unscathed. In fact, the story of the experiment that has been presented to the public is overhyped, to say the least. Dr. Gunter Wauchtershauser has characterized Miller’s approach to Origin of Life as “a blind alley.” Dr. Robert Shapiro: “Let us sum up. The experiment formed by Miller yielded tar as its most abundant product. The very best Miller-Urey chemistry…does not take us very far along the path to a living organism. A mixture of simple chemicals, even one enriched with a few amino acids [as was found in the Miller experiments] no more resembles a bacterium than a small pile of real and nonsense words, each written on an individual scrap of paper, resembles the complete works of Shakespeare.”
Etc., Etc., Etc.
John Horgan, a senior writer for Scientific American put it this way: “The origin of life is a science writers dream. It abounds with exotic scientists and exotic theories, which are never entirely abandoned or accepted, but merely go in and out of fashion.” In another article he put it more bluntly: “Scientists don’t have a clue how life began.” There is, of course, a very good reason why scientists have crashed into a steel-reinforced concrete wall in their attempts to discover a naturalistic origin of life.
The “simplest” living organism that exists or has ever been known to exist is a type of bacterium. If living organisms were flying machines with the human being metaphorically represented at the top as a Space Shuttle and Houston Control; the bacterium would be an F-15 fighter bomber. There is nothing “simple” at all about an F-15 or a bacterium. Dr. Michael Denton, Australian biochemist and geneticist offers this description of the living cell: “The complexity of a jumbo jet packed into a speck of dust invisible to the naked eye…moreover it is a speck-sized jumbo jet that can duplicate itself quite easily…a capacity not equaled in any of our own advanced machines.”
In fact, contrary to the popular notion, there is no such thing as simple or primitive life. There are only awesomely, staggeringly complex and sophisticated living organisms, and other living organisms that are even more awesomely and staggeringly complex and sophisticated. And we haven’t even talked about the most advanced digitally encoded information storage, retrieval, and translation system known to mankind: the DNA-based genetic system which operates in every living thing, including bacteria.
The present state of Origin of Life research is best summed up by Dr. Eugene Koonin, a highly respected microbiologist and veteran researcher in the field. From his 2011 book, The Logic of Chance: The Nature and Origin of Biological Evolution: “The origin of life is one of the hardest problems in all of science…Origin of Life research has evolved into a lively, interdisciplinary field, but other scientists often view it with skepticism and even derision. This attitude is understandable and, in a sense, perhaps justified, given the “dirty” rarely mentioned secret: Despite many interesting results to its credit, when judged by the straightforward criterion of reaching (or even approaching) the ultimate goal, the origin of life field is a failure – we still do not have even a plausible coherent model, let alone a validated scenario, for the emergence of life on Earth. Certainly, this is due not to a lack of experimental and theoretical effort, but to the extraordinary intrinsic difficulty and complexity of the problem. A succession of exceedingly unlikely steps is essential for the origin of life…these make the final outcome seem almost like a miracle.” Dr. Paul Davies, Origin of Life expert and physicist at Arizona State University concurs: “You might get the impression from what I have written not only that the origin of life is virtually impossible, but that life itself is impossible…so what is the answer? Is life a miracle after all?”
Put quite simply: The proposition that the gaping chasm between non-living, inorganic chemicals and a living bacterium could be bridged by an unguided naturalistic process is so patently absurd that it can be rejected out of hand. Despite the abundant availability of raw materials such as mud, stones, straw and rocks in a rain forest, one does not need to “prove” that a mud hut in a clearing in that forest is the product of intelligent intervention. An appropriate metaphor for a bacterium would be more like finding Buckingham Palace.
It is obvious that life was created by an intelligent designer outside of the natural world and the reason why the origin of life “seems almost like a miracle,” is because it is a miracle.
However, atheist/materialist scientists refuse to give up so easily. Dr. Koonin himself has proposed a possible solution and escape hatch from having to accept a Creator of life: “The Many Worlds in One version of the cosmological model of eternal inflation might suggest a way out of the origin of life conundrum because, in an infinite multiverse with a finite number of macroscopic histories (each repeated an infinite number of times), the emergence of even highly complex systems by chance is not just possible, but inevitable.” (The Logic of Chance)
“The way out of the origin of life conundrum [is that] in an infinite multiverse…the emergence of even highly complex systems by chance is not just possible, but inevitable.”
Translation: The odds of rolling a six a thousand times in a row with a single die is 1 in 6 to the 1000th power, or 1 chance in 6 x 10 to the 999th power. The size of this number is beyond our comprehension but to provide some kind of baseline keep in mind that the number of atoms in the entire universe is roughly 10 to the 80th power. Despite this, as Koonin points out, if I am able to roll the die an infinite number of times, it is not only possible, but inevitable that it will happen. Although reason and scientific investigation have informed us of the virtual impossibility of life having formed on our planet by an undirected naturalistic process, the “way out of the origin of life conundrum” – that is to say, the way to avoid the obvious answer that life was created – is to propose a multiverse. With an infinite number of trials and errors available, it is not only possible but inevitable that life will form no matter how fantastic the odds against.
He is right of course. With an infinite number of trials and errors not only is the formation of life inevitable but it is just as inevitable that at least one of each of the following has formed by pure chance and can be found on our planet today: iPhone 5, Toshiba Satellite Laptop Computer, Schwinn Discover Men’s Hybrid Bike, full color poster of Jimmy Hendrix playing at Woodstock, Martin D-35 Acoustic Guitar, Mylec Eclipse Jet-Flow Hockey Stick, Revell 1:48 scale P-51D Mustang model airplane, and last but not least, a 2013 Rolls Royce Phantom Sedan (retail price- $465,000). I don’t believe it, no one reading this article believes it, Eugene Koonin does not believe it, and even Richard Dawkins doesn’t believe it.
Just as it is beyond absurd to propose that the iPhone 5 I am holding in my hand could be the product of chance it is exponentially beyond absurd to propose that a bacterium could have formed by chance. There is either a flaw in Koonin’s logic (which of course there is) or the multiverse theory is false and/or irrelevant to our question (which of course it is).
Although it may seem hard for the reader to believe, this type of non-scientific (anti-scientific?) fantasizing provides the philosophical underpinnings for all of the so called “science-based” atheistic ideologues in the 21st century. What Koonin has done is simply add a new twist to one of the profoundly flawed arguments routinely offered by atheists: The Argument from Infinite Possibilities
Let me begin my explanation of this flawed argument by quoting one of the great intellectuals of the 20th century, Bertrand Russell. Russell made the following oft-quoted statement:
“Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of skeptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that since my assertion cannot be disproved [no one can doubt its truth], I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense.”
Russell is absolutely correct. If I propose some fantastic notion and demand that it be accepted as truth, it is my burden to present the evidence that it is true. The fact that the particular notion cannot be disproved is irrelevant. Another way of stating that something cannot be disproved is to say, “Well, it’s possible” or “It’s not impossible.” The fact that it’s possible or not impossible is meaningless.
The notion that the awe-inspiring levels of functional complexity and specified information found in the “simplest” living bacterium is the result of some mysterious unguided, undirected process is an extraordinary claim. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. As of today not only is there no extraordinary evidence available, we find just what we would expect: no evidence at all that would compel me to accept this assertion as fact.
Atheistic scientists are acutely aware of the difficulties involved in proposing that some type of unguided process would be able to bridge the gaping chasm between non-life and life. However, they seem totally oblivious to the fact that – in keeping with the thrust of Russell’s argument – it is their burden to prove it true rather than being the burden of the theist to disprove the possibility.
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE), headed by atheistic biologist, Dr. Eugenie Scott, has for years been in the forefront of the battle to prevent the teaching of flaws in evolutionary theory or Intelligent Design theory in US public schools. Dr. Frank Sonleitner, a Professor of Zoology at the University of Oklahoma has written a lengthy essay on the origin of life which appears on the NCSE website. He writes as follows: “Modern ideas about the [emergence] of living things from non-living components…may not have yet come anywhere near answering all our questions about the process, but…none of this research has indicated that abiogenesis is impossible.”
Dr. Paul Davies: “Just because scientists are uncertain how life began does not mean that life cannot have had a natural origin.” (i.e. it’s not impossible)
Even Dr. Francis Crick, undoubtedly one of the greatest scientific minds of the 20th century, is not immune. From 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. But this should not be taken to imply that…it could not have started on the earth by a perfectly reasonable sequence of fairly ordinary chemical reactions.” (In other words, it’s not impossible.)
Imagine winning 200 hands of black-jack in a row at a Las Vegas casino. As the pit-boss and his crew are summarily throwing you out of the casino onto the sidewalk, you offer the following brilliant pleading, “I know it seems like a miracle that I could win 200 hands in a row by pure luck, but it’s not impossible!”
Atheist author Mark Isaak, from his book The Counter-Creationism Handbook: “Nobody denies that the origin of life is an extremely difficult problem, that is has not been solved though, does not mean that it is impossible.”
Isaak then takes this argument to its perfectly logical consequence. In his section on Origin of Life, after listing six of the unproven speculative theories about the origin of life, he lists as number 7, and I’m not kidding: “Something that no one has thought of yet.” Yes, “something that no one has thought of yet” is always a possibility.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the District Attorney has presented eye-witness evidence against my client, fingerprint evidence against my client, and DNA evidence against my client. I would like to present you with a reason to find my client not guilty…Umm…something that no one has thought of yet!”
What about a prosecuting attorney who says the following: “Ladies and gentleman of the jury, I know I have not presented any evidence that the defendant is guilty, but no one has yet proved that it is impossible for him to be guilty!”
I don’t know how to prove that it’s impossible for life to come from non-life, anymore than Richard Dawkins knows how to prove that it’s impossible for a china teapot to be revolving around the sun in an elliptical orbit between the Earth and Mars; but no rational person is going to believe either of those proposals without rock-solid evidence. And by the way, if we are accepting “it’s not impossible” as an argument, how about the following: “It’s not impossible that God created the world in six days and made it look like it’s 14 billion years old”?
When the atheist says “it’s possible that it happened” or “it’s not impossible that it happened” he is appealing to the notion of Infinite Possibilities. As we know from the courtroom, we don’t live in a world where we are required to consider infinite possibilities; we live in a world where we are only required to consider reasonable possibilities. The only reasonable possibility is that life was the result of Intelligent Creation/Design.
In the infinite space – or if you will – the infinite gap created by an infinite number of possibilities there is plenty of room for the atheist to believe that life can come from non-life through some mysterious unguided process. It is there, in that infinite gap, that he finds a comfortable place to pitch his tent and call it home. Hence, The Argument from Infinite Possibilities or most appropriately of all: Atheism of the GAP.
Moshe Averick is the author of “Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist,” available on Amazon and Kindle. He can be reached via his website. If you wish to be notified of Rabbi Averick’s columns please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word “Subscribe” in the subject line.