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7/11/2003

 

origins of life



the genetic code of the relatively simple e. coli bacteria consists of about one trillion bits of data. this is roughly equivalent, carl sagan once noted, to all the letters in all the volumes of the largest library on earth. there is no known natural mechanism which could account for chemicals organizing themselves into such a highly complex state, and the universe is simply not big and old enough for the other naturalistic alternative, time + chance, to be practical. this is not a trivial problem for science. the existence of life is one of the fundamental questions of science and it has no answer. hence, at the moment, design is a more reasonable inference than any natural explanation. no one who was not prejudiced towards disbelief in a designer could maintain otherwise.

mathematicians have written computer programs which could reproduce hamlet by a series of random iterations--the equivalent of a million monkeys at a million typewriters. the catch is, the program recognizes when a letter is in the correct spot, and retains it for the next iteration. evolutionists argue that natural selection is the mechanism by which beneficial "letters," or traits, are retained in the future iterations of a species. fine. who wrote the program? we have merely substituted the laws of nature for the laws of a computer system, but the latter needed a programmer. what about the former? the universe just happened in such a way that it is, essentially, a great machine for producing intelligent life? again, absent some prejudice against the supernatural, believing in God requires less faith.

as you can see, the origins of life is an even more unsettling puzzle than this, for in addition to not knowing how the program itself came to be, we have no program at all.

"yet," says the atheist, hoping against hope, believing against belief.

say we find one. what then? we are left in a universe with laws structured in such a way that they overcame the mind-boggling odds against the random organization of life. why? were the laws of physics themselves dumb luck, or is there some higher, yet non-intelligent, mechanism which stacked the deck of physical law as physical law (supposes the atheist) stacked the deck of life? there is no way to know by empirical investigation whether or not some higher mechanism produced the laws of physics since this higher mechanism would by definition lie beyond the reach of our universe. nothing beyond our universe can be "known" in a scientific sense. hence, it ultimately cannot be determined whether or not this was the case--but even if it could, it doesn't help: if it exists, where does this higher mechanism come from? what mechanism governs it? if you say none, you're left with chance. your other option is an infinite hierarchy of mechanisms, which is illogical, so chance it will have to be.

you've got two choices. you can believe that we are a cosmic accident, or you can believe that something put us here. here's the funny thing, though: both theories are scientifically invalid, at least by the purely naturalistic definition of "science" in common usage today. God is obviously ruled out. but so is chance--chance as an explanation for the structure of physical law is non-falsifiable and cannot be empirically tested. it's just as useless a "scientific" theory as God is. either way, you come down to faith, be that faith in wild improbabilities just happening to work out right, or in the much simpler, if supernatural, alternative. there's no physical (that is, "scientific") reason to believe that that which cannot be physically sensed does not exist, nor could there be, so whatever a scientist's reason for disbelieving in God, it isn't scientific.

locdog bids you a pleasant friday