Dear Professor Dawkins: Science Is a Servant of Truth, Not Atheism
Professor Richard Dawkins, the High Priest of atheism in our day, has created an entire weltanschauung based on his unshakeable belief in the truth of Darwinian evolutionary theory. He has disseminated this belief system in one scientific/atheistic manifesto after another, culminating in his best selling, viciously anti-religious magnum opus, The God Delusion. Dawkins, along with other atheistic ideologues following his lead, have aggressively and disingenuously co-opted science as a propaganda tool to promote, not the search for truth, but to promote their own ideological agenda. In light of all of the above, it is painfully and exquisitely ironic to discover, that a careful investigation of the scientific facts will reveal that Darwinian Evolution is actually irrelevant to the question of the existence of God the Creator. Evolutionary theory, in fact, will turn out to be the great Maginot Line of atheism. If we are to have an intelligent and informed discussion about the existence of God the Creator, the critical issue that demands our attention is not how species evolved, but rather: How did life begin? It is my contention that Dawkins understands, quite well, the truth of this assertion, but fears that a no-holds-barred confrontation with the question of the origin of life, would force him down the same path as the one traveled by the great 20th century philosopher and atheist-turned-believer, Antony Flew.
Origin of Life and Darwinian Evolution are separate scientific disciplines
It must be understood that Origin of Life and Darwinian Evolution are two completely separate areas of science that must be investigated and evaluated in different ways. None other than Dr. Eugenie Scott, head of the fiercely pro-evolution National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and a self-declared atheist, writes the following in her book Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction:
“Although some people confuse the origin of life with evolution the two are conceptually separate. Biological evolution is defined as the descent of living things from ancestors from which they differ. Life had to precede evolution!…We know much more about evolution than the origin of life. [As we shall see, this last assertion is wildly understated.]
In other words, Darwinian Evolution is based on random mutations in the replication of the DNA of a living organism. Sometimes by pure luck these random mutations confer a survival advantage which in turn makes it more likely that these traits will be passed along to surviving offspring. Eventually all these little changes add up and from the original microscopic bacteria, here we are! However, even if we assume – for arguments sake – that the theory is true, it is all based on an existing self-replicating organism with a fully functioning genetic code. Darwinian Evolution and natural selection are only operative and relevant from that point forward; Darwinian evolution in no way at all accounts for the existence of the first self-replicating bacterium, which is the simplest living organism known to have existed. Evolution is, for the most part, the domain of the biologist; Origin of Life, which tries to understand how non-living chemicals could transform into living organisms, is the domain of the chemist and the microbiologist.
A “simple” self-replicating molecule?
In truth, there is no scientist in the world today who would claim that evolution started with a “simple” bacterium. The simplest bacterium is “intricate beyond imagining.” It is packed with “tiny structures that might have come straight from an engineer’s manual…with a fine tuning and complexity as yet unmatched by any human engineering.” Dr. Robert Hazen writes that, “human brains seem ill suited to grasp such multi-dimensional complexity.” The level of functional complexity of the simplest bacterium is, without exaggeration, beyond that of an F-15 fighter bomber. This is what prompted the late Dr. Harold Klein of NASA to exclaim, “The simplest bacterium is so damn complicated from the point of view of a chemist that it is almost impossible to imagine how it happened.” (A sneak preview of the surprise ending: It is impossible to imagine how it just “happened.” It didn’t. It was created.) The challenges scientists face in discovering some sort of undirected naturalistic explanation for the emergence of the first bacterium some 3.8 billion years ago, become even more vexing in light of startling new discoveries by chemists and microbiologists. Richard Dawkins, himself, elaborates:
“After Watson and Crick we know that genes themselves…are living strings of pure digital information…they are truly digital, in the full sense of computers and compact discs…the machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like. Apart from the differences in jargon, the pages of a molecular biology journal might be interchanged with those of a computer engineering journal…DNA characters are copied with an accuracy that rivals anything modern engineers can do…DNA messages…are…pure digital code.” (River Out of Eden)
We have only been aware of the concept of digital information for a number of decades. Who knew about it 3.8 billion years ago? It is obvious that the notion of a fully functioning DNA-based bacterium popping out of a pre-biotic swamp somewhere is too preposterous for even the most deeply committed advocate of scientific naturalism to swallow. Scientists therefore offer as a point of conjecture and speculation that an undirected naturalistic origin of life must begin with some sort of “simple” self-replicating molecule. Since no one has ever seen such a molecule existing in nature, it is accepted as an article of faith by materialistic scientists that it must have existed. We turn again to Professor Dawkins:
“Life still has to originate in the water, and the origin of life may have been a highly improbable occurrence. Darwinian evolution proceeds merrily once life has originated. But how does life get started?…once the vital ingredient – some kind of genetic molecule – is in place, true Darwinian natural selection can follow…The origin of life is a flourishing, if speculative, subject for research.” (The God Delusion)
“But how did the whole process start?…nobody knows how it happened, but somehow…a molecule arose that just happened to have the property of self-copying.” (Climbing Mt. Improbable)
In two of his books, The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion, Dawkins offers hypothetical, speculative scenarios for the emergence of these self-replicating molecular machines:
“A molecule that makes copies of itself is not as difficult to imagine as it seems…the small building blocks were abundantly available in the soup surrounding the replicator.”
“Now suppose the origin of life, the spontaneous arising of something equivalent to DNA really was a quite staggeringly improbable event. Suppose it was so improbable as to occur on only one in a billion planets…and yet even with such absurdly long odds [since, according to Dawkins’ calculations there are a billion billion planets in the universe] life will still have arisen on a billion planets.”
Dawkins’ theories about life’s origins are summarily rejected
Origin of Life expert, Dr. Robert Shapiro, a self-declared agnostic and Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at NYU, nonchalantly, condescendingly, and summarily dismisses Dawkins decidedly unscientific analysis of the problem:
“Richard Dawkins wrote a wonderful book but the place where he absolutely blew it was in a section on the origin of life…he has no other recourse – he’s not a chemist – than to invoke some improbable event. So his schoolboy howler is the section on the origin of life…I’m always running out of metaphors to try and explain what the difficulty is. But suppose you took Scrabble sets, or any word game sets, blocks with letters containing every language on earth and you heap them together, and then you took a scoop and you scooped in that heap, and you flung it out on the lawn there and the letters fell into a line which contained the words, “to be or not to be that is the question,” that is roughly the odds of a [self-replicating] molecule appearing on the earth.”
At a lecture sponsored by the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative, Shapiro stated categorically that “any abiotically prepared replicator before the start of life is a fantasy.” Where does this leave us? For the truth-seeking individual the very best that Darwinian Evolution can tell us is the following: Once you have in place a fantastically complex piece of molecular machinery called a living cell, which has at its core an astonishingly sophisticated self replicating system based on the storage, retrieval, and decoding of encyclopedic amounts of digital information – given enough time – the interactions between this organism, its “uncannily computer-like” digital code, and its environment (i.e., natural selection), are able to produce an astounding variety of living organisms. All varieties of life are possible – if, and only if – this amazing piece of machinery is in place. How did it get there?
Lest anyone have the impression that the deeply significant nature of this line of reasoning appeals only to orthodox Rabbis and the like, here is what distinguished Professor of Philosophy Thomas Nagel, of New York University (who describes himself as “just as much an outsider to religion as Richard Dawkins), had to say in his review of The God Delusion:
“The entire apparatus of evolutionary explanation therefore depends on the prior existence of genetic material with these remarkable properties…we are therefore faced with a problem…we have explained the complexity of organic life in terms of something that is itself just as functionally complex as what we originally set out to explain. So the problem is just pushed back a step: how did such a thing come into existence? (The New Republic, October, 2006)
Darwinian Evolution is beside the point
As it turns out, Darwinian Evolution is not – as skeptics like Dawkins would have us believe – a testimony to what can emerge from undirected processes; it is a testimony to the unimaginably awesome capabilities and potential contained in the first living cell and its genetic code. A paradigm shifting insight emerges from all this: Contrary to popular belief, not only is Darwinian evolution not the cause or explanation of the staggering complexity of life on this planet; Darwinian Evolution itself is a process which is the result of the staggering complexity of life on this planet. This, in essence, is what the acclaimed biologist, Dr. Lynn Margulis, meant when she wrote: “To go from bacterium to people is less of a step than to go from a mixture of amino acids to a bacterium.” When trying to resolve the age old question of the existence of God the Creator, the only relevant scientific question is: How did life begin?
It is shocking how uninformed the general public is about the true state of Origin of Life research. From a purely materialistic/atheistic view of science – how did life start? Dr. Paul Davies, in a lecture on life’s origins, posed this very question to his audience and candidly provided the answer as well: “We haven’t a clue.” [16 minutes into the lecture]
The burden of proof is on Richard Dawkins
There is a very good reason for this cluelessness. A smiley face in the sand with the words “Good morning Professor Dawkins” written next to it, is obviously the result of intelligent intervention. I don’t need to prove it was created; that is the obvious, undeniable, self-apparent truth. The burden of proof would be on the one who would claim a naturalistic explanation (good luck!). The molecular machinery of a bacterium is more sophisticated than anything that can be produced by human technology. I don’t need to prove that it was created any more than I need to prove that the smiley face in the sand is created. The notion that something as functionally complex as a bacterium could emerge through an undirected process from non-living chemicals is so absurd that it can be rejected out of hand. If Richard Dawkins wants me to accept such an outlandish idea, then he should please present conclusive, empirically demonstrable evidence. What was that evidence again, Professor Dawkins? – “We haven’t a clue.” In fact, that is exactly the evidence we would expect to find when discussing such a nonsensical proposition.
Richard Dawkins understands the problem
Dawkins, who is a highly accomplished biologist with intimate knowledge of the astounding complexity of the living world, understands this problem even better than I do. In my opinion, however, he does not have the intellectual courage or integrity to face the question squarely. He is unable to admit the profound nature of the challenge that origin of life research presents to his atheistic view of reality. It seems to me that he has deluded himself into thinking that scientific investigation exists not to serve the cause of truth, but to serve the cause of atheism. Here is what Dawkins had to say on the subject in a debate with Dr. John Lennox, a Christian mathematician:
“I think that when you consider the beauty of the world and you wonder how it came to be…you are naturally overwhelmed with a felling of awe, a feeling of admiration…and you almost feel a desire to worship something…we all of us share a common kind of religious reverence for the beauties of the universe, for the complexity of life…and it’s tempting to translate that feeling…into a desire to worship some particular thing…you want to attribute it to a maker, to a creator.”
What then stops Richard Dawkins from actually taking that step? In his own words:
“What science has now achieved is an emancipation from that impulse to attribute these things to a creator…It was a supreme achievement of the human intellect to realize there is a better explanation…that these things can come about by purely natural causes…we understand essentially how life came into being.”
A personal message to Professor Dawkins
I’m sorry Professor, but you know as well as I do that nobody understands “essentially” or “non-essentially” how life came into being. Dr. Ken Nealson, a microbiologist and co-chairman of the Committee on the Origin and Evolution of Life for the National Academy of Sciences summed up the current state of affairs: “Nobody understands the origin of life, if they say they do, they are probably trying to fool you.” Dr. Stuart Kauffman has caustically remarked: “Anyone who tells you they know how life started on the earth some 3.6 billion years ago, is either a fool or a knave.” I certainly hope you are not trying to fool us, Professor; it would not befit a man of your stature. In fact, in an interview with Ben Stein, in the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, you explicitly acknowledged this scientific reality:
Stein: How did it start?
Dawkins: Nobody knows how it started, we know the kind of event that it must have been, we know the sort of event that must have happened for the origin of life.
Stein: What was that?
Dawkins: It was the origin of the first self replicating molecule.
Stein: How did that happen?
Dawkins: I told you I don’t know.
Stein: So you have no idea how it started?
Dawkins: No, No, nor does anyone else.
Actually, you were right the first time, Professor. Life is clearly the result of a magnificent and glorious act of creation, by a Creator whom we instinctively desire to reach out to and worship. I will freely admit that God, the Creator of life, is not necessarily the God of Abraham or the God of the Bible. The investigation of that matter is clearly an entirely different undertaking. However, once we accept that we are here because someone wanted life to exist, the parameters of the discussion have been irrevocably transformed.
Even if you are not prepared to concede that life is the result of an act of creation, even if you feel that we should give scientists more time to try and see what they can find, you should at least be prepared to admit that the believer in God the Creator is standing on rock-solid, rational ground; that it is the believer in a naturalistic origin of life who bears the extraordinarily heavy burden of proof. And if you are going to insist – as you do implicitly in The God Delusion – that the key factor in your confident rejection of God the Creator, is due to a philosophical problem with intelligent design (what you called “The Ultimate 747 Gambit”), then quit spreading the falsehood that believers are anti-science. Be man enough to admit that the scientific facts on the ground point very strongly to a creator, but that ultimately, this battle must be settled not in the scientific arena, but in the philosophical arena, where your scientific credentials hold no weight. Either way, it’s time to buck-up and come clean, Professor. Only the truth shall set you free.
Rabbi Moshe Averick is an orthodox rabbi and author of Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist. It is available on Amazon.com and Kindle. Rabbi Averick can be reached via his website at http://rabbimaverick.com/