It’s Easy to Be an Atheist if You Ignore Science
Although the general public is disconcertingly unaware of it, it is a fact that scientists do not have even the slightest clue as to how life could have begun through an unguided naturalistic process absent the intervention of a conscious creative force.
Here are just a few well-chosen statements on the Origin of Life:
- (2016) “[There is] collective cluelessness…those who say this is well worked out, they know nothing, nothing about chemical synthesis…Those who think that scientists understand the details of life’s origin are wholly uninformed. Nobody understands…when will the scientific community confess to the world that they are clueless on life’s origin, that the emperor has no clothes?” James Tour — Professor of Chemistry, Rice University (Synthetic chemist and among the top ten most cited chemists in the world)
- (2011) “The Origin of Life field is a failure.” Eugene Koonin, microbiologist at the National Center for Biotechnology Information
- (2011) “With respect to the Origin of Life, I find the more we learn about cells, the more complex they seem; they are just incredibly complex things, and to go from what we can see today and try to reason where it came from, I think is really impossible.” Lee Hartwell, Nobel Prize in Medicine, 2001
- (2007) “How? [did life begin] I have no idea.” George Whitesides, Professor of Chemistry, Harvard University, Winner of the Priestley Medal in Chemistry (second only to the Nobel Prize)
- (2001) “The origin of life appears to me as incomprehensible as ever, a matter for wonder but not for explication.” Franklin Harold, Professor Emeritus, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Colorado State University
- (1983) “In short, there is not a shred of objective evidence to support the hypothesis that life began in an organic soup here on earth.” Sir Fred Hoyle, distinguished British astronomer, physicist, mathematician (without question one of the greatest scientific minds of the 20th century)
- (1981) “Since Science does not have the faintest idea how life on earth originated…it would only be honest to confess this to other scientists, to grantors, and to the public at large.” Hubert Yockey, physicist and renowned information theorist
Out of consideration for the reader, I won’t go back further than 35 years to illustrate the seamless ignorance of science and scientists regarding a naturalistic origin of life. Suffice it to say that not only has science not progressed in this area since Darwin published his famous treatise in 1859, but — on the contrary — it has slid backwards by many orders of magnitude.
What I mean by backwards becomes clear if we plot the Origin of Life dilemma on a standard x-y graph; with the horizontal X axis representing the understanding of a naturalistic origin of life from 1859 until the present. It is a straight line starting at zero (our understanding in 1859) and ending at zero (our understanding in 2016). Let the Y axis represent the level of understanding since 1859 of the magnitude of the problem that needs to be solved. In 1859 it was thought to be a relatively trivial issue (i.e. close to zero); however due to the astounding breakthroughs in genetics, biochemistry, and microbiology since then, the line of the Y axis is now off the graph.
As Biochemist Klaus Dose wrote: “Experimentation on the origin of life…has led to a better perception of the immensity of the problem of the origin of life on Earth rather than to its solution.” Researchers Carl Woese and Gunter Wachtershauser concur: “While we do not have a solution, we now have an inkling of the magnitude of the problem.”
Why are researchers having such difficulties discovering a naturalistic Origin of Life? Let’s let the aforementioned and atheist microbiologist Eugene Koonin answer this question: “Certainly this is not due 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.”
Translation for the lay-person: Discovering how unguided naturalistic forces could assemble a living cell — a molecular machine that is more sophisticated and functionally complex than anything human technology has ever produced — is a problem of nightmarish proportions.
Imagine a LEGO set designed to build a model of the Brooklyn Bridge, with hundreds of blocks specifically designed to construct it; imagine you are then assigned the task of finding a pathway to a successful assembly of the model using only unguided, naturalistic forces (i.e. heat, lightning, sunlight, wind, radiation, etc.) Would you agree with Koonin and describe that as a problem of “extraordinary intrinsic difficulty”? Actually, Koonin’s description is quite appropriate for the LEGO problem, but is a gross understatement when we are talking about something as frighteningly complex as a living cell and its DNA-based genetic code and digital information processing system:
The living cell is best thought of as a supercomputer – an information processing and replicating system of astonishing complexity. DNA is not a special life giving molecule but a genetic data bank that transmits its information using a mathematical code. Most of the workings of the cell are best described as…information, or software. Trying to make life by mixing chemicals in a test tube is like soldering switches and wires in an attempt to produce Windows 98. It won’t work because it addresses the problem at the wrong conceptual level. (Dr. Paul Davies, Origin of Life expert, Physicist, Arizona State University)
When one dispassionately contemplates the enormous difficulties involved in a naturalistic origin of life, it is not surprising at all that one often suggested solution is Intelligent Design or Divine Creation. In fact, any number of world class scientists themselves have brought up the issue:
- “Abiogenesis [life from non-life] strikes many as virtually miraculous…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?” (Dr. Paul Davies)
- “[We have no naturalistic explanation for] the origin of life, which is unknown so far…As long as the origin of life can’t be explained in natural terms, the hypothesis of an instant Divine creation of life cannot objectively be ruled out.” (Dr. Christian DeDuve, Nobel Prize-Medicine, 1974)
- “There are only two possibilities as to how life arose. One is spontaneous generation arising to evolution; the other is a supernatural creative act of God. There is no third possibility.” (George Wald, Nobel Prize-Medicine, 1967)
- “Although a biologist, I must confess I do not understand how life came about…I consider that life only starts at the level of a functional cell. The most primitive cells may require at least several hundred different specific biological macro-molecules. How such already quite complex structures may have come together remains a mystery to me. The possibility of the existence of a Creator, of God, represents to me a satisfactory solution to this problem.” (Dr. Werner Arber, Nobel Prize-Medicine, 1978)
- “From my earliest training as a scientist I was very strongly brainwashed to believe that science cannot be consistent with any kind of deliberate creation. That notion has had to be very painfully shed. I am quite uncomfortable in the situation, the state of mind I now find myself in. But there is no logical way out of it; it is just not possible that life could have originated from a chemical accident.” (Chandra Wickramasinghe, mathematician, astronomer, astrobiologist – longtime collaborator of Sir Fred Hoyle)
- “Indeed, such a theory [Intelligent Design] is so obvious that one wonders why it is not widely accepted as being self-evident. The reasons are psychological rather than scientific.” “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with the laws of physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.” (Sir Fred Hoyle)
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “atheism” as “a disbelief in the existence of the deity” or “the doctrine that there is no deity.” If one approaches the Origin of Life issue “objectively,” as Nobel Prize-winning biologist Christian DeDuve put it, there is no way that any rational person can rule out the very real possibility of a Creator of life. It is certainly reasonable to suggest or raise the possibility that the reason why scientists cannot find a naturalistic answer is because there is no naturalistic answer. Perhaps the reason why many people deny Intelligent Design as the answer to Origin of Life is a psychological reason not a scientific reason, as Sir Fred Hoyle has suggested. Perhaps the reason why a “common sense interpretation of the facts” suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the universe, is because a super-intellect has monkeyed with the universe.
If a rational, truth-seeking individual is asked: “How did life begin; naturalistic, unguided forces or Divine Creation?” There are only two possible answers: (a) Divine Creation or (b) I don’t know, the jury is still out; but atheism – a denial of the existence of a Creator of life — is not possible anymore….unless, of course, as I stated in the title of this article, you are prepared to ignore science and scientists. And if so, you might just as well go and play children’s games and with children’s toys, like…..LEGO blocks.
Rabbi Moshe Averick is the author of Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused World of Modern Atheism (Mosaica Press, 2016) available on Amazon and in fine bookstores. He was ordained as an Orthodox Rabbi in 1980 and has taught Judaic studies, spirituality, and Jewish theology for over three decades. He may be contacted at: RabbiMosheDavidAverick@gmail.com. If you would like to subscribe to his column, send an email to above address with the word “Subscribe” in the subject line.