Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Origin of Life: No Naturalistic Explanation

There's an interesting article posted at Scientific American--it's been up for months and I've wanted to blog about it, but only now had a chance.

Entitled "Pssst! Don't tell the creationists, but scientists don't have a clue how life began,"the essay basically lives up to it's title.  John Horgan, a researcher in origin of life studies (OOL), admits that the field is at an impasse and has been at an impasse for twenty years.  However, he resists the implication that the inexplicable origin of life points to intelligent agency, especially divine agency.  Divine explanations are flawed, he says: "What created the divine Creator? ... At least scientists are making an honest effort to solve life's mystery instead of blaming it all on God."

There are a couple of ironies in the piece, which is worth reading.  First of all, almost all "creationists" already know that OOL research has reached a dead end.  It's been a staple of creationist arguments for fifty years if not more.  The folks who don't realize how bankrupt OOL research is tend to be poorly-informed Darwinists who have been persuaded by Richard Dawkins or someone similar that naturalistic evolution provides an answer to all life's questions.

Secondly, Horgan's concluding sneer about God just shows a lack of philosophical education.  God is by definition a self-existent or "necessary" being.  The universe is obviously not self-existent: it requires a cause and an explanation.  One of the arguments for the existence of God is: since everything that we observe is contingent (caused by something else), must there not logically be something (which we call God) which exists of itself, which gave rise to everything observable?  Otherwise we would have an infinite regression of causality, which is illogical and impossible.

To say, "What created God?"--which is a line from Carl Sagan, by the way, although he may have borrowed it from someone else--is to fail to understand the concept of God.  There are arguments against the existence of God, but this is not one of them.


Anonymous said...

I hate to admit that I actually read some of your nonsense.

John Bergsma said...

If you really hated to admit it, you wouldn't have commented.

cameron said...

I am not a "creationist" in the commonly used sense of the word but have long realized that the scientific explanations offered for the origins of life are as convincing as Shelley's Frankenstein. You can't get more from less. From inanimate matter you get inanimate matter, compounding the elements and infusing them with electricity makes no difference. And experimentation has shown this.

I find the same problem in neuroscience's attempts to give a materialistic explanation of consciousness and thought.

ABehm said...

Someone once said, "Hydrogen is the simplest and most basic element. One that, given enough time, will eat, crap, and analyze itself.

Gabriel Austin said...

Trying to get at the origins of life is like trying to get outside of the universe. Or to be conscious of oneself before the moment of conception.

Peter Medawar mocked such efforts.

Francis Crick opined [finally] that life must come from outside the universe.

John Bergsma said...

Thanks for your feedback, folks.