Another excerpt from my new book What Your Atheist Professor Doesn’t Know (But Should):
The common scientific view of the “hardware of life” (that is, the physical components of living systems) is, as Biologist Richard Dawkins puts it, “the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” (The Blind Watchmaker, 1986).
Unfortunately, Dawkins (like many others in his field) has succumbed to a logically fallacious assumption that a supernatural explanation is not within the “pool of live options” to explain this appearance of design. Why not? Well, to summarize the common opinions of materialists like Dawkins, it’s “not science”. But what is “Science”?
Louis Pasteur once said “Religions, philosophies, atheism, materialism, or its opposite–none of these is relevant to the matter…I might even add that, scientifically speaking, I am indifferent to them all. The question is purely one of fact”. In other words, science should be “the un-biased search for truth” without philosophical preconceptions. That definition was always the ancient understanding of the term.
Since the so-called “Enlightenment” that swept through Europe in the 1700’s, and especially since the proposal of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in 1859, however, intellectual activists have been trying to add the qualifying concept of “within naturalistic explanations” to the definition. What that means, in effect, is the addition of a bias to the search for truth.
This bias first “got its legs” from the writings of an apparently bitter atheistic Scottish philosopher named David Hume in the 1700’s. Hume proposed a set of reasons why the supernatural should be ruled be ruled out of consideration as an explanatory mechanism. Not long afterwards, these reasons were shown to be fallacious (we’ll examine this in a later chapter), but at the time, it was as if Europe was eager to unfetter itself from religion, and atheism blossomed somewhat throughout the continent.
Most modern philosophers (even agnostic ones) find Hume’s arguments to be almost laughably illogical, but many atheists unknowingly cite him today as if he was “the Christ” of their belief system. For a full-length treatment of this subject, see John Earman’s book Hume’s Abject Failure, but suffice it to say for the moment that modern humankind has nowhere near a broad enough scope of reality to eliminate the possibility of the supernatural. To the contrary, there are many things in our experience that defy naturalistic explanations.
The philosophical name of the most common scientific form of atheism is “Materialism”, and it claims that not only is there no God, but that there is nothing even like God in the universe.
Although it has taken root within the Biological sciences, it has done so to a much lesser extent within Astronomy, Philosophy, and Physics. Many Americans would probably be surprised to know that polls show that the percentage of PhD’ed scientists overall who identify themselves as Christians and who go to church is roughly the same as the percentage in the population at large. Unfortunately, the small minority who identify themselves as atheists is much louder and more aggressive though, so they exert a disproportionate influence on the media, academic standards committees and the like.
Luckily for all who respect unbiased inquiry, many Philosophers who are experts in logic by definition (logic being a subset of Philosophy), have objected vociferously, especially in the past 40 years, to this effort, and have recognized that the scientific method is at stake. As I wrote before, it seems that the key element that catalyzed this mindset since the late 1800’s is Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Biologists became so enamored with it over the years that they invested heavily in deepening and entrenching their paradigms based on that assumption, and are not willing to consider that major problems have developed within it. Pride in Biology, and a reluctance to admit being wrong might be a factor. One has to wonder if there are spiritual and carnal reasons that admitting the mere possibility of the existence of the metaphysical is so daunting to some. Since Darwinian Evolution seems to be the lynchpin of this type of thinking, let’s take a hard look at it.
The concept of life arising from non-life by random chance (the first step needed for Darwinism to get started) is called “abiogenesis”. This concept is the “creation story” of Darwinian Evolution. But what are the odds of the building blocks of life coming together by random chance in a way to provide even the possibility of life? Harold Morowitz, an agnostic Yale University physicist, created mathematical models by imagining broths of living bacteria that were superheated until all the complex chemicals were broken down into basic building blocks. After cooling the mixtures, Morowitz used physics calculations to conclude that the odds of a single bacterium reassembling by chance is one in 10 to the 100,000,000,000th power. (1)
Wow! How can we grasp such a large statistic? Well, it’s more likely that one would win the state lottery every week for a million years by purchasing just one ticket each week!
In response to the probabilities calculated by Morowitz, Robert Shapiro, author of Origins – A Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth, wrote:
The improbability involved in generating even one bacterium is so large that it reduces all considerations of time and space to nothingness. Given such odds, the time until the black holes evaporate and the space to the ends of the universe would make no difference at all. If we were to wait, we would truly be waiting for a miracle. (2)
Sir Frederick Hoyle compared the probability of life arising by chance to lining up 10 to the 50th power (ten with fifty zeros after it) blind people, giving each one a scrambled Rubik’s Cube, and finding that they all solve the cube at the same moment!
The Biological “Hardware” (Complex Structure) Argument
1. According to a leading Darwinist, the odds of component parts in close proximity assembling into a single-celled creature are 1 in 10 to the 100,000,000,000th power.
2. According to probability theorists, anything with lower odds than 1 in 10 to the 50th power is mathematically impossible.
3. Therefore, the spontaneous generation of life is mathematically impossible.
1) Eastman and Missler, The Creator Beyond Time and Space, 76-77.
2) Robert Shapiro, Origins — A Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth, 1986, 128