The Moment Scientists Become Anti-Science
The scientific method is one of the most remarkably accurate tools for comprehending our reality. But when it comes to using it for origin of life, some scientists jump ship.
By Moshe Averick
Important Introductory Note for the Reader: The purpose of this article is not to present a case for Intelligent Design nor to argue that the Origin of Life enigma is definitive evidence for the existence of a Creator of life. The purpose is to document that most atheist/materialists have a definitively anti-scientific attitude when confronted with the challenge of explaining how life could have emerged from non-life through an unguided naturalistic process.
Point #1: It is an indisputable fact that scientists haven’t the slightest idea how the yawning chasm between non-life and life could have been crossed through an unguided process:
“The origin of life is one of the hardest problems in all of science…Origin of Life research has evolved into a lively, interdisciplinary field, but other scientists often view it with skepticism and even derision. This attitude is understandable and, in a sense, perhaps justified, given the “dirty” rarely mentioned secret: Despite many interesting results to its credit, when judged by the straightforward criterion of reaching (or even approaching) the ultimate goal, the origin of life field is a failure – we still do not have even a plausible, coherent model, let alone a validated scenario, for the emergence of life on Earth. Certainly, this is due not 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.” - The Logic of Chance: The Nature and Origin of Biological Evolution, Dr. Eugene Koonin (Upper Saddle River, NJ, FT Press, 2011, pg. 391)
Origin of Life expert Dr. Paul Davies from Arizona State University, put it this way in a 2010 lecture on the subject: “How? [did life begin] We haven’t a clue.”
Point #2: Not only is the Origin of Life field a failure, but it has actually moved backward in the last 70 years by many orders of magnitude. Nobel Prize-winning chemist, Dr. Ernst Chain, wrote the following in 1945:
“I have said for years that speculations about the origin of life lead to no useful purpose as even the simplest living system is far too complex to be understood in terms of the extremely primitive chemistry scientists have used in their attempts to explain the unexplainable that happened billions of years ago.” Dr. Ernst Chain, Nobel Prize – Medicine, 1945 (The Life of Ernst Chain: Penicillin and Beyond, (R.W. Clark, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London (1985), pg. 148)
Image: Dr. Ernst Chain, Wikipeida.org
Fast forward to 2012: The Origin of Life Gordon Research Conference: “The origin of life on Earth, and its possible existence elsewhere in the universe, offer some of science’s greatest unsolved problems” (from the website: Gordon Research Conferences – Origin of Life Conference, January 2012, Galveston, Texas)
….and in 2013: The Origin of Life Gordon Research Conference: “Originating Life in the Lab, 7:30-9:30 pm - Ok. Maybe we cannot solve the historical question: How did life actually arise on Earth. Can we originate some of our own life by “intelligent design?”… (Description of a session to be held at the Gordon Research Conferences – Origins of Life Conference, January 2014, Galveston, Texas).
In 1945 scientists were clueless about the Origin of Life, and in 2022 they remain clueless. However, over the past 70 years, with the incredible breakthroughs and advances in microbiology and genetics, their understanding of the magnitude of the problem that needs to be solved has grown exponentially. The following were written in 1988 and 1989, respectively:
“More than 30 years of experimentation on the origin of life in the fields of chemical and molecular evolution have led to a better perception of the immensity of the problem of the origin of life on Earth rather than to its solution. At present, all discussions on principal theories and experiments in the field either end in stalemate or in a confession of ignorance.” – Dr. Klaus Dose
Image: Dr. Carl Woese, https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/news/carl-woese-nt-times-feature/
“In one sense, the origin of life remains what it was in the time of Darwin – one of the great unsolved riddles of science. Yet we have made progress…many of the early naïve assumptions have fallen or have fallen aside…while we do not have a solution, we now have an inkling of the magnitude of the problem.” (Carl Woese, Microbiologist, and Gunter Wachtershauser, Chemist - “Origin of Life” in Paleobiology: A Synthesis, Edited by Briggs and Crowther, Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1989)
…and in 2010: Dr. Milton Wainwright: “So much has been written about the Origin of Life that it might seem that little else needs to be said. Despite the lack of conclusive or convincing evidence, it is generally accepted that life originated on Earth from simple chemicals…Are we getting any closer to an understanding of the origin of life?... The reality is that, despite the egos of some, the existence of life remains a mystery. It is not merely that biology is scratching the surface of this enigma; the reality is that we have yet to see the surface!”
Point #3: In light of all of the above, any rational truth-seeking individual must at least acknowledge that the notion of a Creator of life is a reasonable possibility that warrants serious discussion.
Nobel Prize-winning biochemist, Dr. Christian DeDuve wrote the following in 2009:
“[We have no naturalistic explanation for] the origin of life, which is unknown so far. It thus remains permissible…that life was flipped into being by a Creator…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.”(The Genetics of Original Sin, DeDuve)
Nobel Prize-winning biologist Dr. Werner Arber: “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 macromolecules. How such already quite complex structures may have come together remains a mystery to me. The possibility of the existence of a Creator, or God, represents to me a satisfactory solution to this problem.” (From Cosmos, Bios, Theos: Scientists Reflect on Science, God, and the Origins of the Universe, Life, and Homo Sapiens – Part 2, Chapter 2)
In other words, any objective-minded person, to borrow Dr. DeDuve’s phrase, must consider the possibility of a divine creation of life. Yet other than a few notable exceptions, non-believers, in a decidedly anti-scientific manner, reject the possibility of, and consideration of, the existence of a Creator:
Dr. George Wald, Nobel Prize-winning Biologist: “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…a supernatural creative act of God; I will not accept that philosophically because I do not want to believe in God. Therefore, I choose to believe in that which I know is scientifically impossible; spontaneous generation arising to evolution.” (Scientific American, 1954)
Dr. Harold Urey (mentor of Dr. Stanley Miller), Nobel Prize-winning chemist: “All of us who study the origin of life find that the more we look into it, the more we feel it is too complex to have evolved anywhere. We all believe as an article of faith that life evolved from dead matter on this planet. It is just that its complexity is so great, it is hard for us to imagine that it did.” (Christian Science Monitor, 1/4/62)
Dr. George Whitesides, Chemist, Harvard University: “Most chemists believe as I do, that life emerged spontaneously from mixtures of molecules in the prebiotic Earth. How? I have no idea.” (from his speech upon receiving the Priestley Medal for Chemistry, 2007)
Dr. Alexandre Meinesz: “In sum, all of these vestiges of very ancient life provide no precise clues to the place, time, and mechanism of the genesis of the first living organisms. Therefore the currently popular idea that life probably arose in warm, subsurface waters along a mid-ocean ridge…is a hypothesis without any scientific basis…no transition process between inorganic matter and bacteria has been found in nature…it is a fact that at the beginning of the third millennia, we cannot yet describe and illustrate the processes and the stages in the genesis of bacteria. The exact time and place of the spontaneous generation of the first bacteria remain unknown…we must humbly recognize that…the birth of life on Earth is only an unsupported hypothesis; all research trying to confirm it is at an impasse. It is just an idea…that has been taught. This idea has become a dogma.” (How Life Began, Alexandre Meinesz, University of Chicago Press, 2008. p. 30-33)
Dr. Euan Nisbet: “Life is improbable, and it may be unique to this planet, but nevertheless it did begin, and it is thus our task to discover how the miracle happened.” (Professor of Geology, University of London)
Dr. Robert Hazen, Mineralogist: “How did life arise...? Barring divine intervention, life must have emerged by a natural process – one fully consistent with the laws of chemistry and physics…Scientists believe in a universe ordered by natural laws; they resort to the power of observations, experiments, and theoretical reasoning to discover those laws…Scientists surmise that life arose on the blasted, primitive Earth from the most basic of raw materials: air, water, rock. Life emerged nearly 4 billion years ago by natural processes completely in accord with the laws of chemistry and physics…” (Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life’s Origin, Robert Hazen)
Dictionary.com: Surmise: “To think or infer without certain or strong evidence; conjecture, guess” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/surmise?s=t)
Dr. Jerry Coyne, Evolutionary Biologist: “Nope, we don’t yet understand how life originated on Earth…I’m pretty confident that within, say, 50 years, we’ll be able to create life in a laboratory under the conditions of primitive Earth,” (from his blog “Why Evolution is True”)
Dr. Iris Fry, (non-believing) Philosopher of Science, Tel-Aviv University: “This paper calls attention to a philosophical presupposition coined here “the continuity thesis”…this presupposition, a necessary condition for any scientific investigation of the origin of life problem has two components. First, it contends that there is no unbridgeable gap between inorganic matter and life. Second, it regards the emergence of life as a highly probable process… The various principles of continuity might indeed push forward the experimental investigation of the emergence of life; as such, they do represent the heuristic [educational] advantage of the continuity thesis. However, the decision to adopt the continuity thesis is a philosophical one…and this decision does not depend on the success of a specific experimental program, nor can it be revoked on the basis of its failure.” – In other words, it is a non-falsifiable postulate accepted without any evidence for its truth.
…Dr. Fry continues: “In addition, I identify the rivals of the [continuity] thesis within the scientific community – “the almost miracle camp.”…This camp [includes Nobel Laureates Jacque Monod and Francis Crick, famed biologist Ernst Mayer, and philosopher of science Sir Karl Popper] regards the emergence of life as involving highly improbable events…The basic philosophical assumption underlying the “almost miracle” notion becomes apparent once we learn that for Crick, the emergence of life was “a happy accident.” (“Are the different hypotheses for the emergence of life as different as they seem?” – Dr. Iris Fry, Biology and Philosophy, October 1995)
Dr. Jacque Monod, Nobel Prize-winning biochemist on how life could have possibly come from non-life: “Our number came up in the Monte Carlo Game.”
Conclusion: What is glaringly absent when atheist/materialists discuss the Origin of Life is empirical or experimental scientific evidence. What they offer us is the following:
Monte Carlo games
Highly improbable events that occurred at some unknown time billions of years ago
Non-scientific phrases like “I’m pretty confident.”
Non-falsifiable axioms based on an arbitrary “decision.”
“I have no idea.”
Surmise, conjecture, speculation
Tautologies like “barring divine intervention, life must have emerged through a natural process”
(Please note, there are only two possibilities to begin with. Of course, if you arbitrarily reject one, only one possibility remains. Try this on for size: barring natural processes, life must have emerged through divine intervention).
Hypotheses without a scientific basis
Articles of faith
Remarkably irrational statements like: “I do not want to believe in God; therefore, I choose to believe in that which I know is scientifically impossible.”
And last but not least: “an idea that has become a dogma.”
Call this what you will, but one thing is certain: It has nothing to do with science.
About Moshe Averick
Moshe Averick has taught theology, spirituality, and religious philosophy for nearly 30 years. He is known for his singular ability to explain complex topics in clear, understandable language and - to borrow the description of one University of Chicago-trained philosopher of science – his "wicked" sense of humor. He was also a floor trader in the S&P pit at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and wrote and produced an album of spiritual acoustic rock, Feet on the Ground. He is the author of Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist.