Friday, February 21, 2020

A Christian Worldview: How Did We Get Here? Part I

Earth is a very friendly environment for life, even in places that seem completely inhospitable. Virtually anywhere one goes on or near the surface of the planet, life is teeming. In the biosphere of this planet the chemical processes of life find a safe haven for their action and interaction. And yet, whereas biogenesis is rampant on the planet, abiogenesis is non-existent, not even in experiments designed in its favor. Is that a problem?

It isn't for me, but then I'm a believer in biblical creationism. For the atheistic evolutionist, however,  it is an insurmountable wall. If the evolutionist does not have a plausible, credible, demonstrable theory for how chemicals progressed from soup to life, they have nothing but a realization that species adapt because of breeding and mutation. They do not have an explanation for the origin of life, therefore no explanation for the origin of species, nowhere near an explanation of where we came from, and certainly no reason to pitch concerns about a Creator over us out the window.

There are really only two possibilities to explain the origin of life on earth: it arose by chance chemical reactions or it arose as the result of purpose. Those who favor atheistic or naturalistic explanations favor chance, folks of a more spiritual bent prefer purpose. The promoters of chance must embrace an existential nightmare springing from the meaninglessness of life, the promoters of purpose are faced with the weighty matter of whose or what purpose brought life into being. It seems to me the chance promoters have a bigger challenge that requires a greater faith!

The basic building block of life as we know it is protein, a polymer made up of varying units of some 22 different amino acids. Nucleic acids, enzymes, sugars, lipids, as well as liquid water, are essential, but everything truly alive is made of protein. The precursor molecules of these organic materials have been shown to self-assemble in both natural environments and experimentally, so it seems a simple matter to serendipitously get the right zap, and presto chango, life sparks into existence. But that didn't happen, it couldn't have happened, it will never happen because it's impossible. Why?

Probabilities for one thing. Life, even in its simplest forms, is actually very complex. It's not just the order of elements in biochemical compounds that matters, it's also the shape of the molecule. Chirality, as much as anything else, is what allows the proper shape to be possible: in living things amino acids are left-handed, sugars right-handed. To function in the processes of life, compounds must be made of the right stuff in the right order and in the right shape. If not, processes go wrong or don't function at all.

That said, what of the probabilities I mentioned? Given a rich chemical soup containing an infinite supply of amino acid residues, the odds of a single, specific, small (150 residues long) functioning protein self-assembling is more than astronomical--1 in 10 to the 1064th power (my thanks to Dr. Meyer). To get a sense of that magnitude, there may be no more than 10 to 86th atoms in the entire universe! Even if there were natural, chemical ways in which these odds could be lessened they still would not become anywhere near probable, and we're only talking about one, small protein. Life requires multiple proteins, generally much longer.

The likelihood of one small, specific, functioning protein self-assembling in a chemical soup is, for all intents and purposes, impossible.

RNA-world theories hardly fare any better. Order in sequence is still necessary for function, particularly since protein synthesis is ultimately required to produce life as we know it. Even if the can is kicked down the ally a way, it still has to be picked up to clean up the situation. From my layman's perspective, the specificity of functioning proteins is still the hurdle (biologically and probabilistically) that a naturalistic origin of life must get over, even if starting with RNA. Self-assembling the thing that could code the assembling of a functioning protein is, if anything, more improbable than a functioning protein assembling itself.

I cannot see where experiments that demonstrate RNA's capacity for "natural selection" demonstrate anything other than RNA's replicative capacity. Has that not been understood since we've known about RNA? Those capabilities do not mitigate the probabilities involved. They certainly don't address the twin peaks of specificity and function. The truth is that the only thing we know for sure about the generation of life is that it takes life to make life. 

Given the extreme complexity in the chemistry of the cell and the time available for random sampling in any chemical soup (whether for proteins or RNA) the odds of useful, functioning, biochemicals self-assembling by chance are so insignificant as to be impossible. If all the universe were nothing but the chemicals needed, put into the most advantageous environment imaginable, the odds for self-assembly by chance would not be reduced significantly enough to change the impossibility. Life was undoubtedly created on purpose.

And even if one does not buy into purpose, the fact that life isn't coming into existence naturalistically on Earth now still has to be dealt with. The environment is very friendly now given the ubiquity of life now, and yet new life isn't spontaneously developing so far as anyone can tell. Whatever was happening to start life on Earth isn't happening now, despite how life-welcoming Earth is. We only see the unbending rule that life arises from life.

Naturalistic explanations for life's likely singular origin reach for scenarios that properly belong in the realm of imagination. The Bible, on the other hand, sets forth the scenario we see in reality--life was started at some point in the past and then ceased coming into existence--and it did so long before anyone ever did a scientifically sound abiogenesis experiment or knew just how ubiquitous life was. According Genesis 1:31-2:3, God exerted creative force in putting all creation into place, with all of its life, and then he ceased from his creative work. No more energy or mass and no more life was created afterwards.

Truth comports with reality.

Therefore, a Christian worldview perceives everything, including life, as arising from the hand of God on purpose. That is how here got here and that is how we got here. We all are creations purposefully made by God and our existence is lived in the light of our Creator who is over us. Are you ready to live life knowing there is a God who purposefully made you and to whom you must answer? Are you ready for truth?

Part II...