“That’s life,” sings Sinatra. Well, exactly what is life? We now know that all life, even the most “primitive” life, is amazingly complex. This week let’s look at perhaps the most stunning evidence of design in the universe, the origin of life. We will also look at the pseudo-science claims of some atheists that life could have arisen by chance.
Impressed by your digital toys – smartphones, computers, TVs, and more? Life began with digital technology – DNA coding — 3.5 billion years ago. Life’s digital technology is far superior; you could store the coding for every species that has ever existed in a spoonful of DNA, with perhaps enough room left over for every book that has ever been written.
Heard of work to build “3-D printers” – machines that take in pure information and build parts and items on command? Life began with 3-D printing 3.5 billion years ago. Life’s 3-D printers – ribosomes – use the information in DNA to snap together fantastically long chains of amino acids, and then to fold that chain into the shape required for the precise functional protein a cell has ordered to be created. Ribosomes are 3-D printers that manufacture parts for cells, and all life uses essentially the same technology to do that.
Do you think your computer or cell phone could have arisen by accident? All life, even primitive life, is more sophisticated. Your cell phone can’t reproduce itself.
Last week I gave a talk in Florida. A person in the audience suggested that, since we now know that some of the amino acids used by life can arise by chance, we can now explain the origin of life as having arisen by chance. That’s like saying that, if we can find a way the letters of the English alphabet could have been created by chance, then the works of Shakespeare could have arisen by chance. The amino acid experiment he was referring to – the Miller-Urey experiment of 1953 – was tremendously flawed, and both Miller and Urey later admitted that it did not explain the origin of life. Yet this sad experiment is still given in most high school textbooks as an explanation for the origin of life. I read of it in high school and, not knowing of the flaws, began my personal sad conversion to atheism, a conversion that took decades to reverse.
There is so much more to say on this subject. I’ve got a whole chapter in Counting To God on it. If someone thinks there’s a way to explain life without God, they should read Chapter 10.
In 1964 Yale Physicist Harold Morowitz estimated the odds of life arising by chance, at any time in the history of the universe, as one in a number with a hundred billion zeros. I have never seen that estimate challenged. In other words, it is more likely that you will win a Powerball lottery 10 billion times in a row than that life arose by mere chance.
To me the origin of life is a “chicken-and-the-egg” problem. To have life, you need to begin with both the chicken and the egg. You need to begin with ribosomes and other fantastic machinery to read and copy DNA and do all the other work of life, and the exact DNA code that those machines will use to build copies of themselves.
I’m often asked what is the one question you should ask an atheist who is trying to bully you with false science. That’s easy:
How did life begin?
Thanks for reading.