The Origin of Life

The more I learn about science, the more wonderful God’s handiwork seems. To think we have nothing to learn from science would be very narrow-minded. But scientists can be narrow-minded too. Sometimes ignorance of theology leads to them drawing illogical conclusions about God from their research.

After 30 years of research Professor Stanley Miller of the University of California claims he has reproduced a process basic to the creation of life. The theory is that the naturally occurring chemicals hydrogen, methane and ammonia (also present on other planets in the Solar System) when exposed to lightning and ultraviolet radiation (from sunlight) could produce a self-replicating (reproducing) chemical which is the first form of life.

His latest research suggests that, before life began, these chemicals formed another called urea on the edge of evaporating pools. Experiments show that in these pools of urea other chemicals would be formed which are necessary  to the production of RNA (ribonucleic acid). RNA is one of the building blocks of living creatures. It stores and conveys genetic information from DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), another basic building block of living things. Conveying this information is essential to the formation of proteins.

Professor Miller had previously experimented with mixing pieces of RNA in a way which simulated what may have happened early in Earth’s history and he created a chemical which bonds carbon to nitrogen, a process basic to life. But he admits that there are many gaps in scientific knowledge about this area of research. 

In 1976 Professor Richard Dawkins wrote a book called The Selfish Gene. This described all living things, including humans, as machines controlled by the need of their genes to survive and reproduce themselves. Dawkins is credited with having persuaded more people to accept evolution than any other person. 

Recently he published another book, River Out of Eden, in which he seeks to demolish one of the creationist’s favourite objections to evolution, namely the question: what use is half an eye? Usually the creationist adds there hasn’t been enough time (4,500 million years) for such a complex organ to develop.
Dawkins dismisses both questions as merely based on the feeling that if one can’t understand it, it must be impossible. He continues that any kind of light-sensitive organ would be useful even if it weren’t a complete eye. He describes recent experiments which, he claims, prove a complete eye could evolve from an area of light-sensitive skin in fewer than 400,000 generations. This is fewer than half a million years in the case of small animals which reproduce annually. He adds: “It is no wonder that the eye has evolved at least 40 times independently around the animal kingdom. There has been enough time for it to evolve from scratch 1500 times in succession.”

He holds that modern genetics can explain how the human body has evolved because of the coded message carried in the DNA of every living cell. DNA consists of long chains of just four chemical compounds. All of life on Earth shares the same genetic code and the odds against this code arising twice by chance are calculated as one in a million, million, million, million, million! So, says Dawkins, we are surely all (humans, animals, insects, plants) descended from a single “ancestor”. He also believes humans all descend from an “African Eve” who lived less than 250,000 years ago.

One approving review of his book ends with the words: “There are, alas, no million-dollar prizes available for writers who show that there is no evidence that God exists.” 

True, say I, because there is no evidence that such writers exist! Does Dawkins really believe that biology alone could provide evidence for the existence of God? If so, this is surely grossly to overrate the importance of his subject.

Does he really believe that, even if he were to demonstrate (in a laboratory or on computer) that  genetic processes explaining the origin of humans could take place this proves that they did take place in the world? He would prove no such thing.

Furthermore, does he really believe that, even if he could explain scientifically how humans could have developed, this does away with God?  This is not logical. If, for the sake of argument, he did discover the scientific explanation of human origins, Christians (and others) could still logically claim that he had merely discovered God’s method of creation.

© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction