Q: Archbishop J, why do you believe that God exists (part 3)?
Modern atheism and the conflict between faith and science reached a crescendo with the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, in 1859. Darwin argued that although species and their parts look like they have an intelligent design, this is just an illusion.
What looks like purpose and design is the result of many natural selections that have brought the most efficient design to the fore through a purely undirected process. What looks like design is really natural selection.
Before Darwin, enlightenment philosophers, among them David Hume, had already dismissed the argument of design as a ground for religion, based on sophisticated arguments.
Now Darwin created a further rift between science and religion: science holding to evolution as the explanation of all that exists; religion holding to creation and God who intervened in the Big Bang bringing space, time, and matter into being.
This unhappy coexistence has caused many a young person to ask the natural question: Which of these is true?
Unfortunately, for most of the time, since Darwin’s publication, people have argued for the truth of one claim against the other. This has led science to pronounce on metaphysics, thus proclaiming there is no God. It also brought religion to pronounce on science, which was not always a prudent thing.
As the African proverb goes, “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” Science may only reasonably pronounce on the observable. God is not in that realm. We will discuss this in a subsequent article.
We have seen that from the perspective of cosmology, time, space, and matter came into being at the Big Bang. We have also seen that nothing is set in motion without a cause. At this point science has a fundamental question to answer: Who ignited the Big Bang? How was it set in motion?
When we turn to life and its origin, there are more fundamental questions to answer, including: How did the first simple living organism come into being?
The origin of life
As the debate stands: Was life brought into being by chance or by intelligent design? If we can prove that life came about purely by chance, then God as creator is thrown out of the window and religion with it.
If it could be proven that the chance argument is improbable or, even better, highly improbable, then the conversation about God remains on the table. This is the core issue.
In this article I am following the logic of Stephen C Meyer in his Signature in the Cell: DNA and the evidence for Intelligent Design, 2009. All my technical information is taken from this work unless stated otherwise.
Meyer stumbled into the field by attending a conference of top scientists. For him, on the point of the evolution of the species, it is improbable to speak about chemical evolution producing life on its own, without outside help. The math does not support this theory.
For species to have an origin, life had to first happen. So let us look at the simplest primordial one-cell organism. The fundamental question is, where did the first single cell organism come from?
Sir Fred Hoyle, mathematician and cosmologist, calculated the probability of producing all the proteins necessary to produce a single cell organism. The number is staggering—1 in a 1040,000 (Chapter 9).
Meyers concludes: “The probability of producing the proteins necessary to build a minimally complex cell—or the genetic information necessary to produce those proteins—by chance is unimaginably small.”
The best explanation of the emergence of the first simple single cell organism is that there was a prebiotic soup, with all the elements just right, out of which the first simple cell emerged. Meyer devotes the whole of chapter 9 to demonstrating how absurd this hypothesis sounds.
But let us go below the single cell to the constitutive parts—the DNA, RNA, and the protein molecules. We have all become very familiar with the image of the DNA molecule—the double helix. This is the most basic building block of life. Science has found that DNA not only communicates but it also stores information. This is a game changer. Think of a computer that stores and communicates. But the DNA does one more thing, its communication brings things into being. This is very different.
The best analogy that I can give is a computer sending information to a 3D printer that then brings an object into being. The big difference is that the communication in the DNA brings living organisms into being and a subtle difference in communication can produce a very different organism. Also, it is supposed to achieve this with no programmer.
This is how Meyer describes it: “…the chemical parts of DNA (the nucleotide bases) function like letters in a written language or symbols in a computer code. Just as letters in an English sentence or digital characters in a computer program may convey information depending on their arrangement, so too do certain sequences of chemical bases along the spine of the DNA molecule convey precise instructions for building proteins. Like the precisely arranged zeros and ones in a computer program, the chemical bases in DNA convey information in virtue of their ‘specificity’.”
As Richard Dawkins notes, “The machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like.” Software developer Bill Gates goes further: “DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created” (Chapter 1).
DNA is built on a four-letter alphabet that is used to communicate and build proteins. Proteins have their own alphabet of 20 characters. It is the interplay of the DNA and protein that gives specific instruction to build specific forms of life. All living organisms, from the simplest to the most complex, like us, are built from these basic building blocks.
Here is the question: How did no intelligence give birth to intelligent communication in the most fundamental building block of life?
The communication system between amino acids, proteins and DNA are far more complex and sophisticated than any computer programme or software that we have invented.
The first living organism had a sophisticated communication process that brought into being specificity and thus diversity in all living things. Where did this sophisticated communication system come from?
This is the question that science cannot answer.
If we look to the basic building blocks of life—DNA, RNA, proteins, and amino acids we see a very sophisticated communication system that brings new species into being through the communication process. Where did the first DNA, RNA and protein come from?
Look at Stephen Meyer YouTube videos and follow his reasoning. Keep an open mind and listen to the case for intelligent design.