May 2020

All of us would like to have certainty regarding knowledge, and yet, certainty is rarely afforded to us. Most of what we believe to be true, we believe on the basis of probabilities. Unfortunately, many people, being too desirous of certainty, are led in one of two bad directions: skepticism, dogmatism.

An inordinate desire for certainty leads some down the skeptics’ road, always doubting everything and never willing to make a knowledge claim that falls short of certainty (or something very close). For others, their desire for certainty leads them down the road of dogmatism, closed-mindedness, and intellectual dishonesty. In their quest for certainty, they are unwilling to entertain any ideas that would call their current beliefs into question. They respond vehemently against anyone who holds to a view contrary to their own. They argue, not to discover truth, but to defend their dogmatic certainty.

While the desire for certainty is understandable, we cannot allow it to lead us in either of these directions. We must be willing to take a position based on the evidence we have, while recognizing that we could be mistaken. We also need to be willing to consider other evidence and other points of view, and be willing to change our opinions if the evidence warrants it. In many cases, we should be less dogmatic, acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of our view. For example, I hold to Premillennialism, but I’m not anywhere near certain that it’s true. As a percentage, I’m only ~65% convinced that it is true. That’s enough for me to claim it as my view, but not enough for me to be dogmatic about it. While I would love to have certainty regarding all of my beliefs, certainty is rarely afforded to us. In light of that, we need to do our best to form our opinions based on the evidence available to us, but always be open to revising our opinions if the evidence warrants it.

We detect design in a number of ways: the purposeful arrangement of parts, specified complexity, and irreducible complexity. All of these features are present in the biological world, and thus it is reasonable to conclude that life was designed by some intelligence. The most likely candidate for such an intelligence is God. If you are an atheist, this option is not open to you. So you have to explain how life could arise through purely natural processes without the aid of a mind.

This is a tall order. To see why, just consider what it would take to form just a single, small protein consisting of 150 amino acids by chance alone. The odds of such a protein forming by chance alone is 1 in 10164. That means you would only get one functional protein for every 100 million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion attempts (assuming that each attempt tries a unique combination of amino acids). Written out, that is 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 attempts. What are the chances of this happening?

The actual conditions on the early earth make this very unlikely due to the low numbers of amino acids and harmful contaminants. So let’s increase the chances by stocking the oceans to capacity with amino acids (all atoms on earth including carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and sulfur so that there is enough materials to form 1041 complete sets of amino acids used to build proteins) and altering the laws of nature to protect these building blocks from harmful ultraviolet light and chemical contamination. And let’s say it only takes 1 second to form each protein chain attempt, resulting in 6,000 million billion trillion trillion combination attempts every minute. After 4.6 billion years (the estimated age of Earth), there would have been 1058 attempts made to build a functional protein. While that’s a lot, it is nowhere near the 10164 needed.

How much time would be needed, then? Imagine an amoeba that travels round trip across the entire length of the universe (90 billion light years in diameter) at a pace of one foot per year. It would take 10 billion billion billion years for him to make the round trip (1,000 million trillion miles), and yet, no functional protein would form by the time he returned. To make things interesting, on the next trip the amoeba transports a single atom to the other side of the universe, drops it off, and returns to his starting point. Would a protein have formed during this second trip? No. So the amoeba transports more atoms, one by one. The amoeba would be able to transport every atom in the entire universe (100 million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion atoms, and hence, 100 million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trips) – not just once, but 56,000,000 times over the course of 56 million billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion years before chance would finally produce one small functional protein.[1] And yet, even after all that time and effort, there would still be no life because the simplest life requires at least 1500 proteins (among many other biological parts). The amoeba would have to transport 84 billion universes atom-by-atom before all 1500 proteins would form to create the simplest living organism (84 billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion years).

This is why chance cannot explain the origin of life. Life is based on highly specified information. Functional proteins are extremely rare. To create all of the proteins necessary for life requires an intelligence who knows how to arrange the chemicals in a functional manner without having to try every possible combination. It’s similar to writing a book. If we had to rely on chance to create Moby Dick it would take countless eons, but an intelligent mind can arrange the letters in the precise order needed in months or even weeks. Likewise, chance alone cannot account for the origin of life in such a short period of time. The only known cause of information is mind. Only personal, intelligent agents are capable of producing highly specified information such as we find in the biological world, and thus it stands to reason that a personal, intelligent agent created life.


See also:

Signature in the Cell, Part 4: Assessing the Chance Hypothesis for the Origin of Life

The origin of life is not a lottery


[1]Origin: Design, Chance, and the First Life on Earth. Video, Illustra Media, 2016. Excerpted from 21:30 – 28:07. The illustration was adapted from the work of Dr. James F. Coppedge in Evolution: Possible or Impossible?.