The things I’m asked: Has science made God obsolete?
The idea that God creates everything was somewhat beaten back in 1953 when Harold Urey and Stanley Miller, researchers at the University of Chicago, introduced electric sparks into a mixture of gas and water that simulated the early atmosphere of Earth. After a few days, the water discolored with a mixture of a few simple amino acids. Since amino acids are the building blocks of protein, the basis of all life, some people have argued that the idea of God is redundant. Sudden circumstances can disrupt the existence of amino acids. The mystery of the birth of proteins and life has been solved.
Alas, this is not the case. Leaving aside the rather obvious fact that God started with nothing – no laboratory, no vials, no chemicals, no physical laws – the fact is that while making amino acids is relatively easy, making proteins that can sustaining life is incredibly difficult.
To build a protein, you have to put the amino acids in the right order precisely. Since a typical protein consists of two hundred amino acids, the probability of making a protein by chance would be equivalent to spinning a slot machine with two hundred wheels, each with twenty symbols (to represent twenty of the most common amino acids), then get the winning combination.
You don’t think that’s a big deal? Let me explain. This would require you to spin the wheels more times than there are atoms in the universe.[i] And if that’s not enough, there must be a sophisticated organization that will protect the acidic environment of DNA from the alkaline environment of proteins. (A living cell is much more than a drop of soup!)
So it would seem that God is not redundant after all.
British philosopher, Anthony Flew, says we must ask ourselves, “How can a universe of mindless matter produce beings with intrinsic purposes, self-replicating abilities and ‘encoded chemistry?’
Notwithstanding his atheistic beliefs, English physicist and astronomer Fred Hoyle wrote that the probability that chance alone was responsible for making the simplest of living cells was about the same as that of a tornado sweeping through a junkyard and putting together a Boeing 747 jet plane. .[ii]
British philosopher Anthony Flew says we must ask ourselves, “How can a mindless universe of matter produce beings with intrinsic ends, self-replicating abilities and ‘encoded chemistry?'[iii] He goes on to ask why living matter has “an inherent purpose or end-centered organization, which is nowhere present in the matter that preceded it.”[iv]
It’s a good question, but we have to be careful. When we talk about living matter having “intrinsic ends” and “an inherent purpose”, we are not talking about evolution. Evolution is blind. He’s not trying to go anywhere. It simply selects for mutations that help an organism adapt to a particular ecological niche. Flew is about something deeper than evolution. It talks about why life developed in the first place and did so in a universe where time is linear.
British cosmologist Paul Davies points out that life is more than complex chemical reactions. The living cell functions according to coded information. As such, the cell is “a system for storing, processing and reproducing information”. He goes on to say, “The problem of how meaningful or semantic information can emerge spontaneously from a collection of senseless molecules subjected to blind, aimless forces presents a profound conceptual challenge.[v]
Flew reminds us that there is “no law of nature that commands matter to produce self-replicating end-directed entities.”[vi]The fact that he does so is therefore a mystery. He goes on to quote Nobel Prize-winning physiologist George Wald as saying, “We choose to believe in the impossible: this life arose spontaneously by chance.[vii]
Flew concludes that “the only satisfactory explanation for the origin of such ‘end-directed and self-replicating’ life as we see on earth is an infinitely intelligent mind”.[viii]
And that’s not a bad conclusion from a man who was the leading philosopher of atheism in the second half of the 20andcentury.
[i] Bill Bryson, A Brief History of Almost Everything (London: Doubleday, 2003), 254.
[ii] Fred Hoyle, “Hoyle on Evolution,” Nature, 294 (12 November 1981), 105.
[iii] Anthony Flew with Roy Abraham Varghese, There is a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind (New York: Harper Collins, 2007, 124.
[v] Paul Davies, “The Origin of Life, II: How Did It Begin?” http://aca.mq.edu.au/PaulDavies/publications/papers’OriginsOfLife_II.pdf.
[vi] Anthony Flew with Roy Abraham Varghese, There is a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind (New York: Harper Collins, 2007), 131.
[vii] Same. 131.
[viii] Same. 132.
Dr. Nick Hawkes is a scientist, pastor, apologist, writer and broadcaster. He also describes himself as a distracted, slightly obsessive man, pathetically weak from cancer and chemo, who has experienced and needs to experience God’s grace every day.
Nick wrote a book Fly over the storm in which he draws on his cancer experience to encourage anyone going through a storm in life to find rest and hope in God. It offers a 40-day retreat to recharge and strengthen and find deep peace in God. Order it from Koorong.
He blogs and records podcasts at nickhawkes.net
Nick told his life story to Eternity https://www.eternitynews.com.au/good-news/deadly-storms-heroin-addicts-cancer-and-my-faith/