Before I launch into my question I think this topic needs some background.
I mistakenly sat down to watch an episode of Through the Wormhole with some Christian family members last night. The episode was about the scientific origins of life.
Eventually I vanished to fetch something from the kitchen and on my return I heard them having a discussion about it, trying to reconcile the science with their religious views. This conversation is as verbatim as I can get it.
Speaker 1: Science isn't proof of anything. They'll never find the origins of life because God breathed life into every living thing.
Speaker 2: I must admit I'm quite open to the scientific explanations of things but understanding amino acids and proteins and such doesn't explain how I came to be here. I am "John." How did I become "John?"
Speaker 1: All these experiments are creating is stuff, lots of bits of stuff.
Speaker 2: Exactly. And no matter how much this stuff replicates all they'll end up with will be piles of stuff. Only God can breathe life into this stuff to create "John."
Speaker 1: And you can hear when they talk that it's all speculation and assumptions. They always use words like "could, would, should, might, maybe."
I didn't join in the conversation because I was eavesdropping quite intensely at this point, but I did wrack my brains for a bit as to how I would answer these questions if they were posed to me. I'm not a scientist but I am completely in love with science, and comments like "science doesn't prove anything" really sits poorly with me.
How would you answer the question: How did "piles of stuff" become living organisms?
And how would you approach the last comment in the dialogue above?
In the question/answer portion at the end of this talk, Dawkins addresses it. I must say, I'm no science geek so I didn't completely comprehend it, but it had to do with RNA.
Thanks :) Unfortunately I don't have sound on my pc at work but I will check it out at home asap.
Yes, but we all know the theists ... every damned one of them ... will just say
"Yes, but ... but ... but ... this couldn't happen NATURALLY! It was obviously intelligently designed if you had to create it in a lab!"
Then we atheists would just have to 'sigh'.
These sort of questions always come back to one source - what was before the big bang?, how did the constants of the universe, such as laws of physics and mathematics come about?, how did the first living organism come to be?, and how does consciousness fit in? as far as I know - those questions are still un-answered.
therefore, the answer to such a question isn't defending science, but rather asking if these gaps in our knowledge must require a creator in order to explain them. my view is - no. the gaps that science has yet to close are all open questions, and speculation regarding them is open. in that specualtion, god is one option among many.
but more importantly, even if we were to accept the need for a creator in explaing gaps, whose to say that creator is jesus christ and not any other of the thousands of other gods man has made up over the years?
i think this is the more powerful question, since the former is purely speculatory. but identifying the "creator" with a specific deity who has likes, dislikes and rules - that's something that's alot easier to confront.
Everyone's answers have been incredibly helpful (and humorous), thanks so much :) This has really helped me.
I'd have no direst answer to the question. It is, as some have pointed out, difficult to ascertain because of the immense number of variables. That, and the conditions under which life began are also somewhat difficult to determine. What exactly was taking place on pre-life earth?
My best suggestion is that life on earth isn't accidental, or guided by a god. The simple truth is that it has been orchestrated by the laws of physics and rules of nature. No accident there. Simply because we don't "understand" at this time, with the limited capacitites of the human mind, doesn't mean it impossible or improbable. But hey, if I can't wrap my little mind around it, it must be an omnipotent being.
bwaaahahahahaha - Hilarious! :)
The truth is, nobody really knows how life began. The prevailing scientific explanation is known as "abiogenesis".
Abiogenesis theorizes that early conditions on primitive Earth were chemically conducive to the formation of amino acids (the "building blocks" of life). Given the size of the Earth and a billion years, the "primordial soup" was huge enough and had plenty of time to combine the chemicals necessary for organic compounds, like amino acids, to form. How self-replication and metabolism evolved from organic compounds is a matter of speculation. But it's not so hard to imagine if you consider that the "laboratory" was the size of the Earth and had eons to randomly stumble on the right combinations.
I know this is a less-than-satisfactory answer but, as I understand it, that's the best that science has come up with (though somebody might explain it much better than I).
Thanks :) I like your response.
There is a different mindset at work here. The nonscientific mind will always dismiss scientific answers. They are biased towards understanding the world in terms they are used to experiencing it. Unless they can began to appreciate (not even grasp, just appreciate) the vast time scales involved with making a "John", they will never get it. Until they begin to have some understanding about how complexity arises naturally and through Natural Selection over these vast time scales, they will never get it.
The problem is not that you don't have the answers, per se. The problem is that they are not equipped to understand them. They can't see beyond their limited, human scope. Science would help their vision, but some people are even too blind to see that. They prefer a lie told with certainty and which comforts their simple worldviews.
Your silence and intent listening of this conversation reminds me of a saying; "a wise man can learn more from a fool than a fool can from a wise man". Or, in this case, a wise woman.
The bone yards are littered with the ones that didn't make it (Didn't/couldn't evolve). If we did make it, It was not through divine mandate but sheer tenacity and changing (Evolving) to meet the need. If there is no need, No challenge to survival, Then organisms change very little.
Piles of rejects also had their origins from "Piles of stuff". At the moment, We are the piles that made it. lol
no matter how much this stuff replicates all they'll end up with will be piles of stuff.
Exactly. But not exactly for the reasons that you have laid out Speaker #2. There was a time when a cell was the smallest thing. Then we got do to the nucleus. then we found the atomic level, and it goes on and on. The truth is that we are just stuff. No matter how special you feel, you are simply stuff. The same stuff that science experiments with. Your real question about how you became "John" is a combination of genetics which is basically how your ancestors assembled their stuff transferring down to you in a strikingly similar way, but with just a few differences that are unique, largely because you have two lineages combining into one. The other factor is environment or nurture. How were you raised? What were you taught? Again, part of this goes back to how your grandparents, great-grandparents and further had their stuff organized. Were they warriors? Where they farmers? Some of that is nature, and some of it is nurture. But the experiences that you enjoy and don't enjoy are largely that way due to the people around you. If you are from the West, you likely could care less if someone insults Muhammad. If you are from Saudi, it can be deeply personal. So you, John, are simply stuff and experiences. There is no evidence of you being anything more, including the remnants of God's morning coffee breath.