The Origin of Life: Intelligent Design?...Probiotic Soup?...or No Origin at All?

I've read a couple of times The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Now, as I read The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel, I find myself going back and forth between Strobel's and Dawkins's books to see how they disagree. As you can imagine, the subject of the origin of life is something these men have virtually no agreement on. Interestingly, I think they are both a little bit wrong. Joseph Smith had a better idea.

The Case for a Creator makes a pretty compelling case that for DNA and the various proteins of a single cell to work together in their complexity, an intelligent designer must have been involved. Dr. Stephen C. Meyer tells Strobel in an interview that
...to have reproduction, there has to be cell division. And that presupposes the existence of information-rich DNA and proteins. But that's the problem--those are the very things they're trying to explain.

The Case for a Creator, p. 231
Meyer goes on to explain the quandary as equivalent to a man falling into a deep hole, then climbing out and running home to get a ladder, then putting the ladder back in the hole so he can climb out for the first time.

Dawkins, obviously, has a different perspective. He looks at the statistical probability that life could have occurred from a "probiotic soup". It is estimated that more than a billion billion

Meyer goes on to explain the Darwinist origin-of-life quandary as equivalent to a man falling into a deep hole, then climbing out and running home to get a ladder, then putting the ladder back in the hole so he can climb out for the first time.

planets exist in the universe, and for life to begin, it had to only originate on one of these planets. I actually like those odds. Dawkins also asks that if someone designed all of this...who designed the Designer? This is the kind of thought pattern that gives me headaches.

One thing I appreciate from Dawkins's discussion of probability is that life is likely to exist in a multitude of other places

The belief in any one of these ideas requires an immense amount of faith, (1) in a creator arising out of nothing (ex nihilo), (2) in a probability that life could have spontaneously generated from a bunch of chemicals, or (3) that the universe and the intelligence in it is infinite and has always existed.

I'll go with number three, taking insights from the other two.

throughout the universe--something that I believe, but which Strobel and the Intelligent-Design advocates that he interviews are much less ready to accept.

Joseph Smith, the first president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, is not normally thought of as a scientist, but he was. If science is the proof of theories by the accumulation of evidence, Smith was one of the greatest scientists ever. Claiming to have visited on various occasions with (one of the) Master Scientist(s) of the universe, Smith taught us this insight:
Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
In addition, Smith taught
Is it logical to say that the intelligence of spirits is immortal, and yet that it has a beginning? The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end. That is good logic. That which has a beginning may have an end. There never was a time when there were not spirits...

I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man—the immortal part, because it had no beginning. Suppose you cut it in two; then it has a beginning and an end; but join it again, and it continues one eternal round. So with the spirit of man. ...if it had a beginning, it will have an end.

...God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself [because]...intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. It is a spirit from age to age and there is no creation about it. All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement.

The first principles of man are self-existent with God.
Then he went on to explain the purpose of it all. If we exist, it makes sense that there is a purpose, don't you think?
God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with Himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits.

This is good doctrine. It tastes good. I can taste the principles of eternal life, ...and I know that when I tell you these words of eternal life as they are given to me, you taste them, and I know that you believe them. You say honey is sweet, and so do I. I can also taste the spirit of eternal life.
So I think, in a nutshell, that Strobel is somewhat correct--there is an Intelligent Designer. But Dawkins also has a point, because there is also a sort of probiotic soup (or, rather "intelligence soup"), which has always co-existed with the universe (I never did like that Big-Bang thing).

Joseph Smith's ideas raise a lot of questions, but then whose ideas on this subject don't raise a lot of questions? Similarly, the belief in any one of these ideas requires an immense amount of faith, (1) in a creator arising out of nothing (ex nihilo), (2) in a probability that life could have spontaneously generated from a bunch of chemicals, or (3) that the universe and the intelligence in it is infinite and has always existed. I'll go with number three, taking insights from the other two.

That truth tastes good to me. And while I am intrigued by the writings of Dawkins and Strobel, their ideas don't have near as much tastiness to me than those of Joseph Smith, who claims to have gotten his ideas from the Source.

I'm glad for scholars like Dawkins and Strobel, and I'll keep studying their ideas, but my money is on Joseph Smith. However, regardless of what the actual truth is, I can't wait to find out!!




Comments

  1. "Dawkins also asks that if someone designed all of this...who designed the Designer? This is the kind of thought pattern that gives me headaches."

    I've always had a pretty philosophical/metaphysical bend. When I first put the entirety of the plan of Salvation together, it did make a lot of sense (God, like every other entity we know of, would of course want to propagate, to have his progeny grow up to be like him, and thus start the cycle over again). However, I also had thoughts like Dawkins. Who started this cycle? What is the point of this cycle? Is there some bigger picture? Or is the cycle nothing more than evolution writ large? Yes, if I thought about it too long, I did start to feel dizzy. Fun for late night conversations with friends, but not something I'd recommend dwelling upon, given the limitations of our moral minds.

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  2. If you support Intelligent Design, you should also consider supporting Intelligent Falling. ID and IF go hand in hand.

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  3. Derek,

    In Family Home Evening last night, we talked about this stuff. I love to challenge my kids' thinking, because it gets them asking all sorts of healthy questions and expands their minds a bit more beyond the physical limitations of their brains. We came to an agreement that it is somehow easier to believe that the universe and everything in its infinity has always existed, rather than to believe that it had a beginning out of nothing. We also agreed that the acceptance of this concept is one of the largest leaps of faith--that we'll just have to wait until (1) we can comprehend the answer, and (2) Heavenly Father reveals the answer to us!!

    The,

    I looked cursorily at "IF" on Wikipedia. I don't think I support it. I like this explanation from a book I read (I think it was "Evolution and Mormonism"): we have three choices, to wit: (1) that whenever something falls, it is caused by God, (2) that God created the law of gravity, by which things fall, or (3) that the law of gravity is a universal law, by which God himself must live. I agree with the premise of the book, which is that #1 does not make any sense, and that #3 makes the most sense.

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  4. Thank you for pointing out that even Dawkins' approach, though he asserts atheism, requires a great deal of faith, as do either of the other approaches you mentioned. Some that hold to Dawkins' beliefs would suggest that this approach requires no faith. They should be honest about it.

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