February 1, 2015 | David F. Coppedge

Chance as Evolution's God

Astrobiologists and their reporters completely ignore probability in their belief that life began by chance.

Item: some planets appear to be have grown around old stars. Conclusion: life must have happened a long time ago on those planets. This is the thinking of an article on New Scientist by Lisa Grossman, who admits that, to her, the creative agent behind DNA, molecular machines and proteins was chance.

The Old Ones were already ancient when the Earth was born. Five small planets orbit an 11.2 billion-year-old star, making them about 80 per cent as old as the universe itself. That means our galaxy started building rocky planets earlier than we thought….

Since, as far as we know, life begins by chance, older planets would have had more time to allow life to get going and evolve. But it was unclear whether planets around such an old star could be rocky – life would have a harder time on gassy planets without a solid surface.

Indeed, given materialist assumptions, what else could assemble life? Natural selection, even if it possessed the creative power evolutionists confer upon it, could not operate before reproduction (see explanation). Any incipient life would be blind to natural selection until a cell could replicate all its parts accurately. Anything prior to that must have arisen by chance. For this reason, many astrobiologists step around the hurdle of the origin of the first cell, concentrating their research on what happened after, assuming that natural selection could work all the subsequent miracles. For example, an astrobiologist quoted by Space.com says,

There is, and still needs to be a lot of work done on chemical evolution, prebiotic (pre-life) evolution, extreme environments and bio-signatures,”Rosenzweig said. “It struck me that it might be worthwhile trying to convince NASA to add to its research portfolio a set of proposals focused on understanding the genetic basis underlying major evolutionary transitions that have led to higher-order complexity“.

So in 2015, after over a century of speculation since Darwin, astrobiologists still cannot account for the origin of life. Because natural selection is not available before the first cell, some evolutionists claim that the origin of life is a separate issue outside of evolutionary theory. Here, though, Rosenzweig used the terms “chemical evolution” and “prebiotic (pre-life) evolution”. Such terminology is not uncommon in evolutionary literature.

Grossman’s confession of faith in chance, given enough time, recalls a controversial quote by George Wald from Scientific American in 1954: “Time is in fact the hero of the plot. Given so much time, the ‘impossible’ becomes possible, the possible probable, and the probable virtually certain. One has only to wait; time itself performs the miracles.” (Cited by Creation.com). James F. Coppedge called attention to this quote in Evolution: Possible or Impossible? (1973, 1991) and showed it to be false by calculating the probability of getting even one gene or protein by chance under extremely favorable conditions. The probability is so low, it could not be expected to occur even one time, anywhere, in 10171 times the age of the universe. Similar conclusions have been reached by Fred Hoyle, the Wistar Institute, Stephen Meyer (Signature in the Cell), and others.

To invoke chance as the origin of life represents a leap of faith so blind, and so unscientific, it exceeds the credulity of the wackiest cult on earth. “Miracle” is too gentle a word for an event that is inconceivably improbable. In any other case where a highly complex object is observed (such as a computer), chance would surely be rejected as a cause. It’s inaccurate to even consider chance a “cause.” It’s actually the absence of causality.

So why would New “Scientist” allow this unscientific, acausal, mathematically impossible statement to be published on their website? In short: chance is all a materialist has. By rejecting design at the outset, secular scientists restrict reality to particles, forces, natural laws, chance, and time. Grossman surely knows that no natural law will assemble life from simple molecules; the laws of thermodynamics ensure that. Crystals and other repetitive structures can form by natural law, but life is built from aperiodic informational macromolecules that perform coordinated functions. The only avenue for life, to a materialist, is chance.

Grossman’s admission is not an isolated case. In Science Magazine, Tim Wogan also expressed faith in chance, using the synonym “haphazard”—

On ancient Earth, the earliest life encountered a paradox. Chains of RNA—the ancestor of DNA—were floating around, haphazardly duplicating themselves. Scientists know that eventually, these RNA chains must have become longer and longer, setting the stage for the evolution of complex life forms like amoebas, worms, and eventually humans.

Wogan discusses Dieter Braun’s hypothesis that hydrothermal vents provided suitable locations for concentrating “nutrients” and supplying energy. But that’s not the problem. Coppedge envisioned a model environment far more conducive to life than this, and yet the origin of a single protein or gene was still ridiculously improbable beyond human comprehension. Meyer’s book reached similar conclusions. For a theory of life’s origin to considered scientific, chance must be rejected as a hypothesis.

That’s why adding ingredients or putting them in nicer incubators will not make a baby or a baby cell. If chance is the only resource for the materialist, none of these considerations matter:

  • Planets outside our solar system more hospitable to life than thought (PhysOrg)
  • Sweet! Deep-Space Sugars May Reveal Clues About Origins of Life (Live Science)
  • Cosmic Impacts May Have Seeded Early Earth with Ingredients for Life (Space.com)

All of that is irrelevant. Coppedge stipulates 14 conditions in his model to make it easy for chance to succeed in creating a protein. Some of his conditions are so favorable to chance, they are totally unrealistic, such as assuming all 20 amino acids were present in the same place, in the same time, in the right concentrations and only in the left-handed form (see pp. 105-109 in ch. 6).  He even modeled them combining into chains at fantastically rapid rates, with the process stopping if the chain hit Bingo! and a usable protein resulted. These concessions for chance are far more generous than anything any astrobiologist has ever proposed. The result, using well-known laws of probability, was still hopeless. Getting one protein by chance was 1 in 10161. This means it could never happen, anywhere in the universe, in the entire age of the universe. The clincher is that a single protein is not alive. And each subsequent protein, of the hundreds needed for the simplest imaginable cell, would be even more improbable. Science must face reality; it’s just not going to happen by chance.

Yet Grossman glibly says, “as far as we know, life begins by chance”. Stop right there. Who’s “we”?

Materialists are not really physicalists. They are pantheists. We see it in the carefree imaginary world of Grossman and Wogan, where haphazard collections of atoms seem to want to self-organize, like droplets coming together into a Terminator. We see it in Bill Nye’s statement that “We’re the product of stardust, brought together by gravity—we’re at least one of the ways that the universe knows itself. That, to me, is astonishing.” The only thing he got right is that last word. It’s astonishing, all right, to believe that a mindless universe wants to know itself. It’s astonishing to think that blind nature and mindless particles produced his mind.

Our problem in this long, drawn-out evolution vs. creation controversy is not data. The data support design. The math rejects chance. The problem is political power and money. Since the days of Darwin’s X-Men, materialists invaded scientific institutions by propaganda and subterfuge, because they hated having to consider God. They mastered the media and the courts, using incidents like the Scopes Trial for cause celebre purposes, to create emotional hype against creation”ism”. They used the “warfare hypothesis” of “science vs. religion” to promote a “feeling” that science must be materialistic. This attitude took over scientific institutions, courts, academia and the press. It is considered anathema for any “scientific” institution or reporter to yield an inch to creationism. The bias pre-rejects any concept that might favor creation or might jeopardize Darwin’s view of the world. So now we have NASA paying people to say stupid things that violate the laws of probability, because chance is the only permissible tool in the materialist toolkit. “One only has to wait. Time itself performs the miracles.” How can a person of reason compete when power protects the absurd? The deck is stacked against skeptics of materialism. The consensus for global warming is soft compared to the Darwinian consensus. But we must keep on.

It is imperative in lopsided contests like this that the minority in the right not give ammunition to the wrong. I cringe when I read statements by well-meaning creationists on Twitter, or in the comments after pro-Darwin articles, that are uninformed or unwise. We need growing numbers of articulate, knowledgeable spokespersons who have more than just motivation; they need a knack for strategy. The more that ill-equipped talkers take it upon themselves to represent creation or criticize evolution, the more they give the materialists an opportunity to shoot at straw men and mock. This only reinforces their bigotry.  If you are motivated but not equipped (e.g., not well-read in philosophy and logic, not trained in science), wait until you are equipped. Better say nothing than give creation a bad name. Read the best books. Learn from the wise. Practice with good mentors before running out onto the field like a barefoot army of one.

If you are equipped and motivated, then put your best foot forward. What enemy would respect a soldier coming against them dressed in tattered clothes? Have some class. Do you have a website? Make it the best, most attractive one you can. Do you have a Twitter account? Make it respectable, not silly. Learn how to express things with clarity, using appropriate levels of scientific or philosophical language that come from knowledge, without bluffing. If you don’t understand a scientific concept, study up on it before responding. Study our Baloney Detector so you recognize fallacies and will avoid using them. Don’t return insult for insult, or mocking for mocking. As one wise apologist said, appeal to their intellectual integrity without pandering to their intellectual arrogance.

Materialism should be the easiest worldview to refute, because it refutes itself; but it is well-funded and guarded in a castle with high walls. Solomon said, “A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust” (Proverbs 21:22). The right strategy is to find the biggest weakness, and focus energy on that. Don’t get sidetracked into lesser matters. That’s what atheists do: they use a splattergun approach, trying to draw you off onto rabbit trails about difficult Bible passages, god-of-the-gaps, the “scientific method” vs “faith” and other pet topics of theirs. The subject of this article should be a good one to focus on: the inability of chance to create even a protein or one gene, let alone life. Stay on defensible ground till you get them to agree (or admit to their ignorance) on the central issue. Other questions can be addressed fairly after the “stronghold in which they trust” has collapsed, and they sense the vulnerability of their position. Do it with grace and humility as far as possible. Sometimes, though, tough love requires standing up to bullies (e.g., Paul in Cyprus, Acts 13). Demand civility before letting them continue. Once you have their attention and respect, you can have a productive conversation.

One other piece of advice: when dialoguing with an arrogant anti-creationist, please don’t just make assertions about your beliefs, like “all the fossils were laid down by the flood” or “the Bible is God’s word.” An assertion is not an argument. Such assertions will invite predictable ridicule about your “unscientific faith”. In turn, demand more than assertions from your materialist opponent, too: ask, “Do you have an argument?” or “That’s an interesting speculation; do you have any evidence for it?”  Engage your opponent by making arguments with irrefutable evidence, from secular sources he cannot dismiss. Take your stand on what you both consider solid ground. Don’t get distracted from the central issues. Paul’s dialogue with the Athenians on Mars Hill (Acts 17) is a good model.  You won’t make an impression until you earn their respect. Often, just asking the right questions goes a long way to taking the hot air out of their balloon so that you can have a meaningful dialogue. We need a large number of wise, knowledgeable, courageous, persistent workers in this cause. Consider your role, take action, and trust God for the outcome.



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  • John C says:

    Abiogenesis. The Elephant in both rooms! It is stuck in the doorway between Stellar and Cellular Evolution. The two rooms communicate without connecting. I had not heard this coming from the cosmological side, but it makes perfect sense to leave the angry elephant alone!

  • rockyway says:

    ”Since, as far as we know, life begins by chance, older planets would have had more time to allow life to get going and evolve.”

    – Many people don’t seem to know the difference between philosophy and science. The claim ”life begins by chance” has nothing to do with empirical investigation… and in fact contradicts all that we really know; namely that life only comes from life. The chance claim has nothing to do with discoveries made by scientists, but is rather a philosophical (apriori) assumption.

    – The OOL experiments of the last century have only confirmed Pasteur’s discovery… and militate against any ‘chance’ (whatever that is) explanation for the origin of life.

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