Let us consider the question
Is life too complex to have arisen by itself?
Or alternatively, one could ask
Is the Universe too complex to have arisen by itself?
The same arguments can be applied to both questions, so I will concentrate on the first one for now. There are some who insist that life, or the Universe, are such amazingly complex things (which is true), that it stretches credibility to believe that they could have arisen by accident (or a series of accidents). The odds are just too great against such a thing happening; there must have been something more purposeful that brought them about.
First of all, can such a question be answered by science? Some people immediately think it cannot. But let us see whether we can at least give it a try. After all, science is about confronting the tough questions, not about shying away from them. If you simply avoid a question by saying it is somehow “beyond the scope of science”, then that is just a cop-out.
So, the original question, as posed, could have a “yes” or “no” answer. If you answer “no”, then you are agreeing with the prevailing scientific view that the laws of nature themselves were sufficient for such phenomena to arise, without any need of some kind of “divine intervention”.
But what about those who claim the answer is “yes”? That life is too complex to have arisen by itself?
In science, you are free to start with whatever assumptions you like. However, those assumptions must lead to consequences that can be tested, to see if they coincide with reality or not. So let us consider the consequences of a “yes” answer.
If life is too complex to have arisen by itself, then it must have been created by someone, or something. Let us call this the “Creator Entity”.
What can we deduce about the nature of this Creator Entity? For a start, it had to have been more complex than life itself. After all, how could something simpler than life itself have given rise to life itself?
So then the question naturally arises: how could such a complex Creator Entity have arisen by itself? The odds against that must surely be even greater than life having arisen by itself, without assistance from such an entity.
So you see, trying to claim that life is too complex to have arisen by itself does not really bolster the case for the existence of such a Creator Entity. All it does is lead you to the conclusion that “life is too complex to exist”, which is patently false. We’re here. We’re alive, and we exist.
At this point, the pro-Creator faction tends to introduce ever-more-implausible assumptions to bolster their theory. There is a term for this in science: when you have to add even more unsupported assumptions to shore up a collapsing theory, it is called “circular reasoning”.
But let us take such claims a little more seriously, for the moment. A more detailed scientific analysis would clarify the reasons why their assumptions make sense or not.
One key one is the idea of “miracles”: that the Creator Entity is capable of actions that completely defy the laws of science, and that is how they were able to create life without falling victim to their own implausibility argument.
This sounds like it lets the pro-Creator faction completely escape from the necessity of any kind of scientific justification for their beliefs. This idea, too, can be analyzed scientifically.
First of all, what is a “miracle”? Let’s try one definition:
A miracle is any phenomenon which violates all accepted laws of science.
But this is a very weak definition. It leaves open the possibility that a miracle that happened at one time turns out to be explicable in terms of subsequently-discovered scientific ideas which only became “accepted” after the miracle happened. Really, you want a definition of “miracle” that endures, so a miracle once remains a miracle forever, no matter what science may discover, now or in the future. So let us drop that word “accepted”:
A miracle is any phenomenon which violates all laws of science.
Now, this definition has consequences. For example, consider the question: how often do miracles occur? Do they occur only rarely? Perhaps only under “special” circumstances?
But that sounds like they are obeying laws of some kind, that restrict them from happening willy-nilly.
But if they are obeying laws, then that means they are not miracles at all, but some kind of phenomena amenable to scientific study.
This leads us to an important conclusion:
In a Universe where miracles can occur, they must occur, all the time.
In other words, in a Universe where miracles can occur at all, then everything that happens must be a miracle. You cannot have a mixture of things happening, some of which are miracles and others which are not. Any kind of hybrid of miraculous and non-miraculous Universe implies limits on when and where miracles can occur.
This leads to the further conclusion that, in such a Universe, nothing must be scientifically predictable. Because everything that happens would be violating anything we might think of as a scientific law.
So how does this match up with the Universe we do observe ourselves living in?
In our real Universe, lots of things are scientifically predictable. But the fact that anything is scientifically predictable at all leads us to the conclusion that there can be no miracles in our Universe.
In other words, the remaining things we can’t predict cannot be the consequences of miracles, but merely of natural phenomena we haven’t understood yet.
And remember, this goes for the origin of life, too.
Created 2021 January 7 by Lawrence D’Oliveiro.