Science in Christian Perspective




Johannesburg, S. Africa

From: JASA 18 (June 1966): 59.

A common argument in favour of the existence of a deity is that scientists cannot explain the origin of life on earth. Scientists, of course, cannot explain, in any ultimate sense, the origin of anything. All they can do in the case of living things is to try to explain them in terms of how they are built and of what they are built and thus how they come to behave in certain ways. This leads to explanations largely in terms of physics and chemistry, which may resolve themselves into explanations in terms of protons, electrons, etc., which may be described as "ultimate particles". It seems that no final explanation on these lines will ever be possible, for what are considered ultimate particles at any particular stage of scientific advance will always be, at that point of knowledge, inexplicable in themselves.

Most biologists assume that life arose on earth as the result of a rare concatenation of circumstances, i.e. because the physico-chemical conditions were "just so". And it is assumed that if these conditions, or something closely approximating to them, should exist on some other planet, life will have arisen there too.

How does God fit into this picture? "God" is the reason given by theists for the existence of the world (or cosmos), which he is said to have created ex nihilo. The "something" which came out of the "nothing" was presumably the present universe, which is made up of primary particles, of which God alone knows the ultimate nature. But, given this nature, primary particles, it seems under certain circumstances undergo chemical evolution leading to the first forms of living things, which in turn undergo further transformations by organic evolution. (Why kick against the pricks? Evolution as a general principle in biology must be accepted.)

Thus the origin of life should be no more mysterious than the origin of protons and electrons. Those who can accept ultimate particles without assuming the existence of God but insist that God is a necessary prerequisite for the origin of life, are not being very consistent.

Atheists, and theists of the modern school, who accept evolution, both chemical and organic, as part of nature, share a logical outlook on the world, and they can agree to differ. But fundamentalists who accept the theories of physical scientists without question but jib at the theories of biologists are definitely an anachronism in the modem world.