Science in Christian Perspective




From: JASA 19 (March 1967): 19-26.

The teleological argument for God has been clouded by the indiscriminate reading of purpose into all biocentric circumstances. To rescue it from this abuse, we must first concede that physical (as opposed to biological) reality is necessary instead of designed and that the Creator has sought out nutritive environments (like earth) instead of deliberately fashioning them, Far from being designed, the amino acids were at hand at the origin of life, and the biocentric properties of water (hailed as teleological by Henderson) merely reflect the uniqueness of the hydrogen bond, while those of hydrogen in turn reflect a cosmological necessity.

If the physical realm leaves the teleologist cold, however, the biological realm displays in its history the imprint of a Selective Cos7nic Mind - encoding the DNA molecule and, through snowballing processes which span the gap from quantum to molar levels, originating the qualitatively new structural plans described in Schindewolfs  palaeontology.

To many a Christian philosopher who cultivates an interest in science, the physical and biological realms provide intriguing documentation of the nature and character of God; i.e., they provide the empirical data from which he reads out a natural theology, as he reads a revealed theology from the Bible. Moreover, just as we need a hermeneutics for the study of the Bible, we also need to develop principles of interpretation for the reading of creation's meaning; for all too often we misread her meaning or claim to find meaning where none exists.

One of the closest common analogies to the problem of reading nature's meaning is that of the archaeologist who reads his history or pre-history in the cultural artifacts - architecture, pottery, art objects, tools - which he finds. But an artifact is, by definition, something fashioned after some pattern in the mind of the maker - a very improbable type of order having been imposed upon the raw material. If God is then in any sense a Person, we must watch for pattern and order in nature as we search for evidences of the Master Artisan, i.e., for His artifacts.

There are many kinds of order, however, as Schrbdinger has shown in his little book, What Is Life?1 Even the normal curve has an orderly shape, though it actually depicts utter disorder. Hence natural theology must be discerning in its appeal to order as evidence for God. The attempt to read a theology in such statistical phenomena as the second law of thermodynamics or the virial theorem is therefore a dubious procedure which may yield merely a "God of the Law of Averages," a concept singularly uninspiring, at least to me.

The order gracing some of nature's crystals is more inspiring; yet here, too, the pattern seen is the result of a random process which merely reflects, on a molar scale, the polarity of the individual atoms. If these are Divine artifacts revealing, as has been claimed, the Creator's sensitivity to artistic values, this would be because of His design of the atom rather than of the crystal itself. Yet we shall find reason to doubt the presence of purposiveness even at the atomic level, inasmuch as the elements themselves are the necessarv product of random processes occurring, as we believe today, in the centers of ultra-hot stars.2

In due time these considerations will be further examined; but meanwhile, let us hasten to add that there is a type of order, I believe, in which we can read a natural theology. it is in the nucleic acids of the chromosomes, i.e., in the genes of the DNA molecule, in the aperiodic order of the bases along its chain - an order as different from those of which we have been speaking as a carefully patterned garden is from a chaotic patch of weeds. These are the IBM cards, as it were, which completely program the development of the organism. While the concept of randomness dominated

*Lawrence H. Starkey is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Alma College, Alma, Michigan. Paper delivered at the 20th Annual Convention of the American Scientific Affiliation, August, 1965, at the King's College, Briarcliff Manor, New York.

our earlier types of order, the DNA molecule displays a type of order dominated by the concepts of "meaning" and "selection." This is why the word "code" comes most naturally to mind when speaking of these aperiodic DNA sequenceS.3 And because such sequences are hard to explain except in terms of a mind which orders the bases as an author orders his words, I believe it is here, and perhaps here only, that the concept of Divine ordering finds valid application.

A word of caution is needed, however, even with respect to this type of order: for, in any individual organism, these genetic patterns are borrowed and new chromosomes are formed by non-vitalistic, random processes, so that the problem of how these patterns originated is a palaeontological issue, involving those rare occasions thinly dispersed through the long history of organic development when new Baupldne (or structural patterns) suddenly arise.4 For, apart from these extremely rare transformations, the Biblical dictum "after its kind" prevails in extremely mechanical fashion as the DNA molecule untwines itself and the processes of reduplication transpire. Let us tentatively assume, then, that, apart from God's contact with us through Holy Writ and through His I-Thou encounter with us as persons, the most straightforward instances of His action in the world are those witnessed, as it were, by the palaeontologist as he unearths evidences reflecting the sudden appearance of some brand new biological structure - a new type of tooth pattern, a new geometrical schema for the generation of septa, or the sudden appearance of large new associational areas in the brain.

But how about His action, if any, in the physical world as over against the biological realm? Is His purpose discernible in the types of order arising in the physical universe, which provides the cosmic setting for the drama of life? It is only fair to warn you at the outset that, if a critical hermeneutics of nature is applied at this point, we shall uncover here the limbo of many pet theories of natural theology. We shall seek in vain, for instance, the supposed purposiveness in the great 19th Century concept of "the order of nature," defended in detail as late as 1937 by F. R. Tennant,5 i.e., in the order displayed in such things as the laws of physics, and the trajectories of the planets. In short, I hope to show that the student of natural theology should work in the biological rather than in the physical sciences.

Before Plunging into these problems, however, let us first clarify several useful philosophical terms. Let us distinguish, for example, two types Of purposiveness: 6 Purposiveness, Pg is defined as "goal-directed activity."
In this type of purposiveness no questions are asked about how the mechanism or organism became capable
of goal-directed activity; such capabilities may, in fact, have arisen by random processes and have been preserved by natural selection. Purposiveness, Pi, however, is defined as "goal-directed activity governed by the
selective action of a mind which intends to achieve the goal," thus the i in Pi Clearly, the purposiveness of a
personal God is Pi, though that of Wieman's "Divine Creativity" could well be merely Pg.

If there are thus two kinds of purposiveness, there are also two kinds of necessity. Necessity, Nm, is that type of niathematical necessity in which purely geometrical or formal considerations exclude the possibility of any alternatives. It is conceivable, for example, that a purely geometrical proof could be given that a cosmological model whose space has the curvatures actually observed to occur in the vicinity of dense material masses must necessarily be that of a closed, finite, Riemannian universe. I claim only that such a proof fs conceivable, not that it has been done. The other type of necessity, Np, or physical necessity, is that by which no alternatives are possible because the stage is so set that the causes are already in operation which inevitably lead to one and only one result. A certain type of star composed largely of hydrogen provides a case in point, for example, because these stars, wherever and whenever in the universe they are found, always generate in their ultra-bot centers the same stew of elements from helium through iron with which we are familiar in the periodic table.7 There is apparently some physical necessity in the nature of these stars an~ in the laws of nuclear physics which decrees that these shall be the only types of material atoms capable of existing in a universe which begins as a cloud of hydrogen gas.

These definitions may be summarized in the form of a table as follows:

In a manuscript not yet published,8 I have endeavored to survey the overall cosmic development as known to modem science discriminating carefully between those features manifesting either mathematical or physical necessity and those to which we may ream sonably impute purposiveness. In this endeavor I am greatly indebted to Hocking for stipulating three conditions which every situation must fulfill before we may confidently impute purpose, Pi, to it.

In the first place [he writes], the result must have some assignable value.... In the second Place, there must be some evidence that the process tends to preserve what it has produced. ... But even yet, we would hardly have enough ground to assert purpose unless we could, see that the nwans by which the result was brought about were somehow selected from many other possible sets of causes, and not merely random combinations of events.9

We shall find, in particular, that much teleological thinking collapses under the third criterion - that many alternatives must subsist from which the selection could have been made; for no situation governed by necessity, no matter how goal-directed, P 91 it may be, can be shown to be pbrposive, Pi, i.e., it cannot be directly attributed to God.

The implication, involved in my survey of the cosmos, that even in God's creation some things may be purposive and some things not may at first seem irreverent and heretical. But creativity as we know it in human affairs always operates within certain necessary limits. Hence, the concept of an artifact combining purpose and necessity is not at all incongruous. The bow of William the Conqueror, for example, was an ordinary physical object, composed of raw materials arising for the most part from the necessities of nature. But 'W y, writes Hoeking,

Is it just so large? There is no mechanical answer, but purpose explains it at once. It must be stout enough to defy all other arms: it must be not so stout as to defy his own.10

The artist, like the craftsman, always operates in a medium, something usually given by nature, which be molds to express his purpose. Yet we do not claim that nature intended, Pi, that the medium would be so used even though it may be very apt, Pg, as in the case of dyes made from the bodies of scale insects. Hence, we do not impugn the glory of God the Supreme Artisan when we suppose that He works in a medium whose properties stem from necessity, Nm, and/or Np, and not from'His design, Pi. Adapting a concept from modern theology, we shall therefore argue that there is a non-teleological Given with which God works11 - apparently a very refractory medium, since His work has taken so many millions of years.

The key materials in the Artist's medium are, in this case, the amino acids and the nucleotides - the building blocks, respectively, of the proteins and the genetic materials DNA and RNA. Several years ago, Miller presented experimental evidence in which amino acids arose automatically or of necessity, Np' from electrical discharges in a simulated primitive-earth atmosphere.12 Recently adenosine triphosphate, life's energy carrier, has been synthesized in a somewhat similar manner by Carl Sagan.13 Hence, we may consider that these building-block substances were present to God at the origin of life in much the same way that woodlands, water, soils, and herbs are available to a man pioneering in a new land.

Let me stress the fact that the purposiveness of intent, Pi, is not discernible in these building blocks (amino acids and nucleotides), since they fail to satisfy Hocking's third criterion which stipulates, in effect, that the phenomenon must not be necessary. But these are produced by ordinary chemical reactions whose repeatability witnesses to their necessity, Np. Hence anyone attempting to read Divine design, Pi, in the type of order exhibited in these substances must regress to the simpler gases of the primitive atmosphere - to the water, methane, carbon dioxide, etc., of Miller's experiment - and try to show that these simple molecules are somehow purposive.

Many years ago an impressive attempt to do just this was made by Lawrence Henderson in a highly acclaimed book entitled The Fitness of the Environment.14 Marshaling an encyclopaedic wealth of quantitative data on the properties of simple chemical substances and their fitness to serve as the basis of life, he organizes this data in lists, each representing some property essential to life. Henderson shows that, when evaluated in this way, those compounds (1120, C02, etc.) actually prominent in physiological processes are invariably found at or near the top of list after list of comparable compounds. He finds that, in one and the same substance, take water for example, an incredible series of maxima (with respect to fitness) are combined. The philosophical theologian, Tennant, assesses this result by writing that

Unique assemblages of unique properties on so vast a scale being thus essential to the maintenance of life, their forthcomingness makes the inorganic world seem in some respects comparable with an organism.15

Table 11, for example, adapted from Henderson's chapter on water, shows that (except for two minor exceptions) water is at the top of every list of properties regarded as biologically important. Other properties in which water excels are in its capacity as a solvent, its specific beat, and its unique behavior at the freezing point.

This remarkable coincidence of facts, like a straight run of a dozen or so perfectly lucky throws of the dice, seems so improbable that one tends, with Hocking, to conclude regarding the physical universe that it is ,.reasonable to call it biocentric."16 This data is bard to assimilate without imputing deliberate design, Pi, to the structure of these compounds, lifeless though they be, and ultimately to some of the elements of the periodic table as well. But the issue is not this simple; for Henderson has only proven fitness (purposiveness, PF) and not the purposiveness of intent, Pi. In fact, here again Hocking's third criterion is devastating when it asks how improbable is the combination of properties and thus how urgent is the demand for Divine design of the elements. We shall find that the combination is not nearly as improbable as it appeared to be at first.

At this point our bermeneutics of nature demands that probability theory be correctly applied. Probabilities, for example, can only be weighed in terms of a given population from which the selection is made.17 As Hocking's third criterion implies, the population of real alternatives must be large if the probability is to be small. Unfortunately, those who read a purposiveness, Pi, in Henderson's work tacitly assume that the population in question is large, viz., that of all possible mathematical combinations of the relevant physical properties ~ as though, for example, it were

equally probable (apart from design) that a high specific heat would be combined with a low dielectric constant or a mediocre capacity as a solvent. These eager teleologists, however, overlook the possibility that the factors involved are not mutually exclusive, i.e., that they could be linked in some way such that, if you choose one property (as a high specific heat), several other properties come along unasked, with the one you specifically chose. Such subtle interdependencies could, in effect, reduce the size of the population to the number of entire chains of linked properties instead of the overall number of individual properties. Thus there could be many links, but only a few whole chains.

Henderson was aware of this. But its fatal effect was not brought out until Blum, who devoted a detailed chapter to the up-dating of Henderson's work," showed that strong interdependencies exist between nearly all the properties of water responsible for its fitness. In particular, a unique type of chemical bond, possessed by hydrogen alone, turns out to be the common underlying cause of water's many anomalies. In order to free its molecules, for example, to form steam from water or water from ice, we must break not only the ordinary bonds of molecular attraction, but must sunder these extra bonds as well. Moreover, the other so-called "remarkable" properties are also due to the

forming and rupture of hydrogen bonds. The concurrence of all these properties in one substance (water) is thus no longer remarkable at all; and the probability of such "coincidence" is no longer so small as to call for Divine design. For the population in terms of which we now assess probabilities is not that of all the mathematically possible combinations of physical properties, but is, instead, a much smaller one - the population of conceivable types of chemical bonds, types which probably total less than half a dozen.

Tennant's allusion to the "multiplicity of coincident conditions, such as are not reasonably attributable to blind forces or to pure mecbanism"19 now seems singularly inept, since the problem now reduces to the probability or improbability of the occurrence of hydrogen bonds. Henderson's work is therefore, in my opinion, spurious; and the "fitness of the environment" becomes now a fact in the realm of physical necessity, N' - a part of the Given available to God before He p

began His work as the Artisan. Indeed, we shall argue that all inorganic compounds and elements, when traced back far enough, are the necessary products of hydrogen aggregates, and that their properties are emergents from the properties of hydrogen.

This conclusion gains plausibility from the high likelihood that the universe was originally composed completely of hydrogen. "Even at the present time," claims Struve, "hydrogen atoms are about 2,000 times as abundant as the atoms of the heavy elements."20 If, then, the heavy elements were brewed, as we have said, from masses of hydrogen in the centers of hot stars, this implies that all physical phenomena from atoms to stars are, in effect, the disguised manifestations of hydrogen. To be sure, the manifestations may be indirect: This is the case, for example, in a rocket jet which reflects the properties of oxygen and kerosene, while the kerosene reflects those of hydroglen and carbon, and the oxygen and carbon in turn reflect their origin in some primordial hydrogen star.

Let us now pause to review the argument thus far: In a general way we have traced the amino acids, the building blocks of life, back to their constituent elements and then to the single element, hydrogen, and have argued that their properties stem by necessity from those of hydrogen. The view that the building blocks of life (as well as the resulting edifices) are of Divine design, Pi, can now survive - let us stress the point - only by showing that the properties of hydrogen are contingent and therefore amenable to Divine design, i.e., that they are not necessary in any sense of the word.

I shall urge, on the other band, that the properties of hydrogen are not contingent, that in fact they are geometrically necessary, Nm. I must confess, however, that I come here to the weakest point in the argument; for I am incapable of developing the required proof. At this time, I can only present certain intuitions which have developed through the study of relativity, cosmology, and topology. Notice carefully the subtle turn which the argument now takes: The proof of physical necessity, Np alone, would logically have involved us in Pascal, s endless regress of universes within the atomized atom.21 Instead, however, the new argument goes only one step further, to the electrons and nucleons of the primordial plasma, and then resorts to a proof of mathematical (instead of physical) necessity, Nm - a rationale which more satisfactorily puts the inquiring mind at rest. In short, I shall argue that the properties of the proton and electron issue directly from the geometrical necessities implied in the type of cosmology which satisfies the demands of a joint relativity-quantum theory.

Assuming that matter (i.e., a fundamental particle) can be regarded as a second degree curvature in the space-time continuum,22 I shall argue, in particular, that the only cosmologies in which such curvatures can arise are those possessing a multiply-connected topology such as that of the moebius strip (in two dimensions) or the Klein bottle (in three) - (see Figures I and 2).21 These surfaces are finite in area and have a re6ntrant property such that a snail meandering around the surface could criss-cross both back and front or inside and outside surfaces without encountering a boundary. In four dimensions, this type of connectivity is such that the sharp space curvatures in the vicinity of a particle achieve an angle orthogonal to all three

dimensions of space and can therefore be geometrically continuous with the outer reaches of the cosmos where the galaxies are receding with the velocity of light. The continuity is through the fourth, i.e., through the temporal dimension; hence the location of the particle is irrelevant. If the electron and nucleon, then, are necessary aspects of a necessary cosmology, it follows that all the properties of matter are necessary.

This is not the time, nor am I the person, to develop such a cosmology in detail. However, this is, in essence, what Eddington was doing when his untimely death left us with no one capable of evaluating his work .24 Eddington's Fundamental Theory was listed by Coudere2-1 some years ago as the most highly technical work then in existence on relativity and cosmology, Yet it has also suffered severe criticism. In any case, though Eddington is one of our greatest theoretical physicists, he is deeply convinced that the fundamental laws and constants of nature are deducible a priori, i.e., entirely apart from observation - which implies that they are necessary; and be actually supplies such a priori deductions in minute, and usually accurate, detail, building on an essentially statistical foundation. Other ranking physicists have also argued that the laws of nature are, in the last analysis, statistical in nature .26 Hence we have here randomness, again, in contrast to purposiveness. If our reasoning is valid, the theist's dilemma, then, is this: that he can either cling to the dubious theology of a "God of the Gaussian distribution," or he must abandon all theology stemming from appeals to the "order of natural law." In my opinion the former alternative provides such a sterile theology that the argument can be regarded as a reductio ad absurdum; hence we must look elsewhere for the type of order which is significant for natural theology.

To summarize the argument thus far, we have traced the physical necessity, Np, of the physical world, i.e., of any world containing matter, from the amino acids and nucleotides of living matter in regress back to the mathematical necessities, Nm, of statistical theory and of the closed, multiply-connected topology of the Schwarzscbild space-time (as it is called) ;27 and we found nothing in which the teleologist could gain a foothold for his natural theology. Leibniz' picture of God, at the time of creation, as mentally surveying myriads of possible worlds, and considering which would be the best for Him to create,28 is misguided if the aforementioned necessities hold; for, at least as regards anything like a material world, the choices (as I have shown elsewhere)29 would appear to be very few. In terms of Hocking's third criterion of purposiveness, then, the statistical population of possible worlds from which such a choice was made would be so small that chance could easily explain the biocentricity of the resulting universe. Hence on this basis, the phvsical universe, which forms the cosmic setting of life, can only be regarded as accidentally purposive, Pg, and not as intended or designed, Pi.

It would seem, then, that our little earth is "an oasis in a desert of 'oasis,"' as Tennant has put it.30 To be sure, the oasis has been remarkably maternal in originating and sustaining life. But this maternalism, has been overrated. Given a universe of untold billions of stars, almost any type of environment can arise somewhere - even such a cozy spot as the earth. If nature scatters pollen in 'profusion to assure that a few grains settle upon the appropriate flower, will she not similarly scatter stars and planets to assure that habitable niches would occasionally arise on some protected surface here or there? If there exists then a Divine Selector of worlds, it would seem that His first appearance in the Selector's role would be, not at the beginning of time as Leibniz thought, but at a much later date, after the swirling gases of a universe (originally "without form and void") had condensed into stars and planets. He would appear then, not as a Leibnizian Selector of abstract cosmic world properties, but as the Selector of concrete possible "homesteads," i.e., of specific planets suited to become the scene (or scenes) of the drama of unfolding life.

The picture emerging from this study lends little comfort to idealistic thinkers such as Leibniz who hold that Mind or Spirit lies "within" all matter.31 As a matter of fact, the view that God pervades the physical world is Baalism and not Yabwehism. It is the pagan fertility cults which believe in a deity who indwells nature and is thus responsive to their magic. The Spirit of Elohim (or Yahweh), however, moves UPON THE FACE of the waters, and not within them.32 Unfortunately, Christian theism, confused by its long alliance with idealism, usually shrinks from yielding this much ground to its ertswhile enemy, deism.33 But with the rise of the new physics, the time has come to draw back from this excessive reaction against materialism. Let us therefore frankly face up to the primordial deism of Genesis 1:2. We envision, then, in the time immediately following creation, several billion years of nothing but radiation and hydrogen, with no solid matter to provide a stable theatre for the drama of life. Eventually stars form in accordance with certain necessary laws of fluid dynamics. Within these stars first helium is formed and then the heavier elements, eventually to be spewed out to form the planets - perhaps only as a second generation of stars is born. During all this time the Creator found that the medium in which He wished to do His work was too refractory even for His Divine hand. Even after planetary surfaces had formed and thejr waters had cooled, there would still have been no ekident means of implanting order except by violating the laws of physics. If these laws are statistical, however, this would mean, in effect, a rescinding of the law of averages. But Nve already know that this law does not apply in the case of small numbers. Schr6dinger makes a rather obvious point, then, when he shows that, on the level of the molecule (or of small numbers of molecul6s), the traditional laws of physics are inapplicable.34

Here is the opening wedge, then, for a theory by which to transcend our initial deism. Since the physicist has now set us free to assume, if we wish, that order can be implanted with impunity in single molecules, the problem now reduces to that of conceiving bow the gap between the molecular and molar realms can be negotiated - how a pattern implanted in one molecule can be reflected on the level of physiological processes. A theology depicting the Creator as One who tenderly implants a pattern in the recesses of reality is more inspiring, at least to me, than one in which He presents a gross show of raw power. And if this implies that His action in matter is confined to those processes, if any, by which a small influence on the micro level can snowball across the gap into the molar world, we must calmly assimilate this truth. Such extremely high-gain processes do exist at present, as, for example, those occurring within the brain. As Eccles has shown, the brain is so structured that the discharge of a single neuron can involve many hundreds of thousands to several million other neurons within a fiftieth of a second.35

But there were, of course, no brains in existence in primaeval times. What kind of snowballing processes
might there have been, then, to which the Divine Artisan could resort as the planetary surface cooled? It is
easy to answer this question in retrospect. For we know now that the Artisan employed the amino acids and/or
the nucleotides, some of which, as Miller's experiment has shown, must have been at hand. As is well known,
the nucleotides, when polymerized into long chains, form nucleic acids, some of which, in the form of R-NA
or DNA, are able to synthesi ' ze proteins.w This they do repeatedly, i.e., a single nucleic acid chain can
synthesize thousands of identical protein molecules - the chain comprising, as it were, a template off which the proteins slough themselves one after another. Here is a snow-balling process by which a pattern imposed
upon one lone molecule can be reduplicated in thousands of analogously patterned protein molecules - in
short, this process can generate relatively large aggregates so that the resulting protein can exist in a con
centration adequate for it to function as an enzyme within the fluids of the cell.

At this point, however, Leibniz's concept of possible world-properties gives way to that of possible proteins; and our natural theology begins at last to find solid rootage. For while on the one hand, we have seen that world properties and the properties of elements and compounds arise by necessity from mathematical and physical considerations, there is, on the other hand, no significant constraint upon the order in which the bases can occur in a nucleic acid or in which the amino acids can occur within a protein. Hence, if every permutation of amino-acid ordering is considered to constitute a different protein. (and it is known in the case of insulin, for example, that the order must be almost perfect for it to perform its biological function), then the number of possible proteins is absolutely astronomical. Some conception of this almost infinite number can be obtained from Zamenhof's statement regarding the varieties of parent DNA (whose molecules extend to lengths of 1,000 A or more37):

Assuming the molecular weight of DNA to be of the order of 5 x 106 [writes Zamenbof],38 the number of possible combinations of sequence of different nucleotides for the DNA molecules of just one composition is of the order of 109000.

But the biologically functional proteins known to Biochemistry number only about 500.39 Presumably many other possible proteins could have been biologically functional but were bypassed in the processes of biological descent. As compared with the almost infinite number of possible proteins, however, it seems that functional proteins must comprise an extremely small percentage of the total. Hocking's third criterion of purposiveness, Pi, is finally fulfilled; for here at last we have a phenomenon (functional proteins) which is highly purposive, P 91 but which also belongs to a very large statistical population of alternatives of the same order of likelihood. The effort to attribute the rise of proteins to the random jostling of atoms appears, then, to be the vain gesture of a declining materialism.

To be sure, the claim has been made that proteinsynthesizing nucleic acids have already been artificially produced in the laboratory. This is only partly true. Nucleic acids having randomly ordered bases have been produced; but these cannot synthesize proteins. On the other hand, the nucleic acids which can synthesize proteins are not completely artificial, since the ordering of the bases can be accomplished in the laboratory only by priming the solution with one, or a few, molecules of Nature's DNA to supply the coded template.40 (See note for comment on recent syntheses.)

Let me stress that this requirement is no small thing; for, in effect, the primer supplies a code upon which Nature's Programmer has been at work for many millions of years. The difference is similar to that between the computer which is fed a pack of randomly punched cards and that which is fed a deck of carefully programmed instructions. In short, order has been added - not the order of the law of averages nor that of the laws of nature nor of a periodic crystal, but the order of an aperiodic sequence selected in accordance with the canons of meaningful purposiveness. It is the type of order probably producible only under the direction of a designing mind.

At this point, one usually resorts to a computation
which displays, in fantastic figures, the improbability of the rise of a protein molecule by the random jostling of atoms. A classic effort in this direction is that of the brilliant Swiss physicist Cbarles-Eugene Guye, who considered a molecule of dissymmetry 0.9, composed of 2,000 atoms of only two kinds.41 Though these assumptions are very conservative (egg albumin, for example, has 34,500 atoms of several different kinds), the probability that a molecule of such dissymmetry could arise by pure chance turns out to be 2 x 10-321.

There is a fatal defect, however, in the conceptual model employed by Guye, since he failed to consider the effects of natural selection. The radical difference produced by these effects can be appreciated when the random jostling of atoms is seen as analogous to the drawing of balls in the following illustration.42 Let us take a large bag of balls - containing hundreds of balls, in fact - each imprinted with a letter of the alphabet. We draw out balls at random, two at a time, three, four, five at a time, etc. The rule of procedure at this stage is that, if at a given drawing the letters on the balls cannot be arranged to spell a word, the balls are thrown away (or shuffled back into the bag); but if they do spell a word, that word is written in full on one of the balls and this ball is put into a separate bag by itself. More drawings are made and the same procedure followed. Soon by chance another word will be formed, the word will be written in full on one of the balls, and that ball too will be thrown into the special bag. After a modest amount of time, the special bag will contain a considerable assemblage of real words. We then turn to this bag and draw out balls in groups of two, three, four, etc., and apply the rule that, in order to be saved for a third bag, the balls of a given drawing must be capable of arrangement into a syntactically acceptable relationship - such as "to town,' 'going well," "made two boats," etc. Combinations such as "town point," "well plus," "made a boats," etc., would be rejected. By now you can surely guess that the next step will be to put the former phrases on the balls which are to go into a fourth bag and that these balls will be sorted on the basis that meaningful clauses should be retained. This procedure, if continued to a fifth or sixth bag or more will within a reasonable time yield complete meaningful sentences and, indeed, will yield the sonnet which the proverbial battalion of monkeys typing aimlessly and endlessly was alleged to produce 43 - or rather, it will yield its own quaint verse, hardly a Shakespearean sonnet. Clearly, the probability of generating a verse in this fashion is high as compared with the extremely low probability of generating one by the haphazard jostling of single letters. If the primordial jostling of nucleotides or amino acids occurred, then, in accordance with this model (rather than according to that of Guye), the chance rise of functional proteins could hardly be regarded as improbable.

In proposing this new model, materialism makes one of its strongest appeals. In effect, she has extended the principle of natural selection backward to apply to the evolution of large organic molecules prior to the origin of life. If I am right, then, in supposing that the current eclipse of natural theology is due more to the impact of natural selection on the scholarly mind than to any other influence, what, then, is the impact of this new extension of the principle?

I believe that the discriminating mind, which avoids unyielding extremes, finds here its opportunity. For the enemy of natural theology may turn out to be not natural selection as such,44 but its application on levels where its efficacy is questionable. As Hoffman-Ostenhof argues, for example, there is some reason to doubt whether natural selection could have acted before the origin of reproduction,45 since a lone molecule happening to arise, though it may exhibit a biologically functional pattern, could not exercise that function except en masse. But it cannot exist en masse, since its rise in the first place was such a rare event. Moreover, life, like the functioning of a moon rocket, requires the concurrent action of multitudes of systems and subsystems (enzymic systems, in the case of living organisms) in order to have any degree of success at all; and even the simplest forms of life must already be so extremely complex that the difference between them and the highest forms is, in this respect, relatively trivial.

If I can do nothing in the present paper but identify the crucial questions, it will have been worth while, Let me stress, then, the question emerging from the illustration of the lettered balls, viz.: what natural processes, if any, can we envision which could exercise such a selective action as the segregation of combinations forming words, phrases, etc.? i.e., is there in nature a principle of Zweckmdssigkeit ohne Zweck, P which gathers and preserves those polynucleotides a, proteinoids destined to be incorporated into functional macromolecules and ignores those vastly more numerous ones which show no promise? At this point we should by all rights yield to our own Walt Hearn, who could detail the many explanations for us - telling of the formation of coacervates: adsorption on crystalline surfaces, evolution of increasingly complex enzymic systems, molecular preadaptation, spontaneous rise of proteinoids and microspheres, etc. Time forbids elucidation of these concepts, which in any case are familiar to those of you who have followed the exciting inquiries conducted in recent years on the origin of life.40

We welcome these discoveries for the light which they throw upon the medium in which God the Artisan has worked, suggesting (to cite but one case) that proteinoids instead of amino acids may have been His building blocks. But these inquiries leave Me cold when they touch on the question of how, within an environment which from the standpoint of information theory provides an input of pure noise, the fantastic amount of information arose which characterizes a living organism.41 For the difference is as radical as that between a computer and its input deck, or rather between the raw materials of the computer and the information of the deck - since the computer itself, as well as the deck, is the product of ingenious design.

If we were dealing here with a distinction in mere complexity of material systems and physical, or even biological, laws - as, for instance in the distinction between physical and organismic conceptions - an appeal to the God who fills in the gaps not yet filled in by scientific explanation would be precarious. But we are dealing, instead, with a qualitative distinction - - that between physical process and information, between a carrier wave and a message. But by definition messages are ultimately the product of minds and not of things, as even the Russians must have learned from examining their R&D software budgets. Hence, the invoking of a Divine Mind to fill this gap is philosophically unreproachable.

In conclusion let us note that the encoded DNA molecule satisfies all three of Hocking's criteria for imputing purposiveness: the code performs the useful function of programming the development of an organism; it preserves itself with remarkable fidelity; and, finally, the biologically functional proteins whose structure it describes are a relatively small class within an extremely large class of possible proteins so that ample scope for selection exists. It is therefore a reasonable act of faith by which a natural theology, discredited in the area of the physical sciences, is revived as the mysteries of the biological realm are explored and the teleology of nature's Artisan is revealed.


1. Erwin Schrodinger, What Is
Life? Lectures at Trinity College, Dublin: 1943 (Cambridge, Eng. 1944), pp. 60-61.
2. William A. Fowler, "The Origin of the Elements," in The Universe, Part Il, pp. 24f. and 30-31; and E. Margaret Burbidge, William A. Fowler, and others, "Synthesis of the Elements in Stars," Reviews
of Modern Physics, 29: 547-650, October, 1957.
3. F. H. C. Crick, J. S. Griffith, and L. E. Orgel, "Codes without Commas,"
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 43:416-421, May 1957.

4. Otto H. Schindewolf, Gruniltragen der Palaontologie (Stuttgart, 1950).

5. F. R. Tennant, Philosophical Theology, Vol. II: The World, the Saul, and God (Cambridge, Eng., 1935-1937), chap. i, "Conformity of the World to Law."

6. Paul Janet, Final Causes, trans. from 2nd ed- of the French by Witham Affleck. 5th ed. (New York, 1905).

7. See supra, note 2.

8. Entitled "Cosmos, Life, and God."

9. William Ernest Hocking, Types
of Philosophy, 3rd ed. (New York, 1959), p. 62.

10. Ibid.

11. Edgar Sheffield Brightman, A Philosophy of Religion, Prentice-Hall Philosophy Series, ed. A. E. Murphy (New York, 1954), chapters 9 and 10.

12. Stanley L. Miller, "A Production of Amino Acids under Possible Primitive Earth Conditions," Science, 117:528529, May 15, 1953.

13. Cyril Ponnamperuma, Carl Sagan, and Ruth Mariner, "Synthesis of Adenosine Triphosphate under Possible Primitive Earth Conditions," Nature, 199 (4890): 222226, 1963.

14. Lawrence J. Henderson, The Fitness of the Environment (New York, 1913).

15. Tennant, op. cit., p. 86.
16. Hocking, op. cit., p. 64.

17. Richard von Mises, "Causality and Probability," in Readings in Philosophy of Science, arr. and ed. by Philip P. Wiener (New York, 1953), pp. 502-503.

18. Harold F. Blum, Time's Arrow and Evolution, 2nd ed. (Princeton, N.J., 1955), chap. vi.
19. Tennant, op. cit., p. 87,
20. Otto Struve, Beverly Lynds, and Helen PiI]ans, Elementary Astronomy (New York, 1959), p. 13.
21. Pascal's Pensees, ed. and trans. H. F. Stewart (New York, 1950), pp. 19-21.
22. Arthur S. Eddington, Space Time and Gravitation (Cambridge, Eng., 1921), p. 98.

23. G. J. Whitrow, The Structure and Evolution of the Universe, Harper Torchbooks / Science Library (New York, 1959), pp, 72-74.

24. Arthur S. Eddington, Fundamental Theory (Cambridge, Eng,, 1949).
25. Paul Couderc, The Expansion of the Universe, trans. J. B.
Sidgwick (London, 1952), p. 227.

26. Schrodinger, op. cit., pp. 2, 8-17, and 82-84.

27. G. C. MeVittie, General Relativity and Cosmology, in The International Astrophysics Series, ed. M. A. Ellison and others, Vol. IV (New York, 1956), chap. v.

28. Leibm ' z : Selections, ed. Philip P. Wiener. In The Modem Student's Library (New York, 1951), pp. 91-92 and 347-355.
29. See my "Cosmos, Life, and God," chap. x, second subsection.
30. Tennant, op. cit., p. 80.

31. Leilmiz, op. cit., pp. 522-524. Cf. also Pierre Teilhard deChardin, The Phenomenon of Man. Harper Torchbooks/ The Cloister Library (New York, 1961), chap. ii. "The Within of Things."

32. Genesis 1:2.

33. Contemporary Barthianism, however, has made the required adjustment, but has gone too far inasmuch as it repudiates all natural theology.

34. SchrUdinger, op. cit., pp. 82-84.

35. J. C. Eccles, The Neurophysiological Basis of Mind, the Waynflete Lectures of 1952 (Oxford, 1953), cited in E. L. Mascall, Christian Theology and Natural Science, the Bampton Lectures, 1956 (New York, 1956), p. 232; and J. C. Eccles, "Hypotheses Relating to the Brain-Mind Problem," Nature, 168:53-57, July 14, 1951.

36. James N. Davidson, Biochemistry of Nucleic Acids, 4th ed.(New York, 1960).

37. J. Bernal, "The Scale of Structural Units in Biopoesis," in U.S.S.R., Academy of Sciences, The Origin at Life on the Earth: Reports on the International Symposium: August, 1957, Moscow, ed. A. Oparin and others (Moscow, [1957]), p. 153.

38. Stephen Zamenhof, "The Chemical Basis of Heredity Determinants," in Essays in Biochemistry, ed. S. Graff (New York, 1956), P. 324n.

39. George Gaylord Simpson, Colin S. Pittendrigh, and Lewis H. Tiffany, Life: An Introduction to Biology (New York, 1957), p. 78. The figure 500 includes only those proteins which have been "isolated and identified." Simpson conjectures, however, that "there must be . . . well over a million different kinds of proteins in the whole world of life." In either case, there is no comparison with Zamenhofs figure of 109000. As expressed by Sidney Fox, "the number of protein isomers . . . that have appeared during evolution must he an infinitesimal fraction of the total number possible." Sidney W. Fox and Joseph F. Foster, Introduction to Protein Chemistry (New York, 1957), pp. 434435.

40. Arthur Kornberg and others, "Enzymic Synthesis of Deoxyribonucleic Acid," Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 21:197198, 1956. The syntheses accomplished since this was first written reveal how meticulous are the processes by which the bases or amino acids must be selected and ordered along the chain. The conclusion still stands, viz., that this is a "type of order probably producible only under the direction of a designing mind," in this case that of the biochemist.

41. The calculations of Professor Guye are described by Pierre Lecomte du Nutly in Human Destiny (New York, 1947), pp. 33-35. The original work is C. E. Guye, Les Fronti?res de la Physique et de la Biologie (Geneva, 1936).

42The point of the illustration is effectively stressed in the paper by Bernal, op. cit., p. 153.

43. Cf. Walter M. Elsasser, The Physical Foundation of Biology (New York, 1958), pp. 86-87. Elsasser, referring to the belief that negative. entropy (or "information") can arise spontaneously by chance, concludes by affirming "the complete irrationality of any such proposition."

44. Our own president, Dr. V. Elving Anderson, lists natural selection among the principles which "are accepted by most ASA members without serious question" ("The Goals of the ASA - A Personal View," Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, 17:35).

45. 0. Hoffman-Ostenhof, "Der Ursprung der Enzyme," in the previously cited Moscow Symposium, pp. 129-130.

46. Cf., Sydney W. Fox, ed., The Origins of Prebiological Systems (New York, 1965), which presents the proceedings of an international symposium held in Florida in 1963.

47. The amount of information is fantastic even when all redundancy is excluded (cf. Henry Quastler, ed., Essays on the Use at Information Theory in Biology, Urbana, 1952).