In Ben Stein's new film "Expelled," there is a great scene where Richard Dawkins is going on about how evolution explains everything. This is part of Dawkins' grand claim, which echoes through several of his books, that evolution by itself has refuted the argument from design. The argument from design hold that the design of the universe and of life are most likely the product of an intelligent designer. Dawkins thinks that Darwin has disproven this argument.
So Stein puts to Dawkins a simple question, "How did life begin?" One would think that this is a question that could be easily answered. Dawkins, however, frankly admits that he has no idea. One might expect Dawkins to invoke evolution as the all-purpose explanation. Evolution, however, only explains transitions from one life form to another. Evolution has no explanation for how life got started in the first place. Darwin was very clear about this.
In order for evolution to take place, there had to be a living cell. The difficulty for atheists is that even this original cell is a work of labyrinthine complexity. Franklin Harold writes in The Way of the Cell that even the simplest cells are more ingeniously complicated than man's most elaborate inventions: the factory system or the computer. Moreover, Harold writes that the various components of the cell do not function like random widgets; rather, they work purposefully together, as if cooperating in a planned organized venture. Dawkins himself has described the cell as the kind of supercomputer, noting that it functions through an information system that resembles the software code.
Is it possible that living cells somehow assembled themselves from nonliving things by chance? The probabilities here are so infinitesimal that they approach zero. Moreover, the earth has been around for some 4.5 billion years and the first traces of life have already been found at some 3.5 billion years ago. This is just what we have discovered: it's quite possible that life existed on earth even earlier. What this means is that, within the scope of evolutionary time, life appeared on earth very quickly after the earth itself was formed. Is it reasonable to posit that a chance combination of atoms and molecules, under those conditions, somehow generated a living thing? Could the random collision of molecules somehow produce a computer?
It is ridiculously implausible to think so. And the absurdity was recognized more than a decade ago by Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the DNA double helix. Yet Crick is a committed atheist. Unwilling to consider the possibility of divine or supernatural creation, Crick suggested that maybe aliens brought life to earth from another planet. And this is precisely the suggestion that Richard Dawkins makes in his response to Ben Stein. Perhaps, he notes, life was delivered to our planet by highly-evolved aliens. Let's call this the "ET" explanation.
Stein brilliantly responds that he had no idea Richard Dawkins believes in intelligent design! And indeed Dawkins does seem to be saying that alien intelligence is responsible for life arriving on earth. What are we to make of this? Basically Dawkins is surrendering on the claim that evolution can account for the origins of life. It can't. The issue now is simply whether a natural intelligence (ET) or a supernatural intelligence (God) created life. Dawkins can't bear the supernatural explanation and so he opts for ET. But doesn't it take as much, or more, faith to believe in extraterrestrial biology majors depositing life on earth than it does to believe in a transcendent creator?
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