Turns out your answer will be determined by your worldview...youtube: synthetic organic chemist james tourDeep Dive: synthetic organic chemist james tour
British researchers have determined conclusively that the chicken was first, based on supercomputer analysis of a chicken eggshell and one specific protein that only exists... inside a chicken.
Macro-evolutionary theorists have proposed that the first chicken was produced by an egg laid by a proto-chicken.
If your worldview is predicated on a God that created our universe, you might consider the British research as evidence for your convictions.
Conversely, if your worldview is predicated on this universe being a grand cosmic accident, you might applaud the supercomputer analysis, append the proto-chicken theory and consider both to also be evidence for your convictions.
Obviously, this is an oversimplification, but it serves to illustrate how the evidence will be interpreted (quite honestly, yet in different directions), depending on your worldview.
Can we in any way objectively examine facts, without immediately inserting our learned responses? It is extremely difficult to do so. Our worldview is not just a series of preconceptions, it is the lens through which we see everything.
Are you capable of putting that confirmation bias on the shelf for a bit? I'll be brief and only bring up a few facts to illustrate:
First, let's leave our chicken and/or egg and go back to the beginning. Abiogenesis is the theoretical start of life itself. Apparently, the recipe for primordial soup is more complex than we thought: Recent advances in science have shown that the chances of even the simplest replicating protein molecule that could be imagined, happening by accident, is 1 in 10 to the power of 450 (that’s 1, with 450 zeros behind it).
made up my mind, liking my accidental chances and Leaving right now to buy a lottery ticket
That’s a really, really, really big number... To put it into perspective, astrophysicists estimate that there are no more than 10 to the power of 90 particles in the universe.
To put it in terms we might think of more often, the odds of winning a 6 number lottery are 1.4 in 10 to the power of 7. So, winning the lottery, which is less likely than being struck by lightning, carries a probability with 7 zeros, whereas the chances of accidental life carries one with 450 zeros.
The more we understand about the complexity of life, the more we must grapple with the absurdity of the 'accidental' rationalization. It was much easier in Darwin's day, when the cell was considered to be nothing more than a bag of slime. We now understand that the simplest cell is more complex than any of our largest factories.
Next, consider the issue of irreducible complexity. If you were trying to evolve a few of these stunningly unlikely accidents into even something as simple as a mousetrap, you would not be very successful. You need all the parts at once, assembled in the correct order, to make it work. If the trap is missing even one part, it does not catch less mice, it catches no mice. It is therefore useless in transition and offers no evolutionary path to completion. That's only a mousetrap, imagine it with the bacterial flagellar motor, or any of the other examples of irreducible complexity. (Follow up on this and you may hear the outdated argument that some of these components appear elsewhere, with other functions. Current research, however, shows these components to be derivatives of the original, not precursors.)
Then, there are more chicken and egg issues. You need biological, molecular machines to build proteins, but you need proteins to build biological, molecular machines. You also need information in the form of instructions to complete these very complex tasks.
In addition, information has never been observed to arise spontaneously from matter. We know, both observationally and intuitively, that it comes from a mind or intelligence. If we read the words ‘Susan loves Bob’ written in the sand at the beach, we would never assume time and tide did it. We would chalk it up to a deliberate act of creation by Susan, (or possibly a hopeful one by Bob).
Reading the above, you were either nodding in agreement or shaking your head in dismissal. (Either response is a product of your confirmation bias, but remember, you promised to leave your worldview on the shelf for the moment.) The important takeaway is that these observations are current, established, scientific facts regarding origins. If you acknowledge even these few items with an open mind, you begin to appreciate that the odds of us just ‘happening’ to be here are pretty much slim to nil.
Still attempting to keep your bias in check, close your eyes and consider that for a moment: Current empirical science (science that is verifiable by observation or experience), indicates that our accidental arrival here is statistically impossible.
Now (again keeping a firm hand on your bias), open your eyes. All around us is the appearance of design. We see a vehicle or building and we readily acknowledge the necessity of intelligence to create it... yet we are conditioned to view the engineering of an eyeball, a tree or a bird feather as the product of a series of accidental and fortunate events.
Does any of this matter, or is it just an interesting mental exercise? The answer depends on whether you matter, or merely consist of it. Were you placed here purposefully, or are you merely the unlikely by-product of a happy cosmic accident?
If life miraculously, spontaneously generated and then macro-evolved on this planet, then technically there would be no goal for you beyond survival. Conversely, if you were placed here, it would logically follow that there was a reason or goal behind such an action. To effectively accomplish any goal, it would seem important to understand it. Therefore, would it not be imperative to know whether you are here by accident or design?
What if (as current empirical science would seem to infer), your arrival here is not just a happy series of astoundingly fortunate events? Where do you go from there? If you didn't arrive spontaneously, then someone or something placed you here. Which brings us to our next questions: Who and why?
Let's do some logical speculation about their identity... could they be, for example, aliens? Some scientists (faced with the startlingly unlikely nature of spontaneous generation), have suggested 'directed panspermia'. Aliens, seeding the planet for purposes unknown. Could this be? Possibly, but would this not be just kicking the origins can down the intergalactic highway? If we (as a supposedly lower and less advanced life form), are very, very, very unlikely to have been spontaneously generated, how can we logically postulate that aliens were? This conclusion would appear to carry the same mathematical absurdity as the original proposition.
(Even though mathematically absurd, the alien theory appears to be gaining some traction. Two strong forces are driving this theory forward: One is that empirical science is eliminating the naturalistic alternatives. The other is the growing, albeit seemingly begrudging, acknowledgement of the existence of aliens by authorities worldwide.)
So where might we go from here?
Now you have grabbed your confirmation bias back off the shelf and you're either polishing it cheerfully or you're preparing to use it as a shield to fend off the enemy. Put that bias down for just another moment and ask yourself honestly: What's left? If an accidental arrival is very, very, very unlikely and therefore panspermia (directed or otherwise), is equally or more unlikely, what is the most probable answer?
Before you reach for your trusty bias again, this is not a 'god of the gaps' moment. God is not being inserted into this equation simply because we don't have the answer yet.
The truth is the exact opposite.
The reality (if we can open our eyes to see it), is that we are steadily closing the gaps that allow us to pretend there is no God. We have made amazing scientific advances since Darwin. These advances are showing an ever diminishing probability that we are the products of accident.
Synthetic organic chemists tell us that spontaneous life is virtually impossible. Biologists must be instructed to ignore the 'appearance of design' in living structures.
Archaeologists must attempt to reconcile our 'primitive' past with earthquake-resistant megalithic structures, some constructed to amazing tolerances and/or oriented with astounding precision. (The Great Pyramid at Giza, Stonehenge and Gobekli Tepe spring to mind as just a few examples.)
Then, cosmologists must postulate an infinite number of unobserved universes to attempt to explain the extreme mathematical improbability of our finely tuned one.
Based on the current state of empirical science, one must be prepared to believe quite a few 'impossible things before breakfast' to continue to discount the existence of God.
If a naturalistic and materialistic boundary had not been arbitrarily drawn for scientists, the most obvious explanations would posit a designer or engineer. After all, to arbitrarily substitute randomness for causality is not somehow more 'scientific'. It goes squarely against our empirical observations regarding cause and effect. It also creates an artificial and unnecessary firewall against following the evidence where it leads. And for what purpose? Some of the greatest advances in science were accomplished by men and women who were powerfully intrigued to know 'how God did it'.
So, should you attempt to objectively investigate the evidence surrounding our origins, without allowing prejudice to cloud your judgement? I would submit that there is nothing more important in this life.
However, even once we have done all the objective research possible, we still cannot know for certain. Since we were not there at the beginning, we are all forced to make an educated leap of faith.
Would you have, or be able to find, rationalizations and theories to account for all of the above? Of course. Look hard enough and you can find evidence to support almost anything you want to believe.
I'm proposing that it would make sense to make this leap of faith the shortest and most logical one, based on probabilities and observed evidence, but you may at this point prefer to take that long shot and stay the accidental course. You are, of course, at liberty to do so. (Might I further suggest that you divert slightly along the way to purchase lottery tickets, whilst also being judiciously careful not to attract lightning, because those odds have got to be looking pretty good right now.)
Sorry to be facetious, but I think that we need to actively force ourselves out of our comfort zone. This isn't where I started out life either, I firmly believed that the concept of God was a crutch for the weak minded. (You are free to believe that I was right in the first place, but do yourself a favour and attempt to objectively examine all the evidence first. You may be as surprised as I was, the science is not as cut and dried as generally advertised.)
There may have been a point in the past when, in our ignorance, we could honestly believe that science had dis-proven God. I would contend that we no longer have that option. The reality is that each scientific advance has chipped away a portion of that pretence. Now, there is virtually nothing left to stand on except our past and our prejudices.
(This may be where the 'aliens' come in. Will they be inserted into the dialogue to take God's place? Again keeping your bias at bay, consider this: Aliens could well be interdimensional rather than interplanetary. After all, if you were an entity wanting to usurp God's authority and exercise dominion over the earth, what better way than to show up and claim to have seeded the place for your own purposes? With the notable exception of the spontaneous generation of life, current science would be in support, especially if God continues to be barred from the equation.)
We need to be certain that our worldview and cognitive bias does not cause us to intentionally and dismissively overlook the obvious. To effectively do that, we need to be prepared to leave the warm embrace of our own echo chambers. Obviously none of us have the knowledge to thoroughly critique every aspect of every scientific discipline, but the basic theories are available online in layman's terms. A great place to start is by checking out a few debates regarding these issues online. (Make sure they are the full debates, not excerpts edited to promote one point of view over the other.) Listen to both sides of the argument and use your own common sense to make a logically based decision. Do not take anything at face value. You will want to chase down the evidence that supports each position taken, but obtaining this information has never been easier. Do not be cowed or bullied by consensus. Consensus has been wildly inaccurate in the past many times. (The hubris of 'junk' DNA springs to mind as a recent example.)
We also need to distinguish plausibility from palatability. If a concept is uncomfortable, that should not pre-emptively render it false. We need to be honest with ourselves about our motivation. Examining the alternatives objectively will allow us to determine if we are actually rejecting the idea of a creator on observable, testable scientific grounds, or if we merely do not wish to be accountable to anyone.
Bottom line: Do your own research, make up your own mind, don't let anyone (including me), make it up for you.
If you made the short leap over the lottery ticket button, what now? We have posited a creator God that has placed us here. Why on earth would He do that? Logic would suggest that He wouldn't go to all this trouble without a purpose.So, where do i go from here?I left earlier to buy a lottery ticket
Some religions have suggested that God primarily placed us here to do ‘His work’. That infers that God perhaps created us only as an unpaid labour pool to accomplish tasks He finds unpleasant or tedious. Think about that objectively for a moment, we are talking about the God who spoke the universe into existence. Would an entity with that kind of power require our assistance to accomplish anything?
Some have suggested that God created us to be ‘good’ and follow his rules. I don’t think I need to point out how hopelessly bad we are at that. Would it not have been more efficient to create robots and program them to behave within certain parameters?
Some have suggested that God merely desires a repetitive, ritualistic observance of His existence. If we attend services, make the appropriate gestures and say the appropriate words, our obligation is fulfilled. He will be pleased and bless us accordingly, regardless of our everyday behaviour. Again, it very much seems that God would have been better served by robots, if this were the case.
So why? Although there are core truths that can be inferred from the above, what would be the primary reason for our existence? If you’re God, why do you go to all the trouble of creating something as potentially useless as humans? We are not good at being good and anything we can do, He can do better.
Please understand that I am not trying to be flippant or irreverent here. I'm merely applying my limited human understanding when I propose that the answer can be found by examining ourselves. (If we are indeed made in His image, that would seem the only reasonable place to start.) What is our greatest joy in life? I would submit that it would be relationship. We enjoy sharing our experiences with others. So, if you’re God, no problem, right? Just create someone to hang out with.
Unfortunately, it’s not all that simple... First of all, if you’re God, you know everything. You literally do know best. This is not a peer to peer relationship and your friends must understand this. Even as they love you, your friends will need to remember who you are and respect you and your decisions. They need to realize that their ideas may not line up well with events that only you can foresee. This means that your friends are going to accept, of necessity, a subordinate position. However, if they trust you and your intentions for their life, they will understand that this relationship ultimately empowers, rather than diminishes, them.
Another issue is that, even as God, you cannot ‘create’ friends. Friends are something you earn, by your character and your actions. You cannot tell someone to love you, or even to be your friend, they must choose to do so.
Here’s the tricky bit... in order to offer them this choice, you have to give them free will. To have the choice to fully accept and love you, they must also have the equal option to reject or despise you. Then, even though you created them, you must abide by their decision. If you do not, the choice was never really there.
Still following the relationship analogy, as your friendships progress, you would like to invite your friends into your home. This infers a more neutral initial meeting ground. Perhaps you set up a world where they can objectively make those choices you offered them? Next, give them their free will. Make yourself known and knowable, but don't force yourself on them. Offer them guidance and help in response to their trust and love. It must be a balance though, you cannot do everything for them. If you make it too easy, then they will just befriend you for the free ride. Sometimes, they will have to trust you in spite of the circumstances. After all, that's what friends do.
You will have to set up rules and consequences to help everyone try to get along in this world. Which brings you to your next problem, what do you do when they break those rules?
You cannot make exceptions, that would be favouritism and would likely cause people to befriend you merely to escape justice.
Since you have never broken the rules, you might offer to sacrifice yourself in their place. This would appease those laws when they were broken and keep you true to your word.
What would be the point of this? Understanding that all of humanity are weak (and will at some point fail), you offer them this sacrifice as a way to overcome the inevitable. Those who love you and trust you will recognize the significance and value of your sacrifice on their behalf.
Those who acknowledge and accept this sacrifice and trust you with their life in the 'here and now' are also communicating their desire to accept the invitation to your home, once their time is up in this world. While you would joyously accept those that did, it would be with a heavy heart that you would reluctantly accept the rejection of those that did not. However, you would be forced to honour your end of the free will bargain.
This brings us back to the ‘why are you here’ question. It is tremendous hubris to suppose that one might understand the thoughts and purposes of the living God. It is obvious that, face to face with the God that spoke the entire universe into being, our visceral reaction will be to fall flat on our faces in reverence and awe. The suppositions above are (at best), a simplistically sketched and likely, highly flawed representation of a deeply beautiful and complex canvas. Yet... if the core premise were true, what would be your mission here on earth?
I submit that it would be to:
- Not take anything for granted. Investigate the odds of the existence of God (and any alternatives), for yourself.
- Should you determine that it is likely that God exists, realize the implications of that. An active choice and an invitation has been extended to you.
- Exercise your free will thoughtfully, wisely and in a timely fashion, (procrastination is also a decision). Be prepared to accept the consequences of your choice, whether you get hit by a bus tomorrow or die of old age decades from now.
- Understand that, if God does in fact exist, He will faithfully honour your wishes.