By Steve Wolfgang
Footnote: “‘Primordial Soup’ and Beyond: How did life arise?” Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader, October 23, 1986, p. B-10.
We had decided enough was enough for these essays on the origin of life (perhaps our readers had too). Then we saw the article referenced above, which reports comments by some attending the Eighth International Conference on the Origin of Life in Berkeley, CA in July 1986. Among those quoted is Cyril Ponnamperuma, whose comments on Francis Crick’s Life Itself have been quoted here. Ponnamperuma repeats the assertion, based on the inability of science to determine how life arose here, that “the process that led to life on earth must have occurred elsewhere in the universe.”
Also quoted is Harvard University biologist George Wald, who is quoted as saying that there must be a billion billion places [in the universe] where conditions might allow life to exist. Of course, this is the same scientist who argued decades ago that “time is the hero of the plot: . . . given so much time [2 billion years], the ‘impossible’ becomes possible, the possible probable, and the probable virtually certain. One has only to wait: time performs the miracles” (in Molecular Basis of Life, 1968, p. 341).
We are reminded of the comments made a few years ago by Robert Jastrow in the conclusion to his book, God and the Astronomers. Founder and director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Professor of Astronomy and Earth Sciences at institutions such as Dartmouth and Columbia, Jastrow has hosted more than 100 CBS and BBC programs on space science. Here is how he concludes his book:
A sound explanation may exist for the explosive birth of our Universe; but if it does, science cannot find out what the explanation is. The scientist’s pursuit of the past ends in the moment of creation.
This is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always accepted the word of the Bible: In the beginning God created heaven and earth. . .
The development is unexpected because science has had such extraordinary success in tracing the chain of cause and effect backward in time. . .
Now we would like to pursue that inquiry farther back in time, but the barrier to further progress seems insurmountable. It is not a matter of another year, another decade of work, another measurement, or another theory; at this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries (pp. 115-116).
We do not quote these comments smugly nor intend them (as we are certain Jastrow did not) as a “put-down” of science. But when individuals palm off as “science” what is in reality simply speculation or, worse, a materialistic philosophy or religion (often wrapped in a healthy dose of smug arrogance), it ought to be exposed for what it is. It is faith, pure and simple, and ought not be thought superior to a faith that believes what Scripture says: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 3, p. 71
February 1, 1990