A prominent Christian website promoting Biblical Creationism has asked its followers to challenge teachers, professors and anyone else with 15 Questions about the Theory of Evolution. Their campaign is called Question Evolution.
Although the questions do not actually challenge the Theory of Evolution, they are questions that certainly deserve carefully thought out answers. We hope to provide a series of answers to all 15 questions from various points of view.
Quoted from CreationMinistries.com:
Question #1: How did life originate?
Evolutionist Professor Paul Davies admitted, “Nobody knows how a mixture of lifeless chemicals spontaneously organized themselves into the first living cell.” Andrew Knoll, professor of biology, Harvard, said, “we don’t really know how life originated on this planet”. A minimal cell needs several hundred proteins. Even if every atom in the universe were an experiment with all the correct amino acids present for every possible molecular vibration in the supposed evolutionary age of the universe, not even one average-sized functional protein would form. So how did life with hundreds of proteins originate just by chemistry without intelligent design? See:15 loopholes in the evolutionary theory of the origin of life (Summary).
Hoyle’s Junkyard and the Origin of Life
There is no doubt in the scientific community that the conditions that gave rise to the first sparks of organic life are very special and very rare. And the study of what those conditions might have been, and what processes gave rise to the first complex organic molecules is one of the most challenging and exciting fields of scientific research.
In this second article on Creation Ministries question #1 from their Question Evolution Campaign, we would like to point out a common logical fallacy that creeps into discussions about the origins of life with both religious and non-religious scientists and laymen. I refer to the portion of question #1 as follows:
A minimal cell needs several hundred proteins. Even if every atom in the universe were an experiment with all the correct amino acids present for every possible molecular vibration in the supposed evolutionary age of the universe, not even one average-sized functional protein would form. So how did life with hundreds of proteins originate just by chemistry without intelligent design?
This same question was asked by the famous astronomer and cosmologists Sir Fred Hoyle back in the 1980s. It certainly was cause for a lot of interesting speculation, and there is nothing wrong with that. At the time, Hoyle was advocating for his own personal theory on the origin of life where life was seeded on planet Earth by some extraterrestrial source. Although it sounds somewhat outrageous the possibility does exist that some of the precursors for life came from meteorites. We do have evidence of complex organic molecules in outer space. This doesn’t really solve the origin of life question so much as simply outsource some of its parts from off the Earth surface. Any precursor wherever it came from still requires an explanation.
The problem with Fred Hoyle’s personal hypothesis was not in the speculation, but in how he put forth his arguments attempting to support it scientifically. His arguments contain a number of formal fallacies when put together comprise a unique fallacy that even bears his name informally. It is called Hoyle’s Junkyard Fallacy or sometimes Hoyle’s Fallacy.
In this fallacy Hoyle also attempts to argue the improbability of the formation by random chance of some 2000 enzymes that comprise the proteins and amino acids in living organisms. And like the partial quotation from the Question #1 above, Hoyle wants to use that as a justification for his own version of Intelligent Design.
Why this fallacy has become so famous can be found in an article on this site called Hoyle’s Junkyard Fallacy. We invite you to read the article carefully to see why Hoyle’s argument is held in such disregard.
Christian Theistic Evolution Perspective
As Christians we do believe that God is the author of all things. As theistic evolution Christians, we believe that “all things” include the natural processes that we come to understand through science, that God used and uses in his creative process. And we also believe that God’s divine providence is not contingent on our knowledge of those processes nor our ignorance of them. In other words, we don’t find God in the shadows of our ignorance alone. We find him in what we don’t know and what we do know.
We consider all truth to be God’s truth. And although we don’t claim to have a lock on ultimate truth, we do know that logical fallacies and the manipulation of people’s tender and sincere faith by deception do not belong in Christian testimony. So we seek truth like anyone else, but we don’t seek it in fallacies.
Therefore, like most of the mainline Christian denominations, we advocate that the pursuit of the understanding through science of God’s Creation is a holy endeavor that equips us with the tools to better minister to misery and suffering in the world as the hands and feet of Christ on Earth.