Favorable Perspective On Life Without Intelligent Design
by: Dan Shanefield
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In my previous Meditations, like 639 and 641, I wrote that it is hard to believe that complex (but very specific) DNA could arise from random processes. And hard to believe that a super-complex body could grow from a tiny sperm cell.
Arguments in favor of random origins for life are explained in a book I have just finished reading, and they are somewhat "convincing" (although I hesitate to use the currently fashionable word "compelling"), more so than in anything else I have read. I remain agnostic about it, but I do recommend the book. The book is "The Blind Watchmaker," by the well-known Oxford professor Richard Dawkins (Norton 1996, but first edition published in 1986).
Dawkins emphasizes that extremely improbable things can be imagined to occur somewhere in the billion-billions of star systems in the universe, many of which might have planets, and which might have extended back in time for billions of years or perhaps indefinitely longer. I guess all of us who are interested did know that, but somehow it seems more believable the way he very clearly explains it.
Crystal structures are certainly replicated by self-assembly (see his page 224), and although none that we know of appear to be likely adsorption templates for DNA formation, maybe some like that did exist on the early earth, but they are no longer here, a billion years later. Similarly, maybe there were abundant sugar and amino acid building blocks here a long time ago, but they happen to be gone now.
Dawkins points out that the instructions ("blue prints") for the growth of a human body don't all have to be in the sperm cell, and in fact, some are only in the much bigger egg cell (page 250). And they only have to start the growth process, which could then become much more complex as the growth proceeds logically, without all the complexity being in the egg itself (page 418).
A long time ago I was at a quiet (and dark) party in which someone suddenly shouted angrily, "Jesus Christ!" From another corner of the fairly quiet room, someone else answered, "Yes, my son?" I wish Jesus (or some other deity) would remove my perplexity by answering me that way and telling us how life actually got started. (Although if it's Satan, maybe I don't really want to hear it.)