In a video published Monday, the Discovery Institute set out to disprove materialist theories to explain the origin of life in purely materialistic, orderless terms. Materialism claims that matter is all there is, and many scientists believe this, but it is an assumption they bring to science, rather than a finding of science. The video is the fifth in a series entitled “Science Uprising” that seeks to unmask the claims of materialists which masquerade as scientific but are often more ideological and not backed up by the most accurate research.
The video opens with a quote from Stephen Hawking: “The life we have on earth must have spontaneously generated itself.”
The host, wearing a mask similar to the V for Vendetta-style masks worn by the hacker group Anonymous, is more skeptical. “Did life really spontaneously generate itself from chemicals? Has science shown this?” he asks.
He interviews James Tour, an American synthetic organic chemist and professor of chemistry, nonoengineering, and computer science at Rice University. Tour attacks the computer-generated origin of life models purporting to show the origin of the first cell.
“All of these little pictures of molecules coming together to form the first cell are fallacious, are ridiculous,” he says. “The origin of life community has not been honest. They will write in their very papers, they will see some small phenomenon and extrapolate what this means in the context of origin of life. And then they will work with the press and the press will extrapolate it all the more, and you get many many people deceived, thinking that life has been all but made. All of this is a lie.”
The video discusses two main purported “breakthroughs” in origin of life science.
The first involves Craig Venter, who created the first synthetic cell in 2010. A headline in The Telegraph read, “Scientist Craig Venter creates life for first time in laboratory sparking debate about ‘playing god.’”
“We haven’t created life, nowhere close!” Tour responds. “What they did is: they took a cell; they took the genome out of that cell; they manufactured a genome that’s similar to it; and they put it in. That is akin to taking an engine out of a Ford and putting it into a Buick and then saying, ‘Look I created automobiles!'”
“No, you just took one piece — and not even the engine, it’s just the computer control box — you took out of one car and put it in another car, that’s what it was like. But the design of the computer control box you got from other cells,” the synthetic organic chemist explains.
Another materialistic approach to origin of life involves “protocells.” If the basic building blocks of cells, or the ancestor of the first cell, could be constructed by chance, the theory goes, then there need be no intelligent explanation for the origin of life.
“Protocells are a bunch of nonsense,” Tour claims. “That is like a prototurkey. I take 20 pounds of sliced turkey meat from a delicatessen. I throw that into a pot. I add in some turkey broth. I warm that up and I throw in some feathers, and I say that’s a prototurkey. Yeah, there’s no order to it, but you know if you wait long enough, a turkey will come gobbling out.”
“That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?” the synthetic organic chemist asks. “That’s precisely what origin of life researchers have done when they make a protocell.”
Materialist theory claims that with enough time and enough chance, life could arise out of non-life. This violates the basic rules of organic chemistry, Tour argues.
“Time is actually the enemy. You let these chemicals that have been made sit around. They show the degradation in a period of weeks. Weeks is the twinkling of an eye when it comes to pre-biotic timescales,” he says. “The chemicals decompose. So to think that the molecules could be made and sit there waiting for other molecules to come in, it doesn’t happen. Organic chemistry doesn’t work that way.”
At a loss to explain the origin of life on Earth, some materialistic scientists claim that life must have originated in outer space and was then carried to Earth somehow.
“Whether you want to have it originate from Earth for from some other planet, you have to have the origin of life,” Tour explains. “You have to have the origin of that first cell. How does that happen? We have no idea.”
The video’s Anonymous-style narrator explains that the problem of naturalistic explanations for the origin of life is “becoming harder all the time, not easier,” thanks to the complexity of a cell. To understand this complexity, he interviews Douglas Axe, visiting professor of microbiology at Biola University and founder of the Biologic Institute.
“To get an idea of the complexity of a living cell, think of a factory with thousands of pieces of machinery all working together to do some coordinated task,” Axe begins. “A cell is actually far more complicated than that factory because factories don’t maintain themselves, people have to maintain factories. And factories certainly don’t make new factories, whereas with a living cell, all the parts that wear out are automatically remanufactured within the cell. Not only that, the cell is manufacturing a new cell as well. Human-made factories don’t even come close.”
In order to achieve this kind of complexity, life requires “some very detailed instructions,” encoded in DNA and RNA.
“If you have a string of nucleic acids like DNA or RNA has, you have to have a precise sequence, because that translates to what proteins are needed to build the organism. That’s called the information code,” Tour explains. Chemistry cannot explain the origin of such a code, he says.
“We don’t have a tool to assess that within chemistry.”
Last but not least, the video’s narrator interviews Stephen Meyer, a former geophysicist, Ph.D. in the philosophy of science, and director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. His bestselling books include Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design.
“Is there anything we know of that does have the causal power, the ability to generate new information, and therefore could explain the origin of the first cell?” Meyer asks. “I think there is. And that’s the idea of intelligent design.”
The video defines intelligent design as “the theory that certain features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process.”
Meyer says he supports this theory “because what we know from our experience is that intelligent agents can produce information and indeed do produce information in a digital or typographic form — the kind of information that we find in the DNA molecule — functional digital information.”
“Whenever we see information, and we trace it back to its source, whether we find it in a section of software code, for a paragraph in a book, or in a hieroglyphic inscription, we always find that a mind played a role in generating that information,” he says.
The Anonymous-style narrator concludes with a final shot against naturalistic origin of life science.
“Don’t be fooled by the hype: Materialists are further from explaining the origin of life than ever before. Yet they still refuse to consider the only observable source known to create information code, an intelligent designing mind,” he says.
“We are not materialists. We see the human soul. We experience love. We live with purpose. We fight for justice. We are the quiet majority, and we will be quiet no longer,” the narrator says in an Anonymous-style closing.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.