The debate on the origin of life has particularly picked up steam as religious parents press politicians and judges to allow equal time for creationism in public schools. The educational and scientific communities panic at the thought. They are convinced that any alternative ideas, such as Biblical creationism or intelligent design (not necessarily the same thing), are nothing more than a ruse to convert schools into dark-age catechism classes.
Although there are nasty words being hurled back and forth, there is also an increasing sophistication to the controversy of the origin of life. When I did research for my first book on the origin of life over three decades ago, there was almost no scientific resource material in support of creationism. Today there are hundreds of books and websites containing excellent argumentation and data that seriously challenge evolution. Many authors who are critical of evolution have doctorate degrees. A few hold prestigious positions in industry or academia.
Some anti-evolutionary material is clearly an apologetic for scripture. Many books weave evangelism in amongst sophisticated discussions of biochemistry, genetics, geology, and paleoanthropology. In so doing, huge leaps are made from scientific and rational discussion to a verbatim literalist (sola scriptura ad litteram) promotion of the Bible . This is a real turn off to evolutionists and an excuse for them to say, "See there, they aren't really interested in science; they want to return us to the Inquisition." Once the religious agenda is exposed, anything else the creationist may be arguing, regardless of its merit, is dismissed as nothing more than Bible thumping.
On the other hand, evangelists think that if they can prove evolution untrue, the only reasonable alternative is the creation account as described in the book of Genesis. Once that is believed, all the rest of the Bible is assumed to be the literal word of the creator of the universe. Whether that is reasonable will be left to another chapter.
Has science proven that if early Earth conditions are recreated in a laboratory that life can spontaneously appear? Are dating methods that show the Earth to be ancient more credible than those that show a young Earth? Do genomic studies prove evolutionary relationships? Does the sequence of fossils in the rocks prove evolutionary history, or cataclysm? Are ancestral evolutionary trees facts or speculation?
Such questions about the origin of life are important and interesting, but people tend to look at the data through the lens of prior bias. If scientists were to create life in the laboratory, those who believe in a creator would just reason that God allows for that. If we are convinced that there is no God, then a booming voice from heaven and the most spectacular of miracles will be just illusions or fraud. What we learn in life depends on the philosophy we bring to life.
So, if we are to resolve the issue of the origin of life and not wallow in pointless argumentation attempting to affirm embedded positions or semantic slogans, then setting the rules of engagement is the prerequisite order of business. Aristotle wisely said, "Those who wish to succeed must ask the right preliminary questions."
There are two critical ground rules. They are both obvious, but essentially never discussed in the context of this debate.
First, all parties in the origin of life debate must be truth seekers. An affirmative answer is necessary to each of the following questions:
- Do you agree to accept any truth regardless of whether it conflicts with previous beliefs?
- Will you let the facts speak for themselves and not ignore or dismiss evidence that conflicts with your prior beliefs?
- If the facts prove that evolution is not science, or that the evidence is more consistent with design, will you set evolution aside?
- If the facts are consistent with evolution, will you set aside your literalist belief in an ancient book's creation account?
If the answer cannot be an honest yes to these questions, then there is no point in proceeding. People who will not bend their beliefs to logic and evidence are not thinking people.
With agreement that truth is the only objective in the origin of life debate (preferably signed and notarized), the second rule is that the method of proof must be agreed upon. It's a simple thing. An affirmative statement must be made that is falsifiable. If a position cannot be stated in such a way that it could be proven wrong, then it is no position other than faith, and most certainly not a scientific one.
To read more on this topic and on many more relevant topics, please click the link below
Living Life As If Thinking Matters