The Puzzle of Life

Suppose someone tells you he's invented a foolproof method for solving the "New York Times" crossword puzzle. Count the open spaces, he says, divide the total by the number of clues, multiply the result by pi, and presto! The puzzle is solved. Except, of course, it's not. No matter how hard you try, there's no way to solve a crossword puzzle using a mathematical formula. The same thing applies to science. In science, finding the right formula for solving a problem is crucial. But ironically, many scientists today are using the wrong method when it comes to solving the puzzle of the origin of life. That's the message of a new book by physicist Paul Davies called "The Fifth Miracle." Davies took up the problem of life's origin thinking it would be solved quickly. Scientists had identified many of the molecules of life, and many were proclaiming that they would soon find a natural law to explain the origin of life. But after spending a year or two researching the field, Davies writes, he realized that the problem was not merely filling in a few "technical details." Rather, he writes, "we are missing something very fundamental about the whole business." That "something," Davies argues, is an explanation for biological information. At its core, life depends on information. The DNA code is "written" in chemical "letters," telling the cell how to build proteins - tiny molecular machines that carry out most of the processes needed to keep us alive. DNA contains instructions for literally thousands of different proteins. How do we explain the origin of such vast quantities of information? Well, the typical scientist today applies a method called naturalism. That is, he assumes that natural forces account for everything that exists. The trouble is, natural forces produce only identical, repeating patterns: An apple falls from a tree exactly the same way, whether in Montana or Mongolia. Applied to DNA, this means natural forces would produce a rigidly repeating sequence of chemical "letters" - the same pattern over and over. But you can't write a complex message by repeating the same pattern of letters over and over - and by the same token, you can't get specific instructions for thousands of proteins. As Davies puts it, a constantly repeating pattern would be as "as useless as a stuck record." This argument is fatal to any attempt to explain the origin of life by natural causes. The alternative explanation, of course, is that life is the product of intelligent design. In all of our experience, the only known source of information is a mind - whether we're talking about books or billboards or crossword puzzles. Based on experience, then, it is reasonable to conclude that the source of information in DNA was likewise a great Mind. In his latest book, Paul Davies has at least grasped the problem: that a regular repeating natural cause cannot account for the origin of life. That itself is a major scientific breakthrough. Unfortunately, Davies still hopes to find some kind of new natural cause to explain life's complexity. But if he presses his research he can only come to conclude that life was designed. For the evidence itself is becoming clearer by the day: that when it comes to the origin of life, there is no materialistic explanation. The information needed for life can come only from an intelligent mind.


Chuck Colson


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