Thus linguist Steven Pinker in his Templeton essay remarks that, "traditionally, a belief in God was attractive because it promised to explain the deepest puzzles about origins." The progress of science, Pinker says, follows an "inexorable trend" by which "the deeper we probe these questions, and the more we learn about the world in which we live, the less reason there is to believe in God." The test-tube amoeba, when it crawls out of the glass, will be shaking its pseudopodia in irate refutation of outworn deity.
The anti-God argument that rides on the biosynthesis dream has four parts:
(1) A persistent basis of clinging religiosity has been the claim of believers that science can neither explain nor demonstrate "abiogenesis," or the spontaneous self-organization of living from non-living matter.
(2) This perceived deficiency of science leaves to the theistic tenet of biogenesis by divine fiat a certain lingering appeal, which impedes the progress of science in converting all of humanity to its light.
(3) Believers (the argument here ruefully admits) can point to the unachieved laboratory duplication of "abiogenesis" to strengthen the fideistic assertion that life could only have arisen through the intervention of a rational agent-creator, external to the physical world, who acted by a transparent intention.
(4) When, as inevitably they shall, scientists accomplish the feat of laboratory biosynthesis, their accomplishment will irreversibly deflate the agent-creator dogma about the origin of life and will diminish religion generally, helping to evangelize the naturalistic hypothesis.
As I stated at the beginning, however, far from having pulled off a publicity-coup for the purely naturalistic view of existence, the technicians who conjure forth a synthetic creepy-crawly will, in fact, have handed their fideistic opponents in the science-religion debate a powerful logical-rhetorical gift. How so?
Until that moment, when biosynthesis succeeds, no one will ever before have witnessed the emergence of life from non-life. From that moment forward, one will be able to say without fear of contradiction that on the one occasion so far when anyone has actually witnessed the emergence of life from non-life, the event happened, not through spontaneous processes that organized themselves without external intervention -- but rather life will have emerged from non-life only through external intervention. Moreover, this external intervention will have been entirely agential, taking the form of rational beings that implemented a carefully prepared program, at every step of which they acted according to a transparent intention.
Biosynthesis will therefore entirely support the enduring intuition of the faithful that life, when it first arose, did so not through spontaneous processes that organized themselves without external intervention, but rather through agential intervention by a rational being, external to the physical world, who acted by a transparent intention.
People of faith on that occasion will be able heartily to congratulate their scientific fellowmen for the Titanic -- the veritably Promethean -- audacity of their achievement. They will be able to look forward eagerly to further demonstrations by science that, as the old story affirms, God made man in his own image.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
There Are Those Who Are So Abysmally Philosophically Obtuse As To Think That A Creative Act Will Disprove Creation
Why they're wrong: