Thursday, February 5, 2015

Supernaturalism Works!

We conclude our recent discussions of the Ruse-Rana debate on origins by giving Dr. Rana the last word. We have endeavored to cover a diverse range of issues. We trust our readers appreciate the complexity of the issues as well as the complexity of related arguments springing from them.

Dr. Rana’s response to Dr. Ruse consisted of many points from his 2004 volume Origins of Life. In Chapter 4 Rana describes the many chemical conditions necessary for the existence of protocells. These are the original, earliest, first cells on our planet. They (1) have a confining membrane, (2) possess metabolic capability to extract energy and resources from the environment, and (3) have the capability to self-replicate.  

There are two possible pathways to the production of the first protocell—naturalistic and supernaturalistic (intelligent agency). We cite Rana’s opening page of Origins of Life, Chapter 4, entitled “The Naturalistic Approach.” Were we to embrace a naturalistic pathway to the first functional protocell, Rana lists the necessity of (1) synthesis (combining) of prebiotic (pre-life) molecules, (2) concentration of prebiotic molecules, (3) formation of life’s building blocks, (4) assembly of building block molecules to form complex biomolecules, (5) development of self-replication, (6) emergence of metabolism, (7) aggregation of biomolecules to form protocells, and (8) evolution of protocells to form LUA, the last universal ancestor of all present living things.

One of the prominent discussions among origin of life researchers is which came first— the cell membrane, the emergence of metabolism, or the ability to self-replicate? Bioscientists choose sides on this question, but each is invalidated. Modern researchers in synthetic biology have discovered the necessity of intelligent agency in every step of their work. The assumption of a naturalistic cell origin is commonly assumed. Supernaturalism is not even considered by convention of the science profession. How the first cell came into being is a matter of speculation since this event cannot be duplicated in the laboratory. Research into synthetic processes is desirable but bioscientists impose their own intelligent agency at each step. They are unwilling, however, to rationally and open-mindedly consider that historic cell origin and design have the hallmarks of intelligent agency.

Origin of life debates usually pit naturalists against supernaturalists. Sometimes naturalists favor a “bottom up” approach—discovering naturalistic early chemical pathways leading to life. Bottom up proposals describe simple chemical reactions transitioning to more complex reactions. Complexity is gained slowly with the passage of time. Naturalistic researchers propose numerous hypotheses outlining how simple chemistry became complex. One may term this phenomenon the out-workings of a potent “religious” faith.

Supernaturalists usually advocate a “top down” explanatory approach. Essentially, they propose a miraculous origin for bacterial microbes. In the intervening eons, the fossil record manifests dozens of sudden appearances of new life forms. This parallels the sudden appearance of microbial life and is consistent with top down creation acts. In Genesis 1:30 and 2:7, the scripture writer uses “breath of life,” presumably to indicate a supernatural life-initiating miracle, first for the lower animals, then for man. We might extend the phrase “breath of life” to the creation of protocells, the first life forms on Planet Earth.

Dr. Fazale Rana’s volumes Origin of Life (2004) and The Cell’s Design (2008) are invaluable resources for discovering a supernatural perspective on the origin and complexity of cells and the creation of non-human and human life. Dr. Rana is a biochemist and is Vice-president of Research and Apologetics at Reasons to Believe.