In 2013 Biola University sponsored a lively debate between Dr. Fazale Rana, apologist from Reasons to Believe, and Michael Ruse, science philosopher and historian. They debated the topic of whether “Natural processes are sufficient to explain the origin and complexity of the cell.” The appearance of cells in the geologic history of earth is seminal to life itself on Planet Earth. Many debates between believers in creation and believers in evolution are featured on websites such as YouTube. Exchanges of views on this topic are not merely a descent into esoteric boredom. They inform knowledge seekers of the fundamental issues and instruct proponents of each position how arguments are developed. Familiarity with the issues under discussion is invaluable for serious apologists of traditional creationism.
Dr. Ruse subscribes to natural, evolutionary laws. Creationists and naturalists alike have discovered the question of origin of the cell does not have an evolutionary answer. As a believer in naturalistic evolutionary laws, however, Ruse depends on naturalistic evolution to supply the answer to this question as well as events in the intervening 3.8 billion years of life history. He believes no intelligent agent, no supernatural being, no designer has acted, notwithstanding the observation of Ruse and other naturalistic scientists who admit the cell appears designed, not randomly put together.
The debate did not address the intricacies of evolutionary theory concerning the process of evolution since cells first appeared. The two proposals concerning the origin and complexity of the cell supplied sufficient red meat for intellectual consumption. Our blog presents cell origin, complexity, and lastly, the long term process of evolution in the past 3.8 billion years to be a three-pronged entity. All of these topics invite lengthy and elaborate discussion.
Ruse accurately described events involving the cell’s origin and complexity during the mysterious time when Earth was a water world shrouded in clouds. Appropriate chemical compounds, early macromolecules of those compounds, RNA molecules, DNA molecules, proteins, a lipid enclosure (cell wall), and organelles such as mitochondria and chloroplasts suddenly appeared. This list outlines only the highlights of cellular structure, a mere glimpse into what scientists mean by “bio-chemical complexity” of morphologically simple microbial cells.
At this point in the origin and complexity of the cell discussion, Ruse briefly yielded to the temptation to discuss topics most evolutionary biologists prefer to address—the evolution of all life forms from those early moments of cell origin until the present. He claimed “natural selection takes over” from then on. The debate had progressed barely twenty minutes.
Underlying issues of the debate became better defined at this juncture. Details of what happened at the inception of life on our planet were subsumed under a far more important question. Even the later brilliant apologetic by Dr. Rana concerning the supporting evidence for a divine intelligence to get life started took a back seat to a more important issue at the heart of the debate. Rana inquired whether personal philosophy colors his position rather than supporting evidence. Upon questioning, Ruse admitted that philosophy plays a vital role. The role of scientific evidence, therefore, might be secondary.
In future blogs we will cover Fazale Rana’s evidentialist viewpoint of the theistic origin of cells and their complexity. Rana freely admits an intelligent agent, a miracle-producing God, has produced Earth’s origin of life event and the cell’s complexity. Beyond this, he does not believe in the evolutionary paradigm to account for the “fits and starts” flow of Earth life in the last 3.8 billion years. Instead, he unequivocally believes in periodic supernatural, miraculous creation interventions.