7th October 2012

Artificial Life

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings
Proverbs 25:2 NIV (UK)

There was a time when we who believe in a Creator could say with confidence “scientists will never create life.” Well, we can’t say that with quite the same confidence now. Last year, a team of scientists succeeded in creating life. They created the world’s first synthetic life-form in the laboratory. This controversial feat occupied 20 scientists for more than 10 years at an estimated cost of $40m and was described as “a defining moment in biology.” Obviously, this experiment required a remarkable amount of work by a highly skilled team of quantum and computational chemists, protein engineers, biochemists, and molecular biologists.

It’s important to understand that these scientists have not created life from nothing. Nor have they claimed to. What they’ve done is to remodel an existing life form to generate a new one. Think of a team of highly trained engineers taking parts from other existing engines to build a brand new working engine. But let’s not underestimate what these scientists have achieved.

Researchers pieced together enzymes from about one hundred proteins of known structure, essentially mixing and matching. They planned and performed well-thought-out design strategies in order to prepare artificial DNA molecules to be carefully manipulated by highly skilled chemists. Their efforts are of huge theological and philosophical significance. Let me explain why!

Their work provides evidence that, if life is to undergo any significant transformation at the biochemical level, intelligent agents must be directly involved. Their work was based upon decades of accumulated knowledge, brilliant ingenuity and strategic planning toward their planned goals in order to design the new. To put it another way, they made evolution “happen”.

Some scientists who espouse an atheist agenda would argue that life can originate and develop through natural processes, with no need for an intelligent creator. But clearly this experiment does not reinforce that argument. It was not an undirected process. Neither was it a lucky coincidence or blind luck. It required precise methods and procedures intelligently thought out and expertly executed. These scientists have shown that modifying even the simplest life form needs the involvement of an intelligent agent directing the process.

So, far from showing that life does not need a Creator, this experiment actually reinforces the conviction of a need for a Creator’s involvement in the origin and development of life. This experiment won’t put an end to the “Creation versus Evolution” debate. That controversy can never be determined through data collected by scientific experiment. Those results must be interpreted on the basis of philosophical or theological assumptions established on other grounds. And, of course, little intelligent discussion can take place while one side is trying to knock the other out of the ring.

But in the meanwhile, we are coming to understand more and more about the beautiful and intricate processes that are involved with the phenomenon we call life. Both science and religion should approach the questions of the development of life with humility. We still have much to learn, and the more that we do learn about life, the question should not be whether or not a Creator was involved, but rather, was there any part of this wonderful process that did not need the involvement of a Creator?

Prayer
We live in an age of wonderful scientific advances, Holy Father. Most think that such discoveries dismiss you, whereas almost all point directly to your design and blueprint. Thank you for your patience with us, Father. The deeper we delve, the closer to the essentials of life and creation we get, the closer, actually, we get to you. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen

Study by Joseph Tkach 

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