Monday, 20 June 2011

Abiogenesis? Yes please!

Throughout religious history faith has been forced to evolve as science advanced. When we learned where lightning and thunder came from, thunder gods became irrelevant. When we discovered the heliocentric model, sun gods went out of style. And so on.

And yet, despite the long-standing tradition of religious belief being outed by science, the trend continues. Today, instead of asking "If there's no Thor, then where's thunder come from, smart guy?" they ask "If there's no God, then how did life come from non-life, cupcake?". They don't like that we have theories. Abiogenesis just doesn't have enough evidence for them - this, in spite of the total lack of evidence for any gods whatsoever. But, I digress.

Science marches on. After more than a decade of work and effort, Craig Venter, an American geneticist, has created the first ever synthetic life form.

Now, don't get super excited or anything. He didn't build an entire self-replicating cell from nothing but ammonia and methane, or anything quite so grandiose. What he did do, however, was create an entire bacterial genome from scratch. From point one. He inserted it into a bacterial 'shell'. The result? A form of life never before seen on this planet, that didn't evolve, and required no gods to create. Synthetic life.

It's not proof positive of abiogenesis, not yet. Doubtless the believers will have their talking points. They'll say it's more evidence that life requires a designer. They'll say it's no proof that a cell can assemble itself from the primordial soup. They'll have arguments I can't even think of - their best 'scientific' minds will no doubt be hard at work dismantling this further evidence for the naturalistic formation of life.

But that doesn't matter. I'll continue making the point that 'unknown' does not mean 'unknowable'. This is another small piece to that puzzle, another dent in the armor of religion. Sooner or later, someone WILL coax non-living organic chemistry into forming an enclosed pseudo-cellular environment, using nothing but the building blocks of life, air, water, light, and time.

When that happens, I expect the fundamentalists to go into collective apoplexy trying to explain it away. Again, they'll have their arguments. But slowly but surely, as the mysteries of life and the universe are unraveled, those arguments are becoming less and less rational, less and less relevant.

Inch by inch, the light of science is pushing back the darkness of religion.


  1. But once scientists solve the origin of life, creationists will just go farther backwards. They'll want the Big Bang explained in detail. "Something from nothing" etc.

  2. Oh, I know. It'll keep happening, no matter how much we find out. But each new advance or discovery or bit of evidence leaves them with less ground to stand on.