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Basic Worldview:
102 Atheism vs. Theism

Not Theories, Unsubstantiated Hypotheses 1

Prelude: "Atheism/Theism" vs. "Science, the Bible, & Creation"
Atheism: Introduction and Charges
Charge 1, Deduction and Induction
Charge 2, Question 1
Charge 2, Questions 2 and 3
Charge 2, Summary and Question 4
Charges 3 and 4, Definitions
Empirical Evidence
Scientists Acting as Mechanisms, Article 1
Scientists Acting as Mechanisms, Article 2
Scientists Acting as Mechanisms, Article 3
Occam's Razor and Conclusions
Footnote 1
Footnote 2 and 3
Proof of Life
Not Theories, Unsubstantiated Hypotheses 1
Not Theories, Unsubstantiated Hypotheses 2
Not Theories, Unsubstantiated Hypotheses 3
Not Theories, Unsubstantiated Hypotheses 4
Scientists: Life on Earth Imported from Outer Space
Atheisms Circle of Reasons
Is God a White Crow?

As stated in our article "Atheism's Circle of Reason" the purpose of scientific inquiry into the origins of life is to come up with a plausible alternative to intelligent causation. At times, that purpose is even stated. With this goal of coming up with a plausible unintelligent causation for a living cell in mind, scientists are willing to come up with a series of speculative assumptions seemingly without limit. And while those speculative assumptions are hypotheses, they are by definition, not theories.

Scientific Method - First, information, or data, is gathered by careful observation of the phenomenon being studied. On the basis of that information a preliminary generalization, or hypothesis, is formed, usually by inductive reasoning, and this in turn leads by deductive logic to a number of implications that may be tested by further observations and experiments (see induction; deduction). If the conclusions drawn from the original hypothesis successfully meet all these tests, the hypothesis becomes accepted as a scientific theory or law; if additional facts are in disagreement with the hypothesis, it may be modified or discarded in favor of a new hypothesis, which is then subjected to further tests. - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

In general, when employing the scientific method, we begin with observations that lead us to suppose a hypothesis. Before that hypothesis becomes a theory, we must test that hypothesis either through further observation or experiment. If the hypothesis passes the testing stage, then it may be referred to as a theory. If the hypothesis does not pass the testing stage, then it must be modified and retested, or even discarded altogether depending on the results of the testing. Needless to say that a hypothesis should not be referred to properly as a scientific theory before it has been tested and, in particular, before it has been verified by experimental evidence.

The quotes contained in this article will demonstrate that where the origin of life is concerned, the modern scientific view that life can come from unintelligent forces cannot appropriately be referred to as a scientific theory. Instead, this view is simply comprised of a series, and a seemingly limitless one, of hypotheses that have either not been tested at all or even in some cases have so far failed the testing stage. Nevertheless they are widely asserted by the scientific community as not just theory, but fact. In conjunction with our article entitled, "Atheism's Circle of Reason," the quotes presented in this article will show how far science is willing to speculate just to provide any alternative explanation to intelligent causation. Furthermore, these quotations will demonstrate just how much unverified speculation is involved in the so-called modern "theory" that life can evolve from unintelligent forces.

As you read, one thing in particular that you might notice, specifically with regard to some of the lengthier quotes from the American Scientist article, is how the authors begin a series of speculations using language that indicates the scenario they are depicting is merely hypothetical and uncertain. However, by the end of the speculation, the language has shifted entirely. All hints that this depiction is hypothetical and speculative have disappeared from the vocabulary. And instead, the statements are made in terms of what "must have happened" as if the activities described were now known with absolute certainty. This has the effect of using the language, particularly verb tenses, to convey to the lay reader that mere speculation is a fact, when in reality, the large majority of those things being described have never even been tested in the first place, either in a laboratory experiment or through simple observation.

What will also become evident from some of the selected quotations is the extent to which some of the proposed hypotheses are entirely removed from even the possibility of experimental testing or empirical observation. In fact, so much speculation inevitably results in the removal of the hypothesis from being falsifiable (either by experimentation or observation). This is particularly evident in the hypothesis that life on earth came from some other planetary body. Thus, such speculation becomes inarguable, not because it is founded upon empirical evidence, but because it is impossible to test, to verify, or to falsify.

1) The chemical evolution leading to cellular life on earth almost four billion years ago likely passed through a stage where RNA alone performed all of the functions of the modern macromolecules RNA, DNA and protein. However the so-called RNA world was itself too complex to evolve directly from organic molecules found on the prebiotic earth. More likely, the RNA world emerged from and was supported by a primitive sort of metabolism fueled by the bonds in sulfur-containing compounds called thioesters.- American Scientist article

NOTE: This quotation contains two assumptions. First, because of the chicken and egg dilemma described in more detail in our other articles, scientists assume that at some early point in time RNA alone performed all the functions of modern molecules RNA, DNA, and protein. Second, in order to explain the arrival of this RNA filled environment, scientists assume the existence of a primitive, much simpler form of metabolic processes. As will become apparent from the rest of the following quotes, nowhere in the rest of this article was there presented any empirical evidence to support these speculative assumptions. In fact, the author quite readily admits this is all speculation and that some of these notions have even failed experimental testing so far.

2) On the other hand, it is believed that our young planet, still in the throes of volcanic eruptions and battered by falling comets and asteroids, remained inhospitable to life for about half a billion years after its birth, together with the rest of the solar system, some 4.55 billion years ago. This leaves a window of perhaps 200-300 million years for the appearance of life on earth. This duration was once considered too short for the emergence of something as complex as a living cell. Hence suggestions were made that germs of life may have come to earth from outer space with cometary dust or even, as proposed by Francis Crick of DNA double-helix fame, on a spaceship sent out by some distant civilization. No evidence in support of these proposals has yet been obtained. Meanwhile the reason for making them has largely disappeared. It is now generally agreed that if life arose spontaneously by natural processes--a necessary assumption if we wish to remain within the realm of science--it must have arisen fairly quickly, more in a matter of millennia or centuries, perhaps even less, than in millions of years. Even if life came from elsewhere, we would still have to account for its first development. Thus we might as well assume that life started on earth. - American Scientist article

NOTE: This quotation includes several assumptions. First, it speculates that, because of the short timeframe, life on earth had to come from somewhere in outer space. Then, immediately after offering this speculation, they admit that there is no evidence to support this hypothesis. They also go on to assume that life arose spontaneously from natural process and must have done so relatively quickly. Yet, they offer no evidence to support any of these assumptions.

3) How this momentous event happened is still highly conjectural, though no longer purely speculative. - American Scientist article

NOTE: Here the author again admits that his claims are purely speculative and highly conjectural.

4) It is widely agreed that these compounds are not products of life, but form spontaneously by banal chemical reactions. - American Scientist article

NOTE: No evidence for this "widely agreed" claim is offered anywhere in the article. As such, the only apparent support for this idea is that it is "widely agreed" upon to be necessary.

5) In all likelihood the first building blocks of life arose as do all natural chemical compounds--spontaneously, according to the rules of thermodynamics. - American Scientist article

NOTE: When speaking of the "likelihood" of this claim, the author is confirming that this claim has not been tested nor observed. Rather, it is "likely" in the sense that it is necessitated by the other speculative assumptions he has made so far.


September-October 1995
The Beginnings of Life on Earth
by Christian de Duve

First Cell
By Carl Zimmer