I’ve had a very interesting night. After watching Dr. David Wood (a Christian apologist and former atheist) and skeptic John Loftus (an atheist and former Christian preacher) debate whether Jesus rose from the dead in a very lively exchange, I decided to have a look at David Wood’s fascinating but very disturbing conversion story (WARNING: Do NOT watch this with children in the room!) At one point in the video (20:38), David Wood describes how several things combined to destabilize his entire atheistic belief system. The first was the argument from design:
First, what’s called the design argument finally hit me. I was looking at a wall, and how the bricks were arranged, and I thought to myself: “You know, if someone told me that these bricks went into this order by some process that didn’t involve intelligence, I’d smack him in the mouth. And yet I believe that life formed without intelligence, when the most basic living cell is unimaginably more complicated than some bricks stacked on a wall.” Why did I blindly accept the extraordinary claim that life arose spontaneously from non-life without demanding some very good evidence?
David Wood’s argument is not directed at unguided evolution, but at abiogenesis, so the standard reply that an organism is not like a wall (or a watch, for that matter) because it can reproduce, is beside the point. What we are talking about here is the origin of the first living thing that could reproduce.
Now, if I were an atheist, I might respond to David Wood’s argument as follows: “Maybe even the most basic living cells today are far, far more complicated than the first self-replicating molecule was. And maybe the first self-replicator was simple enough to have originated spontaneously on the primordial Earth, by an unguided process, over a period of hundreds of millions of years. And once it originated, it could have evolved into bacteria and other living organisms.”
I might say that, but the problem is that:
(a) there’s not a smidgen of evidence for the existence of these primitive self-replicators;
(b) there’s also no evidence that even a primitive self-replicator could have evolved within the time available;
(c) peer-reviewed calculations by a senior evolutionary biologist suggest that the origin of the simplest possible life-form – a “a coupled replication-translation system” – on the primordial Earth would have been a fantastically improbable event, even over a period of billions of years;
(d) we have no evidence that such a primitive life-form could have evolved into the kinds of cells that we find on Earth today;
(e) while someone might invoke the multiverse to beat the overwhelming odds against abiogenesis, there are also universes out there in which brick walls form spontaneously, too – yet we don’t go around saying that design inferences for brick walls; and
(f) in any case, there are good scientific arguments against the existence of an infinite multiverse.
Finally, Dr. David Wood does not present his design argument as a knock-down demonstration. The question he posed was: “Why did I blindly accept the extraordinary claim that life arose spontaneously from non-life without demanding some very good evidence?” Right now, we have no evidence for abiogenesis, let alone very good evidence.
So my question for readers today is: what do you think of David Wood’s “brick wall” design argument?
NOTE: I realize that after viewing David Wood’s conversion story, many readers will want to weigh in with their opinions on the veracity of his story and the moral character of David Wood. Please don’t: if you have a look over at John Loftus’ blog, you’ll see that the subject has been thrashed out ad nauseam here (scroll down to view readers’ comments). Draw your own conclusions about David Wood and his story – and by all means, have a look at his debate with Loftus, too (it’s well worth viewing, and neither side pulls any punches). What I’d like this post to be about is David Wood’s design argument. What do you think of it?
Over to you.