Life from stars, Abiogenesis, and God


(Dark X Studios) #1

As Christians (as a whole, all sects and denominations, creation views, etc.), we know life is from God (whether directly of indirectly). For those, Christians and nonbelievers, who believe that the origin of life (not evolution, but rather abiogenesis), is it alright to believe our physical bodies we once particles/matter in a star? I see many peoole say that as humans looking at the universe, it’s basically saying the universe is looking at itself. Now i see this alot among atheists, Not surprised. But for Christians, is there any harm in believing that our bodies are made of matter that once existed in the sun or other stars? I suppose this also calls into questiin the validity of Abiogenesis, or origin of life from nonliving chemical (i.e. some call one theory, Primordial Soup). Is there evidence for Abiogenesis?


(Christy Hemphill) #2

If you believe the Big Bang is fact, doesn’t this necessarily follow? Even if you believe life was started by miraculous divine intervention, don’t you believe that God infused the existing matter with a spark of life?


(Dark X Studios) #3

Ya I suppose that’s true. Never thought about that. Thanks :blush:


(Mervin Bitikofer) #4

If we are a subset of the universe (and I don’t think too many Christians would dispute such a trivial claim, though some might say we have souls that properly belong in some other “dimension”), then it would follow that we are “the universe looking at itself” – some might say for the first time. But that might be a tad arrogant to presume we are the first or only ones anywhere. Angels and God (not subsets of the material universe) don’t count for that, but who knows what alien-to-us lifeforms may or may have existed (topics pounded on in other threads).

Happy Easter to you all!


(RiderOnTheClouds) #5

I don’t have any issue with any model of origins, provided God have ‘a’ role in it. It doesn’t matter ‘how’ though.


(Luca) #6

We are all made of dust in the end :slight_smile:
Why though does it call Abiogenesis in question?


#7

I don’t see the problem at all. Asa Gray’s view explained in another BioLogos article are very important to my perspective on this when it comes to evolution, and it equally applies to this scenario. God allows things to happen naturally, and they all occur within the constraints of God’s plan.

I don’t know why you would need to think God recreated matter de novo precisely for humans. Creationism contradicts this, of course, but John Walton’s perspectives (who is by no means the first, but certainly one who is very articulate about iti) I think solve this.


#8

The atoms in our body are constantly being replaced by the atoms of the food we eat, which ultimately gets their atoms from inanimate material, so it is pretty straightfoward that we are formed from the same matter as the rest of the universe, even if the first forms of life were somehow not (which I don’t see any reason for believing).


(Wayne Dawson) #10

It seems like your question involves two parts
(1) that what we are made of originated through processes that go on within stars; i.e., we are made of stardust (so to speak). That is largely answered already. As a scientist, that surely has never troubled me. Some of the carbon in our bodies was once perhaps part of a dinosaur – plants grow, they get eaten passing carbon up the food chain and eventually, the carbon goes back into the ground to grow new plants. … and so on.

(2) Abiogenesis: I am not an expert on the topic, but my work is in the area of RNA research (and more recently chromatin) so I spend part of my time as a scientist working on questions like this. Science studies processes. Process says nothing about the existence of God. For example, I can explain the formation of salt from salt water or seawater with the chemical mass balance equation Na+aq + Cl-aq <-> NaClcrystal. However, even though I have described it by some expression, there is no connection between this description and the existence of God. [Granted, I’m using hyperbole – resorting to the reductio ad absurdum – but hopefully, my point for doing this is not missed in the process.] If God made the universe (or multiverse or whatever the physical world is), it is also within God’s purview to decide a rational, discernable universe where the properties of matter could be understood by rational beings who live in it. Hence, whatever we can observe and whatever we can measure follows discernable rules; at least, as scientists, we expect that this is so, but knowing these processes in-of-themselves do not say “there is no God”. That is facile thinking.

Abiogenesis is an effort at understanding how such a process as converting the “non-living” elements into a “living” organism could have happened. It is kind of amazing that the soot in a chimney is part of the stuff that makes life, but the stuff in the chimney can be used in part as compost and feed to the plants in a garden, or in agriculture proper and so forth. Hence, we can understand that living organisms absorb that carbon and use it to grow.

What has definitely been accomplished so far is to say that simple amino acids and the essential bases composing nucleic acids can definitely form as byproducts of chemical reactions in a “soup” of organic chemicals. The types of products depend largely on a particular “environment”, and some of them are quite incompatible with each other. What is difficult to explain, and as far as I know unexplained (though I could be wrong), is how exactly the bases of nucleic acids might bind selectively to a ribofuranosyl sugar to form the actual nucleic-acids comprising RNA (or deoxyribofuranosyl for DNA), and, how these, in turn, can self-select and self-assemble into a functioning enzyme of any real reproducible capability and self-replicate itself. So there is a lot we really don’t know.

Perhaps your question is more about how to understand scientific findings. Suppose that I could dream up some process in which the non-biologically functional elements (H, C, N, P, O, S, etc.) could somehow self-assemble into a functioning self-splicing ribozyme (a known RNA enzyme). Let’s say that I walked into the lab and shook a test tube and out came life, at least this ribozyme. It would be quite a quantum leap of understanding and would make the argument for abiogenesis a lot more acceptable. Would I then unequivocally jump to “sit in the seat of mockers” (Ps 1)? Simply and emphatically “No”. [Footnote: For clarity, I hardly have the remote level of skill it would take to actually accomplish this whole task, but just for the mere sake of argument.]

We are the clay and God is the potter. The question of how God made us is not something we can complain about; whether it is a 6-day 24-hour plan or the completely explainable process plan. So as one who has thought deeply about the matter and accepted the concept of evolution, even if I end up at the pearly gates and find out that the former plan was correct, well, I have no idea how it would fit together with my observations, but I am sure that there will be a very good explanation. Conversely, if evolution is basically correct, you too will receive an acceptable explanation.

The thing is, science is the simpler thing to work out, even if the puzzles it offers are so hard that no one can figure them out. Science looks at processes. At some level, everything is “processes”, so in that vague notion, even abiogenesis can be assumed to be reducible to processes – even if we have no idea what they are. This is why people who believe in their scientism have so much faith in abiogenesis. There surely is some process that could (in principle) explain how you can get from the simple chemical elements to some living organism.

[Footnote: Now that I have drifted away from a strict description of processes to matters of faith, I think it is important to make another point here. When speaking as a scientist, I think we (scientists) should refrain from words like “believe”. We should use words like “accept” or “reject”; as in “I accept evolution”. I believe in God. This is a matter of my faith, not a subject of science. My faith in God expresses a much larger worldview than science alone can address (in my opinion). Scientism is also a “worldview” – one that limits understanding to that that can be expressed by scientific language. Whose view is right might be a matter of serious discussion, but whatever the answer, it is no longer a matter of science and is more a subject of philosophy. Consequently, as a scientist, I don’t say “I believe in evolution”; rather, I say “I have examined the concept of evolution and found its arguments sufficiently persuasive, so I accept it.” Therefore, I think it important to emphasize that my point about God is not a matter we can resolve by depending on science (in my opinion); rather, for that, we just have to turn to faith.]

Getting back to my point, yes, “stuff” is the “bread” that we live on. We may be able to explain what material is; perhaps we can even explain it completely. However, man does not live by bread alone. We are rational beings who can choose to do right or wrong. This is where I think the question about Jesus becomes important. C.S. Lewis writes in “The Abolition of Man”:

I am not here thinking solely, perhaps not even chiefly, of those who are our public enemies at the moment. The process which, if not checked, will abolish Man goes on apace among Communists and Democrats no less than among Fascists. The methods may (at first) differ in brutality. But many a mild-eyed scientist in pincenez, many a popular dramatist, many an amateur philosopher in our midst, means in the long run just the same as the Nazi rulers of Germany/Traditional values are to be “debunked” and mankind to be cut out into some fresh shape at the will (which must, by hypothesis, be an arbitrary will) of some few lucky people in one lucky generation which has learned how to do it. The belief that we can invent “ideologies” at pleasure, and the consequent treatment of mankind as mere υλη [i.e., matter, stuff, material, substance], specimens, preparations, begins to affect our very language. Once we killed bad men: now we liquidate unsocial elements. Virtue has become integration and diligence dynamism, and boys likely to be worthy of a commission are “potential officer material”. Most wonderful of all, the virtues of thrift and temperance, and even of ordinary intelligence, are sales-resistance [the ability or inclination to refuse to buy a product, service, etc., offered].

… Indeed, sin is (usually) not where I deliberately plan to achieve maximum evil, I just want to make things a little more favorable for myself. Nothing big, just a little bit. Soon, I find that I have to tweak things – just a little bit, of course. This goes on, and little-by-little, so it goes. If I push the game too far, one day, I am seen being led away by the police, and people all say “how could this happen? Wayne is such a bad guy! Isn’t he also a Christian?”. … ouch … It all begins with those pesky “little things”. This is maybe why Jeremiah writes in Lamentations “It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young” (La 3.27).

We should think a lot more about how we tweak things, even innocent-seeming things. Though obviously, sometimes change can be for the good, there can be many unforeseen consequences to seemingly innocent changes. The thing is, we need God’s hand in our lives because we cannot see far and even with the best intentions, we cannot see far ahead to the consequences of our decisions. This is why we pray “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”. In the eyes of eternity, no one by God can lead us.

I would say that abiogenesis is not really the problem for faith in God. That is simply challenging our perspective about God. The heavens and the earth still speak to the glory of God, whether abiogenesis is true or not. Indeed, to me, they might even speak more loudly because we have a world in which even the elements themselves have the fecundity of self-assembling into life. What a mindbogglingly amazing creation. Indeed, “good” is not a good enough word for it. The important thing as scientists is that we be keenly aware of our proclivities to control and manipulate things without the wisdom to grasp the consequences. If we sell our soul to scientism, we will have gained the whole world but forfeited our soul, the very thing that makes us human.

– by Grace we proceed
[edits include spelling, redaction and rewriting for readability and clarity of point.]


(Juan Romero) #11

Something I wanted to point out.

I’ve been reading the God is Imaginary website, where a lot of people get their arguments from. They are not very complicated to debunk, but one of them (argument 25) was interesting.

It says that if someone accepts evolution and abiogenesis, that person is denying the existence of the soul.


(Wayne Dawson) #12

I do suffer from the terrible malady of faith in dualism, for which I take the arrows of scorn; as even some Christians within BioLogos accept monism. Nevertheless, even if I am wrong (which seems quite compelling), assuming God exists (which is clearly a matter of faith), God will remember us. So whether we are monist or dualists, the most important thing for the believer is that God remembers us – not whether the “soul” is “measurable” in the scientific sense.

– by Grace we proceed


#13

Only if you are talking about a naive strawman notion of a soul. And I don’t see how abiogenesis makes this concept any less viable than accepting the fact that the body is material and that the brain does a lot of the identity-related stuff.


(Wayne Dawson) #14

I see it very differently. If the universe really has the natural fecundity to self-assemble life from what appears to be merely “raw elements” with ease, then I suspect that our understanding of what is “soul” would not get smaller, it would become far more diverse.

Maybe the easiest way to understand this is to see it in an inverted perspective: They’re made of meat. [There seem to be a number of versions of this piece, but maybe this is the original.]

It is not necessarily a bad thing either. We (as humans) suffer from a great deal of arrogance and hubris, especially people who think the soul will just go away because science might show that life comes about spontaneously by abiogenesis.

– by Grace we proceed


(David Heddle) #15

My personal view is that the house-o-cards physics that permits the stars to form, then ignite into fusion reactors that in some cases are “flawed” in the sense that they explode, but as a consequence of their flaw they seed space with the the building blocks of life–well this is (to me) among the best prima facie evidences for God.


(Ryan weatherly) #16

We are carbon based life .
Water and dust
Topsoil is mostly carbon
Deep sea thermal vents pump materials and water from deep in the earth that are sediments left over from the Earth’s formation .
The earth formed from debris caught in orbit around our sun , that is in perspective , stardust .

It seems we are stardust via the dust of the earth …

Any corrections are welcome


#17

All accurate, the earth is also showered with meteoric dust also. Our physical body in chemical compounds is made up from the exploded materials of Stars.


(Ryan weatherly) #18

Thank you , will incorporate that info


(Jennifer Thomas) #19

The original is a short story by science fiction writer Terry Bisson. At the end of the story, Bisson says something really quite nice. He says, “If you enjoyed this little piece, please give a dollar to a homeless person.”


#20

Your welcome, note that I did say physical body. I do think that there is a human soul and that we are the soul using a physical body.


(Ryan weatherly) #21

Agreed , that which is born of the flesh is flesh , that which is born of the spirit is spirit

Christ was sent in the likeness ( image ) of sinful flesh …

God is a spirit
God created man in his image ( spirit )

The first Adam was made a living soul , the last adam a quickening spirit …

Our spirit is in the image of God , our flesh is 1/5 species of greater ape .

As I see it .