Re: The Origin of Life Prize

George Murphy (
Wed, 29 Sep 1999 11:39:32 -0400

Bill Hamilton wrote:
> Art wrote
> >Somehow I am very suspicious of this site. Sounds like a setup to me.
> >It certainly is in my opinion, a prize that will never be claimed.
> While I wouldn't characterize my reaction as suspicion, let me point out
> that the rules of the competition would make it difficult or impossible for
> me as a Christian to consider participation, even though I'm fairly
> convinced that evolution does occur and could well be a mechanism God used
> to bring about life as we know it. The first paragraph on the page
> stipulates that
> ------
> The Origin-of-Life Prize" (R) (hereafter called "the Prize") will be
> awarded for proposing a highly plausible mechanism for the spontaneous rise
> of genetic information in nature sufficient to give rise to life. To win,
> the explanation must correspond to empirical biochemical and thermodynamic
> reality, and be published in a well-respected, peer-reviewed science
> journal(s).
> ------
> The kicker is "spontaneous". If I were to submit an entry, I would by
> implication be accepting their claim that life arose spontaneously. As a
> Christian I know that, whatever the mechanism(s), life was ordained by God
> and therefore did not arise spontaneously.

I don't see that this is a big problem. Christians talk all the time about
things happening "spontaneously" (hydrogen combining with flourine, heat flowing from
high temperature to low &c) with no implication that God is not involved. The idea
that the origin of life must be outside the range of phenomena which can be explained
in terms of secondary causation is unfounded. In Gen.1 it is precisely the origin of
living things which _is_ spoken of as mediated. & for centuries intelligent Christians
believed in spontaneous generation of flies &c - wrongly of course, but without any
sense that there was any conflict with the doctrine of creation.
However - one thing that makes we wonder about the prize site is the meter long
list of "judges" & the combination of some of the names. Watching Dembski & Atkins,
e.g., trying to agree on whether or not a proposal for spontaneous origin of life is
good would be a treat in itself!

George L. Murphy