With Enough Blind Faith, You Can Believe Anything!

Tom Siegfried holds a bachelor’s degree from Texas Christian University, where he majored in chemistry, history, and journalism. He earned a master of arts from the University of Texas at Austin with a major in journalism and a minor in physics. I know of him because he is currently the Editor in Chief of Science News. I read that journal regularly, and since he often writes an editorial that appears on the second page of each issue, I have read a lot of his work. He is a talented writer, and he has a good grasp of a broad range of scientific issues. He also seems to have a lot more faith than I could ever muster.

In a recent editorial on origin-of-life research1, Mr. Siegfried made some statements that illustrate what a paragon of faith he really is. After remarking that humans have been trying to puzzle out how to create a simple form of life, he says:

It doesn’t sound like it should be that hard. After all, sometime not quite 4 billion years ago, lifeless molecules gathered somewhere on Earth and self-assembled into an entity that spawned the planet’s full repertoire of ancestral life-forms–without help from any fancy laboratory equipment.

Mr. Siegfried is quite confident that once upon a time, lifeless chemicals randomly interacted to produce something that eventually evolved into all the amazing living organisms we see today. He believes this despite the fact that every origin-of-life experiment has been a miserable failure, which makes him a true paragon of faith.

Now you might think I am being too harsh when it comes to origin-of-life research. Surely it has not been a complete failure, has it? Well, consider what evolutionist Simon Conway Morris says about it. He discusses origin-of-life research in Chapter 4 of his book Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe, and he starts that chapter with these words:2

This chapter is a story of abject scientific failure.

If you read the chapter, you will see why he sums up origin-of-life research in such stark terms. Indeed, even the most “successful” origin-of-life experiments have produced only pitifully small yields of some of the simplest chemical building blocks of life, along with huge amounts of ‘goo’ that would hinder the formation of life.

Of course, you don’t have to take my word or Dr. Morris’s word for it. All you have to do is look at the current literature in origin-of-life research to see how much of a scientific failure it is. There are multiple hypotheses on how life might have originated, and they each have their champions and detractors. Generally, when scientists progress toward an explanation of a particular phenomenon, the number of viable hypotheses continues to decrease. This is because some experiments successfully demonstrate the implausibility of some hypotheses, while other experiments successfully provide evidence for the most plausible hypothesis. As time goes on, the bad hypotheses are “winnowed away,” and the only thing that remains is a viable theory that has the support of several experiments.

In the field of origin-of-life research, however, quite the opposite is true. Indeed, the number of hypotheses of how life might have originated by naturalistic means seems to only increase. As Dembski and Wells point out in their book, The Design of Life:3

An embarrassment of riches [so many origin-of-life scenarios] points not to the solution of a problem but to vain gestures at a solution. Indeed, the very claim that ‘there are many plausible solutions’ suggests that none is plausible. If any one of them were really plausible, we could expect to see a consensus among scientists that it really is plausible.

Of course, Mr. Siegfried is not at all bothered by any of this. His faith remains strong. He is certain (despite the evidence) that one day, scientists will succeed in reproducing what his faith assures him happened once upon a time in earth’s distant path. Indeed, he ends his editorial this way:4

So when scientists succeed in creating primitive life, it might be appropriate to remember that primitive life succeeded first in creating scientists.

I do admire Mr. Siegfried for his ability to cling to his faith regardless of what the evidence says. Perhaps if I had that kind of faith, I would still be an atheist today.


1. Tom Siegfried, Creating life in lab depends on power of primitive cells,” Science News 178:2, 2010
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2. Simon Conway Morris, Life’s solution: inevitable humans in a lonely universe, Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 44
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3. William A. Dembski and Jonathan Wells, The Design of Life, Foundation for Thought and Ethics, 2007, p. 241
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4. Tom Siegfried, Ibid
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  1. NoOneKnows says:

    Mr.Wile, “if” scientists eventually succeed in creating life from lifeless molecules, would it then be considered as irrevocible proof of absence of an intelligent creator or merely that man is playing god?

    Would you change your current beliefs or you think it could still be explained away?

    1. jlwile says:

      Actually, NoOneKnows, it’s Dr. Wile.

      What the results of a scientific experiment tell us depends totally on the nature of the experiment. If scientists manage to create life from lifeless chemicals through a multistep process that requires painstaking purification, control, and selection, then all it will tell us is that life can be made by intelligent designers. However, if scientists can produce life from lifeless chemicals with little intervention in a way that is consistent with what might occur naturally, then THAT would certainly be evidence for the concept that life can arise by chance with no intelligent intervention.

      As a scientist, I am ALWAYS open to changing my beliefs based on the data. Indeed, since I want to believe what is true, it would be counterproductive to do otherwise. I seriously doubt Mr. Siegfried would do such a thing. Indeed, since he believes with complete certainty that life arose naturalistically despite the fact that all available data indicate otherwise, it seems he is already willing to shut his eyes to the data when they disagree with his preconceived notions.

  2. Ben Michael Fournier says:

    Wow, that is sad. What’s even worse is that when such is pointed out, the usual retort by abiogenesis adherents is the psittacism of “appeal to ignorance!” usually along with some rather unpleasant screeching noises and other squawking just so as to dissuade their opponents from responding to them. That way, when their opponent gives up from being tired of verbal abuse, they can feel like they’ve “won” just by having the last word.

    1. jlwile says:

      Hehe, Ben, you are certainly right about the screeching noises and other squawking! It is very interesting to note the dichotomy in many atheists. They appeal to ignorance whenever they need to, but they viciously attack a theist for using a “God of the gaps” mentality to explain the natural world.

  3. Lydia T says:

    A friend of mine was just talking with me about how much faith an atheist and an evolutionist must have to keep their beliefs. I took a worldviews course for 2 years (Cornerstone) and it was talking about the different types of people and how to witness to them. The one that I never really understood was how to witness to atheists or evolutionists. I want to know which of their absolutes do they share with Christianity so that we have a common ground to start on. I think that it’s faith. Still searching on it, though.

    1. jlwile says:

      That’s a good question, Lydia. Ben certainly has some good thoughts. As he says, the atheists who are actually reasonable (they are few and far between, but they do exist) generally have a system of morality worked out. That is often a point in common with Christians, as we are supposed to be focused on morality as well. Of course, some of the most immoral people I know are those who call themselves Christians, so it is not clear that all Christians have this common ground with reasonable atheists. I expect that you do!

      I think that even the irrational atheists (which make up the majority) want to THINK they are rational, so that can also be some common ground. While I disagree with the nonsense (promoted by some Christians) that says the Christian worldview is the ONLY rational worldview, I do agree that the Christian worldview is very rational. Indeed, I was turned away from atheism to Christianity because of rational arguments. Thus, that can be a fruitful common ground to explore.

      I would also caution you to not mix up atheists and evolutionists. There are atheists who are not evolutionists, and there are evolutionists who are Christians. Thus, atheism and evolution do not always overlap.

  4. Ben Michael Fournier says:

    Lydia, the more academic minded atheists often claim to have morality. It is usually leeched from Christianity and altered according to whatever vices they want, but they also want to hold onto some morality in order to make the claim that they “don’t need God in order to behave”.

    Less academic minded atheists tend to think more coherently about it though, such as Jeffery Daimler. In that case, the only thing in common is a language.

  5. josiah says:

    Your point about exploring Rationality is interesting. But it seems to me that it has a problem. That is the majority of people are still spoon fed their ideas. So most Evolutionary Atheists (like many Christians) trust that their “high priests” (in your words rather than theirs) are rational. And that is enough for them. Needless to say those High Priests aren’t very often available for debate when you want to talk.

    For example a fellow student tried to take up the Creationist/Evolutionist debate against me, while making such mistakes as having Planet Earth created in the Big Bang. It was clear that she wasn’t basing her belief on her own grasp of logic or of science, but on the recommendation of the “consensus” of the scientific body. It’s very hard to reason with that sort of person; who assumes that whatever issues you try to examine have already been thrown up and thrown out by the Pros.

    1. jlwile says:

      Josiah, I agree that when someone is following his or her high priests, it is impossible to discuss things rationally. Nevertheless, you never know when someone will actually see the irrationality of their actions and start thinking on his or her own. Thus, it is worth it to at least explore rationality, especially since there are many who want to think they are rational. It at least gives you something with which you can try to establish a common ground.

  6. Lydia T says:

    Mmm, yes. I have had some very irrational atheists follow my blog and comment on it as well. Morals are a basis with some, I admit, but what about those who don’t have that basis? What then? I find that typically they think that nothing is bigger than the human mind and therefore how can they even begin to understand something bigger than their mind and call it God?

    Now, what do you mean by rational? I suppose you aren’t talking about rationalists.

    Oh, yes, I know it is very different for atheists and evolutionists. I have also had evolutionists read my blog. It’s a whole different spectrum. But for evolutionists, I think that they cannot wrap their brain around anything bigger than science and the scientific laws which govern the universe, and, therefore, cannot understand a God that is not governed by those laws. Correct me if I’m wrong on all of this. I’m still learning 🙂

    1. jlwile says:

      Actually, Lydia, I think that any person who is truly rational must admit there are things bigger than the human mind. After all, the rules of logic and the laws of the universe are bigger than the human mind – even a naturalist must admit that.

      When I say explore rationality, I mean to explore objective evidences and logic. Since Christianity is true, it can be objectively supported, unlike atheism. Thus, if someone claims to be truly rational, he or she must be willing to at least look at objective evidence.

      I am not sure you are completely right about evolutionists. There are many theistic evolutionists who think that God set everything up so that evolution would happen. Those evolutionists have no problem accepting that there is something bigger than science and the scientific laws. What they think is that God is so amazingly powerful that He does not have to “sully” Himself with the day-to-day operation of the universe. He can just set up the scientific laws, and after that, the universe can take care of itself.

      I agree that NATURALISTIC evolutionists have a difficult time understanding a God that is not governed by the natural laws. However, I am not sure that’s where I would start with someone like that. It is certainly not how the Lord worked on my heart when I was an atheist. The Lord worked on my heart by showing me evidence for His existence – the argument from design, prophecy fulfilled in Scripture, the evidence for the resurrection, etc.

  7. Lydia T says:

    It’s really neat to hear how you were converted. Yes, I think I should learn to get my terms right, as Mr. Hughes would say. I come into contact with many many more naturalistic evolutionists than theistic evolutionists.

    So would you say that one of the most effective ways to witness to an atheist is to show evidence of God’s existence?

    1. jlwile says:

      Good question, Lydia. I am not sure there is one way that is most effective to witness to an atheist. For me, seeing evidence of God’s existence was crucial. However, many atheists don’t worry about the evidence for God’s existence as much as what they see as evidence against God’s existence. For example, many atheists are hung up on the problem of evil. That, to me, is the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of God. Thus, for many atheists, I would think the best way of witnessing would be to try to clear up that misunderstanding. However, the key is that it has to be approached rationally. Giving Scripture verses that assure us that God is all good will not help an atheist. Trying to logically show how the presence of evil is necessary for the ultimate good will help an atheist.

      I guess that’s the overall point. Find out where the atheist is at, and try to address his or her needs. However, you must understand that an atheist’s needs must be met rationally, at least at first.

  8. Ben Michael Fournier says:

    Regarding the problem of evil difficulty, some atheists have even said something to this effect “provided that God is omniscience, omnipotent, and *omni-benevolent*, if God existed, then he wouldn’t let anything bad happen. Bad things happen, therefore God doesn’t exist”. Please note, this is somewhat paraphrased, but it is basically an argument that I hear from one of the more rationally minded atheists I know. He also gets hung up on the existence of evil. Whenever I hear him say this though, I think, “so, you want that God should be your babysitter?”

  9. josiah says:

    I came across nearly that exact phrase in a website about the humanist ethics movement; it tried to say that unlike even Santa Clause of the Tooth fairy, God can be disproven by that exact logic. Needless to say I wasn’t impressed. If nothing else there are plenty of deities out there that do not claim to be omnipotent or benevolent. Even if only the Christian God were considered, the problem of evil (or problem of pain) is well explained within most circles of theology, if the person could be bothered to check.

    1. jlwile says:

      Quite true, Josiah!

  10. Lydia T says:

    Wow, this is very helpful advice. Thank you to you both, Dr. Wile and Ben. Very good thoughts and statements that definitely cleared some questions for me 🙂

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