Friday, October 19, 2007

Will Artificial Life Disprove the Existence of God?

A race is going on around the world to create artificial life. It started several years ago, and it is expected that the first artificial life form will be produced in the next 3-10 years. Some atheists are greeting this work with glee. Known as “Alife,” these organisms come in several forms: some are virtual, and some are expected to be actual “wet” single celled critters never seen before on the Earth. Craig Venter, one of the pioneers of the mapping of the Human Genome, has already applied for a patent on an artificial life form.

These plans currently center on taking existing biological materials and recombining them to produce a unique new organism. This has led some to point out that such life will not truly be artificial but only re-engineered life. However, this is usually shrugged off as nitpicking.

Be that as it may, the rationale for producing an Alife entity is the hope that such organisms can be designed to do wonderful and economically beneficial things such as producing cheap biofuels, disposing of CO2, cleaning up toxic waste, making new antibiotics, curing diseases, desalinating sea water, mining minerals, and just about anything else imaginable including figuring out how Darwinian Evolution supposedly works.

The prospect of making artificial life, of course, has its critics. Some point out that once introduced into the environment, there is no way to know what the long-range effects of these organisms might be. It is widely recognized that the law of unintended consequences has quite an unpleasant history. For example, the original hope for the use of the nuclear chain reaction was energy production to provide free electricity not the creation of super bombs. Consequently it is not difficult to imagine many Frankensteinian scenarios of Alife experiments gone awry. Destruction of entire ecosystems, new plagues, and bio-terror are just a few of the possibilities. However, those are not the main issues for this Blog.

Why This Is Important

Atheists often claim that the creation of artificial life will somehow disprove the existence of God. The reasoning runs something like this – religious people believe that only God can create life. Therefore, if man creates life, it proves that there is no God because God is not needed to produce life.

Ignoring the logical problems with the above line of reasoning, it can be argued that the atheist claim is not supported in Scripture. While Scripture does say that God created life, it does not say that man cannot. It can be argued on the basis of Scripture that, in principle, there should be no barrier to the creation of artificial life, and it can be asserted that it is also reasonable to claim that the creation of artificial life is consistent with Biblical discourse.

Genesis 2:9 recounts that in the middle of the Garden of Eden “were the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” Adam and Eve are then told in 2:16-17 “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil,…” They were not prohibited from eating of the Tree of Life. Now what exactly this means is in the realm of theological conjecture; however, Genesis 3:22 sheds further light on the subject. “He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the Tree of Life and eat and live forever.” Later in Genesis 11:6 we are told “…then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”

Whatever the Tree of Life was or represented cannot be known with certainty; however, a biological implication is there in the Scriptures. Additionally, Genesis 3:22 indicates that even after the expulsion from Eden there was still “nothing” “impossible” for humans if they set their minds to it.

Therefore, the creation of artificial life by mankind, if it is accomplished and even if it is not in God’s will, will be in no way a proof against the existence of God, but if anything, it will be evidence in support of Biblical accuracy.


“Artificial Life Likely in 3 to 10 Years,” by Seth Borenstein, Aug. 19, 2007, AP, Washington, DC.

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