What if I told you I was just cooking a letter soup and when I picked up the lit, I read something that can prove the existence of God. It said:

I am God and through this soup, I prove my existence

Of course, you don’t believe me. Our intuition tells us that it’s quite improbable that through the scattered, aleatory movements of the boiling water and the spongy, delicious letters, a legible sentence can come up – especially one that speaks about and confirms the existence of God All-Mighty. It’s completely natural that we are a bit skeptical… but we are not always like this.

Here Comes Darwin

In 1859, Darwin published the Origin of Species. In it, he proposes that evolution happens through random mutations that happen to be beneficial to the organism. With time, these improved organisms survive longer than their peers and produce more off springs, a process which is called natural selection.

This paradigm in biology has been reigning for centuries now, with few people daring to speak out and challenge it. My question is: Why are we so doubtful about the power of randomness when we are speaking about a coincidence in a soup letter but firm believers when it’s regarding life itself and our own existence? Why do we rely so much on modern scientists when our intuition tells that good things – like life – can’t just happen by accident?

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Science What?

Science, at its core, is a systematic activity that builds knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe, through observation and experiment. Basically, science’s job is to:

  1. Observe some phenomenon in reality
  2. Formulate a hypothesis to explain the phenomenon
  3. Design an experiment to test it
  4. Record the observations and analyze the data
  5. And finally, they reach conclusions.

And that’s all good and necessary. That’s how we discovered gravity, electromagnetism, the existence of atoms, the second law of thermodynamics, the existence of other stars, and the chemistry of different elements. And thanks to these discoveries, we were able to develop smart-phones, TVs, the internet, vaccines, cars, skyscrapers, and plumbus, improving the lives of millions and millions of people around the world. But something else is going on…

Almost unnoticeably and perhaps unconsciously, scientists began to construct a worldview and a paradigm through which they now view and understand the world. The world that scientists believe in is one composed, ultimately, by atoms and subatomic particles, devoid of any emotion, mind, consciousness, experience, and, of course – and most importantly – devoid of any type of God. In this world, one can only call something real if it can be measured and observed – the rest might as well be fantasy and as real as Santa Claus or the Spaghetti Monster. This worldview is called Materialism.

Materialism in Biology

In biology specifically, this was translated into the firm conviction that Darwin was right, that evolution happened through several random DNA accidents, and there’s nothing, and principally, nobody, guiding this blind process. God is replaced by randomness and mere luck.

This sounds too good to be true, so let’s revisit the power of randomness…

Give Me Some Soup

Let’s bring the soup letter thought experiment once again. If we look at it through a scientist’s lens, we will reach three possible explanations:

  1. Either I got extremely lucky and got it right the first time or…
  2. I arranged the letters before I shot the video or…
  3. I boiled the water a million times until I got the right word order

It’s very, very, very unlikely that I got it right the first time so we can discard the first option.

So, we are left with: either it was me arranging the letters before shooting the video, or it was an accidental invention that used repetition to beat the unfavorable odds of extraordinary coincidence.

Of course, each try takes time and resources, so we must determine how many tries I supposedly needed to have a good chance of lifting the pot and finding the miraculous sentence and calculating how much time that would take. If the result is longer than my age, the best guess would be that I secretly arranged the letters before I press record to my camera.

But what does it all of this soup thing has to do with Darwin, and scientists, and the existence of God? We are getting there, but for me to respond, let’s dive a little bit deeper into a miraculous molecule called “protein.”

The Fascinating World of Proteins

Proteins are the molecules responsible for most of the cellular activities of life. They are to a cell what mechanical components are to a car – they are key to life.

They are composed by long chains of amino acids. These are smaller molecules with connectors on both ends and an appendage in the middle – there are 20 different types of them and are differentiated by that appendage. If the sequence of amino acids is right, they fold up automatically inside the cell to form a compact three-dimensional structure, which we call “protein”.

Proteins can take different forms and shape in different ways, which will determine their function, and if the sequence or folding of amino acids is incorrect, the protein will be useless. Based on their specific structure – which is based on the arrangement of specific aminoacids – proteins can balance fluids, transport and store nutrients, provide structure to the cell, to cause biochemical reactions, and more.

But just how specific are the arrangements of amino acids that cause protein chains to fold, then? That’s what Molecular Biologist Douglas Axe answered in his 2004 experiment.

  1. He made variants of a functional penicillin-inactivating enzyme (which is a type of protein and is composed by 153 aminoacids).
  2. In each working variant, a cluster of 10 aminoacids was replaced with random alternatives.
  3. The idea was to check how hard it was for a random arrangement of aminoacids to be as functional as the structure they replaced.
  4. Once they discovered the probability of getting a random cluster to work with the protein as whole – in other words, how many randomized structures needed to be created before one that worked came into existence – they calculated the likelihood of a fully randomized protein having the functional coherence needed to form a structure that supports the protein function.
  5. He discovered that of the possible encoding protein chains 153 aminoacids long, only about a hundred trillon trillon trillon trillon trillon trillon is expected to encode a chain that folds well enough to perform a biological function.

I know that sounds like a very big number but to put it things in perspective, this probability is the same as trying to randomly throw a pin that hits a target the size of a hydrogen atom in a sphere of the size of the visible universe – twenty-eight billion light years in diameter. That sounds like a pretty difficult task for randomness and luck to accomplish. And I would dare to say, almost impossible.

More Than Proteins

The intelligence and ingenuity of life is not limited to a single folded protein
. Each form of life that shares our planet, from bacteria, to birds, and insects, have a set of proteins and genes that are unique to each species. Not to even mention the complexity of our bodies, the intricateness of our visual system and the unphathomable existence of our brains.

To believe that randomness and natural selection are the authors of life and all its species is to believe that it’s possible to hit a target the size of an atom on a universe-size sphere over and over and over again by blindly throwing subatomic pins.

To be fair, natural selection and accidental mutations in DNA can improve and polish a pre-existing feature or invention but it cannot and will never produce meaningful inventions because – as we’ve seen – it is statistically impossible. Just as our intuition tell us that boiling water cannot give origin to well-made phrases, it also indicates us that the complexity of life and you and me and everyone you know cannot be – in principle – the result of a series fortunate mistakes. No amount of them can create the sophistication and coherence needed to create something that was not there before.

Computer programs cannot be written by randomly stroking keys on the keyboard – they need a programmer that’s capable of insight… and life is no different. So, the key question remains: what is the nature of this mind? Or even more interesting, what is the nature of this reality?

Does God Exist?

What the Soup Letter thought experiment demonstrates in a casual fashion and what Douglas Axe’s shows in a more scientific way is that no amount of DNA mistakes can produce meaningful inventions – only insight and intelligence can. This provides us a pretty big hint that reality is not just made out of dead, inert, atoms bouncing around but there’s something deeper, more profound, more complex going on. Materialism fall short to explain the origin and evolution of life and as we’ve seen, only a purposeful, intelligent mind can.

The bleak and dreary picture of the universe that modern science wants us to believe, were there’s no place for mind, free will, self, experience, emotions, purpose, transcendence, and God, has no basis in reality – it’s just a very solid but illusory belief.

Although these types of experiments are purely physical in nature, their conclusions are not. After hearing about them, it’s inevitable that we ask ourselves what is the nature of this mind guiding and instructing the process? Is it a God separated from our reality and pulling the strings in another dimension or is Reality itself intelligent and purposeful? If there’s a purpose in evolution, which is it? What is the ultimate aim in this intricate and incomprehensible project? What is the purpose of our life, specifically, being the most advanced result of it, that we know of? Do these answers entail some sort of responsibility to other living creatures or the earth?

Science is Not The Answer

It’s time to stop waiting for science will not provide us answers to these questions. A new kind of philosophy and religion needs to emerge that builds from the foundations of science but doesn’t stop there. It must go beyond, attempting to tackle these critically important questions and give the meaning back to our robed, purposeless lives.

So stop buying the story that we live a dead world reigned by chance, forces, and mistakes, with no God whatsoever and realize that there’s something deeper going on, there are some questions still unanswered, and it’s our responsibility as the Universe best effort to become conscious of itself to answer them and keep evolution marching forward.

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