Where Life Came From

Where Life Came From August 30, 2018

By CW Brown, Mark W. Gura, and John W. Loftus

“All things considered, which of these two people is more likely to have written a book that contains a realistic version of where life came from?”

Who is more likely to know how the natural world works, ancient humans who lived thousands of years ago, or modern scientists?

The Bible states that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV).

How do we know when truth claims are correct? Christopher Hitchens once stated that “Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.” What could be more extraordinary than claims about the creation of existence? How do we know that the ancient people who made incredible religious claims were correct? It is enough to just to make a claim and say that God did it, to inspire faith?

The Bible was written by ancient people who believed that the sun moon and stars were created on the fourth day after the earth was created. Which leads to the question, “How can four days pass without the existence of a sun?”  

Ancient Israelites believed that diseases were inflicted on creatures by God, Satan, and evil spirits. They were clueless about basic biological functions. They did not know that human babies resulted from the union of a human egg and sperm. They did not know that rain, snow, heat, and cold was caused by meteorological conditions. They seemed to think that battles were won or lost due to God’s will rather than due to the skills, tactics, and numbers on the battlefield. They were clueless about germs, viruses, vaccines, antibiotics, antihistamines, and anesthesia. They were clueless about the causes of floods, volcanoes, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, comets and sunspots. They had no idea what electricity, magnetism, sound waves, tidal waves, and the laws of motion were. They had no idea how many elements there were, nor the scale of the universe, nor the inner workings of the atom, nor even a rudimentary idea of what matter is. They hadn’t developed telescopes, microscopes or spectroscopes. They were especially clueless about evolution.  

They couldn’t explain how most natural phenomenon occurred, but rather than admitting “We don’t know,” they claimed that natural phenomenon was the work of God. Given the cluelessness exhibited by these ancient men, and the staggering results that are now given to us by scientific discoveries, it’s obvious that ancient goat herders are not knowledgeable enough about reality to serve as ultimate authority figures.

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  • Ancient Israelites believed that diseases were inflicted on creatures by God, Satan, and evil spirits. They were clueless about basic biological functions. They did not know that human babies resulted from the union of a human egg and sperm. They did not know that rain, snow, heat, and cold was caused by meteorological conditions. They seemed to think that battles were won or lost due to God’s will rather than due to the skills, tactics, and numbers on the battlefield. They were clueless about germs, viruses, vaccines, antibiotics, antihistamines, and anesthesia. They were clueless about the causes of floods, volcanoes, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, comets and sunspots. They had no idea what electricity, magnetism, sound waves, tidal waves, and the laws of motion were. They had no idea how many elements there were, nor the scale of the universe, nor the inner workings of the atom, nor even a rudimentary idea of what matter is. They hadn’t developed telescopes, microscopes or spectroscopes. They were especially clueless about evolution.

    Dealing yourself a winning hand might be fun, but I don’t think they consider it very impressive in Vegas.

    Measuring the knowledge of an ancient culture by the standards of ours doesn’t tell us anything except how self-infatuated we are. Why not point out that the ancient Israelites didn’t know how to vaporize tens of thousands of people in an instant, the way the Allies did at Hiroshima? Why not point out that they didn’t know how to develop technology that threatens the future of human life on Earth, the way we have? Why not point out that they didn’t wipe out as many species as we have by destroying habitats with industrial pollution?

    Could it be because we don’t come out looking so enlightened in those instances?

  • LeekSoup

    Shem makes some good points there. Put another way, if any of us sophisticated 21st century folk were born 3,000 years ago would we have done any better at determining how things worked?

    Given the wilful ignorance on display today by people surrounded by knowledge and technology, I don’t think we would.

  • This of course is true, just as there are things we don’t know that people in 2000 years will understand.

    I think religions served a couple of major functions: trying to establish order among people (rules, morals, etc) and trying to explain what people didn’t understand (like, why does it sometimes rain too little or too much).

  • Priya Lynn

    The article isn’t about people now being “enlightened”, its about how we now have much better knowledge now about how the world and the universe works than they did then. That people sometimes use this knowledge for evil has no bearing on that point. On the whole individuals nowadays are much better treated by society than they were then. For example, the murder rate was much higher in medieval times than it is now.

  • Priya Lynn

    Religion may have been more useful than not for that purpose 2000 years ago given the primitive state of peoples understanding of the world and what makes a good society, but nowadays when we have so much more knowledge of these things religion has for the most part become more of a detriment than a benefit – i.e. advising the oppression of gays and lesbians who harm no one. We know better than that now, or at least should know better.

  • We should, but so many don’t. I am surprised at the number of nonreligious people I know personally who are shocked when I tell them I don’t believe in the supernatural. These are people who have told me they don’t believe in ancient myths of religion, yet they say they can’t bring themselves so far as to not believe in the existence of a God. It is a strange situation.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Pointing out instances of modern people misusing technology does nothing to dispel the fact that the people of Biblical times were incredibly ignorant.

  • Like I said, you’re just measuring ancient people by our standards. Historians call that presentism. The way we conceptualize knowledge and progress is geared toward flattering ourselves and reinforcing our sense of superiority.

    Let’s face it: we’re just like people in ancient societies, except we have shinier gadgets.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Nope. We’re just like people in ancient societies, except we’re vastly less ignorant. That is the whole point of the article no matter how hard you try to miss it.

  • We benefit from modes of inquiry that do what we invented them to do, that’s all. People in ancient societies didn’t have the same cultural and cognitive outlooks that we do. Do you truly believe they were sitting around waiting for someone to explain atomic theory or species evolution to them?

    We love to frame history as a steady progression toward the present day, and define ourselves as the pinnacle of creation. It’s just one more nutty belief we hold because it panders to our sense of superiority.

  • Doubting Thomas

    We benefit from modes of inquiry like the scientific method. It has made us vastly less ignorant than the people in Biblical times, which is the point of the article. It also has made us the pinnacle of creation with regards to our knowledge.

  • We benefit from the scientific method in certain ways and not in others. Did you happen to notice that technological progress is now literally threatening the future of human life on Earth?
    I keep saying that you’re rigging the comparison by using a standard that you know will make us look superior. You’re just ignoring any downside to progress, or whether our knowledge has caused problems.

  • Doubting Thomas

    I’m ignoring the problems our knowledge has caused because it’s irrelevant to the point of the article. The author was pointing out that people in Biblical times are vastly more ignorant than we are today. He’s right, and you getting pissy anytime someone mentions the benefits of science isn’t going to rebut it.

  • I understand the point of the article, which was to pat ourselves on the back for being so intellectually and morally superior to our benighted ancestors. You’re the only one who appears to be getting píssy here, at anyone having the effrontery to make it sound like progress has a downside.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Do you not think that we’re vastly less ignorant that people in Biblical times? And the point wasn’t our intellectual superiority. It’s that we know soooo much more. You seem to have trouble distinguishing the concepts.

  • You’re making it seem like calling our ancestors “ignorant” is just some value-neutral description of the difference between their technological advancement and ours. I think I’m well within my rights to infer more than a bit of presumption and hubris in the epithet.

    Let’s not forget that those ignorant slobs invented everything we now know as language and literature, agriculture, astronomy, art and music. Not bad for a bunch of backwards yokels.

  • Paul Smith

    This has nothing to do with their knowledge or lack thereof, this has to do with their fearful minds and the ghosts, goblins and gods they created to deal with those fears.

  • Paul Smith

    A lie told often enough is still a lie.

  • Paul Smith

    Fearful minds always seeking the fountain of youth – immortality.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Calling our ancestors ignorant, especially those from Biblical times, is a fact no matter how much you don’t like it. They didn’t know as much as we do. That means, by definition, they are more ignorant than we are.

  • Hey, I just pointed out that these ignorant slobs created society and culture as we know it. That doesn’t even rate a mention?

    Our ancestors didn’t have the same conceptions of knowledge and reality as we do, and they didn’t affirm the validity of the same bunch of propositions about things as we do. But calling them “ignorant” is employing nowhere near as value-free a descriptor as you’re making it out to be.

  • Doubting Thomas

    For some reason you feel the need to equivocate in the face of facts. Let’s try again:

    Do you think that the people of Biblical times were more ignorant than modern people?

  • Do you think that the people of Biblical times were more ignorant than modern people?

    That question is so loaded you should watch out where you point it.

    I’m done with this now.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Probably a good idea. Dealing with facts doesn’t seem to be your strong suit.