On Our Origins and Beliefs

By William J. Furney
The Bali Times

Scientists believe life started on Earth after a group of amino acids bonded – possibly delivered via a meteor smashing into the early planet – and zapped by lightning and held together by membranes made possible by steaming deep-sea ocean vents, and from there we began. This may give rise to our attraction to the ocean, as parts of it – iron components – remain in our cells.

And said the journal Scientific American last year, of a lab experiment that attempted to create the origins of life: “The results suggest that Earth’s early atmosphere could have produced chemicals necessary for life — contradicting the view that life’s building blocks had to come from comets and meteors.”

This week, meanwhile, the current American president was busy telling a TV interviewer that all of it is basically hogwash, and that there is a divine, creative force behind all of us.

“… evolution is an interesting subject. I happen to believe that evolution doesn’t fully explain the mystery of life,” President Bush said.

“I think that God created the Earth, created the world. I think the creation of the world is so mysterious it requires something as large as an almighty and I don’t think it’s incompatible with the scientific proof that there is evolution,” he told ABC television.

We’re not surprised by that outlook, though, coming from a conservative Christian with a large evangelical power base. But I am staggered by this continual leap of faith in the face of hard, scientific facts. Certainly all that is out there may not be explained by the tools we use to rationalize and explain, but when so much that is out there is unknown, it’s imprudent to blithely explain it away as coming from the hand of an all-pervasive, omnipotent Creator.

For instance, new theories are emerging on the nature of dark matter, that elusive stuff of the universe that apparently makes up 96 percent of the cosmos (what we can see – planets, moons, stars, asteroid belts and so on – is estimated to be a mere 4 percent).

One group of researchers posits that dark matter may have its own force, one that’s similar to electromagnetism. Another bunch of scientists says such a force emerging from dark matter would only act in tiny ranges, on nuclear scales, and that this could be evidenced by a large amount of gamma rays coming from the center of our galaxy that have been detected by the European Space Agency.

The hope now is that we may learn much more about this unseen material with the aid of the Large Hadron Collider on the Swiss-French border that is currently seeing some dark days of its own. The mammoth, multibillion-dollar particle accelerator has experienced failures in its proton-beam-bending superconducting magnets and is not expected to be online again until the middle of next year. So the wait for any “God Particle” – the theorized but equally intangible Higgs boson that’s thought to give mass to everything – continues.

Meanwhile, incoming president Barack Obama adheres to a more reality-based approach to life than the incumbent.

“It’s not ‘faith’ if you are absolutely certain. Evolution is more grounded in my experience than angels,” he said in a 2006 interview.

Obama is proof you don’t have to portray yourself as a religious cheerleader (even if in private you’re not) to get elected in the United States, which is turning out to be not quite as conventional as many had thought. He’s unlike Bush and Tony Blair, two men who during their war years invoked God as their backbone, strength and conviction, which in my view is largely a copout – for who can argue? At least in the UK, politicians don’t get such an easy ride: after he was de facto booted out of office, largely for betraying the electorate in his sidling with Bush in the disastrous rush into Iraq, Blair said if he had voiced his religious beliefs during his time as prime minister, he would have been derided as a “religious nut” by voters who don’t have any time for God and political decisions.

But I liked one comment from Bush this week. He said he wasn’t a “literalist” when it came to the Bible, that its contents may not be altogether true or accurate, but that it’s possible to hold a belief in a supreme being while maintaining trust in evolution.

“I think you can have both,” said Bush, adding: “You’re getting me way out of my lane here. I’m just a simple president.”


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