Life's existence has a natural explanation

Dec 30 2011 - 4:25pm

The authors of the December 30 letter, "Earth's location, gravity, atmosphere perfect for life," offers readers a long list of rhetorical questions about the natural world, and ends with their own inquiry as to whether the answers to all these questions is random chance or unique intelligent design.

Why they think these are the only two possibilities is not made clear. I think many readers, myself among them, will be confused, first of all, by what the authors mean by random chance (as opposed to nonrandom chance, or what?). Perhaps they simply mean chance. In any case, I think they would be hard pressed to find any scientific theories which seek to explain the existence of our world as a product of chance. Natural selection, for example, explains how living things change over time through a process that is neither random or based on chance, but is precisely what it is named for, a differential selection process that occurs in nature.

As it is, life operates within the natural universe. It is not a self-contained system operating according to principles incompatible with the natural universe. And when we look around at the universe, it is not filled with similar instances of life, but rather of instances in which life has not had the right conditions in which to develop. Put another way, the fact that we are able to look out into the universe is a natural companion to the fact that there are so many instances everywhere else of life-beings not being able to do just this. If the universe was filled with independent instances of an improbable event, then an appeal to an explanation outside the natural universe would begin to sound more compelling.

Of course, the editorial page is no place to launch into a summary of the work of those who have devoted their lives to observing and inferring from the natural world. These scientists will no doubt encourage the writers of the letter to follow their admirable curiosity to the writings of Hawking, Pauling, Dawkins, Darwin, Gould, Schrodinger, Einstein, Watson, and many others.

Ryan Sherman

North Ogden

 

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