Margaret Trudeau wrote a memoir by this title in 1979, and in 2009 Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro wrote about the art of negotiation in a work by the same title.
Both books were best-sellers, but when I hear the expression beyond reason, I don’t think of either of them, nor the talk show by the same title. To me, the phrase beyond reason suggests one of two things – either behaviour that is unreasonable and therefore hard to accept (“it’s beyond reason the way he carries on”), or a belief that is unsupported by reason and therefore unconvincing (“I can’t imagine that Jim still believes in Santa Claus at age 29 – it’s beyond reason“).
In this post, I am not going to get cranky about anyone’s unreasonable behaviour. Rather, I want to focus on one very popular belief that I consider to be beyond reason, even though it is held by many seemingly rational people. I am referring to the increasingly common belief that life on earth was not created by some supernatural intelligence, but “just happened”. I was exposed to this belief in university and accepted it for a time, thinking it was undeniable because it had been proven by science. I have since given the matter a lot of consideration and have concluded that this common conviction is in reality totally unfounded, and that far from being based on reason it is in fact quite unreasonable.
I realize, of course, that by definition beliefs about the origins of life are unprovable. By its own standards, operational science can have nothing conclusive to say about such matters. From a scientific perspective, the best we can do is talk about possibilities and probabilities, because no-one was there to observe what actually happened.
So let’s stick to possibilities and probabilities.
Today I did a Google search on “What do cells do”. My first hit was a very informative site from the British Science Museum. In it, I found this revealing description of just one of the functions of living cells
( How do cells make proteins )
Proteins are large, complex molecules, which all your cells are making continuously. Each protein is made up of many amino acids which must join together in the correct order for the protein to work properly. Imagine a car assembly line: to end up with a working car, the workers must know when and where to add each part. Likewise, the cell needs a set of commands for making proteins. This instruction manual is in your genes – found in the cell nucleus.
This is just one of the many intricate processes that are going on constantly inside each living cell. I studied introductory biology in university almost 40 years ago. Since then, what is known about cellular biology has increased greatly, but even what was known at that time was enough to amaze me. I was in awe of the complexity and level of organization involved in the structure and function of even the simplest living cells. Yet, the lecturer was clearly hostile to Christianity and all forms of theism, and openly mocked any suggestion that such wonders might have originated from the hand of a Creator. No, he insisted, any reasonable person would agree that they arose purely by natural processes. Such confidence seems more like an article of faith than a scientifically-based conclusion. It makes me wonder who is being unreasonable.
It’s a well-known fact of cellular biology that cells can only come from other living cells. No scientist has ever observed, or been able to reproduce, the spontaneous generation of a living cell from inert chemicals. So how did the first living cell arise? The popular site How Stuff Works addresses this issue in an article entitled Where did the first living cell come from. Despite being written with a clear evolutionary bias, the article still contains the surprising admission that no-one really knows how the first living cell could have arisen “spontaneously out of the inert chemicals of Planet Earth perhaps 4 billion years ago“. Yet, the author assures us, one day science will find the answer. Really?
I work in the field of information technology, writing PL/SQL code to implement business logic in Oracle database systems. Someone had to create the PL/SQL engine that I use to write and compile my code. Someone else had to design the core Oracle database engine and the SQL language on which the PL/SQL language is built. Someone else had to design the C programming language in which most of Oracle’s core components are written. Someone else had to come up with the basic binary logic that makes all computer languages possible. And that’s only a small part of what is required for me to do my work. There are layers upon layers of complex systems and sub-systems underlying every line of code that I write. But even given the best tools to work with, if I blindly hit keys on my computer keyboard, my code would not be very good – in fact it wouldn’t work at all. I have to apply structured reasoning and creative intelligence to the process of coding, otherwise I come up with nothing but a useless mess.
There is far greater complexity programmed into even the simplest living cell than what is contained in any computer program that I could ever hope to write. Faced with this undeniable reality, an unbiased, unprejudiced observer could draw only one conclusion. There must have been some creative intelligence involved in the process. This is not provable, of course, but it is the only reasonable conclusion in light of the available evidence. In fact, we can go farther and assert that it is beyond reason to suppose it all just happened by chance, spontaneously.
Francis Crick, the man who won the Nobel Prize for co-discovering the structure of DNA, and a self-proclaimed atheist, made this startlingly frank admission :
An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going ( Crick, F., Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1981, p. 88 )
Evolutionists typically scoff at Bible stories that include miraculous elements, such as the account of the virgin birth of Christ. David White (Single Cell Irony, Creation 32(3):20, June 2010), has cogently pointed out that it really takes no more faith to believe in the virgin birth of Jesus than to believe that the first living cell could have arisen spontaneously. After all, when considering the feasibility of the virgin birth, it is really only the origin of the first embryonic cell of Jesus that is at issue. The first fertilized cell in a human embryo contains the entire human genome – all the information required to give rise to a fully-functioning human being. Once this first cell was formed, Jesus’ embryo would have grown through natural processes, with no further miraculous intervention. The Bible agrees with this statement, clearly indicating that it was only Jesus’ conception that was miraculous, initiated by the Holy Spirit.
While the thought of a miraculous conception of a fertilized human embryo may seem far-fetched to someone predisposed to believe that supernatural events cannot occur, consider for a moment. Is it really any harder to believe that God could miraculously fertilize an already-existing egg inside Mary’s womb (an environment perfectly designed and suited for such a feat), thus creating the first embryonic cell that gave rise to Jesus, than to believe that the first living cell on earth arose spontaneously out of chemical soup in circumstances that “just happened” to be perfectly suited for its survival, growth and reproduction?
Yet, oddly, it is creationists who are mocked by evolutionists and criticized for believing in miracles. It’s beyond reason … seems they must have a hidden agenda, no?
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:20-21, NIV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:1-5, NIV)