Evolution Icon Evolution
Intelligent Design Icon Intelligent Design

Peer-Reviewed Paper Argues that the Origin of Life Required “Purposeful Choices”

What is it that distinguishes life from non-living entities? A new peer-reviewed scientific paper by David L. Abel, “Is Life Unique?,” attempts to answer that question, noting that “Life pursues thousands of biofunctional goals,” whereas “Neither physicodynamics, nor evolution, pursue goals.” Is it possible that unguided evolution and strictly material causes produced life’s purposeful processes? According to Abel, who recently edited The First Gene, the answer is no.

The paper explains that life’s goals include the use of “symbol systems” to maintain “homeostasis far from equilibrium in the harshest of environments, positive and negative feedback mechanisms, prevention and correction of its own errors, and organization of its components into Sustained Functional Systems.” But the article notes that “the integration and regulation of biochemical pathways and cycles into homeostatic metabolism is programmatically controlled, not just physicodynamically constrained.” This programming is termed “cybernetic” — yet according to the paper cybernetic control “flows only from the nonphysical world of formalism into the physical world through the instantiation of purposeful choices.”

Abel’s paper concludes, “Only purposeful choice contingency at bona fide decision nodes can rescue from eventual deterioration the organization and function previously programmed into physicality.” Life thus cannot be the result of unguided material processes — some cause capable of programming “purposeful choices” is necessary.

See David L. Abel, “Is Life Unique?,” Life, Vol. 2:106-134 (2012).


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



Baylor UniversityDavid Abelevolutionintelligent designJonathan WellsJoseph KuhnMichael Beheorigin of lifepeer-reviewscience