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Before Natural Selection There Was, and Remains, a Mystery

David Klinghoffer

natural selection

The origin of life is as mysterious today as it was in 1984. That year, Charles Thaxton, Walter Bradley, and Walter Olsen published their book that sparked the modern intelligent design movement. The book was rereleased this week in a wonderful, expanded edition under the title, The Mystery of Life’s Origin: The Continuing Controversy, with new scientific contributions by James Tour, Brian Miller, Stephen Meyer, Guillermo Gonzalez, and Jonathan Wells. The Foreword is by Robert J. Marks and John West, while I wrote the Introduction with all the historical background for appreciating the book’s importance.

In a series of interviews for ID the Future, Dr. Marks of the Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence talks with Dr. Bradley about the origins of the book. Download the first podcast or listen to it here. 

Crystal Backs and Eloquent Eyebrows

In the conversation, they offer an uncommonly clear discussion of the problem of the early Earth’s atmosphere, how we know what the atmosphere was, and why materialist theories stumble on the ancient rocks. Some have sought to explain life’s origin by summoning the aid of crystals, specifically “the backs of crystals.” That was the surmise of Michael Ruse, interviewed by Ben Stein in the movie Expelled. Dr. Bradley explains why such suppositions fail as science, pointing to the need for an intelligent author of the first life.

Believe it or not, for the answer to this ultimate question — how life arose, before natural selection could even hypothetically begin its work — the “backs of crystals” theory remains among the best materialist guesses. If all the guesses are implausible, as this updated book makes clear, then the crystal one is no better or worse than all the others. Or as chemist James Tour puts it in the carefully veiled title of his chapter in the new Mystery, “We’re Still Clueless About the Origin of Life.”

If you missed Expelled, enjoy the scene with Dr. Ruse here. Ben Stein’s eyebrows are eloquent in expressing his skepticism:

Photo at the top: Walter Bradley speaking at the Dallas Conference on Science & Faith, this past Saturday, January 25, by Chris Morgan.