Little Green Men

In 1967 astronomers were startled to discover radio pulses coming from outer space. "Our first thought," they said, was that "this was another intelligent race" trying to communicate with us. They labeled the signals "LGM," standing for Little Green Men. But it turned out they had discovered a pulsar, a rotating star that mimics a radio beacon. How can scientists tell whether something is coming from a natural or an intelligent source? When you think of it, this is the question at the heart of the creation-evolution debate: How can we tell whether life originated by natural causes or was created by an intelligent being? Think for a moment of some common analogies. Imagine we are traveling through South Dakota and see a mountain with the faces of four presidents carved in it. Immediately we recognize the work of an intelligent agent. No one would mistake Mount Rushmore for a natural phenomenon. Or imagine finding an arrowhead beside a stream. No one would attribute the shape to water erosion. This ability to distinguish human workmanship from the products of nature is crucial in archaeology. Digging through the dust in Mesopotamia, the archaeologist has to decide whether he has found a bit of rock or a bit of broken pottery. It's true that the physical world can produce a regular pattern--like the ripples on a beach. Or like the radio pulses that fooled astronomers into thinking they had found Little Green Men. But what nature cannot produce is complexity. Imagine we're walking along a beach and come across some words written in the sand: "John Loves Mary." Immediately we recognize a different level of order from the surrounding ripples--what scientists call complexity. Or imagine we're looking up at the sky and we see something that looks fluffy and white like a cloud but spells out the words "Drink Coca-Cola." Without a moment's doubt we conclude that this is no ordinary cloud, and we start looking around for an airplane pilot doing sky-writing. You see, common everyday experience gives us a good idea of the things nature is capable of creating by itself--and the things that can be created only by an intelligent source. So what does that tell us about the origin of life? At the core of life is the DNA molecule. Geneticists tell us the structure of DNA is identical to a language. It acts like a code--a molecular communication system within the cell. In other words, when geneticists probed the nucleus of the cell they came across something analogous to "John Loves Mary" or "Drink Coca-Cola." Of course, DNA contains a lot more information than these simple phrases. The average DNA molecule contains as much information as a city library. So if "John Loves Mary" had to be written by an intelligent being, how much more the DNA code? You don't have to have sophisticated knowledge of chemistry and genetics to respond to challenges from evolution. Based on common experience--and, after all, science is supposed to be based on experience--you can argue logically that life was created by an intelligent agent. Which is exactly what Christians have always believed.


Chuck Colson


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