Walter L. Bradley

Walter L.

Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Author

Author Quotes

The widespread recognition of the severe improbability that self-replicating organisms could have formed from purely random interactions has led to a great deal of speculation---speculation that some organizing principle must have been involved... The weakest point in this explanation of life's origin is the great complexity of the initial entity which must form, apparently by random fluctuations, before natural selection can take over. In essence this theory postulates the chance formation of the "metabolic motor" which will subsequently be capable of channeling energy flow through the system. Thus harnessed by coupling through the metabolic motor, the energy flow is imagined to supply not only chemical and thermal entropy work, but also the configurational entropy work of selecting the appropriate chemicals and then coding the resultant polymer into an aperiodic, specified, biofunctioning polymer. As a minimum, this system must carry in its structure the information for its own synthesis, and control the machinery which will fabricate any desired copy. It is widely agreed that such a system requires both protein and nucleic acid.7 This view is not unanimous, however. A few have suggested that a short peptide would be sufficient. [Co-written with Charles B. Thaxton and Roger L. Olsen]

The widespread recognition of the severe improbability that self-replicating organisms could have formed from purely random interactions has led to a great deal of speculation---speculation that some organizing principle must have been involved. [Co-written with Charles B. Thaxton and Roger L. Olsen]

An intelligible communication via radio signal from some distant galaxy would be widely hailed as evidence of an intelligent source. Why then doesn't the message sequence on the DNA molecule also constitute prima facie evidence for an intelligent source? After all, DNA information is not just analogous to a message sequence such as Morse code, it is such a message sequence.[Co-written with Charles B. TGhaxton and Robert L. Olsen]

We have not yet touched on the greatest "miracle" in our terrestrial narrative of origins. While we have noted the remarkable provision of a suitable universe with a local habitat that is ideal for life, the most remarkable artifact in our universe is life itself. While biological evolution, including macroevolution, continues to have a larger constituency than is justified by the evidence (in my opinion), all major researchers in the field of chemical evolution (i.e., the origin of life) acknowledge the fundamental mystery of life's beginnings from inanimate matter. The enigma of the origin of life comes in the difficulty of imagining a simply biological system that is sufficiently complex to process energy, store information, and replicate, and yet at the same time is sufficiently simple to have just "happened" in a warm pond, as Darwin suggested, or elsewhere.

A universe that contains a special place of habitation for complex, conscious life is so truly remarkable that it is, realistically speaking, impossible to believe it is the result of a series of cosmic accidents. To choose to believe that there is a naturalistic explanation for (a) the mathematical forms encoded in the laws of nature, (b) the precise specification of the nineteen universal constants and (c) the remarkable initial conditions required for star formation and the simplest living systems is to believe in a miracle by another name.

The design requirements for our universe are like a chain of 1000 links. If any link breaks, we do not have a less optimal universe for life -- we have a universe incapable of sustaining life! The evidence I have present is daunting, but still short of "proof". I must conclude that it takes a great deal more faith to believe in an accidental universe than to believe in an intelligent creator, or God who crafted such a marvelous universe and beautiful place of habitation in planet Earth, and then created life (including human beings) to occupy it.

For life to exist, we need an orderly (and by implication, intelligible) universe. Order at many different levels is required. For instance, to have planets that circle their stars, we need Newtonian mechanics operating in a three-dimensional universe. For there to be multiple stable elements of the periodic table to provide a sufficient variety of atomic "building blocks" for life, we need atomic structure to be constrained by the laws of quantum mechanics. We further need the orderliness in chemical reactions that is the consequence of Boltzmann's equation for the second law of thermodynamics. And for an energy source like the sun to transfer its life-giving energy to a habitat like Earth, we require the laws of electromagnetic radiation that Maxwell described.

Our universe is indeed orderly, and in precisely the way necessary for it to serve as a suitable habitat for life. The wonderful internal ordering of the cosmos is matched only by its extraordinary economy. Each one of the fundamental laws of nature is essential to life itself. A universe lacking any of the laws shown in Table 1 would almost certainly be a universe without life. Many modern scientists, like the mathematicians centuries before them, have been awestruck by the evidence for intelligent design implicit in nature's mathematical harmony and the internal consistency of the laws of nature. Australian astrophysicist Paul Davies declares:

All the evidence so far indicates that many complex structures depend most delicately on the existing form of these laws. It is tempting to believe, therefore, that a complex universe will emerge only if the laws of physics are very close to what they are....The laws, which enable the universe to come into being spontaneously, seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design. If physics is the product of design, the universe must have a purpose, and the evidence of modern physics suggests strongly to me that the purpose includes us.

Why will many predictably persist in their acceptance of some version of chemical evolution? Quite simply, because chemical evolution has not been falsified. One would be irrational to adhere to a falsified hypothesis. We have only presented a case that chemical evolution is highly implausible. By the nature of the case that is all one can do. In a strict, technical sense, chemical evolution cannot be falsified because it is not falsifiable. Chemical evolution is a speculative reconstruction of a unique past event, and cannot therefore be tested against recurring nature.[Co-written with Charles B. Thaxton and Roger L. Olsen]

If there isn't a natural explanation and there doesn't seem to be the potential of finding one, then I believe it's appropriate to look at a supernatural explanation. I think that's the most reasonable inference based on the evidence.

The mathematical odds of assembling a living organism are so astronomical that nobody still believes that random chance accounts for the origin of life. Even it you optimized the conditions, it wouldn’t work. If you took all the carbon in the universe and put it on the face of the earth, allowed it to chemically react at the most rapid rate possible, and left it for a billion years, the odds of creating just one functional protein molecule would be one chance in 10 with 60 zeros after it… The probability of linking together just one hundred amino acids to create one protein molecule by chance would be the same as a blindfolded man finding one marked grain of sand somewhere in the vastness of the Sahara Desert – and doing it not just once, but three different times.

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Walter L.
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Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Author