DNA Origin of Life

Dr. Walter Bradley lectures on scientific evidence the creation and design of the universe

This lecture is special to me, because I bought a VHS tape of it just after I started working full-time, and watched it a million times. A lot of people come to their convictions about God’s existence because of parents or church or intuitions, but for me it’s all about the scientific evidence. This lecture changed my life. I wish more people taught their children about this evidence! This lecture was delivered at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

About the speaker:

Dr. Bradley received his B.S. in Engineering Science and his Ph.D. in Materials Science from the University of Texas in Austin.

Dr. Bradley taught for eight years at the Colorado School of Mines before assuming a position as Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University (TAMU) in 1976.

During his 24 years at Texas A&M, Dr. Bradley served as Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University and as Director of the Polymer Technology Center, and received five College of Engineering Research Awards. He has received over $4,500,000 in research grants and has published over 140 technical articles and book chapters. He has also co-authored “The Mystery Of Life’s Origin: Reassessing Current Theories. He is a Fellow of the American Society for Materials and of the American Scientific Affiliation and serves as a consultant for many Fortune 500 companies.

He currently serves as Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Baylor University.

The lecture: (63 minutes lecture, 25 minutes audience Q&A)

Summary slide:

This slide summarizes the content of the lecture
This slide summarizes the content of the lecture

Introduction:

  • At the beginning of the 20th century, people believed that the progress of science was pointing away from an intelligent Creator and Designer, and towards naturalism
  • A stream of new discoveries has shifted the support of science towards theism, and away from naturalism
  • Richard Dawkins, an atheist, says that nature only has the appearance of design, but that if you look closer, naturalistic mechanisms can account for the appearance of design
  • When deciding between design and apparent design (“designoid”), it matters whether you think there is an intelligence there to do the designing

Evidence #1: The Big Bang:

  • an eternal “steady state” universe is more compatible with naturalism, but a created universe is more compatible with a Creator
  • In 1929, Hubble used telescopes to observe that the light from distant galaxies was redshifted. The further away galaxies were, the faster they were moving away. Therefore, space is expanding in all directions, suggesting an explosive origin of the universe
  • In 1965, the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation matched a prediction of the Big Bang cosmology, and of the creation event
  • In 1992, the COBE space telescope allowed us to test four specific predictions of the Big Bang model, especially the predictions for light element abundances (hydrogen and helium), which matched the predictions of the creation model

Evidence #2: Simple mathematical structure of the physical laws

  • the simple mathematical structure of natural laws allows us to understand these laws, make discoveries, and engineer solutions to problems
  • early scientists saw the mathematical structure of the universe to mean that nature was designed by an intelligent to be understood
  • the fundamental equations of the laws of the universe can be easily written on one side of one sheet of paper
  • Eugene Wigner’s famous paper, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Physical Sciences” makes the point that this simple structure is an unexpected gift that allows is to do science

Evidence #3: fine-tuning of the physical constants and quantities

  • in order for any kind of complex life to survive, we need stars that provide energy within specific ranges for long periods of time
  • in order for any kind of complex life to survive, we need planets with stable orbits that will not suffer from extreme temperature swings as it varies in distance from its star
  • in order for any kind of complex life to survive, we need stable atomic structure
  • in order for any kind of complex life to survive, we need to have chemical diversity and correct relative abundances of each element
  • organic life has minimum requirements: process energy, store information, replicate, and you can’t fulfill those functions if there is only one element, e.g. – hydrogen
  • the energy level from the photons from the sun have to match the energy levels of the different elements in order to drive the chemical bonding needed for life
  • These requirements for life of any imaginable type depend on the values of the constants and quantities. The constants and quantities cannot vary much from what they are, or the universe will lose the characteristics (above) that allow it to support complex life of any imaginable time
  • For example, ratio of strong force to electromagnetic force:
    – if 2% larger, then no stable hydrogen, no long-lived stars, no compounds containing hydrogen, e.g. – water
    – if 5% smaller, no stable stars, heavy hydrogen would be unstable, few elements other than hydrogen

Evidence #4: initial conditions for habitability

  • Universe: expansion rate of the universe must be fast enough to avoid a re-collapse, but slow enough to allow matter to clump together and form stars and planets for complex life to live on
  • Planet: right distance from the star to get the right climate
  • Planet: right mass to retain the right atmosphere

Evidence #5: origin of life and information theory

  • It’s possible to explain every process in an automobile engine using plain old naturalistic mechanisms – no supernatural explanation is necessary to understand the processes
  • But the existence of engine itself: engineering all the parts has to be explained by the work of an intelligence
  • Similarly, we can understand how living systems work, but the existence of the living systems requires an intelligence
  • Even the simplest living system has to perform minimal function: capture energy, store information and replicate
  • Living systems are composed of objects like proteins that are composed of sequences of components complex such that the order of the components gives the overall structure function
  • Developing the components for a simple living cell is very improbable – even given the large number of galaxies, stars and planets in the universe, it is unlikely that complex, embodied life would exist anywhere in the universe

Evidence #6: more initial conditions for habitability

  • Location within the galaxy: you need to be away from the center of the galaxy, because the explosions from dying stars, and excessive radiation will kill life
  • Location within the galaxy: you need to be close enough to the center in order catch the heavy elements you need for life from the explosions of other stars
  • Location within the galaxy: the best location is between two arms of  a spiral galaxy, where you can get the heavy elements you need from dying stars, but without being hit with explosions and harmful radiation
  • Star mass: determines rate at which the sun burns, determines the energy level of photons that are used to drive chemical bonding reactions, determines the length of time the star will be stable
  • Star mass: star mass must be the correct value in order to allow liquid water on the planet’s surface, while still preserving stable orbit

I wish there was more curiosity about science in churches, and young Christians understood how critical science is for grounding the rationality of the Christian worldview. We need to be training up more scientists who think about the big questions, like Dr. Walter Bradley.

9 thoughts on “Dr. Walter Bradley lectures on scientific evidence the creation and design of the universe”

  1. Because one of my Master’s is in mathematics, Evidence #2 actually had an effect on me in my atheist years. Everything seemed so “clean” and often symmetric or homogeneous in the math world. Proofs had a magical quality about them. Why?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Posthumous memo to Carl Sagan:

    Dear Dr. Sagan,

    I was always impressed by your ability to tell three lies with a mere 12 words. You probably know by now, however, that the Cosmos is NOT all there is or was or ever will be. Reason tells us that either the Cosmos or its Creator has always existed while science has informed us that it’s not the Cosmos. Were you lacking in science, reason or both? Why didn’t you discover the obvious a bit sooner? Was it Pride, Prejudice or Peer Pressure?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. What’s even more amazing is that, despite the fact that those 12 words of Sagan’s are completely indefensible on any view of science including any coherent types of science fiction, some of us took them for “gospel.”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. One of the great ironies in conservative evangelical circles is the reluctance of many to see the origin of the entire universe in the “Big Bang” as pointing unequivocally to the moment of creation described in Genesis. They don’t seem to understand that Big Bang Theory does not explain how our physical universe came into existence, but rather how it expanded and unfolded according to finely-tuned laws and initial conditions after it was created.

    Another irony is the insistence upon a literal reading of Genesis 1 which should lead everyone to the understanding that the days of Genesis are literally anything but solar days. Literally. If the sun was created on the 4th day, how could the first 3 days be solar days? If all of the days were the same (with identical evenings and mornings on a 24 hour clock), it follows that none of days are solar days. So why turn the stepping stone of the “Big Bang” into a stumbling block for unbelievers? Also, isn’t it always evening or morning somewhere on our planet? Who’s days are these anyway? Everything seems to point back to God.

    Isn’t the main point of Genesis to give God all the glory for creating everything while giving none to the sun god or the moon god or any of the other pagan gods? The six days of creation ought to give us all six days of thanksgiving every week. Given that Adam and Eve were created in the spiritual image of God, is it theologically important that our physical bodies not share any genetic information with any other hominids? Why should God completely reinvent the wheel if He had a time-tested body plan to build upon? Can scientists carbon-date Adam’s spirit? The last time I checked, they could only turn water into urine.

    But I digress.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I would encourage people to look at a picture and diagram of the simplest lifeform: a single cell, then read about how complex each part is, all parts working together. Then, I encourage them to ask themselves how such a thing could have spontaneously formed on an uninhabited planet, all by itself, all the molecules coming together at once, for the simplest life form never could slowly evolve. All at once or not at all.

    Liked by 1 person

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