Designed by aliens?
Discoverers of DNA’s structure attack Christianity
Francis Crick and James Watson have used the occasion of the 50th anniversary of their discovery of the DNA double helix as an excuse to attack belief in a Creator.1
Francis Crick and James Watson. Together with Maurice Wilkins they received the Noble Prize in 1962 for their discovery of the double helix structure of DNA back in 1953.
A recent UK news article about the Nobel-Prize–winning pair claimed ‘scientific discoveries have a habit of offending religious susceptibilities’, and pointed out, ‘Watson and Crick are both outspoken atheists.’1
These comments attempt to reinforce the old canard that science somehow disproves Christianity. However, as creationists have long pointed out, it is not the scientific facts that are the problem; it’s the interpretation of those facts. This was made abundantly clear by Crick’s beliefs. Long before he ever discovered DNA’s structure, he held strong atheistic views. The news article1 even reported that Crick’s distaste for ‘religion’ was one of the prime motives that led to his discovery, and also said, ‘The antipathy to religion of the DNA pioneers is long standing. In 1961 Crick resigned as a fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, when it proposed to build a chapel.’
DNA: really evidence for design
But what was it that Watson and Crick discovered that supposedly disproved the idea of an intelligent Creator God? The DNA molecule has often been described as the most efficient information storage system in the entire universe. The immensity of complex, coded and precisely sequenced information written on the DNA is absolutely staggering. The evidence speaks of intelligent, information-bearing design. Complex DNA coding would have been necessary for even the hypothetical first ‘so-called’ simple cell(s). Indeed, Creation magazine also used the 50th anniversary of the double helix’s discovery to publish a detailed article on the wonders of DNA.2
Even Crick himself was quoted as saying, ‘An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.’3
Crick reasoned that life could not have evolved from non-living chemicals under any conceivable earth conditions. But the idea of a creator was unacceptable, since it would go against his atheistic faith. He affirmed this when he said, ‘People like myself get along perfectly well with no religious views.’1
Crick’s atheistic faith leads to absurd pseudoscience
Unfortunately, Crick was not being entirely forthright in this regard. He does hold a religious view. Atheism is a religion in the sense of answering the ‘big questions’, such as ‘Where did we come from?’ and ‘What is our destiny?’, and is foundationally a belief system, since the non-existence of God could hardly be said to have been proven! So he must explain the origin of DNA from his religious perspective, and, subsequently, the origin of life on earth.
Watson and Crick’s blooper: finding out how a car works proves it had no maker?
What was a major argument by Watson and Crick that supposedly disproves the idea of an intelligent Creator God? They discovered a mechanism to copy the genetic information that functions according to the laws of chemistry, and they claim that this disproves the need for a creator. However, this merely knocks down the straw man of the faulty belief called vitalism, which says that living organisms have a ‘vital force’ beyond ordinary physics and chemistry.
But this is not the biblical view. Rather, the Bible states that God finished creating after Day 6, and now works by sustaining His creation (Colossians 1:15–17, Hebrews 1:3). The Bible implies that a God of order would sustain His creation in a regular, repeatable way, and this led to the founding of modern science itself.1 Scientific laws are merely our descriptions of this sustaining activity. Atheism cannot provide any logical basis for the order in the universe that makes science even possible.
Watson and Crick’s antitheistic argument is particularly inept, as we can easily see by considering a car. We have no dispute that it works by the laws of physics and chemistry without any miniature intelligent beings controlling the various parts. But this would not show that the laws of physics and chemistry created the car in the first place! Rather, we know that an intelligent designer organized the components in the right way, so they would run by these laws.2
He does this with a theory called panspermia. This comes from the Greek words pas/pan (all) and sperma (seed), meaning that the seeds of life are all through the universe.
Crick has refined this idea to directed panspermia. To overcome the huge hurdles of evolution of life from non-living chemicals on earth, Crick proposed, in a book called Life Itself, that some form of primordial life was shipped to the earth billions of years ago in spaceships—by supposedly ‘more evolved’ (therefore advanced) alien beings.4
Although he tried to solve the problem of the source of intelligence for the creation of DNA without God, Crick only succeeded in pushing the problem into outer space where, of course, it cannot be tested. After all, if such alleged aliens, in turn, were not created by a greater intelligence than themselves, then how did they evolve from non-living chemicals in the first place? Moreover, how could these benevolent extraterrestrials presume to know what the outcome of evolution would be, with its undirected processes of time and chance? Another insurmountable problem for Crick is that evolution is supposed to have been occurring for the last 3.5 billion years. How could any intelligent race plan for, and expect to be around to see the results, some billions of years later?
Crick later acknowledged the mounting problems and futility of his ideas when he was reported as saying, ‘Every time I write a paper on the origin of life, I swear I will never write another one, because there is too much speculation running after too few facts … .’3
After all of these speculations, have Crick or Watson reconciled the evidence of intelligent design with the Creator God of the Bible? Absolutely not! Watson still maintains that religious explanations are ‘myths from the past.’1
Life’s enormous complexity in miniature is a serious objection to atheistic evolutionary theory. Evolutionists cannot account for the origin of the first cell(s), and there are further problems with the increasing complexity and new information that is required to produce higher, or more ‘evolved’, life-forms.
Even the non-Christian molecular biologist, Michael Denton, says, in his best-selling book Evolution a Theory in Crisis, ‘Nothing illustrates clearly just how intractable a problem the origin of life has become than the fact that world authorities can seriously toy with the idea of panspermia.’3
Everywhere we look, life possesses the hallmark of the design and purposes of its creator. Unfortunately for some, they are so blinded by their worldview that they are incapable, or unwilling, to consider the most obvious and sensible explanation.
- Do our genes reveal the hand of God?, telegraph.co.uk, 15 July 2003. Return to text.
- Sarfati, J., DNA: Marvellous messages or mostly mess? Creation 25(2):26–31, 2003. Return to text.
- Panspermia, creationdefense.org, 9 March 2003 (emphasis ours). Return to text.
- History of directed panspermia, panspermia-theory.com/directed-panspermia, 2009. Return to text.