Creationist Wisdom #1,035: It’s a Miracle!

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Lewiston Tribune of Lewiston, Idaho. It’s titled Proof of God, and it’s the second letter at that link. They have a comments feature, but there are no relevant comments yet.

Because today’s writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. His first name is Keith. Excerpts from his letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, some bold font for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]. Here we go!

When the building blocks of DNA are created in a test tube, they are always split 50/50 between left-handed (left twist) and right-handed. All life on Earth has exclusively left-handed amino acids. Any right-handed amino acid ruins the DNA.

Wikipedia’s article on Homochirality has a section titled “In biology,” which says:

Amino acids are the building blocks of peptides and enzymes while sugar-peptide chains are the backbone of RNA and DNA. In biological organisms, amino acids appear almost exclusively in the left-handed form (L-amino acids) and sugars in the right-handed form (R-sugars). Since the enzymes catalyze reactions, they enforce homochirality on a great variety of other chemicals, including hormones, toxins, fragrances and food flavors.

Okay, your DNA consists of left-handed amino acids. There are a few different theories as to why this is so. At the moment, however, we don’t know the reason; but if you married someone with right-handed DNA, the likelihood of successful reproduction seems limited. Anyway, what does this left-handedness mean to Keith? He asks:

How did the first self-replicating life form manage to accidentally get all left-handed amino acids in the correct sequence at the same time, then protect that DNA strand from what must have been an extremely hostile environment?

If you think that’s a silly question, wait ’til you see what Keith says about it:

A recent probability calculation indicates that it is wildly unlikely to happen without some uber-natural assistance. [Uber-natural!] Like one chance in 100 gazillion (1 chance in 10, followed by 41,000 zeros).

Wowie — one chance is a hundred gazillion! After giving us that stunning information, Keith asks:

Against these staggering odds, are you going to face God on judgment day and tell him you thought life was an accident?

Well, dear reader? What’s your answer? Keith continues:

We were created. [Only a fool would deny it!] It is impossible for life to have spontaneously created itself from mud. To anyone willing to look, the evidence for intelligent design surrounds us.

The evidence surrounds us! Let’s read on:

If you were created, then you were created for a purpose. [That makes sense!] What purpose? Wouldn’t the creator be willing to tell you? He did and he does. [Ooooooooooooh! He tells us the purpose!] The answer is found in the best-selling book in the universe — the Bible.

In his last paragraph, Keith tells you exactly what you need to know:

If you want to know who Jesus is, start in the New Testament, the Gospels and the book of John. God knows that your life has meaning and purpose. When you find those two things, you will find something no atheist will ever find — the path to true love, true peace and true contentment.

Keith has given you the answer, dear reader. Now go forth, wiser than before.

Copyright © 2020. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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24 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #1,035: It’s a Miracle!

  1. Let’s say that you are playing poker and you are dealt a natural royal flush. If that was dealt by from a normal 52-card deck, the odds are – well, I don’t remember without looking tha up, but they are slim.
    But if it was dealt from a uber-normal deck, with extra cards, say that someone had added cards from the Uno game, the odds are less.
    Just so, if there is some uber-natural agent, someone or something not limited by the usual chemical elements, the odds are less, one in more than a multiple of 100 gazillion.
    By increasing the possibilities, one decreases the odds.

  2. Homochiralty Is an interesting puzzle. The emerging consensus among the origins of life community runs like this:
    A mixture of left-handed and right-handed units in a polymer won’t work very well. My late friend Graham Cairns-Smith compared this to a workshop, in which you certainly do not want a mixture of left-handed and right-handed screws lying around. So any evolving system of any kind that involves such mixtures would have lost out either to the all-left or to the all-right competition. Whether there is some kind of natural advantage to the way things are, rather than their mirror image, is something people talk about in the bar after the day’s serious work is over.

    Technical note: imagine you have a random mixture of polymers, 100 units long, and each unit could be either left-handed or right-handed. So you have 2^100 or roughly 10^30 possibilities. But a little reflection shows that in any reasonable sample you will have only around 10^23 actual molecules. So that means that only a small fraction of possibilities is realised, and if any of the possibilities is favoured in any way, it is very unlikely that its mirror image is also present in the mix. That’s why discussion about the relative merits of one handedness versus the other handedness have been relegated to the bar

  3. Michael Fugate

    And why do human populations have different alphabets? – oh, the Tower of Babel.
    Keith pull your head out.

  4. If humans were designed for a purpose ….
    Consider the complex relationship between humans and chimps and other apes. Was that relationship for a purpose. That humans have a purpose closest to the purposes for chimps.
    Or was the relationship just a matter of common descent?
    If my great uncle was a horse-thief, that doesn’t tell me anything about my purpose in life. But if I was designed to be like a horse thief, if God wanted me to be life a horse-thief …

  5. It is impossible for life to have spontaneously created itself from mud.

    But according to Gen 2, human life arose from mud by the help of JHVH. I wonder what Keith would expect to observe, if he was able to use a time machine to go back to the day that JHVH made Adam from mud. Would the mud simply spontaneously flow together into the form of a man, which then got up and started tending the garden, or would he see JHVH himself moulding the mud and puffing air into Adam’s mouth?

  6. “(1 chance in 10, followed by 41,000 zeros).”
    Now only if Keef would tell us how he calculated that number ….

    “are you going to face God on judgment day and tell him you thought life was an accident?”
    Yes. I’m far from sure how many zeros I’ll need, but the chance that that particular spermatozoon coming from my father would fertilize that particular egg produced by my mother has a lot of zeros too. At the other hand, if that’s a miracle too, Keef’s god also could have taken the effort to tell me personally that he exists and that I should worship him. Thus far he didn’t, so I conclude that he doesn’t care. That means I’ve nothing to fear when telling him that I’m an accident. In fact I am, because my parents erroneously misused a calendar-based contraception.

    “God knows that your life has meaning and purpose.”
    Perhaps that’s the reason – Keef’s god trusts me to find meaning and purpose on my own. And I haven’t failed.

    “When you find those two things, you will find something no atheist will ever find — the path to true love, true peace and true contentment.”
    This atheist is more modest and humble than Keef. Just love, peace and contentment are good enough for me.
    Conclusion: if there is a god like Keef’s version he’s totally OK with me not believing in him.

  7. something no atheist will ever find — the path to true love, true peace and true contentment

    I suspect that Keith either doesn’t know many atheists, or ignores what he observes of their lives and what they tell him.

  8. @TomS asks: “Was that relationship for a purpose?”
    Of course: to teach mankind to be humble and modest. What else could be the divine purpose of this?

  9. chris schilling

    “What purpose?”

    Keith’s terribly urgent purpose is to inform any unbelievers of the dire consequences that lie in store when you refuse to buy into his revenge fantasies. All that preamble about homochiralty and “uber-naturalism” was just a pretext to get to the juicy stuff.

    “If you want to know who Jesus is…”

    What’s to know? He was a demigod — Dave L and the quackery of Christian theology notwithstanding — who reputedly performed miracles, but couldn’t save himself when it came to his big date with a Roman cross.

    But I guess that was all part of the “meaning and purpose”, too.

  10. Dave Luckett

    Homochirality of DNA is real. Nobody knows why it is almost invariable among all living things on Earth, but it does provide evidence for common descent from one, or at most a few, original self-replicating molecules. It does not provide evidence for special creation. If a Creator really wanted all living things to be immutable, He wouldn’t have made DNA mutable. If He wanted them to reproduce “only after their own kind”, one obvious step would have been to create life forms with opposed chiralities.

    Oddly enough, neither the New Testament, nor the Gospels, nor the Book of John, nor anywhere else in the Bible actually provides a specific statement of the purpose of human life. Christians – and the Abrahamic religions generally – infer that it is to worship God (in the correct way) and to attest to His presence by works and faith. But that’s an inference, and it comes with all sorts of conditions, special circumstance, specific practices and hedging, that have caused endless schism and strife. Fanatics of various stripes have spent centuries cutting throats over them. Some still do. No wonder Keith is little coy about saying precisely what he means.

    In what I consider to be the extremely unlikely event that I face God on Judgement Day, I will, I hope, tell Him that I didn’t think life was an accident, but a certainty given the opportunity; but that equally I have no reason to suppose that it required anything more than natural means. I am, however, grateful and glad to have had the opportunity to live and the consciousness to reflect on it. If that isn’t good enough for Him, woe is me.

    chris schilling, Jesus prayed to be spared, and the response was silence. He died asking why God had forsaken him. So say the Gospels. The hideous transaction that took his life is said to be – again by implication – unavoidable. One might – and I do – ask why that was, and the answer is again, silence. But the story is that it was unavoidable. Without the crucifixion, there is no redemption, says the Christian church, leaving me scratching my head and asking “Why not?”. The Church calls it a mystery, and expects that answer to be good enough.

    Well, it bloody well isn’t good enough for me. Buying a pig in a poke is nothing to that. But those who do buy it have an explanation for why Jesus couldn’t and didn’t save himself – if he had, it’s perdition for everyone. It’s the underlying values that that transaction exposes that are the real horror.

  11. @DaveL: “Neither …. nor ….. actually provides a specific statement”
    Given that christianity started out as a jewish sect that’s totally unsurprising. Or are you saying that the OT doesn’t provide specific statements regarding the purpose of human life either? Now that would be interesting, so if yes I’d like to learn more.

    “It’s the underlying values that that transaction exposes that are the real horror.”
    Totally agreed. It’s impossible for me to accept the claim that Jesus was the embodiment of agape (something like perfect love).

  12. Dave Luckett

    FrankB, I know of no specific statement of the purpose of human life, except by implication, in the Bible. It is sometimes said that God has a purpose for some humans (example, Jeremiah 29:11; Acts 13:36) but I can find no statement of exactly what that purpose is generally, or whether anybody but prophets or perhaps Kings has one. Job implies that the only purpose of human life is to accept with true resignation whatever God serves up – which can be anything. Singularly depressing, I think.

    The implication of Scripture generally is that humans have no purpose but to obey. The NT implies that charity, concern, goodwill, compassion, forgiveness, are part of this obedience, for those are God’s commands. But a direct statement of what humans are for is not forthcoming, unless it is found in God’s quoted words at Genesis 1:26: “… to have dominion over the fish in the sea, the birds of the air, and everything that creeps on the Earth”; that is, we are for the purpose of dominion, whatever dominion means. It certainly doesn’t mean that other living things obey us. Why, we’ve been trying to get the lowly malaria parasite to do that for centuries, and found only that it would give us the finger, if it had one to give.

  13. Cool, this is something to keep in mind. Thanks.

  14. @Dave Luckett, ” Jesus … died asking why God had forsaken him” Not quite. Like a good Pharisee, he died reciting Psalm 22.

    And I thought I’d explained homochirality: https://www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/chir.5

  15. Dave Luckett

    Paul Braterman, true. The words, nonetheless, are the same. A difference that makes no difference is no difference. On what authority do you call Jesus a Pharisee, when he seems to have spent a lot of time railing against them?

    On homochirality, I see no explanation there, but I am glad to hear that it is considered an imperative, although I have no idea why.

  16. @Dave Luckett, ” On what authority do you call Jesus a Pharisee” Texts of Lord’s prayer, arguments used in disputations, positions on divorce and on resurrection of the flesh, reference to key Commandments.

    “when he seems to have spent a lot of time railing against them?” Quite apart from the fact that Pharisees, or at least their modern descendants within rabbinical Judaism, go in for quite a lot of that sort of thing, you need to remember how thoroughly the gospels have been overwritten with clear anti-Jewish intent. St John’s Gospel is the worst offender

    Homochirality; read the article

  17. chris schilling

    The theist talks a lot about “purpose.” For the non-theist, the purpose appears to be all-too naked: to enforce unwilling assent to the theist’s belief system, in order to validate it. Whether it’s slavish servitude to Keith’s god, or merely to Keith himself, we simply can’t do it.

    It’s this totalitarian mindset — “every knee shall bow down before Him, and recognise Him (Jesus/God) as Lord” — that automatically causes some of us to recoil. Keith wouldn’t expect anyone to capitulate to such imperatives in an earthly realm (smacks too much of “socialism”); but he has no trouble accepting it from a divine perspective.

  18. Dave Luckett

    I can’t access the article, and it would mean nothing to me anyway. I accept that homochirality has been explained. Now I know something I didn’t know before, and that will suffice for my purposes.

    Jesus did not make explicit any claim for the resurrection of the body, but it is not incompatible with what he did say about resurrection; and the Gospels insist on his actual corporeality after resurrection – he still carried the wounds in his flesh, he ate and drank, and his body was missing from the tomb. Paul was more the Pharisee, speaking of an incorruptible spirit body.

    There were at least two different schools as to just cause for divorce, both accepted by some Pharisees, and cause for dispute among them. See https://www.sefaria.org/Mishnah_Gittin.9.10?lang=bi. The last section on the page applies. Jesus clearly disallowed divorce to marry another, and more generally for any cause other than the adultery of the wife. There was nothing particularly either pharisaic or non-pharisaic about that. Many pharisees would have agreed with him. They, too, disliked Herod.

    I see nothing specifically pharisaic about the Lord’s prayer. I do see something specifically non-pharisaic about Jesus’s reported insistence on the spirit, rather than the letter of the law. The pharisees were obsessed with the latter.

    Yes, the Gospels were anti-Jewish. The later ones were almost certainly written after the great revolt and the destruction of Jerusalem, when it was bad policy to be associated with Judaism. But too much can be made of this. There can be little doubt that Jesus was wont to denounce the Pharisees.

    Consider Luke 11:39-41, a version of the denunciation of the pharisaic obsession with outward appearance, starting “Oh, you pharisees! You clean the outside of cup and plate… ” and going on “instead give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you”. The Greek verb translated “give alms” in this context makes no sense, but it appears in the earliest mss. But it becomes clear when you go back to the original Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. “Zakkau” (to give alms) looks very similar to “dakkau” (to cleanse). The latter makes sense in context. What this means is that Luke was working from an original Aramaic source document that he was translating, perhaps faultily. But that means, in turn, that this denunciation of the Pharisees goes back to before the Gospel was written, to a document hardly accessible to the authorities in the Greek or Roman world. And yet, here is Jesus denouncing the pharisees – all of them.

    I think it unlikely that he was of their party at all.

  19. @Dave Luckett, If you are familiar with Kaddish (which is a general communal prayer, as well as one that mourners are required to recite), you will immediately see where the Lord’s prayer up to “as it is in heaven” comes from. Daily bread, not being led into temptation, and kingdom power and glory, are also all key phrases In the prayers I used to recite when I was a believer in the mainstream rabbinical (i.e. Pharisee) tradition. I strongly suspect that the Lord’s prayer really does go back to time of Jesus, but also that it was a listing of key verses (i.e. a choice of liturgy), rather than a self-contained prayer as it is now regarded.

    When he says that divorce is wrong except for adultery, Jesus is indeed siding with the School of Shammai rather than Hillel, the two main schools of Pharisaic thought at that time. As you know, there are two accounts, Matthew and Mark, one of which drops the “except for adultery” bit, with unfortunate later consequences. Singling out “love your neighbour” as the key commandment is a direct echo of Hillel.

    See also Matthew 22:23 ff; here, quite explicitly, Jesus is defending Pharisee belief against a Saducee objection. The Saducees accepted the resurrection of the spirit, but differed from the Pharisees in rejecting the resurrection of the flesh. Jesus answers the question about who the woman would be married to after the resurrection, but unless jesus is defending the resurrection of the flesh the entire discussion makes no sense.

    There is precedence among the Prophets for attention to the things of the spirit, and denunciation of hypocrisy. I suspect that the references to Jesus allowing his disciples to explicitly break Torah law for a trivial reason (collecting grain on the sabbath) Is a later insertion, to justify the total abandonment of Torah ritual in Pauline Christianity, but do not know enough to argue the case either way.

  20. @Dave Luckett: “Jesus did not make explicit any claim for the resurrection …”
    We do not know Jesus’ opinions on anything: we know only what the anonymous authors of the gospels decades later claimed to be his opinions. Paul, the earliest (I think) Christian author whose works we have any of, never tells us what Jesus said about anything, except for the things that Jesus told him, Paul, in visions, such as enjoining the ritual sharing of bread and wine.
    It is also apparent that the authors of the gospels disagreed with each other. “Mark” follows Paul in encouraging gentiles to become Christian without becoming Jews. “Matthew” redacts the gospel of Mark to make it more Jewish. “Luke” disagrees with many of “Matthew”‘s changes to “Mark”, and especially dislikes “Matthew”‘s invented nativity, replacing it by one of his own, entirely different except for a few names. “John” totally changes the order and time of the events in “Mark”‘s story, which the others had pretty much stuck to, and is much more open about Jesus really being a pre-existent supernatural being.
    There may have been a Jesus who started an early version of Christianity, but we can have no secure knowledge of anything that he did or taught.

  21. Michael Fugate

    Given the decline in Church attendance throughout much of the world, some are wanting churches to remain open; they are afraid even more will realize they aren’t missing something in their lives by not going.

  22. @Dave Luckett: “I know of no specific statement of the purpose of human life, except by implication, in the Bible.”
    What about: Gen 2:15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
    That’s a pretty clear statement of what man was originally for.
    Of course, after Adam ate the apple, JHVH threw him out of the garden so that he wouldn’t also eat of the tree of life and become a serious threat to JHVH’s supremacy. I wonder how JHVH then organised the tending of the garden?

  23. @JimR: ” we know only what the anonymous authors of the gospels decades later claimed ….”
    Yeah, but as at least two of them wrote independently of each other we may conclude that some of those claims are justified. Moreover PaulB (I think) already pointed out the connection with the pharisees we have a pretty good guess.
    Those pharisees btw underwent a gradual development from 150 BCE to 70 CE. Combined with the teachings of other jewish texts we can derive a few things of what Jesus taught.

    “There may have been a Jesus who started an early version of Christianity, but we can have no secure knowledge of anything that he did or taught.”
    Meh. Regarding Antiquity we hardly have any secure knowledge of anything. That there was a guy called Jesus from Nazareth involved in halacha discussions of that time is highly probable. That he did not start an early version of christianity is almost absolutely certain. The guy predicted the apocalypse and his own return in his very near future. Starting any movement hence did not make any sense for him. It was Paulus who’s responsible for the first organization; but it remained firmly jewish. You’re a victim of christian propaganda in this respect.
    Overall it’s the other way round. After the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE the earliest version of christianity started. The canonical Gospels (and a lot of the rest of the NT) were instruments to organize the new religious movement, also coping with the cognitive dissonance now it became clear that Jesus’ fanboys and -girls had to wait a bit longer than originally expected.
    In a similar way the pharisees became rabbinical judaism, though they didn’t suffer from cognitive dissonance. All other jewish sects had disappeared (the zelots/sicarii from Masada being the last ones). The two emerging religious movements quickly started to compete for the favours of the Roman overlords. That explains the anti-jewish slurs in the NT.
    Of course from 70 CE on there was quite some pushback from rabbinical jews. They invented some clever insults for their christian rivals. Unfortunately right now I can’t find them back quickly and easily.

  24. I always thought homochirality was just the left hand of god.