Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A New Axiom for New Atheists, Old Atheists, and Theists of All Stripes

There are three axioms, or general truths, that apply to the consideration of the origin of life.  The first is ex nihilo nihil fit, and is a popular Latin phrase which means, "From nothing, nothing comes."  This axiom is usually used by theists to counter the atheistic notion that the universe came from nothing.  Of course, Scottish philosopher and skeptic David Hume (1711-1776) posited that the cosmos could have always existed, and prior to Big Bang Cosmology in the early 20th century, most cosmologists and many in the field of natural science and of philosophy believed that very thing.  The counter argument to such a view comes from the theist, or what most people have believed since the dawn of time, that "from nothing, nothing comes."  It applied to Hume prior to Big Bang Cosmology, and it applies even more so today.  There is a better axiom for atheists and theists, however, which we will get to shortly. 

Ex nihilo nihil fit, when told to nearly every child, is asked with a follow-up.  When hearing this axiom from her Daddy when she asks him where all of this came from, hears her father speak of the creative power of Almighty God.  Satisfied minds of inquiring children are rare, however, and the next question from the child's inquisitive nature is "If God made everything, then who made God?"  Usually, the father sits back and smiles and appeals to the common sense notion that God is the creator, and has always existed, and that when we say, ex nihilo nihil fit, we are speaking of the created order, or of the physical universe ('physical' here, is used for the sake of simplicity when talking to a child, for we know there are also laws of math, logic, and nature).  The child is reminded of the common sense notion that God the creator does not apply to the realm of "nothingness," and she runs on her merry way to swings and piles of leaves and the things that children do.

The second axiom is popular among the atheist community, and it bears no Latin nomenclature, but is the idea that Man is merely the slow, gradual, evolutionary process of random genetic mutations acted upon by natural selection.  This is what Cornell researcher and geneticist John C. Sanford calls The Primary Axiom in his book, Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Human Genome.  Sanford rejects the Primary Axiom as scientifically unsustainable; hence the title of his book.  Genetic mutations are always deleterious (bad), and lead to death.  Even so-called exceptions, such as the mutation that benefits those with sickle-cell anemia in resisting malaria are still mutations which, when placed back in the original host, die.  The Primary Axiom is upon its dying day, and it's time for a new axiom. 

Evolutionary biologists speak of the Law of Biogenesis.  This law, in Latin is omne vivum ex vivo and means, "all life comes from life."  Even though evolutionary biologists use this phrase, they mean it in terms of materialism, the view that only matter exists.  (Didn't Madonna have a song about materialism?  Some time back in the 80's).  Well, omne vivum ex vivo is a good axiom with which atheists, new and old, and theists of all stripes can agree: all life does indeed come from life. 

Now, the question that origin of life researchers simply cannot answer on a materialist account, is where the original, first life came from.  Since it is obvious that life had to come from non-life, and that life had to start somewhere, the Law of Biogenesis axiom is apropos, especially for the theist, who believes that the Almighty, who is Life, is the Creator of all things.  But even if atheists do not want to submit to the idea of a deity, they should embrace the axiom that "life comes from life," and hoist themselves on the overlook to examine what was required in order for life to arise in the first place.

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