S2E7 The Origin of Life, the Humpty-Dumpty Effect, & God


On March 30, 2017, Ratio Christi was privileged to host Dr. Paul A Nelson of the Discovery Institute.

Why don’t dead cells come back to life? “Because they’re dead!” is the obvious answer, sometimes followed by “what a stupid question” – but the obvious answer conceals a remarkable fact. The material or physical components of a cell, even when present in their entirety, do not constitute the living state. Moreover, there is no known causal pathway from the physical components alone, no matter how complete, to a functioning cell, an abiogenesis conundrum we can call “the Humpty-Dumpty Effect.” For decades, origin of life researchers have observed the Humpty-Dumpty Effect, drawing from the phenomenon conclusions that range from “It’s trivially true, but so what?” to seeing profound consequences about the direction of future investigations into the origin of life. In his talk, Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Paul Nelson will review the nature and history of the Humpty-Dumpty Effect, looking at the spectrum of scientific reactions to its reality, and conclude with possible implications about the existence of an intelligent cause for life, usually named God – although Neil deGrasse Tyson says it could be a computer simulation.

Paul A. Nelson studied evolutionary theory and the philosophy of science at the University of Chicago, where he received his Ph.D. in 1998, with a dissertation examining Darwin’s theory of universal common descent. Since that time, he has been a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute and from 2004 to the present an Adjunct Professor in the Master of Arts Program in Science & Religion at Biola University. Nelson’s scholarly articles have appeared in journals such as Biology & Philosophy, Zygon, Rhetoric and Public Affairs, and BioComplexity, and book chapters in the anthologies Next Generation Systematics (Cambridge University Press, 2016) Mere Creation (InterVarsity Press), Signs of Intelligence (Brazos Press), Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics (MIT Press), and Darwin, Design, and Public Education (Michigan State University Press). He is a member of the Society for Developmental Biology (SDB) and the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB).

N.B. We would like to reiterate that Ratio Christi TAMU does not endorse or promote one view of origins over another and has members of all perspectives including young-earth, old-earth, and evolutionary creationists. Dr. Nelson will explain that, given one’s assumptions, an array of differing positions on origins can and do exist within Christianity and the culture at large.  Specific views in this talk will be those of Dr. Nelson’s only.

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