Origin of life debate, the English Way

I recently debated atheist Peter Hearty in a UK radio show on the origin of life.

This was broadcast on the British radio programme “Unbelievable.”

Mr. Hearty has a Computer Science background so his education is comparable with my own which is Electrical Engineering.

He takes the position that natural processes could produce living things. I take the position that information is only known to come from intelligence.

The debate is direct and no punches are pulled. At the same time it is polite and informative. There is none of the rancor that so often characterizes these discussions.

Perry Marshall debates atheist Peter Hearty – click icon to play/pause

or right-click this link to download the audio file.

*Discuss this topic on Justin Brierley’s blog


Perry Marshall

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37 Responses

  1. jason says:

    i personally take an agnostic view, when it comes to, was there a creator, however i find it hard to believe the universe is random, i think the dice was loaded from the start, one of the reasons, is the second law of thermodynamics, which states hot goes to cold, e.g. energy dissipates. with that in mind why didnt the universe just fizzle out to a ground state, instead of bothering to take a detour, and give rise to complex organisms such as humans along the way?

    • Jon says:

      What if the Cosmos is simply infinite and every possible outcome of the dice occurs? We just happened to live in one corner where it came up sevens. The luck of the dice!

      • Ockham’s razor:

        n. A rule in science and philosophy stating that entities should not be multiplied needlessly. This rule is interpreted to mean that the simplest of two or more competing theories is preferable and that an explanation for unknown phenomena should first be attempted in terms of what is already known. Also called law of parsimony.



        1. Unusual or excessive frugality; extreme economy or stinginess.
        2. Adoption of the simplest assumption in the formulation of a theory or in the interpretation of data, especially in accordance with the rule of Ockham’s razor.

        • Jon says:

          Occum’s razor-The simpliest solution tends to be the correct one.

          A. The universe has no cause and has always existed and always will exist. The root of this line of reasoning is infinite regress. If there has to be a beginning, then there always has to be. God has a creation and a creator and this goes on forever. But we know the universe itself is real since we live in it, it can then be assumed that it has always existed because of the paradox I just described. It was never created in the first place.

          B. The universe was created by a God or gods. This line of reasoning requires something beyond any human being can produce to be true, God himself. If such a being existed, then he exists outside our reality and is therefore unprovable. The only thing that makes God true here is faith, which by it’s very definition is belief in the absence of knowledge and truth.

          How do you prove the unproveable? You can’t.

          How is B a more simple explaination than A? It isn’t.

          Occum’s razor supports this.

          • Jon,

            The big bang does not support your “A”. Time and space begin at the point of the big bang. There is no scientific basis for “the universe has always existed.”

            You can believe in “A” if you choose to, but it’s anti-science. Your hypocrisy in mocking me for having faith is nothing short of stunning. The list of things you have faith in – which science lends no support for – is long indeed. You don’t believe in entropy, you don’t believe in the big bang, you believe the cosmos is infinite, and you don’t believe that your belief in all these unseen, unscientific propositions is faith. If it’s not faith, then what is it?


            • Jon says:

              There is nothing in physics that says time and space did not exist before the big bang. It’s simply our Science has not yet discovered the answer. There are many theories suggesting that time does not have a beginning, string theory or membrane theory for example. However, as of this moment, proving those would require us to exist “outside” the known Universe, which by its very nature is impossible. Our Science hasn’t caught up yet and may never will. The question on the origins of the Cosmos may very well be an unanswerable question.

              Of course I believe and understand entropy as that is something in Science. All I have been saying is you are adding an extra step in saying because the universe exists, then God exists. The burden of proof is on you because you have to provide evidence for something that by its very nature, does not exist and if it did, lies outside our realm of existence and can’t be proven with Science.

              When it comes to an infinite cosmos, I am going with logic and reason here. Because by going with the idea of the Universe always being here, I don’t have to explain how it got started because it never was started, according to the line of reasoning and logic I discussed before. There is no faith involved there at all. I’m not adding the extra step in saying there is a “prime mover” out there. We already know the universe exists.

              • Jon,

                You have not studied the big bang. I refer you to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_bang

                The universe has to have a cause.

                Somewhere in time there has to be an uncaused cause.

                If you disagree then the burden of proof is on you. What I have just said is entirely logical.

                You claim to know that God doesn’t exist yet you have no explanation for the the universe, for the origin of life, and you back away from those questions by saying “we may never know.”

                That’s a cop out.

                You are not doing reason and logic, you’re saying “I don’t have to explain how it got started because it never was started” yet at the same time you say you believe in the Big Bang. If you believe in the Big Bang, then you believe in a beginning.


            • Jon says:

              And of course I believe in the big bang as that is the leading theory in Science.

        • Jon says:

          “In science, parsimony is preference for the least complex explanation for an observation.” I got this from Wiki.

          So what you are saying, explaining a complex and infinite being such as God is EASIER than explaining the origins of the Universe through Science, Reason and Logic?

          When you add God to the picture, you must then explain him and his origins.

          So this is where faith comes in and by its very nature, does not require an explaination. You have faith and that is fine.

          • We both have faith.

            You have faith in an infinite cosmos, almost none of which you can see or have any evidence for. The cosmos we know of is very much finite. So you are referring to an infinity of stars and planets that you have no evidence for. That is what you have faith in.

            You also have faith in Chance with a Capital C, because the only way our universe has a chance to exist from randomness is if there’s an infinite number of chances.

            I have faith in ONE God.

            One unseen God is more parsimonious than an infinite number of unseen stars and planets and an infinite number of chances in a supposedly infinitely old universe that science tells us is 13.8 billion years old. One unseen God fits the definition of parsimony as “frugality.”

            You have faith and that is fine. You have just been reluctant to admit it.

            • Jon says:

              How is it frugal and simple to have one unseen (and by that very definition, unproveable) God. You must then explain his existence and how can you? How can we explain an infinite, unknowable being without invoking faith? And what is faith but believing in something in the absence of knowledge and truth, which is the only thing required to make God real.

              It’s much easier to explain the unseen stars and planets because the light traveling from these distance objects hasn’t had enough time to reach us. Remember, our technology is limited. We can only see back to around 10 billion light years but certainly stars and planets existed before that because “our” little Universe is 13.7 billion years old.

              • Jon,

                You cannot do science without faith. That is what a hypothesis is.

                I have faith in the simplest available explanation for the universe: A boundless timeless immaterial simple God.

                All other theories invoke something more complex.


            • Jon says:

              I do have a question, what is it with the “spelling chance with a capital C” thing?

              • You make Chance your god. The thing to which you assign extraordinary capabilities.

                • Jon says:

                  Chance is part of the game. I have already mentioned this but the dinosaur extinction has everything to do with chance. How can you explain that event without bringing up some random cosmic? If that wouldn’t have happen, then we would probably not be here.

                  So it was god who sent that rock towards Earth to wipe out most of the species just to start over with us? That doesn’t sound very god like.

  2. Kedir says:

    The Invisible,The originator of the heavens and earth,when he decides on something he just says to it:”Be!”and it is,Eye sight can not percieve him but he percieves the eye sight,His visibility caused by his creation,He knows everything in his creation,His creation is his imagination.some among mankind inspired by him like moses,jusus,mohammed(s a w).He also sent the scriptures but It corrupted by mankind except the last one,The Quran,confirming that which is with the Torah and the Gospel.He is Allah,The ever living.

    • Asmae says:

      Yes this is the truth !
      “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”

    • Forrest Charnock says:

      And where is the evidence for the Bible being corrupted? We have the Dead Sea Scrolls which are hard evidence the Bible was not corrupted and countless instances of archaeological evidence confirming the Bible.
      You have absolutely not one shred of evidence to support your claims and the difference in fact is stunning. The Bible is the most accurate book of ancient history the world will ever know by a huge margin, not a word of it ever disproved and archeology proves the Hajj and the related rites such as throwing rocks at the devil etc was practiced by the pagans 2000 years before Mohamed was born.

      You may believe that the Bible was corrupted but the only evidence is the word of a man. On the other hand the most famous event in world history was the life , crucification and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ and His apostles raised the dead, healed the sick and willingly died before they would deny that Jesus Christ was God made flesh.

      Even from the records of His enemies Jesus Christ lead a sinless life and performed miracles. Mohamed waged war. The strength of your believe has no relevance to the truth .

      Please supply evidence that the Bible was corrupted. You claim Jesus Christ was a prophet, He claimed He was God and te Bible has never been corrupted.

      On what basis was Mohamed the greatest prophet anyway? Did he part the sea? Walk on water? Turn water into wine? Give sight to the blind? Raise the dead or heal the sick?

  3. Cool site, love the info.

  4. Kedir says:

    Where come from this modern civilization?,The answer is simple it came from human thought ,Human thought is not visible,It’s the unseen.God is like a brain The whole existence is like a body,God is like an electricity this universe is like a lamp. His thought creates another thought, His creation creates another creation by his knowledge. Shh! don’t say nature is God say nature is the management of God, everything belongs to him,He is the source of all.He has a perfect name and a perfect plan, He is Allah, the All-knower,the All-Wise.

    • martyboy says:

      Well they do say Muhamed ascended to Heaven on a horse, and I quite like the idea of having 75 virgins at my disposal in Heaven. Does that sound credible or fanciful?
      The essence of Christianity is selfless love and that is was Christ taught. Of course many so called Christians betray their religion because their lives are far from the Christian ideal. But boy, muslims really take the can in that department. I remember reading somewhere on the internet the number of ‘wars’ being waged all over the world by muslims/islamists. I can’t remember the exact number but it’s staggering and of course deeply worrying. Muslims continually rant about the killing of their brothers by non-muslim forces. More muslims have been slaughtered by their own brethren than by non-muslims, Iraq is a good example of that. Furthermore I can’t recall Christians killing and maiming innocent non-combatant civilians including children in the name of their religion.

      • kimkab says:

        I would like to say if you believe that nature is an expression of infinite super intelligent being of whom we call God, then undertsand that this very nature can teach you more than anyone can about this supernatural being.

        For instance, for one to come into existence, he/she is born through one method and this is a part of nature.
        And this supernatural intelligent being ordained things to be this way.
        This therefore teaches us that irrespective of our views ,opinions, beliefs and Faith, the suparnatural being must have a means through which we as his creation of the highest order will be able to know Him, his existence and His objective in human life.

        Let us learn from our own way of doing things.When you purpose to do something, you set goals and objectives.You then strategise on how to achieve these objectives.Once this is in place, you begin working out your strategy in order to achieve the objectives.
        How much more will a being so supernatural plan and organise his plans, work out the plans to achieve His objectives.

        If there is a supernatural being which we call God and He is responsible of creation, He is also responsible to express it to man that He exists and He is behind all this.And i believe This is the whole truth.
        There is a God and he has set a way to know He exists and how to reach Him.

        The problem people have is to want God to show Himself and prove to them He exists according to their own expectations, thinking and reasoning.
        But am sorry to say He will never do this according people’s expectations.

        And He has already shown Himself up to those who were willing to recieve Him in his own way of revealing Himself.

        It is a matter of time and this world will be no more and He will prove to those who did not believe in Him according to the way He decided to reveal Himself to mankind.I am a Christian and i believe that Jesus Christ is God’s chosen way of mankind to reach out to Him and know who He is to us.

        May be you have heard of ”BIBLE CODE”.This is a great proof that the Bible is the most accurate book in history and no matter how people want to disapprove this, it is a matter of time and they will confess it with their own mouths the same thing they had denied.


    • Rabia says:

      My dears, as long as there will be separate religions, there will always be war amongst them. It’s as natural as it gets considering people will always trust their religion to be right – hence why they follow it, obviously.
      Don’t get me wrong – I’m a theist, but arguing over whose religions is least bloody will not end any time soon. With no offense intended towards anyone, the Islamists have had their wars, but Christians have had their fair share as well, not to mention inter-religious wars. Jews are off on their own conflicts too.
      Yet all the while, these are Abrahamic religions, each one of which completely disagree with launching any kind of war or force in their name. No one from any of those religions should be supporting any of their religious compatriots in those wars, nor should any of those religions or their followers be blamed for them.

      I also think Mr. Marshall’s purpose is pointing out the existence of an Intelligent Designer for the universe i.e. God, not which one or through which religion.

      • martyboy says:

        You are so right Rabia. When an innocent is slaughtered in the name of a religion it’s understandable why people condemn religion as the instigator of hate and intollerance. But of course it’s not religion so much as the warped interpretation it’s adherents give to it. Where in the Quoran does it authorize a muslim to kill a non-combatant? In fact I believe it specifically prohibits it but those who know more about this will no doubt correct me. What is so reprehensible and so contrary to scripture is muslim killing muslim, something we read in the newspapers every day, and does a demented brain washed suicide bomber really think he will be in Paradise when he blows up a school bus?
        If there is a God surely he has turned his back on us. Humanity is capable of attrocities no other creature on earth would contemplate. We talk of the ‘lesser’ animals, surely it is we humans who are the lesser. What makes us even more reprehensible is that we know the difference between moralty and immorality. The other animals know nothing of this and act only in accordance with instinct.

        • Marty,

          The more I study cells the more it genuinely appears that they are *intelligent.* Literally cognitive, willful, purposeful and resourceful. They’re cooperative and social.

          Some people talk about cells as though they’re simple, or stupid, or primitive. But perhaps it is we who are simple, stupid and primitive.

          Those who humble themselves at the feet of nature will find much to learn.

          • martyboy says:

            You are so right Perry. When you think that Darwin and his contemporaries didn’t have a clue of what goes on in the cell. A factory more complex than anything created my man that happened by virtue of random accidents???

            Something which fascinates me is mimickry. Dawkins suggests this is merely a series of random mutations in the DNA each one making an infinitesimal morphological change in say the stick insect or a bird that looks like a branch (the name escapes me) which eventually led to the creature being a facsimile of another organism. But this overlooks the fact that each one of those inumerable random accidental changes led inexorably to a creature e.g. in the case of an insect that not only is the exact colour of a leaf but has the veins and stalk etc etc. and lies motionless like a leaf. Are each one of those changes purely fortuitous and seemingly purposeful or part of a plan?

        • Rabia says:

          Of course no religious scripture ever authorises violence like that, and don’t let people tell you any different. It’s just their perverted way of trying to defend what they do. I think a vast majority of religious or religion-related violence arises simply because of misinterpretation, and intolerance.

          God gave everyone a chance, they just choose to blow it.
          Yet with all their moral inabilities, the animals are nonetheless better – they never turn on their own kind.

  5. Franko says:

    Cause and Effect says an effect can not be greater than its cause in quality or quantity.

    The first cause of the universe (or any number of universes) had to be superior to the universe or universes.

    The first cause of life had to be living.

    The first cause of personalities had to be personal.

    The first cause of everything is all knowing, all powerful, living, capable of being everywhere at once, and personal. Sounds like a creator. And sounds logical. A ‘reasoned’ faith.

    Much more going for it than any atheist has in their hypothetical fantasies.

  6. Imer says:

    Hey Perry,
    I listen to the debate and it kinda had a taste of stalemate but you with more pieces on the board.
    I had a couple things to say when he changed your argument. He introduce garbage into it. to say all “known codes come from humans” and such. Like any good logically constructed argument you put garbage in, garbage out it comes. But don’t birds’ mating calls, howler monkeys encode information; isn’t any of that a code?

    Here is a challange to our point of view i have;
    the braind and its encoding system of memories.
    intelligent behaviour demands memory and remembering is a prerequisite to reasoning(that’s why Alzheimer’s patients have lost their minds!)
    IF it is dependent on the DNA code it would negated the mind body dualism. That is to say if the memory encoding process is determind on what is written in the pages of the DNA molecule; Ergo no Mind! Just a highly more complex cell. So if my mind is dependent on this encoding process and that that code came from a Mind wouldn’t that Mind also require that memory encoding process? And if this Mind (God) doesn’t need this memory encoding process then won’t it make it deterministic? Seeing how he has already remembered everything; or If He doesn’t have it then maybe it’s not a mind at all!

    And IF the incoding of memory is not dependent on our DNA then is it not an example a natural occurring code? Can you see if there is any holes in my logic somewhere?

    • Yes, mating calls are codes but they’re instinct, ie more or less direct derivatives of DNA so they tell us nothing of the origin of DNA. Human made codes aren’t derivatives of DNA, there is an originality in the creation process that animals do not exhibit.

  7. richard f says:

    Perry Marshall speculates that there MUST be a metaphysical entity that conceived and brought to creation, and this entity is an information system, What is the purpose of this information? To communicate. If it isn’t then why bother to communicate at all? To whom is this communication directed? Eventually the communication must be received by a sentient being, a being who can understand that communication and act upon it one way or the other. There might be other less sentient beings in between but the ultimate target must be sentient. And if that is the case this communication must be efficiently executed, for why would a supernatural being choose a system less than perfect? There can be no testable explanation as to why that being would choose a less than perfect means of communication. In other words no scientific explanation and only a conjecture. So this supernatural being must devise an absolutely efficient medium of communication otherwise he, she, or it is a faulty communicator. And has this being accomplished this? The tower of Babel disproves this. Communication from the Babel consists of languages unintelligible to one another and have produced misunderstanding and conflict. There are many reasons to explain this faulty communication, one could say the entity was trying to punish the ultimate target, humanity, for pride. But that would be a speculation and not a scientific proof in the same manner that speculate how the original DNA code could assemble itself by total natural processes. If we conjecture a supernatural being, above natural laws of physics, chemistry and biology then we must also conjecture that any deviation from this logic is unscientific. The point is that both arguments reach the same dead end. This argument is similar to the existence of vestigial organs to disprove evolution. The bottom line is that not enough information is available that can prove or disprove the existence of a god or gods and there may never be.

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