4 April 2014 by Yeo Teck Thiam –
I suppose everyone has his ideas and cherished hopes about life. Yet everyone knows also that this life is short and has a given time, for there is death to be reckoned with. So then, we put together many differing ideas in our beliefs about life. Some will have faith in God, but others reject this.
One is entitled to his view of God, of course, since no one is in a position to put God in a test tube. It is not something that one can prove or disprove by tests or opinion. Besides, all of us know our knowledge is incomplete and also imperfect. So it seems best to respect a person’s decision about faith, and leave it as that.
Nevertheless, there are various aspects that can be said about life and also about the dread of death. What I am thinking, firstly, are physical laws that govern life and activities, and which are not subject to interpretations and issues on how life developed on earth.
Significantly and surprisingly, these ideas on physical laws about life elude evolution. It is because various evolutionary explanations about hope and how life began cannot be validated by scientific quests also. The hope and how life began are in our beliefs.
So thankfully, I am relieved that I can leave to experts to expound evolution of life, a field that I am a novice. Instead, I think of the hope for life, whether in God or without God.
For this reason, I think of the claim that life came spontaneously by itself into matter and wonder how this belief stands under closer cross examination. So I have also wondered if this is a probability.
Entropy and Life
In my student days, I was quite distressed by the ideas in a topic called entropy. Students in physical and engineering sciences will be familiar with the subject, as it is in the laws for thermodynamics. It discusses the concept of heat loss and is concerned with heat becoming evenly distributed in a closed system over time.
The science was not the issue, but the result of heat dissipation means that all systems must become lower in heat content over time. This inevitability was not pleasant to accept. I was uncomfortable with the conclusion that ultimately this universe will become a frigid cold place, as heat gets distributed to cold outer space. This means that all life must die because life can only be sustained in a narrow temperature range. Life will not survive in the frigid cold.
When life is lost, we know that life is unable to come back again in a dead creature. This is the fact of life in our universe. No one has been able to bring life into a dead creature. Hence, the thought was uncomfortable because entropy ensures that life must totally cease at some point in time in this universe.
Some may consider that gravitational forces can create stars to burn for billions of years. The heat of the sun will keep going a billion years! Nevertheless, this is a small consolation because death and entropy are inevitable.
Life is also different from gravity because life contains the ability to make its own decisions. Gravity can only obey the laws of the physical universe. But life does try to circumvent these laws!
Moreover, I did not think it is a good idea to become attached with the stars. I didn’t like the idea because I imagine hell is a fiery place, burning hot and roasting. I do not think many want to be alive in such a place, anyway.
The Grass Withers is not a Probability
Nowadays, the world is only too well aware of the issues about climate change due to the warming of the atmosphere. Scientists warn of the dangers in temperature fluctuations to life forms. Yet, we all know that climate change is a small problem compared to the changes the earth has undergone over billions of years!
This is not to mention the damage to a creature’s body due to exposure of ultra violet rays and x-rays. We can, of course, dismiss this issue and explain that life forms are shielded from such harm as coincidences and serendipity, but I think the probabilities are rather slim.
Probabilities are alright as a concept for multiple events where we need the best estimate, and have the freedom of choice. However, probability is not a concept that is applicable to life and death. You are either dead or alive. There are no two ways to choose being half dead or 50% alive.
So we know why no one talks about the probability of not dying. One will either live forever, or accept that death is certain!
Probability is hence invalid if someone is thinking about the “chances” of life spontaneously coming out of a pool of water. The answer has to be “yes” or “no”.
Hence also, many seek to prolong life, in the hope of cheating death as long as we can. But no one is immortal. So Moses said about God in Psalm 90:5,6,
“You sweep men away in the sleep of death;
they are like the new grass of the morning —
though in the morning it springs up new,
by evening it is dry and withered.”
Death’s Icy Cold Hands
So we understand that life is an external force, not produced by physical matter. It is the only external force and reason that the body is able to overcome the laws in entropy and make its own decisions. Life deliberately and actively works to overcome entropy and the laws of thermodynamics in living creatures.
Thus we speak of death in contrast to life as well, and its icy coldness is not far from reality. A dead creature cannot maintain life’s processes, consuming energy and produce heat as well. At death, all creatures turn cold and stiff. Entropy ensures this, and so creatures return to dust.
It is in God’s judgment on Adam: “Dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19
So we are confronted with upsetting facts of life. Death shows dead matter by itself cannot spontaneously spring up and become living matter. No one has created life yet, anyway. Thus evolution is unable to entertain or prove this claim.
Rather, death confirms that it is scientifically false to say life spontaneously came by itself from water. Empirical evidence confirms this “spontaneous life by chance” claim is false. The physical laws of this universe completely reject this claim.
Pollution, Environment and Life
Many decades ago, the whole world was excited by reports from an American research that a scientist found amino acids (building blocks for proteins) were formed by the simple action of electric sparks across a mixture of simple chemicals. People’s imaginations were enervated because it seems life can come by itself spontaneously in such ways.
Regrettably, it was found out later that the scientist did not want to tell people that the electric sparks gave a messy, tarry mixture which is normal for organic chemical reactions. The messy mixture contained undesirable chemicals besides amino acids!
In the real world, outside the laboratory, we know life always has to fight for survival in a polluted environment. Hence, if the scientist stated pollutants were also with the amino acids, it would dismiss the claims on prospects for life.
Nowadays, of course, reputable scientists won’t talk about such experiments unless the results can be duplicated successfully.
Words of Life
Nevertheless, I learnt an important lesson about test results. It was not about rejecting the facts in an experiment, but it is to be careful about how people explain the facts. I learn it is important to understand that possibilities of life are useless if the explanation does not offer the hope of life.
The Christian accepts also that we have no scientific explanation why life exists or where life comes from. So what we discuss on life cannot produce life in a creature. Our words of explanation cannot create life — that is, by making a dead creature come back to life. Our words don’t have such power!
Hence, when someone says that life came spontaneously by itself from water, it is not reassuring because the person himself is going to die anyway. The person cannot hope his own words can give him life!
So then, I seek to find life. It is better than talking about how life began, anyway.
Life and Death
Life is a special force that enables creatures to overcome entropy embedded in the laws of this universe. This scientific fact is well known, but it is up to a person to choose what to believe. So I choose to believe in God, rather than worldly wisdom and explanations, or resign myself to a fate in entropy.
God is there to give life.
So I don’t have to be uncertain about the “chances” for life.
I don’t have to ask scientists about climate change and temperature conditions for life also.
I don’t have to ask someone to state the quality of water for life to spawn as well, and the limits of pollution on earth for evolution.
In short, I don’t have to believe in all the evolutionary assumptions necessary for life to evolve spontaneously by itself in a pool of water.
The Sting of Death
For the Christian, man cannot escape death because God told Adam that when he ate the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, he would die. Death is the judgment and punishment for sin. This is also the case in time for Lazarus and people raised back to life by Jesus when He was on earth. It is because the judgment of death for sin on Adam’s body cannot be annulled. Our body on earth came through Adam.
For this reason, Christ died to redeem man from sin. Jesus annulled the debts of sin through His own death on the cross. The evidence for this debt of sin is settled is that Christ must rise from the dead. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, we have no hope also, when we die. Jesus must conquer death!
When the debts of sin are paid, sin has no more claims in death as punishment for sinners. So it is written: The sting of death is sin. But Christ is risen, so death is swallowed up in victory! Isaiah 25:8, 1 Corinthians 15:54
It gives me an understanding why Jesus rose from the dead. It underscores the proclamation in the Resurrection of Jesus that death is vanquished. Hence my conclusion was that it is better that I come to know God.
In my Heart
The Spirit is life, so I do not expect that this evidence of life must be physical. After all, we seek heaven, and this is a spiritual place hereafter. I must have the spirit to know this is true.
In sum, therefore, we can truly only know if we encounter Jesus in the spirit. Thus Jesus must live in a person's heart, and so will he recognize Jesus’ voice speaking in his heart. It is personal.
So Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” John5:25
Jesus is saying that the dead will hear! For those who believe, Jesus is calling them to life eternal. They will rise because it is Jesus who is calling them. This life is in the spirit. This is also personal.
The Death of Moses
There is an intriguing account Jude gave in his letter in the New Testament. It is about a dispute between Michael the archangel and Satan. The contention was about the body of Moses in Jude 9.
Moses had viewed the Promised Land from the heights of Pisgah in Mount Nebo. There he died, and God buried him there, in the valley opposite Beth Peor. No one knows to this day where God buried Moses. Deuteronomy 34:6
It seems strange that Satan should dispute with the archangel Michael about the body of Moses. What is there to quarrel over a dead body? Why should Satan pursue this, and what was Satan’s demand? After all, no one except God knows where Moses was buried!
However, if we see that death has a claim over the body on earth, Satan is demanding for proof that Moses died. It is because he has a claim in sin with regards to death. If no one knows where Moses was buried, there is no proof for Moses’ death without showing Moses’ bones in a grave!
Satan was demanding proof so that his claims were met for Moses’ death. It was about the wages of sin is death. Consequently, Michael told Satan that the Lord rebuke him for his outrageous demand.
In a similar manner, I encounter disputes about the body of Jesus. But I know Jesus is not here, but is risen and has conquered death for me. You ask me how I know He lives: it is because He speaks to me and lives in my heart.
“For I know my Redeemer lives, and that in the last day, he will stand upon the earth. And though my skin is destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see my God; I will see him with my own eyes — I, and not another. How my hearts yearns for this!” Job 19:25-27.
References for pictures