Reading Time: 2 minutes By NASA, ESA, and C. Robert O’Dell (Vanderbilt University) ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Reading Time: 2 minutes

With the news that certain cloud compositions on Venus are best explained by molecular Venutian life existing, this prompts some interesting questions.

If life can only be explained by God, that naturalism struggles to explain abiogenesis, as certain theists (including creationists) claim, then why do we have complex sentient life on Earth and merely molecular, non-sentient life on other planets (assuming we do, which we certainly do, somewhere in the universe).

It seems that these are the options:

  1. God designed the universe so that life spontaneously erupts due to the natural laws that God has designed and created, rather like the thinking of theistic evolutionists whereby evolution explains life’s diversity but that this process was created by God.
  2. God created life miraculously on Earth but also decided to create Petri dishes of life in clouds of other planets, and suchlike.

The problems for these two theses is that 1) looks synonymous with naturalism. That if God has designed the framework for abiogenesis such that the process is actually naturalistic, then this allows for the argument that abiogenesis is, indeed, naturalistic and that all naturalists might want to do is explain the framework of natural laws existing (for example, that the laws are brute facts in the same way that God supposedly is).

For 2) to be the case, the theist must think up some ad hoc reason as to why God would want to create largely irrelevant instances of life elsewhere in the universe. Whilst this might make sense for other sentient lifeforms that could come to appreciate, love and worship God (because an OmniGod needs that, right?), it is somewhat harder to argue for God wanting to explicitly create pockets of molecular non-sentient life here and there.

It’s not impossible, but we are not looking for possible vs impossible but more probable vs less probable. To me, it seems that molecular life in random clouds off random planets is far more coherent under a naturalistic understanding of the world than a theistic one.

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...