Bag of chemicals

bombardier beetle

bag of chemicals 2
Left: the bombardier beetle spraying out a mixture of the chemicals: hydroquinone 6H4(OH)2 and hydrogen peroxide H2O2, in defense. Right: the extrapolation of the beetle as sac of chemicals to human as a bag of chemicals, used in writer Dominic Statham’s 2010 article “Are We More Than a Bag of Chemicals?” [4]
In terminology, bag of chemicals or the “bag of chemical” argument is the argument that just as the cell with its membrane is like a bag or sac of chemicals so too are people with their skin membrane, like or are a giant bag of chemicals.

The conception of an organism of a bag of chemicals seems to stem from Richard Dawkins' 1986 discussions (Ѻ), in his The Blind Watchmaker, of the chemicals: hydroquinone 6H4(OH)2 and hydrogen peroxide H2O2, inside the bombardier beetle, and how the beetle squirts these chemical out of its tail to make an explosion, outside of its body, when attacking, but how the chemicals are kept neutralized and or separated while inside the body of the beetle. Dawkins does not, however, at this point, use the phrase bag of chemicals.

In 1999, citing Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker, English astronomer and astrophysicist Michael Rowan-Robinson, in his The Nine Numbers of the Cosmos, states the following: [1]

“The aspect of existence I want to focus on in this chapter [We Exist] is the stuff we are made of. Well, what are we made of? Bones, flesh, blood, skin? The four humours of the alchemists? A bag of chemicals? The idea that turns out to be really powerful is that we are made of atoms. This was first suggested by a group of Ionian philosophers of the sixth century BC, especially Leucippus and Democritus, the greatest of the so-called pre-Socratics. Plato and Aristotle dismissed this idea, sending western thought in the wrong direction for 2,000-years. Interestingly, what Aristotle disliked about atomic theory was that it seemed to require an infinite number of different types of atom, one for every different substance in the universe. In De caelo (‘On the Heavens’) Aristotle argues that his theory of the four basic elements, earth, air, fire, and water, had much more predictive power.”

In 2005, John Sanford, in his Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome, stated the following:

“Are you are just a meaningless bag of molecules—the product of nothing more than random molecular mutations and reproductive filtering?”

In 2008, Dawkins, in his River Out of Eden: a Darwinian View, does begin to refer to a cell as a “bag of chemicals”. [3]

In 2008, English quantum physicist Michael Brooks, in his popular 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense, titled chapter five “Life: Are You More Than Just a Bag of Chemicals”, in his attack on the theory of life as something that does not make sense in light of modern physical science (see: defunct theory of life). [2] From here, the term seems to have increasingly made its way into the creationism vs. evolutionism debates circles.

In 2010, writer Dominic Statham, e.g. penned an article entitled “Are We Nothing More Than a Bag of Chemicals?”, outline his objections to American plant geneticist Anthony Cashmore’s 2010 article “The Lucretian Swerve”, about how free will in biology and criminology is a type vitalism theory, specifically objecting to his statement that: [4]

“The reality is, not only do we have no more free will than a fly or a bacterium, in actuality we have no more free will than a bowl of sugar.”

In 2010, religious writer C.W. Adams, to cite and example, penned, what seems to be a Robert Pirsig (1991) stylized argument, the following: (Ѻ)

“Why would a lifeless or previously lifeless bag of chemicals decide it was important that future generations even exist, let alone improve their chances of survival? While we might quickly assume that living organisms would want to produce offspring with grater chances of survival, there is no rational reason for this desire. Why would a selfishly motivated newly living organism care about a future generation? First accidental evolutionists make a huge leap assuming that life somehow spontaneously generated from chemicals. Then they make a huge leap that these newly living chemicals somehow preferred survival and pain as opposed to a painless existence of nonlife. Then they make another huge leap by assuming that these newly living chemicals could and would want to dilute their strength to produce offspring that require only trouble and work to maintain. They against all odds, evolution theory proponents take the leap in assuming that these newly living chemicals somehow created an ‘unselfish gene’ that somehow passed on improvements for the future survival of future generations who do nothing for that newly living chemical itself. All of this was done by newly living chemicals that not much different in substance from their dead chemical cousins? The only answer accidental evolutionists seem to give us to these questions is that this all must have been a series of random accidents.”
Secular thinker Kurt Bell discussing (2011) reaction, in video to his controversial labeling of his wife and child, from a secular perspective, as "soulless bags of chemicals". One response video is found here: (Ѻ)

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Soulless bag of chemicals
See main: Soulless bag of chemicals
In 2011, secular thinker Kurt Bell blogged an article titled “Soulless Bag of Chemicals”, in which he opens to the following: [5]

“On my better days I regard my wife and daughter as ‘soulless bags of chemicals.’ To be fair though, I think the same of myself and all other forms of life. Souls are supernatural things beyond perception or measure, worthy only of suspended belief pending some real evidence or the giving up of the tenets of science. Chemicals we are…despite the clever animation of flesh and musings of mind brought about by the electricity of life. So why do we think more of ourselves? How are we so offended by these facts?”

He followed this up with a vlog about how his use of the controversial phrase about how he thought of his wife and his daughter as “soulless bags of chemicals”, which he said he heard somewhere, borrowed it, and liked it, but that it sparked a heated reaction and “got under the skin” of many people, no pun intended.

1. (a) Rowan-Robinson, Michael. (2001). The Nine Numbers of the Cosmos (pg. 4). Oxford University Press.
(b) Michael Rowan-Robinson – Wikipedia.
2. Brooks, Michael. (2008). 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense: the Most Baffling Mysteries of Our Time (ch. 5: “Life: Are You More Than Just a Bag of Chemicals”, pgs. 69-82). DoubleDay.
3. Dawkins, Richard. (2008). River Out of Eden: a Darwinian View (pg. 154). Basic Books.
4. (a) Statham, Dominic. (2010). “Are We Nothing More Than a Bag of Chemicals?” (Ѻ),, Jul 29.
(b) Cashmore, Antony. (2010). “The Lucretian Swerve: the Biological Basis of Human Behavior and the Criminal Justice System” (Ѻ), Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(10):4499-4504.
5. Bell, Kurt. (2011). “Soulless Bag of Chemicals” (Ѻ), LylesBrother, Sep 02.

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