“How did life begin?”
I’ve heard the answer all our lives: “Life began from a one-celled organism which lived in a bubbling cauldron of primordial soup. This one cell one day began to spontaneously divide, and this replication process eventually produced a fish. This fish evolved from its fins a set of quasi-”feet” that allowed it to not only propel itself through the water, but to crawl up onto dry land. This amphibian creature then somehow began to develop hair and live, not in its former watery habitat, but in the jungle where, over millions of years, it developed better facilities and appendages for living in its environment. This creature eventually evolved into the original member of the Mammalia class, Primate order, Hominidae family…and the genus Homo, from which you and I eventually evolved as Homo sapiens.”
The fact is, no one really knows. But that doesn’t stop them from guessing.
In a little-known movie entitled “Expelled,” Ben Stein asked Michael Ruse, a prominent lecturer on science and religion (and, interestingly, an atheist who also believes there’s nothing wrong with trying to reconcile science and religion), “How did we get from an inorganic world to the world of the cell?” Dr. Ruse responded, “Well, one popular theory is that it might have started off on the backs of crystals. Molecules piggybacked on the back of crystals forming, and that this led to more and more complex…but of course the nice thing about crystals is that every now and then you get mistakes, mutations, and that this opens the way for natural selection.”
In the same film Stein asked atheist author and lecturer Richard Dawkins how life got started. He answered, “We don’t know…It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved by probably some kind of Darwinian means, to a very, very high level of technology and designed a form of life that they seeded on to, perhaps, this planet…And I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the details of biochemistry and molecular biology, you might find a signature of some sort of designer [who] could well be a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe. But that higher intelligence itself would had to have come about by some…ultimately explicable…process.”
No less than Dr. Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the DNA molecular structure, whose work has led to groundbreaking and truly life-changing advances in medical science, at one time believed in Panspermia, the theory that life “somehow” originated outside of the earth and was “seeded” onto earth by intelligent life forms. He later updated his thoughts, but they apparently touched only on the esoterica of RNA replication, not his original speculation of life’s origins. Interestingly, Crick was also a humanist who once said of Christianity, “I do not respect Christian beliefs. I think they are ridiculous. If we could get rid of them we could more easily get down to the serious problem of trying to find out what the world is all about.”
So much for the origins of life. The feelings about how humans came about are much more strongly held.
Ian Tattersall, head of the Anthropology Department at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, references the original Darwinist in a book (p. 19) on human origins: “Darwin’s central thesis…is that all forms of life are related by ancestry…Descent with modification: to Darwin this meant that all species, living and extinct, were descended from a single ancient ancestor, in a branching pattern that may be represented as we represent human geneologies, in the form of a tree, or a branching bush [emphasis mine].” In another book (p. X) Tattersall himself states, “ The story of how we became human is a long one, and it is one that is best recounted from its ancient beginnings, well before there was any firm hint of what was to come…It’s hardly surprising that the apes are so unsettlingly like us. They are our closest living relatives…sharing with us an ancestor that lived perhaps…seven million years ago [emphasis mine].”
Ann Gibbons, the “primary writer on human evolution for Science magazine for more than a decade” said in “The First Humans” (pp. 59-60): “If [anthropologist Louis Leakey] was correct in supposing [certain fossils] were early hominids rather than extinct apes, these fossils pushed back the time when the ancestor of humans split from the ancestor of African apes to at least 20 million years [emphasis mine].”
It is clear that the certainty which accompanies the writings on human evolution is nowhere to be found when discussion turns to the origins of life itself: the most educated, accomplished, and revered scientists are left to rank speculation. However – and this is of utmost importance to this discussion – these same educated, accomplished, and revered scientists become absolutely certain that, whatever their ignorance about the origins of life, it most certainly did not come from an intelligent, supreme, [G]od-like being. The fine line they tread: Dawkins’ “intelligent beings,” Crick’s alien-like creatures of Panspermia, Ruse’s mutating crystals…they all “say without saying” that there had to be some sort of intelligence putting it all together in the first place. Yet they, and thousands of their esteemed colleagues, would apparently be content to go to their deathbeds excluding the possibility of Christianity’s God in a basic hypothesis of the unknown – but every other possibility, however fanciful, is entertained.
And so, when it comes to any sort of morality or ethics, or the creation of a framework that will give guidance on life and death matters, we are left to pure chance, and ultimately to our own designs – which is right in keeping with the accepted “facts” of the chance origination of life and non-purposeful evolution of humans. Despite the illogical way in which Christianity’s (or any other religion’s) deity is dismissed from a hypothesis on the origins of life while those on “intelligent beings” from other worlds are entertained without question, the rules of logic should come back into play when it comes to how society should treat human life. In other words, a paradigm that would dismiss without question the involvement of any supreme being in the moral conduct of human beings would logically embrace its own view and value of human life when forming a viewpoint on the value of human life. Thus, if the paradigm states that human life evolved from chance encounters with random molecules, then there is no intrinsic value to that life and human beings can be dealt with in any manner the prevailing societal authority feels expedient.
This conversation is continued in Part 2.
Categories: Life's Like That