|VI. The Creation of Life Itself
The creation of microbial
and plant life
occurs next. The
CNB implies but does not specifically mention the creation of life
itself, and CNS typically ignores the philosophical implications of the
overwhelming difficulties. Lawrence
remarked on the attitude of science in the early 1900s, a remark that
is still relevant today.
|"As for the existence of
life, in spite of our utter ignorance, it must be admitted that a half
century has greatly diminished the number of substantial biologists who
really look forward to its scientific explanation.... The chemist puts
his mind at rest regarding the existence of life, just as the physicist
calms his regarding the existence of matter, simply by turning his back
on the problem. Thereby he suffers nothing in his practical task as a
man of science. ... Biochemists are more than ever unable to perceive
how such a process is possible, and without taking any final stand
prefer to let the riddle rest."
Fitness of the
an inquiry into the
Biological Significance of the
Properties of Matter
"The advance of science has
assuredly not made the origin of life easier to imagine, or even to
think about. On the contrary I am fully persuaded that it has made the
task far more difficult."
first mention of living matter in CNB is plants that grow on the dry
Day Three (see below). However the natural world—the silent voice of
Psalm 19—speaks volumes on this subjectVI.07.
So this is one place where the
proclamation of "God's glory and handiwork" in nature forms an
indispensible part of the creation narrative. The story that nature
tells about the beginnings of life is extensive, deep and detailed—and
growing: it will continue to give abundant fruit for many
years to come. The account of life's beginnings is an amazing tale of
tenacity and fitness. And it leads to the inevitable conclusion by a
rational person, hinted at in these quotations, that a rational
intelligence is an indispensible part of the unfolding narrative. This
is the reason why scientists "prefer to let the riddle rest," as these
quotes imply. This is an indictment against the way that science is
practiced, because it implies an attitude that is exactly the opposite
of rational inquiry that science should presuppose.
How Special is Life?
At times in the decades after 1859, the publication of
Origin of Species many scientists thought that science would soon find
a scientific explanation for the origin of life. Ernst Haeckel made the
remark in 1876VI.02
that the "general
explanation of life is now no more difficult to us than the
explanation of the physical properties of inorganic bodies." That
optimism did not last long. Within a few decades,
as scientists probed the nature of this protoplasm
(German urschleim) the vast
complexity of life began to unfold. No longer was
possible to argue for the simplicity of this "slime."
Today, there are
three areas where probes have only
increased the mystery of how it all began. These are:
of the exceedingly special nature of a universe that supports life.
This concerns the possible range of parameters and laws;
incredibly complex digital nature of the central dogma, combined with
the vast number of complex molecules and processes that must be present
for any self-reproducing life to exist; and
(3) The vast array of
unique genes and processes that define the major body types of life.
my knowledge there is no demonstration of how such seminal changes
could have evolved by natural evolutionary change.
The logical conclusion is that the whole project of forming a universe
capable of life, of designing the complexities of the central dogma; of
creating the many specialized and complex molecules needed to support
metabolism and reproduction; and the engineering of the various
major classes of living species, point to a Intelligent creator. Those
who deny this are in peril of committing to the vast and foolish
fantasy that St. Paul warned against in Romans 1:22, "Professing
themselves to be wise, they became fools."
There is so much fascinating and incredible
detail to the beginnings of life that it would be
easy to lose sight of the overarching story. To avoid this, we will
mention just some of the major points, and leave further details to
appendices, so the overall flow can be got at without getting bogged
Perhaps sensing the complexity of the question, Darwin
was quite careful to avoid
speculation on the origin of life, contenting himself only to assert
that once life existed, it evolved its many species by natural means
according to Darwinian principles.VI.03
Darwin's acolytes, such as
Ernst Haeckel, tried to argue at first that life was, at root, simple.
But the more the question was studied, the more complex life appeared
to be, leading by the early 1900s to Henderson's comment above: it is
so complex that scientists do not "really look forward to its
As time passed from that remark in the early 1900s to the present time,
things have just become more and more complex, with a seismic event in
mid-century as the details of its digital basis in DNA came to light.
Today, many scientists acknowledge that the phenomenon of life is
exceedingly improbable, quite possibly unique on earth in the entire
universe. Even the most polemical atheists acknowledge this—their only
sense of self-correctness maintained by claiming that the "probability
of God" is even smaller ("so's yours!").
So here are the facts, gleaned from the multiple lines of evidence that
the natural world offers.
When did life first appear on
earth? The answer is startling: evidence of life appears almost
as soon as conditions allow it to occur. Basically this means as soon
as the earth had cooled from a molten state, and a (hot) global ocean
had formed. Ancient rocks on Akilia Island just off GreenlandVI.04,
to 3.8 billion years ago show traces of organic carbon [a carbon
isotope mix that is characteristic of life]. The
"biological carbon" is the result of carbon
fixing by the RuBisCO molecule that is part of the sugar-making process
of photosynthesis VI.05.
RuBisCO is the only known natural catalyst for converting CO2
biologically useful carbon. It preferrentially fixes carbon-12 which
results in a slightly higher ratio of 12C
the two stable forms of Carbon.
Recently (2017) some actual carbon fossils have been discovered in this
|The Two Kinds of (vastly complex) Life.
Bacterial Life. The
first life was bacterial. The creation of this life required the
invention of many special molecules, procedures and even molecular
machines, all defined and controlled by the Central Dogma, which is
essentially the same for all forms of life.
The first bacterial life had the daunting task of scrabbling an
existence from an inhospitable and inorganic earth. Its primary task
was to prepare the earth for more advanced forms of life by preparing
food in the form of organic wastes, including particularly fixed
and carbon. This task literally took billions of
years to distribute organic food worldwide and thus prepare the earth
Eukaryotic Life. Eukaryotes
are characterized by the existence of a nucleus in each cell. But that
is only the most obvious feature. Eukaryotes are so much more complex
than bacterial life (itself vastly complex) that it might be viewed as
a further creation of life. Eukaryotes have many specialized organelles
which amount to factories which produce many special components of
advanced life. All visible plants and animals, both single-celled and
multicellular, are eukaryotes.
Eukaryotes cannot make all of their own food—they require this food to
be already prepared in advance. In particular eukaryotes cannot make
the fixed nitrogen needed in abundance by every living cell. This is
why eukaryotes appear billions of years after their bacterial
Most (all?) eukaryotes respire oxygen, which must be available in the
earth's atmosphere. The presence of atmospheric oxygen on a planet is
thus a marker of advanced
life. To my knowledge only the earth shows such a presence among all
the planets discovered in the universe. [check this]