Thursday, January 8, 2015

No Soup For You

Imagine a planet with general physical characteristics similar to Earth, but without life of any sort. Conditions unfolding on such a planet would assume a very different trajectory. Creative science fiction writers describing such a planet would have difficulty developing their story line. 

Our public schools teach an optimistic evolutionary scenario producing the wondrous multiplicity of earth life. The life development scenarios promoted routinely by our bio-scientists presumes virtually all past changes in the physical, bio-chemical, and physiological phenomena of life forms owe a debt to the all-pervasive modern theory of evolution. Since life first appeared 3.8 billion years ago millions of advantageous alterations to life forms over Earth’s evolutionary history have occurred. The theoretical model of evolution is offered as intrinsically explanatory.

Bio-scientists acknowledge there is no evolutionary explanation for the origin of life. Researchers do not have a coherent strategy for solving this intractable problem. Scientist Harold Lonsdale (1932-2014) spearheaded an effort in 2011 to award a prize for the best proposals for research in the field. Lonsdale stated, in his initial publicity for the prize, “My goal in supporting origin of life research is to help scientists solve one of the great remaining problems in biology. A solution will give every science teacher in the world from high school to college a fundamental understanding of how life probably (emphasis mine) began on earth. In time, the world will learn that the laws of chemistry and physics, and the principle of evolution by natural selection, are sufficient to explain life’s origin.”

Lonsdale, an avowed atheist, sought to explain life in terms of his naturalistic worldview and was willing to finance his effort to affirm a naturalistic origin of life. The effort has borne no fruit. It appears public financing is not in prospect to seriously research this question of ultimate significance. This lack of enthusiastic government and science community support is indicative of the despair among scientists that there may never be a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life.

The sudden appearance of morphologically simple but biochemically complex single celled microbes at the dawn of life on Earth is a startling event worthy of reverential awe. Some of the applicants for Lonsdale’s prize cited the potential for discovering the answer in a theoretical existence of a pre-biotic “soup” on the early earth. The possibility of a life-engendering soup fascinated scientists until recent decades. Researchers now know that no pre-biotic soup ever existed on earth. Harsh conditions predominated on early Planet Earth. We do not hesitate to proclaim the initial appearance of microbic life a divine miracle on our planetary home, second only to the creation of the universe itself. Neither do we hesitate to affirm that the historic geological record manifests many step-like sudden changes indicative of creation events.

Paleontologist J. William Schopf discovered 3.5 billion year old cyanobacteria microfossils in Western Australia in 1993. As an evolutionist, he confessed his preference that organisms such as cyanobacteria which make their own food and fix nitrogen needed for plant growth, would manifest a history leading from “primitive ways of living” to “advanced metabolic lifestyles.” It is easier for evolutionists to conceive of naturalistic gradual transitions from simple to more complex than to have complex microbes such as cyanobacteria appear in the fossil record with startling suddenness. My earlier post on this topic is linked here:

Pre-biotic Earth was not a hospitable place. Had a pre-biotic “soup” been present, the planet might have been somewhat more inviting. Enzymes and other molecules are presumed to have been forming spontaneously in the planetary soup bowl. It is easy to imagine such a soup if one is searching only for a naturalistic scenario for the inception of life.

We may imagine a visit to a lifeless pre-biotic planet. More than 1800 extra-solar planets have been discovered to date. A few may have intriguing conditions in their “habitable zones” surrounding the host star. It is even conceivable that such an exoplanet could possibly be similar to our Earth before life arrived. Our speculation may take us to the land of science fiction. However, our intuition may take us in a different direction—a feeling that planetary life is unique to Earth.

It is certain that billions of exoplanets exist in our Milky Way Galaxy. In our lifetime we may increase our knowledge exponentially. As evidentialists, we must be prepared to receive expanded knowledge of our universe. Some future knowledge gained may surprise us.

The truth and beauty expressed in Psalm 24:1-2 overwhelms our worship: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” (NIV)