When we focus on the origin of life on Earth we deal with the initial appearance of cells. Most bio-science texts list approximately seven characteristics of life. The first characteristic is that living things are organized into cells. The cells manifest metabolism, the processing of pre-existing substances to yield energy and the manufacture of new substances to synthesize complex molecules. The issue of the origin of life, therefore, revolves around the answer to, “What is the origin of cells?”
No questions about life on earth are more significant than how cells came into existence. Modern bio-scientists devote much of their effort to promoting evolution—the development of present life forms from a common ancestor, a simple life form in the distant past from which all present complex life forms have descended. The evolutionary paradigm is firmly established in our culture. The terms evolution and evolutionary are repeated continually even when the the authors’ purpose is not explicitly scientific.
If we define a cultural icon as “an idea with great cultural significance,” we might place evolution in this category. Bio-chemist Fazale Rana, Vice-President of Research and Apologetics at Reasons to Believe, has stated there is no more important question that Christians could answer within the science/faith interface.
Many adherents of evolution deny that belief in evolution connects with core tenets of the Christian faith. This point of view is worth exploring carefully. One could offer that our spiritual relationship with the God of redemption and acceptance of foundational Christian theology impacting our faith, belief, and practice is not impacted by belief in the evolutionary paradigm. At some levels this is true, but at other levels it is not. At best, we could acknowledge that God as Creator is not limited to one view of the creation process. At worst, if we accept evolution, God may become superfluous if we subscribe to an intrinsic naturalistic flow of events to bring present life to its glorious reality.
So far as we know, life exists only on our small planet in this tiny corner of the universe. Cause and effect relationships in the universe outside our solar system are reasonably easy to explain compared with the cause and effect relationships present in life forms. Two examples are the mind/body “problem” of human life, and deeper questions of the origin of life.
Finally, the origin of life question is of vital importance. When cells first appeared in the form of microbial bacteria, a giant leap occurred. It is one thing to explain the natural evolution of the physical universe from the moment of the Big Bang to the moment when life arrived. It is quite another to explain evolution of life forms naturalistically. Pope John Paul II used the term “ontological leap” to describe the miraculous infusion of characteristics of the human soul into primates at some point in their history. (The Catholic Church believes in evolution of humans from LUA—a one celled last universal ancestor.) We take the liberty of pronouncing the transition of matter from non-life to life a more significant “ontological leap.” When Adam was created in the Image of God according to the Genesis 1 account, an “ontological leap” from a previous existence was not necessary.
The sudden origin of life at the appearance of cells on Earth 3.8 billion years ago should be the cornerstone of evolutional theory. However, origin of life answers do not exist. Searching for this answer on the spectrum of theoretical evolutionary events, we encounter a virtual blank. Evolutionary scientists have been content with their hypotheses of mutation and natural selection. They are hypothesizing ever more creative explanations. Evolution is clothed with certainty by the bioscience community, a cultural icon to which we are counseled to offer obeisance in the name of science. Meanwhile, the question of life’s origin in the appearance of cells remains unanswered by the community of evolutionary scientists.