The Universe, Life, and Us - A Mystery?
THE ENIGMA OF ORIGINS
It is possibly the most important question that mankind has asked. It is a challenge that evades the sciences and leads the human race on an endless quest for knowledge and answers. It's answers could change the future and our perception of the past. It could produce a new society with new values but could also destroy old values and hopes. The questions? “How did the universe come into existence and how did life arise and develop into the incredibly complex forms on earth today?”
All throughout mankind's history there have been inquisitive people who seek answers. Most of them have been scientists, intelligent people who observe, consider and test the living world around them. Without a doubt, science remains the best tool for answering the question of origins. Science is our best hope for solving the mystery of our universe and life in it. The human race possesses the perfect mechanism for investigating these issues, our awesome brain. We are by far the most intelligent form of life, not only on earth but also in the known universe. We are embarrassingly superior in intellect to animals. In fact, our super minds enable us to actually contemplate those wonders that animals are oblivious to. A cow grazes in a field, lifting it's snout every now and again to survey the horizon for predators, more grass or a potential mate. A tiger spends most of it's short life relaxing or hunting. It does not concern itself with the future and it does not ask how the tall grass came into existence or what holds the warm sun above it's head. These creatures are content, living life in an almost pre-programmed routine, oblivious to the complexity and majesty of the physical world. But not us, not mankind. We demand answers. We strive to understand. So deep and obsessive is our innate craving for answers that many have given their lives to behold knowledge. With our wonderful brain we have explored our earth, catalogued the chemicals which hold our world together, developed cures for diseases, reached new worlds, gazed into the unending cosmos above, and down into the tiny world of atoms. Sadly we have also formulated terrible weapons which have decimated life by the millions, have dominated each other with slavery and oppression, and brought our planet to the brink of ecological collapse. Yet, through all this, there have always been those who still ask “How?” The answer must lie with science. Surely the greatest minds on earth combined can solve the mystery of origins? Can they answer? Have they already answered, or are we still lacking a piece of the puzzle? Are we awaiting a new Albert Einstein to take us closer to the goal?
There are claims by some in the scientific community that we now know the answers to the fundamental questions about the universe and life in it. But most scientists would probably disagree with that premature conclusion. Let us be clear, “Science” (Latin - “to know”), is defined as “the systematic study of the nature and behaviour of the material and physical universe, based on observation, experiment, and measurement, and the formulation of laws to describe these facts in general terms.” So, in laymen's terms, science is all about facts, provable, testable facts. Although scientific discovery begins with an idea, a theory, that idea does not constitute a fact, any more than a man who dreams of building a computer is automatically an engineer.
So what has been scientifically proven beyond doubt about the origins of the cosmos and life in it?
The Standard Model
We know, by observation and experiment, that the physical universe works by means of four fundamental forces, gravity, electromagnetism, the Strong Nuclear Force and the Weak Nuclear Force. It does however, still elude scientists to explain how these forces interact. Even Albert Einstein struggled with this mystery and spent his remaining years developing a theory called “The Theory of Everything” which He hoped would supply the answer. Nonetheless, these are the forces in play. Have they always been here? If not, how did they begin? How did they first exert influence on the atoms of the universe, and where did the physical matter they govern come from. It seems that science has provided the answer to this already. We now know (thanks to powerful telescopes) that the universe is expanding at a certain rate. I say “now” because it was only relatively recently that scientists considered the universe to be ageless, without beginning. Real science is able to adapt to new discovery. So, the universe had a beginning. How did it happen?
It is an established law of physics that matter and energy cannot be created.
However, we know (by direct experimentation) that physical mass can be converted from energy, just as energy can be converted from mass (E=MC2). This has led many scientists to conclude that all physical mass must have come into being by an incredibly powerful burst of energy, the largest physical event ever. However, there are fundamental problems with this “Standard Model” of origin. We cannot explain where the energy came from. Nor can we ascertain the catalyst which sparked the mass conversion. There are many theories and speculations among the scientific community, such as “Inflation” and “String Theory” but these are unproven and untestable. “National Geographic” states “The big bang theory leaves several major questions unanswered. One is the original cause of the big bang itself. Several answers have been proposed to address this fundamental question, but none has been proven.”
Scientist Arthur H. Compton said of the parts of the tiny atom: “If the simple yet prolific set of pushes and pulls to which the electrons are subject result from pure chance, then chance is more ingenious than the most clever of our scientists.”
Without a catalyst, the Standard Model explanation becomes untenable because it contradicts fundamental laws of physics. It is another proven law of physics that for every event (explosion, motion, etc.) there must be a cause, there are no exceptions to this law. Furthermore, when matter is undirected (such as in an explosion like an atomic bomb) it produces chaos (entropy). It does not produce order or complexity. This is in contrast to the incredible co-ordination and complexity we observe in the universe and on our planet. So what then is the answer, where does science lead us next? According to all that we have established, either the laws of physics as we know them are wrong or, the catalyst must be a force or agent which operates outside of the confines of physics (from another dimension that we are unaware of?). Something had to precede the existence of the physical universe. We must revise our thinking if we are to discover what that cause is.
Life on Earth
Our planet is unique, alone, special. There are no other planets in the known universe that can support complex life, let alone life with intelligence of our level. How and why did earth become the way it is today? What has science shown us about our home?
The most widely accepted theory is “Abiogenesis” the idea that a living organism arises naturally from non-living matter, without design, direction or protection. There have been experiments conducted using chemicals and electricity to supposedly simulate earth's early atmosphere and composition. This was hailed by many as the first steps in creating life. But what did these experiments actually produce and what advances have been made since?
It is necessary to point out that the scientists conducting these experiments in the 1950s presumed certain things about the earth’s early atmosphere (no free oxygen, for one thing), presumptions that have since been scientifically discredited by new information. Secondly, they used pre-existing chemicals (methane etc.) which they assumed were on the earth in the needed quantities. This poses another problem for scientists, namely, where did the original chemicals come from? Once the scientists had produced (and I will not use the word “created”), the amino acids, they then had to remove them from the vacuum urgently. Why? Because in the environment they were in, they would have almost instantly started to degrade. This poses another problem for the “pre-biotic soup” theory, with oxygen in the air, the first amino acid would never have got started; without oxygen, it would have been wiped out by cosmic rays. Beneath the surface of the water there would not be enough energy to activate further chemical reactions; water in any case inhibits the growth of more complex molecules.
Add to this the fact that, the scientists found a few amino acids and they were a mixture of “right-handed” and “left-handed” but, in order to produce a single protein molecule (not a living cell), one would require 20 specific amino acids, that are all left-handed and in the correct sequence.
Most scientists would have to admit that the difference between an amino acid and a living cell is absolutely vast and cannot be explained away by chance. Some scientists often use the factor of vast periods of time to justify their extraordinary claims but, if one builds into the equation the fact that the scientists conducting the amino acid tests were highly intelligent beings, with substantial technical resources and knowledge at their disposal, then one would have to acknowledge that such factors would more than make up for a time period of millions, or even billions, of years, yet those men could not even produce the basic protein molecules let alone a living organism. Time does not guarantee results. There is one question that is not generally asked about the experiments that were conducted; if the chemicals represent the early makeup of earth, and the electric spark represents the power source of the sun or lightning, what does the scientist represent?
Since those experiments much more research has been carried out, with new knowledge and techniques. Have scientists come any closer to artificially simulating abiogenesis?
Some 40 years after the experiments, one of the scientists involved, Professor Miller, told “Scientific American: “"The problem of the origin of life has turned out to be much more difficult than I, and most other people, envisioned.”
Back in 1969, Professor of Biology Dean H. Kenyon co-authored “Biochemical Predestination.” But more recently he concluded that it is “Fundamentally implausible that unassisted matter and energy organized themselves into living systems.”
“The Mystery of Life’s Origin: Reassessing Current Theories” notes: “There is an impressive contrast between the considerable success in synthesizing amino acids and the consistent failure to synthesize protein and DNA.”The latter efforts are characterized by “uniform failure."
The proteins needed for life have very complex molecules. What is the chance of even a simple protein molecule forming at random in an organic soup? Scientists acknowledge it to be only one in 10113 (1 followed by 113 zeros). But any event that has one chance in just 1050 is dismissed by mathematicians as never happening. An idea of the odds, or probability, involved is seen in the fact that the number 10113 is larger than the estimated total number of all the atoms in the universe.
Some proteins serve as structural materials and others as enzymes. The latter speed up needed chemical reactions in the cell. Without such help, the cell would die. Not just a few, but 2,000 proteins serving as enzymes are needed for the cell’s activity. What are the chances of obtaining all of these at random? One chance in 1040,000. “An outrageously small probability,” Astronomer Fred Hoyle asserts, “that could not be faced even if the whole universe consisted of organic soup.” He adds: “If one is not prejudiced either by social beliefs or by a scientific training into the conviction that life originated [spontaneously] on the Earth, this simple calculation wipes the idea entirely out of court.”
However, the chances actually are far fewer than this “outrageously small” figure indicates. There must be a membrane enclosing the cell. But this membrane is extremely complex, made up of protein, sugar and fat molecules. As Leslie Orgel writes: “Modern cell membranes include channels and pumps which specifically control the influx and efflux of nutrients, waste products, metal ions and so on. These specialised channels involve highly specific proteins, molecules that could not have been present at the very beginning of the evolution of life.”
Abiogenesis is not universally accepted by all scientists, far from it. In fact, it is the topic of fierce debate.
Although it commonly is asserted that life spontaneously arose in the oceans, bodies of water simply are not conducive to the necessary chemistry. Chemist Richard Dickerson explains: “It is therefore hard to see how polymerization (linking together smaller molecules to form bigger ones) could have proceeded in the aqueous environment of the primitive ocean, since the presence of water favours de-polymerization (breaking up big molecules into simpler ones) rather than polymerization.” Biochemist George Wald agrees with this view, stating: “Spontaneous dissolution is much more probable, and hence proceeds much more rapidly, than spontaneous synthesis.” This means there would be no accumulation of organic soup. Wald believes this to be “the most stubborn problem that confronts us.”
Bryant Lecomte du Nouy, the first scientist to apply mathematical formulae successfully to the statement of biological laws, gives mathematical formulae to show that “Inorganic matter acting in accordance with it’s laws could not have created even a single molecule of protein, let alone a living organism with powers of reproduction.”
“One has only to contemplate the magnitude of this task, to concede that the spontaneous generation of a living organism is impossible.” (Professor Wald of Harvard University)
The “Encyclopaedia Britannica” states “There remain many unanswered questions concerning abiogenesis. Experiments have yet to demonstrate the complete transition of inorganic materials to structures like protobionts and protocells and, in the case of the proposed RNA world, have yet to reconcile important differences in mechanisms in the synthesis of purine and pyrimidine bases necessary to form complete RNA nucleotides.”
“The spontaneous origin of living from inanimate matter must be regarded as a highly improbable event, and as such can be assumed not to have occurred.” - Dr J, Gray (Leading Experimental Zoologist)
Professor Maciej Giertych, a noted geneticist from the Institute of Dendrology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, stated: “We have become aware of the massive information contained in the genes. There is no known way to science how that information can arise spontaneously. It requires an intelligence; it cannot arise from chance events. Just mixing letters does not produce words.” He added “For example, the very complex DNA, RNA, protein replicating system in the cell must have been perfect from the very start. If not, life systems could not exist.”
“The now discredited theory that living organisms can arise spontaneously from inanimate matter; spontaneous generation.” - “Dictionary,com”
If, one day, scientists were to discover how to create life from inorganic chemicals, it would not validate the theory Abiogenesis as a scientific fact but, it could actually prove otherwise, namely that the formulation of life requires meticulous design, engineering and protection. Science does not allow the spontaneous formation of life. We must search elsewhere for the cause.
Once proposed by Charles Darwin, but formulated by others before him, this theory has been presented as an established scientific fact for many years. The idea is that simple life forms gradually transformed into more complex and successful ones over vast periods of time (usually millions of years). This is meant to be achieved by micro-changes and beneficial mutations.
However, does genetic mutation improve or change lifeforms? It should be noted from the outset that the vast majority of experimental mutations are harmful or lethal to the lifeforms. Of those that change, they revert back to their original forms after several generations. Mutations have never produced a new species. After considering all the evidence available, Professor John Moore declared: “Upon rigorous examination and analysis, any dogmatic assertion ... that gene mutations are the raw material for any evolutionary process involving natural selection is an utterance of a myth.” Animal Breeders have now abandoned the quest to create new animals by mutation.
Our own eyes can observe the enormous variety in life on our planet. Creatures have changed and adapted to their environments and to threats that arise. But the evolution model goes further and claims that these variations lead to new lifeforms. Is this proven scientifically and what evidence has been used? Are all scientists in agreement on it?
For this issue we do have an abundance of evidence at our disposal. It is the fossil record. What does it tell us?
Biochemist D.B.Gower said, in England’s “Kentish Times”: “In the oldest rocks we did not find a series of fossils covering the gradual changes from the most primitive creatures to developed forms, but rather in the oldest rocks, developed species suddenly appeared. Between every species there was a complete absence of intermediate fossils.”
“The geologic record did not then and still does not yield a finely graduated chain of slow and progressive evolution. We now have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin’s time.” (Bulletin of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History)
In “The New Evolutionary Timetable”, Steven Stanley spoke of “The general failure of the record to display gradual transitions from one major group to another.” He said: “The known fossil record is not, and never has been, in accord with [slow evolution].”
“The pattern that we were told to find for the last 120 years does not exist.” (Niles Eldredge, paleontologist)
Swedish botanist Heribert Nilsson described the situation this way, after 40 years of his own research: "It is not even possible to make a caricature of an evolution out of palaeobiological facts. The fossil material is now so complete that ... the lack of transitional series cannot be explained as due to the scarcity of material. The deficiencies are real, they will never be filled.”
“The New Evolutionary Timetable” acknowledges, "The fossil record does not convincingly document a single transition from one species to another.”
This agrees with the extensive study made by the “Geological Society of London” and the “Palaeontological Association of England”. Professor of natural science John N. Moore reported on the results: "Some 120 scientists, all specialists, prepared 30 chapters in a monumental work of over 800 pages to present the fossil record for plants and animals divided into about 2,500 groups. ... Each major form or kind of plant and animal is shown to have a separate and distinct history from all the other forms or kinds! Groups of both plants and animals appear suddenly in the fossil record. ... Whales, bats, horses, primates, elephants, hares, squirrels, etc., all are as distinct at their first appearance as they are now. There is not a trace of a common ancestor, much less a link with any reptile, the supposed progenitor.” Moore added:“No transitional forms have been found in the fossil record very probably because no transitional forms exist in fossil stage at all. Very likely, transitions between animal kinds and/or transitions between plant kinds have never occurred.”
Because of this evidence many reputable scientists are rejecting the idea of Natural Selection.
Zoologist Harold Coffin concluded: "If progressive evolution from simple to complex is correct, the ancestors of these full-blown living creatures in the Cambrian should be found; but they have not been found and scientists admit there is little prospect of their ever being found. On the basis of the facts alone, on the basis of what is actually found in the earth, the theory of a sudden creative act in which the major forms of life were established fits best.”
“An increasing number of scientists, most particularly a growing number of evolutionists argue that Darwinian evolutionary theory is no genuine scientific theory at all. Many of the critics have the highest intellectual credentials.” - (Britain’s “New Scientist”)
And yet, despite this, Natural Selection is still presented as a scientific fact; Why?
Professor of anthropology, Anthony Ostric, criticized his scientific colleagues for declaring “as a fact” that man descended from apelike creatures. He said that “at best it is only a hypothesis and not a well-supported one at that.” He noted that “There is no evidence that man has not remained essentially the same since the first evidence of his appearance.” The anthropologist said that the vast body of professionals have fallen in behind those who promote evolution “for fear of not being declared serious scholars or of being rejected from serious academic circles.”
“You either believe the concepts or you will inevitably be branded as a heretic.” (Astronomers Hoyle and Wickramasinghe)
As a letter to the editor of Hospital Practice observed: “Science has always prided itself upon its objectivity, but I’m afraid that we scientists are rapidly becoming victims of the prejudiced, closed-minded thinking that we have so long abhorred.”
“Many scientists succumb to the temptation to be dogmatic, over and over again the question of the origin of the species has been presented as if it were finally settled. Nothing could be further from the truth, but the tendency to be dogmatic persists, and it does no service to the cause of science.” (John R.Durant, biologist, - The Guardian of London)
“Evolution became in a sense a scientific religion; almost all scientists have accepted it and many are prepared to ‘bend’ their observations to fit in with it.” (Physicist H.S.Lipson)
“If arguments fail to resist analysis, assent should be withheld, and a wholesale conversion due to unsound argument must be regarded as deplorable. The facts and interpretations on which Darwin relied have now ceased to convince. The long-continued investigations on heredity and variation have undermined the Darwinian position. A long-enduring and regrettable effect of the success of the Origin was the addiction of biologists to unverifiable speculation. The success of Darwinism was accompanied by a decline in scientific integrity.” He concluded: “This situation, where scientific men rally to the defence of a doctrine they are unable to define scientifically, much less demonstrate with scientific rigour, attempting to maintain its credit with the public by the suppression of criticism and the elimination of difficulties, is abnormal and undesirable in science” - (W.R.Thompson in his foreword to the centennial edition of Darwin’s The Origin of Species).
So science does not allow Evolution as a mechanism for creating new lifeforms. Where then lies the answer to this and the previous questions, the Enigma of Origins?
Isaac Newton once wrote “I was like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
We are all “children of the universe”, as the late John Denver sang. As children we should recognise our limitations and our own weaknesses, including a tendency to call ideas “facts.” Like children, when faced with a mystery, we should have the humility to either confess “I don't know”, or to consider alternatives that we have never considered before. Perhaps it is time to reconsider a possibility that has been rejected and ridiculed by many in the world of science, that there may actually be a designer behind all these things, a "God." Real science does not rule out such ideas, especially when the evidence points towards it. If we allow the evidence to lead us, we may finally arrive at answers that fit the pattern and make sense, and we may finally understand our humble place in the vast scheme of things.