Whenever engaged in a debate with believers a common question that often arises is, “How do you explain life, what started it all?”
OK then, lets step back see where we are today. To start off, here is an interesting article on the origin of life on The Daily Galaxy here …
It’s paradoxical that as our leading microbiologists look to create the building blocks of life in Earth-bound labs, our Universe is alive with the building blocks for DNA and RNA. The giant gas nebula in outer space are rife with sugars that form ribose –the backbone of RNA. There’s no rational reason why the system of DNA and RNA that shaped life on Earth should be limited to our remote biosphere.
the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, have created synthetic molecules that copy genetic material. The enzyme, tC19Z, that has been synthesised could be an artificial version of one of the first enzymes that ever existed on our planet three billion years ago — and a clue to how life itself got started. Their goal is to create fully self-replicating RNA molecules in the lab.
The dominant theory of how life started involves the emergence in Earth’s early history of a self-replicator — the original molecule of life was an RNA that could make copies of other RNAs, including itself.
As evolution advanced, this self-replicating molecule ceased to exist, with the majority of Earth’s organisms using DNA to store their genetic information while using other enzymes to copy itself.
You can click the link at the top to read the rest.
The word used to describe the study of how biological life arises from inorganic matter through natural processes is “abiogenesis”. Today we still don’t know the answer. Its at this point the believers step in with the “Ah, but we do have an answer, God did it”.
Well yes, while we don’t know the answer yet, we are making progress (as illustrated in the story I linked to above).
To have an answer there are two specific attributes that need to be explained. These are replication and metabolism. What we do know is that the oldest ancient fossil microbe-like objects are dated to be 3.5 Ga (billion years old), approximately one billion years after the formation of the Earth itself, and the current thinking is that the first living things on Earth are thought to be single cell prokaryotes (which lack a cell nucleus), which perhaps evolved from protobionts (organic molecules surrounded by a membrane-like structure).
There is lots of research going on, and there is also a wide range of different thoughts on it all, such as Gold’s “Deep-hot biosphere” model, “Primitive” extraterrestrial life, “Metabolism first” models, “Genes first” models, Thermodynamic Origin of Life: Ultraviolet and Temperature-Assisted Replication (UVTAR) Model, Radioactive beach hypothesis, The deep sea vent theory, etc… so while we don’t yet know the answer, we do indeed have lots of ideas to explore.
Now, back to where I started. The believers make the observation that we don’t know, and so claim that lack of knowledge as proof that God did it. Er no, that is simply the God of the Gaps. All you are doing is identifying the gaps within our current understanding then stuffing a belief in a supernatural entity in there as the explanation. Its the precise same thinking that led our primitive ancestors to worship a Moon God, a Sun God, and a God of Thunder as the explanation for each of these. We now understand what they actually are and so we no longer worship them as deities.
Should we now revert back to paleolithic thinking and start stuffing made-up supernatural entities into the gaps, or should we instead carry on pushing the boundary of understanding further out? I know which I prefer, and I suspect your answer might be the same as mine.