The Bare Necessities of Life

 

It is so easy to follow the recipe for life, and name all its bare necessities. All you need is a population of Jungle Book Baloo’s, a good tune and a receptive unthinking audience. The storyline goes something like this….

For molecular life: that is everything from plants to bacteria to you and I there first has to be a planet just the right distance from its star, which in our case is the Sun: not too hot and not too cold. Gravity also has to be just right. Then there is water, nothing on our planet can survive without water. It covers 70% of the surface and about 60% of our body is composed of nothing but water. Its a case of water, water everywhere because without it, life as we know it is impossible. According to website Live Science this abundance of water helps the ingredients necessary for life to move around, bump into each other, and form interesting compounds. However there is something missing. Compounds may have the potential for vitality, but they need energising. So we wait in anticipation for Mother Nature’s recipe to get its infusion. All the component parts of life are gathered in a small pool and waiting. Held together by some unknown force, as if in a daisy chain rather than simple lifeless ingredients floating aimlessly in water. If these parts were conscious. they might be looking towards the sky, watching, waiting expectantly for an electric shock to energise the gathered potential.  And here it comes, a lightning strike hits the spot and catalyses ( causes an action or process to begin ) a series of reactions which lead to the production of complex  molecules: amino acids, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, RNA and DNA. You might think it was a miracle, but you would be wrong. Why: because the story is Darwinian; consequently we avoid words that could be construed as confusing or suggestive of purpose and meaning.

This kind of story belongs upon any shelf in any library, but only as a work of fiction. The one place where it should not be, is in the section labelled science.

 

This recipe, so the story goes, just happened to be at hand. Incidentally it must not be overlooked that the amino acids for life have to all be left-handed. They naturally occur as both left-handed and right-handed. But proteins are ridiculously choosy. They are made of long amino acid chains, from about a hundred to five thousand long, which must all be left-handed. Think of a row of beads, like a very long necklace. Was Darwinian selection for left-handedness taking place in this primeval, warmed up electrically charged atmosphere? No chance, because Darwinian selection cannot begin at any level until life has been reproduced and a population has come into being. There has to be a variety from which to select.

Life is surely worth a far better explanation than this Just So Story. We have a creation myth peddled by serious scientists and sold to an uneducated public through an uncritical media. These scientists and commentators on science must know in their heart of hearts that they are dreaming the impossible dream. Exquisite design, but without sight or sound of a Designer. And this is not after billions of years of evolution, in fact the exact opposite is true. It is at first life, in bacteria: systems and machines and interactions and use of energy supplies beyond our reach even in our day, at the cutting edge of IT and nanotechnology.

Here is an analogy, even though it is far more likely to happen than the above. Gather together the ingredients of a sponge cake: butter, flour, sugar, egg, then live in the expectation that given enough time and enough lucky lightning strikes a sponge cake will appear at least once in our universe. We all know that if we put all these ingredients, even if first mixed by a cook into a nicely warmed pool just as the lightning strike hit it, a miracle would not happen. Give it trillions upon trillions of attempts and you will see nothing but the ingredients separating, dissolving and sinking to the bottom. The same would happen to the base materials of life. As the famous British scientist Fred Hoyle observed: this scenario is comparable to “the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Boeing 747.”

There is a more reasoned and less tongue in cheek argument relating to this subject in the following article, titled Simple Beginnings.

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