Life’s Genesis

james w. hurst

The word "random" seems to invoke images in people’s minds of an insipid, cold, unfeeling, utterly amorphous thing that is devoid of meaning or beauty.

To the ‘religious’ (in the traditional sense), when they look upon some wondrous work of Nature – say a sand-dune or a shore of crashing waves, or a verdant forest


they’ll exclaim that it’s one of the wonderful "works of god" as though he were some individual who personally produced it in his workshop and erected it.

I’d like to suggest that perhaps we have a mistaken notion of what the term "random" entails.

Take the concept of the evolution of life itself. One of the main objections I have heard to it, is that it involves "randomness" which many have a hard time resolving against the beautiful designs that Nature yields.

But perhaps Nature is not all about tending asymptotically toward ever-greater entropy, like the ice crystal that melts and then evaporates, losing all recognizable form. Perhaps, even in the churning maelstrom of the planets and stars, of the roaring volcanoes and crashing oceans and blowing winds, within all of that chaos and violence there is some hidden scientific principle that given the right chemical conditions, organization does arise out of it. And that approaches the best definition of Life that I’ve yet heard: self-organizing reproducing matter. Declare within this if you will that the Hand of God be seen, but I’d like to suggest that a clearer path toward learning is the one that deconstructs our childhood tales and begins anew.

I find it less satisfactory, to imagine that some huge deity waved his hand and things sprung out of midair by magic. That feels to me like some child’s explanation, which I’ve long ago outgrown. It’s far more fascinating to contemplate that that some principle that is an integral component of the Universe itself, of all matter and energy, that gives rise to the beauty that is Nature – that that is what gives rise to Life.

In truth, the Creationists are wrong about Evolution and about the nature of ‘theories’ in general. That’s one of the major failings of a religious upbringing: it neglects a true scientific education and promotes ignorance.

Evolution, is the mechanism by which the vast variety of Life came to be on this planet. Evolution is well-understood in all but the very earliest stages where life first arose from organic molecules, and.. who knows.. perhaps those in turn were designed by some humanoid being or fell from space. With no fossil records from those earliest days, we can only make educated guesses. But it is indisputably clear that over the past hundreds of millions of years life changed, experimented, made false starts and backtracked, and moved about like an adventure through a vast labyrinth, in a story more fascinating then any book of fiction. It is the basis of much of our progress in biology, and it makes no more sense to deny it than it does to deny the existence of electricity or the Moon. If it conflicts with some ancient people’s holy books, then obviously it’s time to revisit the explanations within those books and update them. Or, perhaps, to discard them.

It’s nice to have books of poetic feel-good explanations of one’s Universe, but when we forget that it’s just feel-good sounds, just childish poetry, and start to mandate it to our schools and shove it down our children’s throats as "gospel" then we open the potential for grave damage to our society. One of the ways in which that damage manifests, is when we (as many do) use that divine-creation story to justify the denigration of other species. We as a society, in the U.S. and elsewhere, today treat animals horribly — in ways that exceed even the crimes of the Holocaust or slavery. The evidence is pervasive and undeniable.

 Kinship Circle-one excellent fact source.

It merits mention that the worst terrorist attack upon the United States, that which happened on Sept 11th, 2001 – was a result of religious brainwashing. It was not an attack which had military objectives, no political statement. It was craziness. The kind of insanity that only religion seems to give rise to.

A true quest for the genesis of Life is better served by directing our curiosity toward discovering why. What is it that gives rise to self-organizing things out of utterly chaotic processes. I believe there is basic science there yet to discover — deep meaningful principles that perhaps can be expressed as beautiful new laws of physics. By accepting that we are but one of a large family of living creatures, we enable a start along the path of compassion and comprehension that would lead to our learning to live in responsible harmony instead of our anthropomorphic prejudice that leads to the destruction of everything we encounter.



~ by JamesHurst on 2007/07/20.

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