by William Hamilton III
It has been the contention of evolutionary biologists that life on earth started in some prebiotic
mixture of organic elements in the clays, tide pools, or seas of
By the mechanism of natural selection, factors both in the
environment and organism select genotypes that have inherited new
traits to increase their population, perhaps even replacing older
genotypes. Changes in environment may select new traits to be
expressed in the gene pool insuring survival of a species against
new challenges. Most theories on the origin of life have been
restricted to particular environmental niches that scientists
believe would be most conducive for the production of organic
molecules and the eventual synthesis of RNA and DNA.
Examination and analysis of the probability of the synthesis of
biochemicals from an abiogenetic beginning seems unlikely when the
mathematical probabilities are elucidated according to some authors.
Essentially, the objection to the origin and evolution of life is
aimed at the short time period for chance combinations of organic
chemicals to form a living biochemistry.
More stalwart scientists
who are satisfied with the current geogenesis of life have invoked
new arguments to defend their turf. These new arguments involve the
concepts of self-organization and even chaos theory. As a
counter-point, those scientists who are still in the minority, do
not find sufficient information complexity to initiate the
self-organization of living molecules and thus have extended the
Complicating the issues involved in post-Darwinian views is the
crystallization of two new factions in the anti-Darwin controversy.
One is the Intelligent Design movement which has been linked to
former Creationist who take a theistic “life is a miracle wrought by
a Creator” view and those who have resurrected the theory of
Panspermia, the Origin of Life from space.
I see valid arguments and invalid arguments in all these points of
view, but will present what I believe is a paradigm shift away from
a geocentric start to life to what I would term Astrogenesis, that
the elements of life were born in space, and, finding suitable
environments where they could propagate and evolve, have seeded the
earth and other planets with these elements which have been
programmed to evolve into diverse forms of plant, animal, insect,
and microbial life. The thesis here is that the genetic code
constitutes a program and a message which is transferable from one
generation to the next.
Albeit, the idea of a genetic program infers intelligence and
teleological orientation toward a plan or a goal. This alone invokes
the concept of a Creator or Cosmic Mind that programmed life into
This has been refuted by those who see this DNA as
decoded information only with no evidence of encoding by some Cosmic
Mind. Some do not see information theory as relevant to the origin
of life, just chemistry. This seems to be a regressive argument as
chemical processes are information processes. That the encoder is
not seen constitutes a problem that might be solved with a new
approach. One cannot decode what is not first encoded.
It is not so
much the sequence of the DNA molecules that determine the meaning in
the message, but the meaning that can be determined by codons. In
other words, we need to translate the meanings much like using a
dictionary to determine the usage of words.
Panspermia - An idea whose time has come
On March 27, 2002 a news story broke on
Space.com that announced:
“In two separate studies, scientists
mimicked conditions of outer space, doused frozen interstellar
cocktails with ultraviolet radiation and created amino acids,
which are critical components of life.
The work shows that amino acids could be created around many
developing stars, which emit high doses of UV radiation, and
that life would have had just as good a chance of forming on
planets that might exist around those stars as it did here on
The studies also support a growing expectation among many
scientists that life on Earth may have been seeded from space,
rather than having been forged only from raw materials that
developed on Earth.”
This story went on to say:
scientists have found amino acids in meteorites -- chunks of
asteroids or comets that landed on Earth. Amino acids, though not
life itself, may have jumpstarted life on Earth with their arrival,
some scientists have long suspected.
Another theory has held that
life on Earth developed out of a soup of lesser materials.
Remarkable as it might be to think of life's ingredients arriving on
a space rock, researchers have sought to show that amino acids might
also form in interstellar space and thus be ubiquitous. If so, then
the raw material of terrestrial life would date back to an earlier
time, before comets and asteroids were born.
"Amino acids are literally raining
down out of the sky," said one of the team's leaders, Max
Bernstein of the SETI Institute and NASA's Ames Research Center,
"and if that's not a big deal then I don't know what is."
The laboratory experiments, one
conducted by Bernstein's U.S. team and the other by a European
group, irradiated mixtures of ice that contained molecules known to
exist in interstellar space. The work was done in vacuum chambers
under the low temperatures found in space.
Svante Arrhenius is one of the major figures in physical chemistry
and had a major role in the development of ideas about ions,
solutions, acids and alkalis, and rates of reactions.
recognition of the role of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has
perhaps been neglected as this problem is considered to be a late
twentieth century phenomenon. Arrhenius conjectured that bacteria
may be able to survive the cold of space and survive heating as they
entered earth’s atmosphere from space. This revived the old concept
of panspermia. Svante Arrhenius theorized that bacterial spores
propelled through space by light pressure were the seeds of life on
This idea was further expanded on by Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe who reintroduced the idea of
panspermia as an
alternative theory on the origin of life. Since Hoyle believed that
life could not have arisen on earth by chance, that evolution was
not the product of chance, he advocated a strong theory of
panspermia. Some scientists have united this theory of panspermia
with James Lovelock’s teleological
theory of earth as Gaia and call
the new theory Cosmic Ancestry
Some of the findings of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe are quoted here:
“In 1968, polycyclic aromatic
molecules were detected in interstellar dust.
convincing evidence that the dust contained porphyrins was
Then in 1974 Wickramasinghe demonstrated that there
are complex organic polymers, specifically molecules of "polyformaldehyde"
in space. These molecules are closely related to cellulose,
which is very abundant in biology.
By 1975, Hoyle and Wickramasinghe were convinced that organic polymers were a
substantial fraction of the dust. This line of thought was
considered wildly speculative at that time. Now, however, that
organic polymers in space are abundant and may be necessary for
life is well accepted. Today we often see stories about things
like vinegar among the stars, or "buckyballs" from space as "the
seeds of life". To that extent the scientific paradigm for the
origin of life on Earth has already shifted. “
The means by which spores, microbes, and
other biochemical matter arrives on earth is principally through the
agency of meteorites and comets that frequently impacted the earth
in its youth. Bacteria has been detected in the highest regions of
the atmosphere where some scientist suppose it arrived from space.
There is even some indication that microbes have been found in lunar
Another form of panspermia is ballistic panspermia. This refers to
debris being knocked off a planet like Mars, reaching escape
velocity, and entering the atmosphere of another planet with
passenger microbes intact. The ALH84001 Martian meteorite found in
Alan Hills, Antarctica, is an example of possible ballistic panspermia.
Benjamin Weiss is a graduate student in planetary science at the
California Institute of Technology and Joseph Kirschvink is
Professor of Geobiology at the California Institute of Technology
and they had this to say about tests conducted on the Martian
These results demonstrate that ALH84001 had not been heated to
even 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) since before
leaving the Martian surface, confirming Melosh's theory that
rocks could be ejected off the surface of Mars without being
image to enlarge
At such temperatures, prokaryotes (simple, one-celled organisms
without well-defined nuclei) and even many eukaryotes (organisms
with well-defined nuclei) like fungi or plant seeds might
survive the launch.
Unfortunately we cannot constrain the
formation temperature of the carbonate globules-although we
think the observed magnetization originated on Mars, we don't
yet know exactly when that took place. (Constraining the
temperature at which the carbonate globules in ALH84001 formed
would help settle the debate over possible life traces in the
meteorite. A high temperature could rule out life as we know it
in the rock; a low formation temperature would be conducive to
Although it's unlikely that ALH84001 itself brought Martians to
Earth (it spent nearly 15 million years wandering through cold,
airless space), it is not unreasonable to assume that if there
were life on Mars, other rocks have already transferred it here.
Computer dynamic simulations suggest that about a billion tons
of Martian rocks have landed on Earth since the solar system
formed, and every million years about a dozen fist-size rocks
are transferred from Mars to Earth in just a couple of years.
fact, one in ten million of the arriving Martian rocks could
have been transferred in less than a year!
Other researchers have brought back living bacterial spores from
an orbiting satellite where they spent more than five years
bathed in strong ultraviolet light in a deep vacuum. We know,
too, that such bacteria can survive the high pressures and shock
they might encounter during ejection. Evidently, it is likely
that if there were Martian microorganisms, they have been
transported to Earth throughout most of our planet's history.
Maybe, then, we don't need to go all the way to Mars to find
There is even a society for launching
our own seeds into space and populating other worlds with life from
To put all of this in perspective, the idea that genetic information
which developed and evolved elsewhere in the universe and planted
itself on earth through panspermia so as to evolve organisms that
are similar to organisms that have already evolved on other planets
might be the reason why intelligent, artifact-making lifeforms
elsewhere may be as human as those on earth.
In fact neuroscientist and astrobiologist Dr. Rhawn Joseph makes
this bold statement on panspermia:
“The genetic seeds of life swarm
throughout the cosmos, and these genetic "seeds," these living
creatures, fell to Earth, encased in stellar debris which
pounded the planet for 700 millions years after the creation.
And just as DNA contains the genetic instructions for the
creation of an embryo, neonate, child, and adult, and just as
modern day microbes contain "human genes" which have contributed
to the evolution of the human genome, these "seeds," these
living creatures, contained the DNA-instructions for the
metamorphosis of all life, including woman and man.
DNA acts to purposefully modify the environment, which acts on
gene selection, so as to fulfill specific genetic goals: the
dispersal and activation of silent DNA and the replication of
life forms that long ago lived on other planets. “
This bold new movement is said to
originate from Creation Science though a few of its proponents deny
this. Fred Hoyle was certainly not a Creationist and yet he
determined that the vast range of biochemicals and RNA/DNA could
only be the work of design.
One of the new concepts to emerge from this movement is that of
irreducible complexity as introduced by biochemist Michael Behe who
expounded on this concept in his book,
Darwin’s Black Box. Behe
describes this as a system where if one of the components were
removed would lose its function.
Behe, as other advocates of
have had numerous critics attack his book. He says in rebuttal,
“…where the removal of one of the
components of the system causes it to lose its function, and
that such systems are very difficult to explain in Darwinian
terms. I argued that irreducibly complex biochemical systems are
better explained as the product of deliberate intelligent
design. The book has been quite controversial and has been
vehemently criticized by
In this paper I discuss
several of what I consider to be the most serious of their
objections. They include contentions that either the biochemical
systems I discussed are not irreducibly complex, or that systems
of similar complexity have already been shown to be approachable
by Darwinian means. I will demonstrate that these arguments are
Another scientific advocate of ID is
William A. Dembski who states:
“Today, however, chance and
necessity have proven insufficient to account for all scientific
phenomena. Without invoking the rightly discarded teleologies,
entelechies, and vitalisms of the past, one can still see that a
third mode of explanation is required, namely, intelligent
design. Chance, necessity, and design—these three modes of
explanation—are needed to explain the full range of scientific
The battle between Darwinists and the
Designer group has heated up and the debates rage on as the
Darwinist try to quash the anti-scientific notion that a superintelligent being designed the elements of life.
If the idea of
a designed biological system is proven through information theory
and mathematics, it will constitute a revolution that will certainly
change scientific thought for ages to come. Is this likely? Probably
not in the immediate future.
Semiotics and Information Theory
Another contingent in the biological sciences deals with information
theory, self-organization, and the science of signs (semiotics).
Here is a diagram constructed of an analog process by Hubert Yockey,
a physicist who worked under Robert Oppenheimer and worked on the
Manhattan Project (production of the first atomic bomb). In the
fifties he published about effects of radiation on living systems
and started to work on the application of information theory to
genetics and evolution.
Yockey published 7 articles in the Journal
of Theoretical Biology from 1974 - 1995 and was organizer of the
Symposium on Information Theory in Biology.
Message in destination code
noise in genetic code tRNA
Genetic message in protein code
independent channel (cytoplasma?)
These diagrams indicate that DNA is an
analog of a computer instruction set that triggers a message to
build proteins of specific varieties that eventually grow into a
There is no doubt that the information complexity in biological
entities is very high and that the probability of random mutations
leading to more highly structured life forms has the appearance of
The real paradigm shift is to consider
that the Universe as a whole is a life-producing nursery and that
the genesis and evolution of life is not earth-centered but rather
is distributed among the stars of the galaxies.
This idea can be
developed into a viable theory as studies in panspermia and
The real vision this offers is a way to reconcile the possibilities
of ancient and recent visitors to earth who appear to be humanoid
with an overarching theory that explains the existence of cosmic
Not only may we find humanoid life forms on other worlds,
but perhaps we may find creatures that closely resemble our horses,
dogs, tigers, elephants, and cats as well as
birds and reptiles and
flowering plants and trees whose genetic patterns are universal and
repeated unerringly in all friendly environments and abodes of life
throughout the cosmos.