Of all the mysteries confronting Mankind’s quest for knowledge, the greatest is the mystery called “life.”

Evolution theory explains how life on Earth evolved, all the way from the earliest, one-celled creatures to Homo sapiens; it does not explain how life on Earth began. Beyond the question, Are we alone? lies the more fundamental question: Is life on Earth unique, unmatched in our Solar System, our galaxy, the whole universe?

According to the Sumerians, life was brought into the Solar System by Nibiru; it was Nibiru that imparted the “seed of life” to Earth during the Celestial Battle with Tiamat. Modern science has come a long way toward the same conclusion. In order to figure out how life might have begun on the primitive Earth, the scientists had to determine, or at least assume, what the conditions were on the newly born Earth.

Did it have water? Did it have an atmosphere? What of life’s main building blocks—molecular combinations of hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus? Were they available on the young Earth to initiate the precursors of living organisms? At present the Earth’s dry air is made up of 79 percent nitrogen (N2), 20 percent oxygen (O2) and 1 percent argon (Ar), plus traces of other elements (the atmosphere contains water vapor in addition to the dry air). This docs not reflect the relative abundance of elements in the universe, where hydrogen (87 percent) and helium (12 percent) make up 99 percent of all abundant elements.


It is therefore believed (among other reasons) that the present earthly atmosphere is not Earth’s original one. Both hydrogen and helium are highly volatile, and their diminished presence in Earth’s atmosphere, as well as its deficiency of “noble” gases such as neon, argon, krypton, and xenon (relative to their cosmic abundance), suggest to scientists that the Earth experienced a “thermal episode” sometime before 3.8 billion years ago—an occurrence with which my readers are familiar by now...


By and large the scientists now believe that Earth’s atmosphere was reconstituted initially from the gases spewed out by the volcanic convulsions of a wounded Earth. As clouds thrown up by these eruptions shielded the Earth and it began to cool, the vaporized water condensed and came down in torrential rains. Oxidation of rocks and minerals provided the first reservoir of higher levels of oxygen on Earth; eventually, plant life added both oxygen and carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere and started the nitrogen cycle (with the aid of bacteria).

It is noteworthy that even in this respect the ancient texts stand up to the scrutiny of modern science. The fifth tablet of Enuma elish, though badly damaged, describes the gushing lava as Tiamat’s “spittle” and places the volcanic activity earlier than the formation of the atmosphere, the oceans, and the continents. The spittle, the text states, was “laying in layers” as it poured forth. The phase of “making the cold” and the “assembling of the water clouds” are described; after that the “foundations” of Earth were raised and the oceans were gathered—just as the verses in Genesis have reiterated. It was only thereafter that life appeared on Earth: green herbage upon the continents and ‘”swarms” in the waters.


But living cells, even the simplest ones, are made up of complex molecules of various organic compounds, not just of separate chemical elements. How did these molecules come about? Because many of these compounds have been found elsewhere in the Solar System, it has been assumed that they form naturally, given enough time. In 1953 two scientists at the University of Chicago, Harold Urey and Stanley Miller, conducted what has since been called “a most striking experiment.” In a pressure vessel they mixed simple organic molecules of methane, ammonia, hydrogen, and water vapor, dissolved the mixture in water to simulate the primordial watery “soup,” and subjected the mixture to electrical sparks to emulate primordial lightning bolts.


The experiment produced several amino and hydroxy acids—the building blocks of proteins which are essential to living matter. Other researchers later subjected similar mixtures to ultraviolet light, ionizing radiation, or heat to simulate the effects of the Sun’s rays as well as various other types of radiation on the Earth’s primitive atmosphere and murky waters. The results were the same. But it was one thing to show that nature itself could, under certain conditions, come up with life’s building blocks—not just simple but even complex organic compounds; it was another thing to breathe life into the resulting compounds, which remained inert and lifeless in the compression chambers. “Life” is defined as the ability to absorb nutrients (of any kind) and to replicate, not just to exist.


Even the biblical tale of Creation recognizes that when the most complex being on Earth, Man, was shaped out of “clay,” divine intervention was needed to “breathe the spirit/breath of life” into him. Without that, no matter how ingeniously created, he was not yet animate, not yet living.

As astronomy has done in the celestial realm, so, in the 1970s and 1980s, did biochemistry unlock many of the secrets of terrestrial life. The innermost reaches of living cells have been pried open, the genetic code that governs replication has been understood, and many of the complex components that make the tiniest one-celled being or the cells of the most advanced creatures have been synthesized. Pursuing the research, Stanley Miller, now at the University of California at San Diego, has commented that,

“we have learned how to make organic compounds from inorganic elements; the next step is to learn how they organize themselves into a replicating cell.”

The murky-waters, or “primordial-soup,” hypothesis for the origin of life on Earth envisions a multitude of those earliest organic molecules in the ocean, bumping into each other as the result of waves, currents, or temperature changes, and eventually sticking to one another through natural cell attractions to form cell groupings from which polymers—long chained molecules that lie at the core of body formation—eventually developed. But what gave these cells the genetic memory to know, not just how to combine, but how to replicate, to make the ultimate bodies grow? The need to involve the genetic code in the transition from inanimate organic matter to an animate state has led to a “Made-of-Clay” hypothesis.

The launching of this theory is attributed to an announcement in April 1985 by researchers at the Ames Research Center, a NASA facility at Mountainview, California; but in fact the idea that clay on the shores of ancient seas played an important role in the origin of life on Earth was made public at the October 1977 Pacific Conference on Chemistry. There James A. Lawless, who headed a team of researchers at NASA’s Ames facility, reported on experiments in which simple amino acids (the chemical building blocks of proteins) and nucleotides (the chemical building blocks of genes)—assuming they had already developed in the murky “primordial soup” in the sea—began to form into chains when deposited on clays that contained traces of metals such as nickel or zinc, and allowed to dry.

What the researchers found to be significant was that the traces of nickel selectively held on only to the twenty kinds of amino acids that are common to all living things on Earth, while the traces of zinc in the clay helped link together the nucleotides, which resulted in a compound analogous to a crucial enzyme (called DNA-polymerase) that links pieces of genetic material in all living cells.

In 1985 the scientists of the Ames Research Center reported substantial advances in understanding the role of clay in the processes that had led to life on Earth. Clay, they discovered, has two basic properties essential to life: the capacity to store and the ability to transfer energy. In the primordial conditions such energy might have come from radioactive decay, among other possible sources. Using the stored energy, clays might have acted as chemical laboratories where inorganic raw materials were processed into more complex molecules.


There was more: one scientist, Armin Weiss of the University of Munich, reported experiments in which clay crystals seemed to reproduce themselves from a “parent crystal”—a primitive replication phenomenon; and Graham Cairns-Smith of the University of Glasgow held that the inorganic “proto-organisms” in the clay were involved in “directing” or actually acting as a “template” from which the living organisms eventually evolved.

Explaining these tantalizing properties of clay—even common clay—Lelia Coyne, who headed one research team, said that the ability of the clays to trap and transmit energy was due to “mistakes” in the formation of clay crystals; these defects in the clays’ microstructure acted as the sites where energy was stored and from which the chemical directions for the formation of the proto-organisms emanated.

“If the theory can be confirmed,” The New York Times commented in its report of the announcements, “it would seem that an accumulation of chemical mistakes led to life on Earth.”

So the “life-from-clay” theory, in spite of the advances it offered, depended, as the “murky-soup” theory did, on random occurrencesmicrostructural mistakes here, occasional lightning strikes and collisions of molecules there—to explain the transition from chemical elements to simple organic molecules to complex organic molecules and from inanimate to animate matter.

The improved theory seemed to do another thing, which did not escape notice.

“The theory,” The New York Times continued, “is also evocative of the biblical account of the Creation. In Genesis it is written, ‘And the Lord God formed man of dust of the ground,’ and in common usage the primordial dust is called clay.”

This news story, and the biblical parallel implicit in it, merited an editorial in the venerable newspaper. Under the headline “Uncommon Clay,” the editorial said:

Ordinary clay, it seems, has two basic properties essential to life. It can store energy and also transmit it. So, the scientists reason, clay could have acted as a “chemical factory” for turning inorganic raw materials into more complex molecules. Out of those complex molecules arose life—and, one day, us.

That the Bible’s been saying so all along, clay being what Genesis meant by the “dust of the ground” that formed man, is obvious. What is not so obvious is how often we have been saying it to one another, and without knowing it.

The combined murky-soup and life-from-clay theories, few have realized, have gone even further in substantiating the ancient accounts. Further experiments by Lelia Coyne together with Noam Lahab of the Hebrew University, Israel, have shown that to act as catalysts in the formation of short strings of amino acids, the clays must undergo cycles of wetting and drying. This process calls for an environment where water can alternate with dryness, either on dry land that is subjected to on-and-off rains or where seas slosh back and forth as a result of tides.


The conclusion, which appeared to gain support from experiments aimed at searching for “protocells” that were conducted at the Institute for Molecular and Cellular Evolution at the University of Miami, pointed to primitive algae as the first one-celled living creatures on Earth. Still found in ponds and in damp places, algae appear little changed in spite of the passage of billions of years.

Because until a few decades ago no evidence for land life older than about 500 million years had been found, it was assumed that the life that evolved from algae was limited to the oceans. “There were algae in the oceans but the land was yet devoid of life,” textbooks used to state. But in 1977 a scientific team led by Elso S. Barghoorn of Harvard discovered in sedimentary rocks in South Africa (at a site in Swaziland called Figtree) the remains of microscopic, one-celled creatures that were 3.1 (and perhaps as much as 3.4) billion years old; they were similar to today’s blue-green algae and pushed back by almost a billion years the time when this precursor of more complex forms of life evolved on Earth.

Until then evolutionary progression was believed to have occurred primarily in the oceans, with land creatures evolving from maritime forms, with amphibian life forms as an intermediary. But the presence of green algae in sedimentary rocks of such a great age required revised theories. Though there is no unanimity regarding the classification of algae as either plant or nonplant, since it has backward affinities with bacteria and forward affinities with the earliest fauna, either green or bluegreen algae is undoubtedly the precursor of chlorophyllic plants—the plants that use sunlight to convert their nutrients to organic compounds, emitting oxygen in the process.


Green algae, though without roots, stems, or leaves, began the plant family whose descendants now cover the Earth. It is important to follow the scientific theories of the ensuing evolution of life on Earth in order to grasp the accuracy of the biblical record. For more complex life forms to evolve, oxygen was needed. This oxygen became available only after algae or proto-algae began to spread upon the dry land.


For these green plantlike forms to utilize and process oxygen, they needed an environment of rocks containing iron with which to “bind” the oxygen (otherwise they would have been destroyed by oxidation; free oxygen was still a poison to these life forms). Scientists believe that as such “banded-iron formations’1 sank into ocean bottoms as sediments, the single-celled organisms evolved into multicelled ones in the water. In other words, the covering of the lands with green algae had to precede the emergence of maritime life.

The Bible, indeed, says as much:

Green herbage, it states, was created on Day Three,

but maritime life not until Day Five.

It was on the third “day,”

or phase, of creation that Elohim said:

Let the Earth bring forth green herbage,
and grasses that yield seeds, and fruit trees
that bear fruit of all kinds
in accordance with the seeds thereof.

The presence of fruits and seeds as the green growth advanced from grasses to trees also illustrates the evolution from asexual reproduction to sexual reproduction. In this, too, the Bible includes in its scientific account of evolution a step that modern science believes took place, in algae, some two billion years ago. That is when the “green herbage” began to increase the air’s oxygen.

At that point, according to Genesis, there were no “creatures” on our planet—neither in the waters, nor in the air, nor on dry land. To make the eventual appearance of vertebrate (inner-skeleton) “creatures” possible, Earth had to set the pattern of the biological clocks that underlie the life cycles of all living forms on Earth. The Earth had to settle into its orbital and rotational patterns and be subjected to the effects of the Sun and the Moon, which were primarily manifested in the cycles of light and darkness. The Book of Genesis assigns the fourth “day” to this organization and to the resulting year, month, day, and night repetitious periods.

Only then, with all celestial relationships and cycles and their effects firmly established, did the creatures of the sea, air, and land make their appearance.

Modern science not only agrees with this biblical scenario but, may also provide a clue to the reason the ancient authors of the scientific summary called Genesis inserted a celestial “chapter” (“day four”) between the evolutionary record of “day three”—time of the earliest appearance of life forms—and “day five,” when the “creatures” appeared. In modern science, too, there is an unfilled gap of about 1.5 billion years—from about 2 billion years to about 570 million years ago—about which little is known because of the paucity of geological and fossil data. Modem science calls this era “Precambrian”; lacking the data, the ancient savants used (his gap to describe the establishment of celestial relationships and biological cycles.

Although modern science regards the ensuing Cambrian period (so named after the region in Wales where the first geologic data for it were obtained) as the first phase of the Paleozoic (“Old Life”) era, it was not yet the time of vertebrates—the life forms with an inner skeleton that the Bible calls “creatures.”


The first maritime vertebrates appeared about 500 million years ago, and land vertebrates followed about 100 million years later, during periods that are regarded by scientists as the transition from the Lower Paleozoic era to the Upper Paleozoic era. When that era ended, about 225 million years ago, (Fig. 45) there were fish in the waters as well as sea plants, and amphibians had made the transition from water to dry land and the plants upon the dry lands attracted the amphibians to evolve into reptiles; today’s crocodiles are a remnant of that evolutionary phase.

Figure 45


The following era, named the Mesozoic (“Middle Life”), embraces the period from about 225 million to 65 million years ago and has often been nicknamed the “Age of the Dinosaurs.” Alongside a variety of amphibians and marine lizards there evolved, away from the oceans and their teeming marine life, two main lines of egg-laying reptilians: those who took to flying and evolved into birds; and those who, in great variety, roamed and dominated the Earth as dinosaurs (“terrible lizards”) (Fig. 46).

It is impossible to read the biblical verses with an open mind without realizing that the creational events of the fifth “day” of Genesis describe the above-listed development:

And Elohim said:
“Let the waters swarm with living creatures,

and let aves fly above the earth, under the dome of the sky.”
And Elohim created the large reptilians,
and all the living creatures that crawl
and that swarmed in the waters,
all in accordance with their kinds,
and all the winged aves by their kinds.
And Elohim blessed them, saying:
“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters of the seas,

and let the aves multiply upon the earth.”

The tantalizing reference in these verses of Genesis to the “large reptilians” as a recognition of the dinosaurs cannot be dismissed. The Hebrew term used here, Taninim (plural of Tanin) has been variously translated as “sea serpent,” “sea monsters,” and “crocodile.” To quote the Encyclopaedia Britannica,

“the crocodiles are the last living link with the dinosaur-like reptiles of prehistoric times; they are, at the same time, the nearest living relatives of the birds.”

Figure 46

Figure 47

The conclusion that by “large Taninim”’ the Bible meant not simply large reptilians but dinosaurs seems plausible—not because the Sumerians had seen dinosaurs, but because Anunnaki scientists had surely figured out the course of evolution on Earth at least as well as twentieth-century scientists have done.

No less intriguing is the order in which the ancient text lists the three branches of vertebrates. For a long time scientists held that birds evolved from dinosaurs, when these reptiles began to develop a gliding mechanism to ease their jumping from tree branches in search of food or, another theory holds, when ground-bound heavy dinosaurs attained greater running speed by reducing their weight through the development of hollow bones. A fossil confirmation of the origin of birds fromthe latter, gaining further speed for soaring by evolving two leggedness, appeared to have been found in the remains of Deinonychus (“terrible-clawed” reptile), a fast runner whose tail skeleton assumed a featherlike shape (Fig. 47).


The discovery of fossilized remains of a creature now called Archaeopteryx (“old feather”—Fig. 48a) was deemed to have provided the “missing link” between dinosaurs and birds and gave rise to the theory that the two—dinosaurs and birds—had an early common land ancestor at the beginning of the Triassic period. But even this antedating of the appearance of birds has come into question since additional fossils of Archaeopteryx were discovered in Germany; they indicate that this creature was by and large a fully developed bird (Fig. 48b) that had not evolved from the dinosaurs but rather directly from a much earlier ancestor who had come from the seas.

Figure 48

The biblical sources appear to have known all that. Not only does the Bible not list the dinosaurs ahead of birds (as scientists did for awhile); it actually lists birds ahead of the dinosaurs. With so much of the fossil record still incomplete, paleontologists may still find evidence that will indeed show that early birds had more in common with sea life than with desert lizards. About 65 million years ago the era of the dinosaurs came to an abrupt end; theories regarding the causes range from climatic changes to viral epidemics to destruction by a “Death Star.”


Whatever the cause, there was an unmistakable end of one evolutionary period and the beginning of another. In the words of Genesis, it was the dawn of the sixth “day.” Modern science calls it the Cenozoic (“current life”) era, when mammals spread across the Earth.


This is how the Bible put it:

And Elohim said:
“Let the Earth bring forth living animals
according to their kind:
bovines, and those that creep,
and beasts of the land,
all according to their kind,”
And it was so.

Thus did Elohim make all the animals of the land according to their kinds, and all the bovines according to their kinds, and all those that creep upon the earth by their kinds. There is full agreement here between Bible and Science. The conflict between Creationists and Evolutionists reaches its crux in the interpretation of what happened next—the appearance of Man on Earth.


It is a subject that will be dealt with in the next chapter. Here it is important to point out that although one might expect that a primitive or unknowing society, seeing how Man is superior to all other animals, would assume Man to be the oldest creature on Earth and thus the most developed, the wisest.


But the Book of Genesis does not say so at all. On the contrary, it asserts that Man was a latecomer to Earth. We are not the oldest story of evolution but only its last few pages. Modem science agrees.

That is exactly what the Sumerians had taught in their schools. As we read in the Bible, it was only after all the “days” of creation had run their course, after “all the fishes of the sea and all the fowl that fly the skies and all the animals that fill the earth and all the creeping things that crawl upon the earth” that “Elohim created the Adam.” On the sixth “day” of creation, God’s work on Earth was done.

“This,” the Book of Genesis states, “is the way the Heaven and the Earth have come to be.”

Up to the point of Man’s creation, then, modern science and ancient knowledge parallel each other. But by charting the course of evolution, modern science has left behind the initial question about the origin of life as distinct from its development and evolution.

The murky-soup and life-from-clay theories only suggest that, given the right materials and conditions, life could arise spontaneously. This notion, that life’s elemental building blocks, such as ammonia and methane (the simplest stable compounds of nitrogen and hydrogen and of carbon and hydrogen, respectively) could have formed by themselves as part of nature’s processes, seemed fortified by the discovery in recent decades that these compounds are present and even plentiful on other planets. But how did chemical compounds become animate?

That the feat is possible is obvious; the evidence is that life did appear on Earth. The speculation that life, in one form or another, may also exist elsewhere in our Solar System, and probably in other star systems, presupposes the feasibility of the transition from inanimate to animate matter. So, the question is not can it happen but how did it happen here on Earth?


For life as we see it on Earth to happen, two basic molecules are necessary: proteins, which perform all the complex metabolic functions of living cells; and nucleic acids, which carry the genetic code and issue the instructions for the cell’s processes. The two kinds of molecules, as the definition itself suggests, function within a unit called a cell—quite a complex organism in itself, which is capable of triggering the replication not only of itself but of the whole animal of which the single cell is but a minuscule component. In order to become proteins, amino acids must form long and complex chains.


In the cell they perform the task according to instructions stored in one nucleic acid (DNA—deoxyribonucleic acid) and transmitted by another nucleic acid (RNA—ribonucleic acid). Could random conditions prevailing on the primordial Earth have caused amino acids to combine into chains? In spite of varied attempts and theories (notable experiments were conducted by Clifford Matthews of the University of Illinois), the pathways sought by the scientists all required more “compressive energy” than would have been available.

Did DNA and RNA, then, precede amino acids on Earth? Advances in genetics and the unraveling of the mysteries of the living cell have increased, rather than diminished, the problems. The discovery in 1953 by James D. Watson and Francis H. Crick of the “double-helix” structure of DNA opened up vistas of immense complexity regarding these two chemicals of life.


The relatively giant molecules of DNA are in the form of two long, twisted strings connected by “rungs” made of four very complex organic compounds (marked on genetic charts by the initials of the names of the compounds, A-G-C-T). These four nucleotides can combine in pairs in sequences of limitless variety and are bound into place (Fig. 49) by sugar compounds alternating with phosphates.


The nucleic acid RNA, no less complex and built of four nucleotides whose initials are A-G-C-U, may contain thousands of combinations. How much time did evolution take on Earth to develop these complex compounds, without which life as we know it would have never evolved?

Figure 49


The fossil remains of algae found in 1977 in South Africa were dated to 3.1 to 3.4 billion years ago. But while that discovery was of microscopic, single-celled organisms, other discoveries in 1980 in western Australia deepened the wonderment.

The team, led by J. William Schopf of the University of California at Los Angeles, found fossil remains of organisms that not only were much older—3.5 billion years—but that were multicelled and looked under the microscope like chainlike filaments (Fig. 50). These organisms already possessed both amino acids and complex nucleic acids, the replicating genetic compounds, 3.5 billion years ago; they therefore had to represent, not the beginning of the chain of life on Earth, but an already advanced stage of it.

Figure 50

What these finds had set in motion can be termed the search for the first gene. Increasingly, scientists believe that before algae there were bacteria.

“We are actually looking at cells which are the direct morphological remains of the bugs themselves,” stated Malcolm R. Walter, an Australian member of the team.


“They look like modern bacteria,” he added. In fact, they looked like five different types of bacteria whose structures, amazingly, “were almost identical to several modern-day bacteria.”

The notion that self-replication on Earth began with bacteria that preceded algae seemed to make sense, since advances in genetics showed that all life on Earth, from the simplest to the most complex, has the same genetic “ingredients” and the same twenty or so basic amino acids. Indeed, much of the early genetic research and development of techniques in genetic engineering were done on the lowly bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli, for short), which can cause diarrhea in humans and cattle. But even this minuscule, single-celled bacterium that reproduces not sexually but simply by dividing, has almost 4,000 different genes!

That bacteria have played a role in the evolutionary process is apparent, not only from the fact that so many marine, plant and animal higher organisms depend on bacteria for many vital processes, but also from discoveries, first in the Pacific Ocean and then in other seas, that bacteria did and still make possible life forms that do not depend on photosynthesis but metabolize sulfur compounds in the oceans’ depths.


Calling such early bacteria “archaeo-bacteria,” a team led by Carl R. Woese of the University of Illinois dated them to a time between 3.5 and 4 billion years ago. Such an age was corroborated in 1984 by finds in an Austrian lake by Hans Fricke of the Max Planck Institute and Karl Stetter of the University of Regensburg (both in West Germany).

Sediments found off Greenland, on the other hand, bear chemical traces that indicate the existence of photosynthesis as early as 3.8 billion years ago. All these finds have thus shown that, within a few hundred million years of the impenetrable limit of 4 billion years, there were prolific bacteria and archaeo-bacteria of a marked variety on Earth. In more recent studies (Nature, November 9, 1989), an august team of scientists led by Norman H. Sleep of Stanford University concluded that the “window of time” when life on Earth began was just the 200 million years between 4 and 3.8 billion years ago.

“Everything alive today,” they stated, “evolved from organisms that originated within that Window of Time.”

They did not attempt, however, to establish how life originated at such a time.

Based on varied evidence, including the very reliable isotopic ratios of carbon, scientists have concluded that no matter how life on Earth began, it did so about 4 billion years ago. Why then only and not sooner, when the planets were formed some 4.6 billion years ago? All scientific research, conducted on Earth as well as on the Moon, keeps bumping against the 4-billion-year date, and all that modern science can offer in explanation is some “catastrophic event.” To know more, read the Sumerian texts....

Since the fossil and other data have shown that celled and replicating organisms (be they bacteria or archaeobacteria) already existed on Earth a mere 200 million years after the “Window of Time” first opened, scientists began to search for the “essence” of life rather than for its resulting organisms: for traces of DNA and RNA themselves. Viruses, which are pieces of nucleic acids looking for cells in which to replicate, are prevalent not only on land but also in water, and that has made some believe that viruses may have preceded bacteria.


But what gave them their nucleic acids? An avenue of research was opened a few years ago by Leslie Orgel of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, when he proposed that the simpler RNA might have preceded the much more complex DNA. Although RNA only transmits the genetic messages contained in the DNA blueprint, other researchers, among them Thomas R. Cech and co-workers at the University of Colorado and Sidney Altman of Yale University concluded that a certain type of RNA could catalyze itself under certain conditions.


All this led to computerized studies of a type of RNA called transfer-RNA undertaken by Manfred Eigen, a Nobel-prize winner. In a paper published in Science (May 12, 1989) he and his colleagues from Germany’s Max Planck Institute reported that by sequencing transfer-RNA backward on the Tree of Life, they found that the genetic code on Earth cannot be older than 3.8 billion years, plus or minus 600 million years.


At that time, Manfred Eigen said, a primordial gene might have appeared “whose message was the biblical injunction ‘Go out into the world, be fruitful and multiply’.” If the leeway, as it appears, had to be on the plus side—i.e., older than 3.8 billion years—“this would be possible only in the case of extraterrestrial origin,” the authors of the learned paper added.

In her summation of the fourth Conference on the Origin of Life, Lynn Margulis had predicted this astounding conclusion.

“We now recognize that if the origin of our self-replicating system occurred on the early Earth, it must have occurred quite quickly—millions, not billions of years,” she stated.


And she added: The central problem inspiring these conferences, perhaps slightly better defined, is as unsolved as ever.

Did our organic matter originate in interstellar space? The infant science of radioastronomy has produced evidence that some of the smaller organic molecules are there. Writing in 1908, Svante Arrhenius (Worlds in the Making) proposed that life-bearing spores were driven to Earth by the pressure of light waves from the star of another planetary system where life had evolved long before it did on Earth. The notion came to be known as “the theory of Panspermia”; it languished on the fringes of accepted science because, at the time, one fossil discovery after another seemed to corroborate the theory of evolution as an unchallenged explanation for the origin of life on Earth.

These fossil discoveries, however, raised their own questions and doubts; so much so that in 1973 the Nobel laureate (now Sir) Francis Crick together with Leslie Orgel, in a paper titled “Directed Panspermia” (Icarus, vol. 19), revived the notion of the seeding of Earth with the first organisms or spores from an extraterrestrial source—not, however, by chance but as “the deliberate activity of an extraterrestrial society.”


Whereas our Solar System was formed only some 4.6 billion years ago, other solar systems in the universe may have formed as much as 10 billion years earlier; while the interval between the formation of Earth and the appearance of life on Earth is much too short, there has been as much as six billion years available for the process on other planetary systems.

“The time available makes it possible, therefore, that technological societies existed elsewhere in the galaxy even before the formation of the Earth,” according to Crick and Orgel.

Their suggestion was therefore that the scientific community “consider a new ‘infective’ theory, namely that a primitive form of life was deliberately planted on Earth by a technologically advanced society on another planet.” Anticipating criticism—which indeed followed—that no living spores could survive the rigors of space, they suggested that the microorganisms were not sent to just drift in space but were placed in a specially designed spaceship with due protection and a life-sustaining environment. In spite of the unquestionable scientific credentials of Crick and Orgel, their theory of Directed Panspermia met with disbelief and even ridicule.


However, more recent scientific advances changed these attitudes; not only because of the narrowing of the Window of Time to a mere couple of hundred million years, almost ruling out the possibility that the essential genetic matter had enough time to evolve here on Earth. The change in opinion was also due to the discovery that of the myriad of amino acids that exist, it is only the same twenty or so that are part of all living organisms on Earth, no matter what these organisms are and when they evolved; and that the same DNA, made up of the same four nucleotides—that and no other—is present in all living things on Earth.


It was therefore that the participants of the landmark eighth Conference on the Origins of Life, held at Berkeley, California, in 1986. could no longer accept the random formation of life inherent in the murky-soup or life-from-clay hypotheses, for according to these theories, a variety of life forms and genetic codes should have arisen. Instead, the consensus was that “all life on Earth, from bacteria to sequoia trees to humans, evolved from a single ancestral cell.”

But where did this single ancestral cell come from? The 285 scientists from 22 countries did not endorse the cautious suggestions that, as some put it, fully formed cells were planted on Earth from space. Many were, however, willing to consider that “the supply of organic precursors to life was augmented from space.” When all was said and done, the assembled scientists were left with only one avenue that, they hoped, might provide the answer to the puzzle of the origin of life on Earth: space exploration.


The research should shift from Earth to Mars, to the Moon, to Saturn’s satellite Titan, it was suggested, because their more pristine environments might have better preserved the traces of the beginnings of life. Such a course of research reflects the acceptance, it must be obvious, of the premise that life is not unique to Earth. The first reason for such a premise is the extensive evidence that organic compounds permeate the Solar System and outer space. The data from interplanetary probes have been reviewed in an earlier chapter; the data indicating life-related elements and compounds in outer space are so voluminous that only a few instances must suffice here. In 1977, for example, an international team of astronomers at the Max Planck Institute discovered water molecules outside our own galaxy.


The density of the water vapor was the same as in Earth’s galaxy, and Otto Hachenberg of the Bonn Institute for Radio Astronomy considered that finding as support for the conclusion that “conditions exist at some other place which, like those on Earth, are suitable for life.” In 1984 scientists at the Goddard Space Center found "a bewildering array of molecules, including the beginning of organic chemistry” in interstellar space. They had discovered “complex molecules composed of the same atoms that make up living tissue,” according to Patrick Thaddeus of the Center’s Institute for Space Studies, and it was,

“reasonable to assume that these compounds were deposited on Earth at the time of its forming and that life ultimately came from them.”

In 1987, to give one more instance, NASA instruments discovered that exploding stars (supernovas) produced most of the ninety-odd elements, including carbon, that are contained in living organisms on Earth. How did such life-essential compounds, in forms that enabled life to sprout on Earth, arrive on Earth from space, near or distant? Invariably, the celestial emissaries under consideration are comets, meteors, meteorites, and impacting asteroids.


Of particular interest to scientists are meteorites containing carbonaceous chondrites, believed to represent the most primordial planetary matter in the Solar System. One, which fell near Murchison in Victoria, Australia, in 1969, revealed an array of organic compounds, including amino acids and nitrogenous bases that embraced all the compounds involved in DNA. According to Ron Brown of Monash University in Melbourne, researchers have even found “formations in the meteorite reminiscent of a very primitive form of cell structure.”

Until then, carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, first collected in France in 1806, were dismissed as unreliable evidence because their life-related compounds were explained away as terrestrial contamination. But in 1977 two meteorites of this type were discovered buried in the icy wilderness of Antarctica, where no contamination was possible. These, and meteorite fragments collected elsewhere in Antarctica by Japanese scientists, were found to be rich in amino acids and to contain at least three of the nucleotides (the A, G, and U of the genetic “alphabet”) that make up DNA and/or RNA.


Writing in Scientific American (August 1983), Roy S. Lewis and Edward Anders concluded that,

“carbonaceous chondrites, the most primitive meteorites, incorporate material originating outside the Solar System, including matter expelled by supernovas and other stars.”

Radiocarbon dating has given these meteorites an age of 4.5 to 4.7 billion years; it makes them not only as old as but even older than Earth and establishes their extraterrestrial origin.

Reviving, in a way, the old beliefs that comets cause plagues on Earth, two noted British astronomers. Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, suggested in a study in the New Scientist (November 17, 1977) that,

“life on Earth began when stray comets bearing the building blocks of life crashed into the primitive Earth.”

In spite of criticism by other scientists, the two have persisted in pressing this theory forward at scientific conferences, in books (Lifecloud and others) and in scholarly publications, offering each time more supportive arguments for the thesis that “about four billion years ago life arrived in a comet.”

Recent close studies of comets, such as Halley’s, have shown that the comets, as do the other messengers from far out in space, contain water and other life-building compounds. These findings have led other astronomers and biophysicists to concede the possibility that cometary impacts had played a role in giving rise to life on Earth.


In the words of Armand Delsemme of the University of Toledo,

“A large number of comets hitting Earth contributed a veneer of chemicals needed for the formation of amino acids; the molecules in our bodies were likely in comets at one time.”

As scientific advances made more sophisticated studies of meteorites, comets, and other celestial objects possible, the results included an even greater array of the compounds essential to life. The new breed of scientists, given the name “Exobiologists,” have even found isotopes and other elements in these celestial bodies that indicate an origin preceding the formation of the Solar System. An extrasolar origin for the life that eventually evolved on Earth has thus become a more acceptable proposition. The argument between the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe team and others has by now shifted its focus to whether the two are right in suggesting that “spores”—actual microorganisms—rather than the antecedent life-forming compounds were delivered to Earth by the cometary/meteoritic impacts.

Could “spores” survive in the radiation and cold of outer space? Skepticism regarding this possibility was greatly dispelled by experiments conducted at Leiden University, Holland, in 1985. Reporting in Nature (vol. 316) astrophysicist J. Mayo Greenberg and his associate Peter Weber found that this was possible if the “spores” journeyed inside an envelope of molecules of water, methane, ammonia, and carbon monoxide—all readily available on other celestial bodies. Panspermia, they concluded, was possible.

How about directed panspermia, the deliberate seeding of Earth by another civilization, as suggested earlier by Crick and Orgel? In their view, the “envelope” protecting the spores was not made up just of the required compounds, but was a spaceship in which the microorganisms were kept immersed in nutrients. As much as their proposal smacks of science fiction, the two held fast to their “theorem.”

“Even though it sounds a bit cranky,” Sir Francis Crick wrote in The New York Times (October 26, 1981), “all the steps in the argument are scientifically plausible.”

Foreseeing that Mankind might one day send its “seeds of life” to other worlds, why could it not be that a higher civilization elsewhere had done it to Earth in the distant past?

Lynn Margulis, a pioneer of the Origin of Life conferences and now a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, held in her writings and interviews that many organisms, when faced with harsh conditions, “release tough little packages”—she named them “Propagules”—“that can carry genetic material into more hospitable surroundings” (Newsweek, October 2, 1989). It is a natural “strategy for survival” that has accounted for “space age spores”; it will happen in the future because it has happened in the past.

In a detailed report concerning all these developments, headlined “NASA to Probe Heavens for Clues to Life’s Origins on Earth” in The New York Times (September 6, 1988), Sandra Blakeslee summed up the latest scientific thinking thus:
Driving the new search for clues to life’s beginnings is the recent discovery that comets, meteors and interstellar dust carry vast amounts of complex organic chemicals as well as the elements crucial to living cells.

Scientists believe that Earth and other planets have been seeded from space with these potential building blocks of life.
Seeded from space”the very words written down millennia ago by the Sumerians!

It is noteworthy that in his ‘presentations, Chandra Wickramasinghe has frequently invoked the writings of the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras who, about 500 B.C., believed that the “seeds of life” swarm through the universe, ready to sprout and create life wherever a proper environment is found. Coming as he did from Asia Minor, his sources, as was true for so much of early Greek knowledge, were the Mesopotamian writings and traditions.

After a detour of 6.000 years, modem science has come back to the Sumerian scenario of an invader from outer space that brings the seed of life into the Solar System and imparts it to “Gaia” during the Celestial Battle.

The Anunnaki, capable of space travel about half a million years before us, discovered this phenomenon long before us; in this respect, modem science is just catching up with ancient knowledge.

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