Charles Darwin really did have advanced ideas about the origin of life

Oct 27, 2009
Charles Darwin really did have advanced ideas about the origin of life. Credit: Armin Cifuentes

When Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species 150 years ago, he deliberately avoided the subject of the origin of life. This, coupled with the mention of the 'Creator' in the last paragraph of the book, led us to believe he was not willing to commit on the matter. An international team, led by Juli Peretó of the Cavanilles Institute in Valencia, now refutes that idea and shows that the British naturalist did explain in other documents how our first ancestors could have come into being.

"All organic beings that have lived on Earth could be descended from some primordial form", explained Darwin in The in 1859. Despite this statement, the scientist took it upon himself to understand the evolutional processes underlying biodiversity.

"Darwin was convinced of the incredible importance of this issue for his theory and he had an amazingly modern materialist and evolutional vision about the transition of inanimate chemical matter into living matter, despite being very aware of Pasteur's experiments in opposition to spontaneous generation", Juli Peretó, principal author of this study and researcher at the Cavanilles Institute of Evolutional Biology and Biodiversity at the University of Valencia, explains to SINC.

The study, which is published in the latest issue of the journal Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres, demonstrates that Darwin had an advanced idea on the origin of the first species, and was troubled by the problem. "It is utterly wrong to think that he was invoking a divine intervention; it is also well documented that the mention of the 'Creator' in The Origin of the Species was an addition for appearance's sake that he later regretted", affirms Peretó.

According to the researchers, all Darwin's opinions on the origin of life can be found in his private correspondence and in his notebooks. The exception is a review of a book on foraminiferous microorganisms published in 1863 in the London social club Athenaeum, where Darwin "lets his opinion on the spontaneous generation be known".

The international team, comprising Spanish, US and Mexican scientists, has not only examined in detail the phrases, texts and paragraphs of the letters, but has also put into context all Darwin's opinions on the origins of life, available online and in the original manuscripts.

The origin of life hypothesis

A comment in a notebook dating back to 1837, in which Darwin explains that "the intimate relationship between the vital phenomena with chemistry and its laws makes the idea of spontaneous generation conceivable", gave the researchers their clue.

In another famous letter sent in 1871 to his friend, the English botanist and explorer Joseph D. Hooker, imagines a small, warm pool where the inanimate matter would arrange itself into evolutionary matter, aided by chemical components and sufficient sources of energy.

In other letters, the naturalist admitted to colleagues such as Alfred Russel Wallace or Ernst Haeckel that spontaneous generation was important to the coherence of the theory. However, "at the same time, he acknowledged that science was not advanced enough to deal with the question (hence his reluctance to speak of it in public) and that he would not live to see it resolved", Peretó points out.

More information: Pereto, Juli; Bada, Jeffrey L.; Lazcano, Antonio. "Charles Darwin and the " Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres 39(5): 395-406 Oct 2009.

Source: FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology

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LariAnn
1.3 / 5 (13) Oct 27, 2009
So there it is:
". . . the naturalist (Charles Darwin) admitted to colleagues . . . that spontaneous generation was important to the coherence of the theory." Therefore, how is this congruent with "Charles Darwin really did have advanced ideas about the origin of life"? What is "advanced" about spontaneous generation?

mabarker
1.3 / 5 (15) Oct 27, 2009
The article above states *the transition of inanimate chemical matter into living matter* and is an overtly religious idea, with a bow before the altar of materialism. Remember what David Deamer said in Nature (v 454), *How life began remains an open question*
Over a decade ago I had lunch (at Black Angus) in Southern CA with atheist Bob Shapiro (any 1 read his outstanding 1986 book?). He told me all origin-of-life experiments ended with a toxic tar on the walls of the reaction vessel. Not a good time to be a macroevolutionist.
BTW - any 1 read Thaxton, Bradly & Olsen's 1984 book? Outstanding. If you're an apostle of dick dawkins you better not read *The Mystery of Life's Origin* before you go to bed!
John_balls
4.4 / 5 (7) Oct 27, 2009
The article above states *the transition of inanimate chemical matter into living matter* and is an overtly religious idea, with a bow before the altar of materialism. Remember what David Deamer said in Nature (v 454), *How life began remains an open question*
Over a decade ago I had lunch (at Black Angus) in Southern CA with atheist Bob Shapiro (any 1 read his outstanding 1986 book?). He told me all origin-of-life experiments ended with a toxic tar on the walls of the reaction vessel. Not a good time to be a macroevolutionist.
BTW - any 1 read Thaxton, Bradly & Olsen's 1984 book? Outstanding. If you're an apostle of dick dawkins you better not read *The Mystery of Life's Origin* before you go to bed!

I'm sorry did you actually have a point??
mabarker
1.3 / 5 (15) Oct 27, 2009
Uhhhhh - let's see:
1. darwinists still don't know how life began (Deamer, Nature v 454)
2. all origin of life experiments have failed
3. T,B & O (1984) & Bob Shapiro (1986) give the biochemical details why
- did I go too fast for you?
Ethelred
4.5 / 5 (14) Oct 28, 2009
Therefore, how is this congruent with "Charles Darwin really did have advanced ideas about the origin of life"?

You might try reading the article for its content rather than looking for new out of context quotes to use.

This seems to cover your question and its from the article:
In another famous letter sent in 1871 to his friend, the English botanist and explorer Joseph D. Hooker, Charles Darwin imagines a small, warm pool where the inanimate matter would arrange itself into evolutionary matter, aided by chemical components and sufficient sources of energy.


That is similar to what many people think happened. Today. Never heard of anyone thinking that way in 1800's besides Darwin.

I go for tidal pools myself. That gives an iterative chemical cycle.

Out of curiosity are you a Young Earth Creationist?I know you have avoided writing what you actually think, so far, but how about tell us where you are coming from.

Ethelred
magpies
1 / 5 (15) Oct 28, 2009
I like how these types think something like this can be explained by science.
PieRSquare
4.7 / 5 (9) Oct 28, 2009
did I go too fast for you?


You didn't go to fast, you just weren't making any sense. I have no idea why you think the transition from inorganic to organic matter is a religious idea. What are you proposing as an alternative? Don't you have to start somewhere? Maybe you could tell us more about those books besides the fact that they are "outstanding".
Ethelred
4.7 / 5 (10) Oct 28, 2009
The article above states *the transition of inanimate chemical matter into living matter* and is an overtly religious idea,

Interesting definition of religion you have ma. It seems to cover all of the areas in science that conflict with your religious beliefs.
with a bow before the altar of materialism.

Which isn't religion. Its just the way science works. Its counterproductive to assume that the answer is 'god did it' and then stop looking. Like Dr. Behe does.
Over a decade ago I had lunch (at Black Angus) in Southern CA with atheist Bob Shapiro

And I have already pointed out an article by him in Scientific American.

http://www.scient...for-life

Want to talk about it this time? Instead of your usual disappearance. How about answering the same question I asked LariAnn? Which you have also dodged before.

Ethelred
jsa09
5 / 5 (10) Oct 28, 2009
@ magpies
I like how these types think something like this can be explained by science.


That is the definition of science. Describing phenomenon. If something cannot be described then it is a legitimate point of research until it can be described.

Science is all about finding out, rather then expecting to already have the answer.
Ethelred
4.7 / 5 (13) Oct 28, 2009
2. all origin of life experiments have failed

None have failed. People have learned from all of them.

No one is expecting to get life to spontaneously arise in a lab. They are too small. Even one mile of beach is more than can matched in a lab. The world has a lot of tidal regions and it had millions of years. That is rather hard to match in any lab.

None of that stops evolution from being true.

None of it makes the world match your religion. How about you trying to show evidence that supports YOU instead trying to muddy up the megatons of evidence that supports Darwin?

Ethelred
Husky
5 / 5 (8) Oct 28, 2009
you can view the transition of inanimated matter to organic matter as creation, or just evolution of matter composition by natures physical interactions over time. Darwin just shows he is a carefull scientist, by just publically proposing that lifeforms evolve into other lifeform because he found compelling evidence for this all around, that even naysayers could dig up from the earth He probably kept the implicit possibillity of evolvement from inorganic matter to himself and a few progressive thinkers, as there was not yet sufficient evidence to prove that beyond doubt, let alone propose the hypothesis in a world build on the remnants of religious ideas.

The problem of lab creation is that nature had a million monkeys, a million typewriters and a few million years to write DNA while we try to revolutionize life in day in a single lab flask. But i feel confident that massive parallelsation approaches, just like cutting down computing time, will cut down life creation time in labs.
Velanarris
3.9 / 5 (7) Oct 28, 2009
Gotta love the religious zealots. They demand that God must exist because he can't be disproven, and absence of evidence doesn't mean evidence of absence.

What they all forget it, self-contradiction is immediate evidence that the thoery or hypothesis has been disproved. If you want that evidence crack a bible and start reading. God can't exist according to his own word.
QuantumDelta
4.4 / 5 (5) Oct 28, 2009
Isn't this article about a great mind, and respected scientist - not somewhere for people to debate fairy tales?
As to never having proven theory of origins of life in labs, haven't they managed to create RNA Strands from inanimate compounds?

see; http://www.wired....eotides/
El_Nose
2.7 / 5 (6) Oct 28, 2009
I am a scientist -- and i believe in God

that being said i have one statement to make. Why does everyone believe that science and religion are at odds with each other.

I guess i am an atypical believer in God because I have not seen evidence that the Bible states man has only been on earth 10k years.

I guess I am atypical because I believe that if we suppose that God might exist and told His followers that their saviour would be coming soon.. and this took the greater of 2k years then soon does not mean the same to humans and this being... so why would the concept of 1 day to do something mean a 24hr period.

I am odd but I believe evolution is a tool that allows us to gain a state of mind that looks at life critically and deduces information that previous paradigms would have over looked.

I guess I am odd because I believe that evolution is not the last paradign we will look to to explain life and its origins. Just the best so far... but it makes a crappy religion.
Adam
4.8 / 5 (5) Oct 28, 2009
El Nose's last quote can equally be flipped around. Creationism might be the best religion so far... but it makes for crappy science.

As someone has already noted saying "Godidit" isn't an explanation for anything. Any idiot can say that - as they frequently do - but it doesn't explain how.

The Bible says God creates each and everyone of us inside our mother's womb... but that doesn't stop it all starting with a single cell undergoing a series of reasonably well understood differentiation processes, without a trace of unobservable 'miracle'. God dresses the flowers, feeds the lions and eagles, and goes fishing for Leviathan... all without apparent violations of the laws of physics or biology. Why should the origin of life be any different?
El_Nose
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 29, 2009
@adam

exactly my point, well said -- unfortunately the zealots will have no part of rational disection.
ShotmanMaslo
5 / 5 (2) Nov 01, 2009
El_nose - You are not any atypical believer, quite the opposite, you are the typical one. Most of religious people also believe in evolution, maybe god-guided, but naturalistic.
Those crazy young earth creationists are a small minority, mostly concentrated in USA.
CptWozza
3 / 5 (2) Nov 01, 2009
The "I don't see why religion and science can't live together" crowd are actually a brilliant, living example of this terrible weakness in which you attribute all the unknown stuff to "god" or equivalent. The origin of life is a more subtle problem than the evolution of life, just as quantum field theory is a more subtle problem than Newtonian gravity.

It takes a sprinkling of maturity and integrity in order to stop this constant regress back to god - mystery does not (should not) open the door for the unprovable/undisprovable hairy fairy in the sky. There's plenty of mystery in science, that's what makes it so interesting to study. For every mystery we solve, we drag up ten more. The universe is complicated. Appealing to "god" to massage your discomfort with these mysteries is childish, and intellectually lazy.
jgelt
not rated yet Nov 01, 2009
The article said Chuckie (later) regretted his small compromise. I only wish he'd explained why.
I surmise it might have to do with natural selection of ideas, just as Dawkins gained recognition for explaining in darwinian terms. (Do I have to capitalise 'darwinian' or is it a common adjective now?
AnotherNoName
2 / 5 (2) Nov 02, 2009
If you want that evidence crack a bible and start reading. God can't exist according to his own word.


Why do you say that?

There's plenty of mystery in science, that's what makes it so interesting to study. For every mystery we solve, we drag up ten more. The universe is complicated.


Very true; this observation is noted in middle-school science texts.

Appealing to "god" to massage your discomfort with these mysteries is childish, and intellectually lazy.


That's quite a string of accusations to levy at a large group of people. What justification do you have for assuming these motivations so broadly (or, are you only intending to speak to the subset of religious believers who have these particular motivations)?

AnotherNoName
1 / 5 (1) Nov 02, 2009
Scientific practice (via the scientific method) requires a materialistic approach to gathering data. The "new mysteries" revealed by this data can also only be empirically examined with a materialistic approach (this verges on tautological). However, these limitations do not preclude the possibility of being epistemologically-justified in positing metaphysical explanations.

The Shapiro (2007) article was quite interesting; in a field dominated by rhetoricians like Dawkins, it is refreshing to read the work of one who appears to practice philosophical integrity. Two years later, I wonder what further work has been done (I have yet to perform a literature review looking for new articles citing Shapiro's, but I imagine that would be a simple starting place).
Ethelred
5 / 5 (1) Nov 03, 2009
That's quite a string of accusations to levy at a large group of people.


Are you aware of anything that might make it untrue? It looked to be directed at Creationists and their more rational colleagues the IDers. I mentions the ID group because most if not all of them are Old Creationists in a new wrapper. Dr. Behe for instance is a front man for the Discovery Institute which was founded by and for Young Earth Creationists.

Ethelred
caekaylee
not rated yet Nov 06, 2009
So pathetic, narrow-minded so-called-religionists statements. Still there are people thinking the Bible is everything to answer the whole world mystery. How could that possible be? After eroded by time and selective exploited by early Catholic, the Bible is only complete if all the missing Gospels are recovered, well which is impossible. Science is just one tool to allow us to glimpse into the God's wonder and they can't seem to get it?! This is faithful ignorance! Don't they understand evolution is the life mechanism by God? Might it not God create us through evolution? Would it not life really generated through early biotic soup of chemical reaction which not even words in Bible able to describe, and currently only God knows? Science and Religion has never been issue, only people with ignorance make it an issue! They are fear of the truth contracdicting what they have been preached. Don't blame Richard Dawkins, it was these people who created him in the 1st place.
Ethelred
5 / 5 (1) Nov 06, 2009
the Bible is only complete if all the missing Gospels are recovered,

They are all available. Early CHRISTIANS, not Catholics, decided what constituted legitimate gospels. Anything else isn't Christian. Gnostic perhaps.
Science is just one tool to allow us to glimpse into the God's wonder

Which god? Science is about figuring out how the Universe works.
Don't they understand evolution is the life mechanism by God?

Perhaps its because, unlike you, they understand that evolution doesn't need a god so they deny that it is real. Mostly though it is because they believe that Genesis is the literal word of Jehovah. And Genesis describes a different world than ours.
Science and Religion has never been issue

They often conflict. Religion has changed to deal with reality. Sometimes.
Don't blame Richard Dawkins, it was these people who created him in the 1st place

I think it was his parents.

Please learn to use white space. That was a mess.

Ethelred

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