After years of research and deep personal conflict, Charles Darwin published his groundbreaking observations in “Origin of Species” in 1859. It has now been popularized as the “Theory of Evolution” and encapsulated as “survival of the fittest,” which is a phrase that Darwin, himself, did not use. In advance, Darwin understood the vast social implications of his arguments and chose to publish very close to the end of his life to avoid a similar backlash that had been the fate of Socrates and Galileo.
Even now, opponents to the basic conclusion that all living things are a process of natural mutation over a long course of time, take this observation as a moral and social affront. What tends to be overlooked is that Darwin reached this quantum leap in explaining biological diversity on relatively few clues. He did not have the benefit of “germ theory,” the chemical processes of photosynthesis, the true age of planet earth, the knowledge of continental drift or the mechanisms for passing characteristics to offspring. And yet, he was able to deliver a more accurate model for biodiversity than traditional knowledge had previously provided.
But while Darwin shined a light on a previously dark area of knowledge, many questions about living organisms still evade scientific explanation.
-how does life originate from non-living material?
Since the 1950s, experiments to replicate the early earth and induce amino acids into self-replicating formations have met with disappointing and inconclusive results. Life on earth may have originated elsewhere or could have spontaneously emerged elsewhere in our universe, but no one has identified the transformational process from non-living to living. So far, it is a big blank with no evidence currently available to point in a likely, certain direction. Living things are stardust, but so are non-living things.
-why is life persistent?
Life, in spite of the short duration of individuals, is incredibly hardy. Several cataclysmic events and mass extinctions have been reliably identified and even species on the brink of extinction exhibit a stubborn defiance that can be observed but has no explainable source for its persistence. It has become like the phenomena of gravity: it is proven to exist and no one can identify the cause or the source that is involved.
-why do some species not evolve?
There are many bacteria, insects, fish and reptiles that have not mutated to any noticeable degree in hundreds of millions of years. Given that there is a tendency to mutate, sometimes within a few generations, why are these species resistant? Are viruses a primitive form of life, a stunted genetic side branch or just an opportunistic chemical parasite? So far, the basic Darwinian premise has no answers to these and many other questions about life and life on earth.
Theories, by their semantic nature, are explanations which are supported by observable facts, but lack an admitted, absolute certainty. This is the strength of any theory, its honesty, and also its inherent, attackable weakness, which allows opposing views, whether those views are supported by facts or just shed a bright light on the aspect of uncertainty. Because there is this uncertainty factor in any theory, traditional theology attempts to leap into the gap and discount the other provable factors and has recently crafted an “intelligent design” principle.
Those who like a simplistic global explanation will listen raptly and overlook the subterfuge inherent in this argument: by placing a God of man at the center of explanation, by association, men of God are placed in the center of human affairs. For its disingenuousness alone, an argument for intelligent design should be given no credence without a very high factual substantiation. The opposite seems to be true, with the sentimental explanation of a Creator being given more weight than facts can support.