Thursday, April 28, 2005
Breaks in the Chain of Being
While the strict idea of evolution moving in an upward direction is no longer the dominant idea in evolutionary thinking, a soft form of it remains, and is in fact required for evolution.
The evolutionary chain of being goes roughly like this:
Inorganic material -> Organic Material -> Self-replicating enzymes -> Simple pseudo-organisms -> Unicellular life -> Multicellular life -> Present Larger Organisms
This is absolutely ingrained into evolutionary thinking. However, there is almost no evidence for any of it.
First of all, there is the inorganic -> organic link of the chain. While there is definitely some links between inorganic and organic material, the fact is that when you look at organic material required for life, then there is a clear break here.
Let's look at the Miller-Urey experiement. While they were able to generate some organic materials (amino acids and nucleic acids if I remember correctly), the problem is that of chirality. Organic material generally comes in both a "right-handed" and a "left-handed" form. In nature, generally half of each type of molecule is made for inorganic->organic reactions. However, one of the characteristics of living organism is that each type of material exists in only one handedness. So, while the Miller-Urey experiment produced organic material, it did not produce the single handedness required for life molecules.
The next break in the chain comes in the organic->self-replicating enzymes chain. The idea is that, because it is so unlikely that an entire system would come out of nothing, perhaps it started out as just one or two self-replicating RNA molecules. Unfortunately, all known replicating systems usually use many, many enzymes to perform replication.
Now, let's say that we were to find a way to generate all of the molecules that we needed. Let's say that we found a way to get the environment to generate every single enzyme, gene, and protein needed for life to function. Certainly then we would have solved the problem! Unfortunately not. Imagine this: take a cell of ANY TYPE, and kill it. In fact, take several cells and kill them, but be sure to keep as much of the organic material in the cell as you possibly can unaltered. Put it all together. Wait. Wait some more. Guess what -- it will never form into life. Life is so complicated, that even if you have every single enzyme necessary for life to work, it still doesn't self-organize into cells. No matter how well the next generation of prebiotic experiments happen, they still won't do anything to tell us how life arose.
The cambrian explosion (perhaps beginning in the precambrian period) is supposed to be where unicellular life morphed into multicellular life. However, there is no real evidence either (a) that this occurred, or (b) how it might have happened. It was assumed that the organisms in the cambrian explosion were "simple" multicellular life, but in fact they are just as complex as modern species -- at least as far as we can tell from the fossil remnants. This is not a gradual transition from simple to complex, but a giant leap from very simple to very complex. In addition, there is an explosion of body plans at this level, which is counter to evolution's "diversity precedes disparity" idea. Also, there is no evidence of relationship between the kingdoms of life.
Then there is the break between the life forms found in Cambrian rock and what I will call generally the modern, higher organisms (like vertebrates). While there are many similarities among the higher organisms, there are distinct discontinuities as certain places (usually at about the family level) which can be confirmed with holistic comparisons of species, as well as by breeding experiments. There are even greater disparities with even fewer links seen between the higher and lower organisms.
So, while there is some evidence of continuity among the advanced organisms, and a little even between the advanced and "simple" multicellular organisms, the rest of the chain of being is completely broken. Now you can see why the origin of life has been separated from evolutionary theory over the last 40 years.
One note to make -- I refer to "no evidence" several times here. This is obviously a subjective statement, so I encourage you to look at all of the evidences evolutionists present for these jumps and see if you think any of it is plausible yourself. When I get some time, I might look up some links that evolutionists use to disprove these claims, or, if you are an evolutionist, I encourage you to post links in the comments.