With the recent discovery of the “God Particle” there has been great interest in Stephen Hawking’s “Theory of Everything” which is the golden grail of theoretical physics, a theory that would explain and link together all known physical phenomena and could in principle predict the outcome of any experiment that could be carried out. Could a similar “Theory of Everything” exist which combines belief in a creator and spirituality with evolutionary biology and gives us a complete “Theory of Life”?
Since the earliest times humans have been fascinated by the universe. They were familiar with the sun, moon and stars, earthquakes and floods and their explanations for these events were based solely on their life experiences. They regarded the world as an animistic and magical place where everything was alive and had a spirit. It was thought that through prayers and sacrifices to the gods human beings could gain control over the weather, natural disasters and whatever else made up their immediate environment. As people developed into a culture they began to develop myths, including the creation myth and these stories were passed down from generation to generation. Later the first organised religions tried to explain the world more comprehensively and they grew into the major faiths of the world we know today. Religion still suggested that the world was created and controlled by one or more supernatural beings. We are now living in the age of science and modern theories developed by great thinkers such as Newton and Einstein have explained most phenomena previously attributed to the supernatural. However, millions of people still believe in a divine creator and hold on to a religious interpretation of nature.
Creationists believe that the world was created and developed according to some preordained plan. Life has no influence on the universe; its destiny is determined at its outcome. Such a theory requires the existence of a creator or creators who are super-intelligent and all powerful. Early man had few scientific facts at his disposal and so legends were born of a supernatural being and the creation to explain their existence and their environment. There are many different names for this creator.
In Jewish and Christian faiths, Yahweh is both creator and destroyer. A step-by-step description of how He created the universe is detailed in the book of Genesis. First light is brought into being separating it from the darkness. Then heaven is divided from the Earth and seas. On the third day God created the plants and on the fourth the moon and stars and sun to give light to the Earth. To get from a formless void to a functioning world thus only takes four days and a literal belief in this biblical creation places the age of the Earth in thousands rather than billions of years.
Likewise in the Koran, the holy book of the Islamic faith, everything is made in a period of just six days, two days to make the Earth, two the mountains, and two the seven heavens, the lowest of which contains the planets.
Hindus believe that the universe goes through one cycle after another of creation then destruction. The god Brahma creates the universe and all life, with Vishnu responsible for its day-to-day maintenance, and the deity Shiva destroying the universe every four billion years. After this the whole process is believed to begin again.
Nearly every continent and culture has its own creation belief. Older still are the tribal tales such as those of the American Indians and Australian Aborigines. A traditional aboriginal tale tells of Wallanganda a male being, who sprinkled water on Wunngud (a female snake) to make Yorro Yorro (the universe). Many tribal tales hold a fascination with the sky, in some the sun and moon are gods that move across the horizon; in others the night sky represents the underworld. On of the most interesting and rather bloody tales is the Babylonian creation myth, which describes the way the Earth was created after a fight between the gods Tiamat and Marduk. Some people even believe that the sky gods of mythology worshipped by pagan civilisations were actually fallen angels or extraterrestrials that explored and colonised the Earth laying the foundations of all the major religions we know today. This asks the question if intelligent life existed on other planets would they also have developed a belief in a divine creator?
The idea of life on another planet had once been the focus of sci-fi enthusiasts, but now it has become a reality with scientists everywhere searching for new habitable planets. The advances in technology have allowed the development of extremely powerful telescopes (such as the Kepler Space Telescope) with which scientists can search the heavens; and powerful computers, which can mine through endless data and interpret what they see. Thousands of new planets, which may support life, have been discovered. But what is the definition of life?
It is not easy to decide what should and what should not be classed as living. All life forms that we know require water to survive. They are made of carbon compounds and have the ability to grow and reproduce, this process being controlled by the nucleic acids RNA and DNA. Life on another planet could have a very different template. But would the discovery of life on another planet help us answer the questions that have always puzzled man? Where, how and when did life begin on Earth?
Most scientists regard natural selection on the small scale as a fact, but for this to take place there has to be life to work on. Life needs to exist before it can start diversifying. There had to be a beginning and there are only two possibilities:
Firstly the theory of evolution proposes that the first living cells arose spontaneously out of inert chemicals on our planet. This was a natural random process that can be explained by science. Life has since undergone an extremely long period of evolutionary change with no more origins of life. Science does support the existence of the necessary chemicals and the possibility that they could combine in a way needed to produce a living cell although the chances of this happening are unknown.
Secondly the creation theory proposes that life was created by some supernatural entity separate from life itself e.g. God, a computer or a universal consciousness. However, there is as yet no scientific evidence of such a being.
Panspermia theory proposes that aliens or meteorites brought the first living cell to Earth. This theory merely suggests that life started on some other planet to Earth, but there are still only two possibilities for its beginning wherever that may be. The three stages of the development of life; the origin of the universe, the origin of life and the origin of conscious thought are the same whatever the beginning.
The Earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old, about a third of the age of the universe. Evolutionists believe that for the first 0.5 billion years it was incapable of supporting life and then life arose from a common origin about 3.5 billion years ago.
The evidence for this is homology (similarity shown by different species due to a common origin). This has been supported by DNA sequencing, which shows strong similarities for some genes between all species. These similarities are unlikely to have occurred by chance alone.
If there was a single origin from which the now known 2-3 million different forms of life originated then the evolution of life must have proceeded as a series of branching pathways radiating from a common ancestor (adaptive radiation). Many of these branches have died leaving only fossil traces to indicate their existence and place them in the grand ‘tree of life’ but a few branches have survived to produce new species. But how are new species formed?
The British peppered moth is a common insect in England’s towns and countryside. In its speckled black and white form it is very hard to spot when it rests upon lichen coloured trees. Occasionally a mutant black winged form occurs. During the industrial revolution as the trees near the towns became blackened with soot the rarer melanistic form became less visible to predators and generation-by-generation the proportion of dark moths increased. This is an example of Darwin’s theory of evolution based on natural selection. There are minor genetic variations between individual members of a species. Those with favourable characteristics for survival and reproduction will increase in proportion at the expense of those with less favourable characteristics. Thus the favourable characteristics are gradually passed to future generations. Traditional Darwinians say that new species, families and classes are all formed by this same process repeating itself time and again with minor genetic variations accumulating over millions of years to produce the diversity of life we see today. However, no one has ever seen the emergence of a new species never mind the major divisions of life and that both small-scale evolution, as in the case of the peppered moth, and large-scale evolution are part of the same simple process is as imaginative as it is not testable.
Darwin’s process of speciation, the formation of two species from one, requires some form of geographical isolation followed by reproductive isolation. When two or more isolated units are formed by a physical barrier such as a mountain or river there is no longer any exchange of genetic material between them. This allows small genetic differences to accumulate in the separated units on which natural selection can then act. As any two populations in different habitats will be subject to different selective pressures the genetic differences will accumulate between them as they adapt to their respective environments. If the two populations differ significantly when they come into close proximity again they will be incapable of hybridising. They are already separate species.
Evidence for Darwin’s theory is based on the assumption that similar organisms are related due to common ancestry and that differences between them are due to adaptations made to fill different ecological niches. This is called adaptive radiation and one example is the Galapagos finches. It is thought that some time after the Galapagos Islands were formed a species of seed-eating finch migrated from South America and settled on different islands. Free from competition the finches adapted to their different niches. Each island population was selectively modified to suit its local conditions, especially food resources. As they became more and more adapted each developed a different beak shape to suit its eating habits. The finches have now become reproductively isolated, as they will only seek a mate with a similar shaped beak.
Mendel discovered the method of inheritance essential to Darwin’s theory in 1866. His rules of inheritance explain how genetic material can be passed from generation to generation in undiluted form preserving the raw material for natural selection to act upon. The subsequent discovery of mutation as the basis of genetic variation (1910), the chromosomal basis of inheritance (1915), and the role of DNA as the chemical controlling hereditary demonstrate a suitable mechanism for this inheritance of variation strongly supporting Darwin’s theory. Mutations are inheritable changes in genetic material. There are two main types, gene mutation and chromosome mutation. Once random mutation has taken place this variation in the genetic mutation is passed to the next generation. If this new genetic material gives the offspring an ecological advantage then it is likely to gradually increase its frequency. This process of adaptive radiation is slow and takes many generations.
Many biologists accept the Darwinian theory of small-scale evolution, but do not support it as a theory of evolution on the grand scale. Evolution on the grand scale is a different process. It is not a continuous, slow change by natural selection but a series of sudden changes whereby new species are ‘thrown up’ with chance playing a large part in the direction of these jumps. The name of this process is punctuated equilibrium.
They argue that evidence for this is indicated by the big gaps in the fossil records. Although some of the missing links, such as Archaeopteryx connecting dinosaurs and birds have been found, most of the gaps are still there. Darwinians, however, believe this is due to the earth’s violent and tempestuous history. Also research into fossil species tends to show that species do not show a gradual change but remain unchanged for millions of years and then suddenly disappear and are replaced by something different and clearly related. Species change very little over millions of years and then large numbers of different species can appear in the same space of time. This sudden diversity cannot come from natural selection because it would be too slow. The ‘jumpers’ believe that diversity does not come from gradual change within a species, but from a sudden production of new species from an existing one. But whether evolutionary jumps take 50,00 years or just a single generation, the new evolutionists need to explain how they occur and how they become established.
Their most popular theory is that evolution takes place in a small isolated group (about 10 members). Any genetic change is then passed rapidly through the group. Natural disasters could remove environmental competition allowing any beneficial mutations to become rapidly established.
Another explanation does not involve conventional mutations at all, but instead involves large-scale rearrangement of the chromosomes.
While the Galapagos finches would be difficult to explain in any way other than gradualism it would still take a large stretch of the imagination to suggest it is the sole source of some of the large-scale evolutionary leaps. It is also necessary to explain how life arose from non-living matter in the very beginning. Genetic change between one generation and the next is basically accidental in nature, but evolutionary change is adaptive not accidental. Although there are large numbers of changes most are harmful and only a few are beneficial. Natural selection allows these beneficial differences to be preserved and passed to future generations and so bring about evolutionary change. Divine creation and evolution are the two main theories for the origin of life, but there are others.
James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis (1968) states that the Earth and everything in it constitutes a single self regulating living entity, in which all living things interact to create ideal conditions for life to continue. The Earth’s biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere etc can be considered as separate organs each with its own specific function that form a complete self regulating complex system. Gaia hypothesises that life and its environment are co-evolutionary i.e. life influences the environment that in turn through Darwin’s natural selection influences the diversity of life to create a stable system which maintains the optimal conditions for life. It is argued that early photosynthetic bacteria altered the Earth’s atmosphere to one containing free oxygen and thus enabling more complicated life forms to evolve. The planet itself is considered alive and creatures may exist as symbionts such as mitochondria in a human cell or even parasites such as a virus in a bloodstream. All life is built from a common carbon base and this is recycled throughout the planet as is water its lifeblood, which is recycled and stored in lakes, rivers and oceans. The theory also suggests that organic processes are responsible for maintaining constant salinity in the oceans and a constant global surface temperature. Feedback loops are thought to control the environment keeping it within a narrow range of boundaries. Richard Dawkins opposes Gaia arguing that for animals to act in concert would require foresight and planning and another of the main arguments against Gaia theory is that there is no evidence that the Earth has reproduced. A basic criterion of a life form is that it can replicate and pass on genetic information to a succeeding generation and to be affected by natural selection. However, is it possible that bacteria knocked off the Earth in an asteroid collision could be carried through space on a comet to another habitable planet and seed new life creating a new Gaia which would be acted upon by natural selection for conditions for life on that planet. Life on Earth may even have begun this way as in Panspermia theory.
One extreme creation theory is that the universe is a numerical simulation in which the laws of physics are set out on a three-dimensional space-time grid with advances in time steps. i.e. there exists a universal supercomputer which is programmed to compute the way the universe evolves. This theory is based on the idea that the universe can be described by information and is, therefore, computable. It is argued that each quantum state is information and can be described by bits. Any change in state is a change in information and requires manipulation of bits. Thus it computes its own next state from its current one, but a weakness of the theory is describing how life fits in. One theory suggests that each life form’s brain is connected to the computer thereby receiving data from the computer, which in turn reacts to their desires and actions. In this way life interacts and takes part in a simulated universe, unaware that they are an artificial life from. Scientists argue that a computer simulation would put limits on, for instance, the energy that particles can have within the simulation that may be detectable. According to Michael Rundle in the Huffington Post, “A long proposed thought experiment put forward by both philosophers and popular culture, points out that any civilisation of sufficient size and intelligence would eventually create a simulation universe if such a thing were possible. And since there would be many more simulations (within simulations within simulations) than real universes, it is therefore more likely than not that our world is artificial”.
I’m not suggesting simulation theory is the case, but is there actually evidence of a ‘Divine Architect’. Most evolutionary biologists believe that living beings are merely nothing more than highly complex machines, but could Richard Dawkins and others be wrong and there actually be some truth in the ranting of the modern insane theologians. Kroitor insists, “Many people in the contemplation of nature and in communication with other living beings become aware of some kind of force, or something behind this apparent mask which we see in front of us and they call it God”. The universe contains regular laws and structures which manifest repeatedly in nature as beautiful mathematical forms of geometrical shape and design, fractals and spirals being some of the most common. A giant galaxy and a minute snail shell share essentially the same intricate spiral form. Does this evidence point to a wise and magical creator? It is now generally accepted that the universe began with the “Big Bang”, but what was there before it and could a creator be responsible? How did the creator come into being?
According to Jungian psychology each living entity in the universe has its own consciousness, but it is a commonly held belief that they are also part of a higher shared consciousness. One integrated theory of intelligence believes this universal mind was present at the time of the ‘Big Bang’ and permeates space-time. This consciousness has guided the evolutionary process ever since, its purpose being to create first life, greater complexity of life and then conscious thought. Consciousness is a means of interpreting one’s surroundings. To an animal that can’t visualise certain things they don’t exist to it in the same way they do to a human with a broader sense of consciousness. In the same way a cosmic consciousness has access to all realities, interpretations and memories and is at a higher level than human consciousness. The higher up the evolutionary tree the greater is the ability of an organism to interpret and understand its surroundings and its ability to manipulate its surroundings to its own advantage. Humans have now short-circuited evolution and have the ability to manipulate it to their own advantage, as well as controlling the planet and the environments of other creatures. In a similar way the cosmic consciousness can manipulate the universe’s Gaia-like worlds in nature to its own desires. This is done through the continual refinement of energies that are created as a kind of shadow from the higher consciousness and can clearly be seen in the remarkable mathematical patterns of nature. An analogy could be the way that light from the exterior can form perfect patterns of images on a photographic plate within a camera dark box. The remarkable patterns in the universe are formed from energies from a different level undetectable by our limited consciousness. Natural selection still plays a part in the process, but it is more as the role of an editor. A universal mind sees and stores memories of everything occurring in the universe. We see a tree because light carries a picture to our eye, which our brain interprets but these light rays travel on in all directions carrying this information in holographic form. What an abundance of information is out there if we could but see it. A universal consciousness would have access to all such information. Carl Jung was convinced that dreams, hallucinations and religious visions derived from this collective unconscious. Self-consciousness at even the subatomic level would be capable of facilitating the emergence of first life by interacting with matter-energy in space-time. This might be more plausible if we think of Victor Schauberger’s belief in ‘living water’ (activated or structured water). He believed that as well as being the blood of the Earth and carrying nourishment to all living things this water could act like an organism promoting its own self-purification and enhancing its own natural energies and health. The huge amount of inherent energy carried within the structure of the water creates the spirals and vortices that occur naturally in flowing streams and in cyclones in the air, both of which are formed according to nature’s geometrical laws. In the same way a healthy stream is enlivened and purified by the vortices and spirals it creates. Schauberger believed this energised water received imprints form its surroundings that were held within its structure like a memory and directly influenced its energetic properties. These imprints could include the cosmic consciousness that could have directly influenced the formation of first life in the ‘primeval soup, in this way. Thus there are different levels of consciousness – cosmic consciousness, then human consciousness, animal consciousness and an even lower consciousness of certain minerals and perhaps water. Interestingly the substance that carries the very code of life, DNA, is composed of thousands of units of four varieties of quite simple molecules called nucleosides, arranged in a double helix spiral which is very similar to the shapes epitomized by the fluid motion of living water.
A famous actor once proclaimed that, “There is no God, only art”. The universe truly is a fantastic world of geometrical designs and shapes ranging from the spiral of a galaxy, to the symmetry of a butterfly, to the fractal like form of a fern. It is a myriad of mathematical concepts, proportion, perspective, symmetry, ratios and patterns. Yet there is also a much loved saying, “If there is food on the table, then there’s a chef in the kitchen”. So does the “Divine Architect” really exist? If you do not believe some process of guided evolution is possible then you may as well abandon all the world’s major religions. Whether it would ever be possible to prove the existence of a divine creator who knows!