Post n. 13 (English)
Looking for the meaning of life, Paul Davies in his essay, "Da dove viene la vita” 2000, argues: «Of course, Darwinian evolution can operate only if life exists in some form (strictly speaking, it’s not necessary to have life in all its splendour, but only a duplication, variation and selection). Darwinism cannot offer any help to explain that first crucial step: the origin of life. But if the central theory of life is not able to explain the origin, we are faced with a serious problem».
So according to Davies we have a problem. But whose problem is it?
Now days, Darwin's theory and its development is based on three fundamental facts:
1) More individuals are born than can possibly survive.
2) The individuals are not all equal but they present random variations (not in a finalized form).
3) Natural selection: the individual that presents the most suitable variation in a given environment survives.
In reference to the theories on the origin of life, Paul Davies adds (quoted work): «All theories share the same idea: once the life was born, in any form, the rest came by itself, and therefore the Darwinian evolution could take place. Therefore, it is natural that scientists seek to appeal to Darwinism from the very first stage of the history of life: with its entry into the field, huge improvements are possible only where the driving force is chance and selection».
Attempts to tie a theory of the origin of life with Darwinism concerned, essentially points two and three, namely: the chance and natural selection. These efforts, as we have seen in previous articles, have failed miserably.
The chance has become a myth, or to use the expression of Paul Davies "the magic word", which scientists use to hide under the blanket of Darwin.
Natural selection also extended to the molecules was a failed attempt of the supporters of the "RNAWorld”, to extend Darwinian evolution to the origin of life.
To answer the question the first fundamental fact is has to be considered:
-More individuals are born than can possibly survive.
It is possible that there is at least one link between this basic fact of the theory of Darwin and the origin of life?
In examining the structure of the Darwinian theory Mario Ageno in "Le radici della biologia" 1986, he states: «We can now conclude our brief critical analysis of some fundamental concepts of Darwinian theory. A few stretch marks of the ordinary setting of the theory emerged from it, which can be summarized as follows: "[...] .The theory states, without trying in any way to justify existence, for any living population with excess of reproductive capacity, which is the "driving force" of any evolutionary process. [...]»
So, Darwin does not justify the "driving force" of his theory.
The question is also raised by S.J. Gould and Elisabeth S. Vrba in "Exaptation" 2008, when they said: «In the Darwinian theory, evolutionary change is the product of the differential success, the different rates of birth and mortality between organisms within a population. As such, it is a simple representation of differentials in population and does not contain any statement on the causes of the phenomenon».
Ernst Mayr in "L’unicità della biologia" 2005, after highlighting that biology is divided into two sectors, mechanistic biology (or functional) and the historical or evolutionary biology, says: "However, the question that the functional biology often asked is "how", as in evolutionary biology the most common question is "why". "
And so, more individuals are born than can possibly survive. Why?
Niels Eldredge in the essay "Ripensare Darwin" 2008, after having found that in every generation, more organisms are born than can survive and reproduce remembers what George Williams wrote in "Adaptation and natural selection",
1966: «The selection, in Williams’s judgement, does not tell future developments
- has no way to recognize what might be the best for the survival of the
Maynard Smith in "La teoria dell’evoluzione" 1976, does not seem to share this opinion, but does not directly address the question. However, he brought back one of Lack’s works on the number of eggs laid by herrings (thousands) and other fish and concludes: "One might conclude that, in view of high larval mortality, it is necessary that the herring lay a large number of eggs in order for the species to survive. This is quite true [...]. "
Mario Ageno is of the same thought when he says (quoted work): "The first fact to highlight is the excess of reproductive potential that every type of organism has. It is clear that (taking also account of the inevitable possibility of occasional accidents, which result in the elimination of populations), in order not to become extinct, each population must be able to generate a number of children on average more than one to the parents. "
SJ Gould and Elisabeth Vrba have indeed raised the issue but did not express any opinion.
Even Niels Eldredge does not explain well his opinion on the issue. But he, in "Ripensare Darwin" 2008, still states notations of George Williams (in his opinion one of the most rigid defenders of Darwinian tradition): «Williams, kept repeating that the selection cannot “predict” the future, he stated with motives - is not possible that organisms reproduce in order to perpetuate the population or species which they belong to. Natural selection cannot know in any way what is in hold for the species as time passes». Eldredge shares the thought of Williams but disagrees with the conclusions when Williams writes: «The purpose of the reproduction of an individual is [...] to maximize the performance of the genetic material of its germ cells, compared to that of other members of the same population».
So, summarizing, why are more individuals born than can possibly survive?
Darwin gives no justification, Williams says that evolution cannot know the future, Maynard Smith and Mario Ageno think it is for the survival of the species, Niels Eldredge denies them sharing the assertion that the selection of Williams cannot predict the future, S.J Gould and Elisabeth Vrba are silent and other evolutionists kept away from the topic.
In conclusion, the matter remains unresolved.
Referring to more general problems, Eldredge (quoted work), writes: «I agree with George Williams when he says that the scientific problems are not so much resolved as much as are abandoned in favour of some new set of issues that come to absorb the interest of a discipline».
Here it seems to be in the presence of an abandoned problem. But the abandoned things belong to everyone and we have something to say on the issue. Philosophers and theologians must be patient this time.
Given that evolution is not finalized, and has no purposes.
So, why are more individuals born than can possibly survive?
Actually, before you ask the question "why" of this basic fact of Darwin's theory, we must first ask why animals have children? Why all living organisms give origin to descendants? Why are individuals born? Only then, one can ask: why more individuals are born than can possibly survive?
And then why do all living organisms give life to descendants?
Why are individuals born?
Therefore, it is clear that this is not the same "instinct" that Darwin discusses in Chapter 7, as he himself says: «I must start by saying that I do not study the origin of the first psychic faculties, more than I study life itself. Here we are interested only the differences of the instincts and other mental faculties of animals of the same class. I will not try to define the instinct».
How to define the instinct to give birth to an offspring?
So, appeared the first cells.
Some surely were not able to give origin to a descend, but then they were not “life” and therefore become extinct; without duplication no life.
Some cells have given origin to offspring, but then the origin of life and instinct to produce offspring are simultaneous, when the offspring appears so does life. If you start building a house it’s only the beginning, but the house is home when it is habitable. Although life had a beginning, but life is life when creates life. In short, there is not an instinct to give life to descendants separate from the origin of life, as something that came later. Origin of life and offspring are the products, of the same biochemical structure. Ultimately, the biochemical structure that gave origin to life, has not stopped, it continues to give origin to life: the offspring.
And why are more individuals born than can possibly survive?
It is something that is innate, is an instinct.
Four billion years ago, the young Earth was still plagued by cometary impacts, volcanic eruptions and was inhospitable. If life had originated only once with a single cell, it could hardly overcome the many vicissitudes which it would be subject to. Life must have had multiple sources. And even then, with reproduction failures and the presence of predators, it must have gone through a hard struggle for existence and a competition for the available supplies.
To survive an everyday life, they had to be so many. Therefore, subjected to natural selection, only the organisms that gave life to more individuals than can survive won the struggle for existence. But then, giving origin to more individuals than can survive, which for brevity can be defined instinct for existence, was already in the biochemical structure of the bodies that have won the struggle for existence. The organisms have been subjected to natural selection, but there was no Darwinian process. The instinct for existence has been shaped by evolution, but it was there already, it’s contained in the original biochemical structure, it is present in all living organisms from the beginning of life. In short, you cannot separate the instinct to give birth to more offspring than can survive separate from the origin of life, as something that came later. Origin of life, to give origin to individuals, and give origin to more individuals than can survive are the product of the same biochemical structure. Ultimately, the biochemical structure that gave origin to life, has not stopped, it continues to give origin to life: offspring, and more offspring than can survive.
There was no evolution process, Darwin comes later.
Darwinism, as writes Paul Davies, cannot offer any help to explain that first crucial step: the origin of life.
It turns out, however, that the term "origin of life" must include origin of the first cells, suitable to give birth to offspring and give more offspring than can survive. The biochemical structure of such set must have been a very complex structure.
Still according to Davies: if the central theory of life is not able to explain the origin, we are faced with a serious problem.
But whose problem is it?
Certainly not Darwin’s whose basic facts of his theory have been widely demonstrated. But if there it’s not Darwin’s then the problem is ours, definitely, the problem is we.
We are stuck inside two straitjacket from which we cannot free ourselves; on the one hand, the stubbornness not wanting to admit, despite it being widely demonstrated that there is no connection between Darwinism and the origin of life. But we continue coming up with the contrary, a random event or the "RNA World. On the other hand, the attempts of a chemical-physical explanation, in the research of laws of complexity and auto-reproduction that probably may not exist.
From the known simple substances, we may perhaps be able to explain the origin of proteins, the origin of the nucleicacid, including the formation of a complex system. But we expect that the properties of the complex system can be associated with laws; and instead the complex system presents concepts to us.
So, if we try to understand how life originated we must free ourselves from these straitjackets.
It is now common knowledge among scientists the fact that the cell is not a complex mechanical reproduction system.
According to Edward Boncinelli, "La scienza non ha bisogno di Dio" 2010, for living beings we are mostly amazed by the movement: «Many of these movements are designed to achieve a goal. In fact, another feature typical of most of living beings is just their intention: they seem to us to want to do something and strive to fulfil it. [...]: The intention appears on earth with life as well as with many of its internal motions appeared to function» He further states: «To have an intention you must have a central nervous system, however simple, whereas to have a function a central nervous system isn’t absolutely essential»
The neuroscientist Antonio Damasio in "Il Sè viene alla mente" 2012, goes beyond the need for a central nervous system.
He first defines homeostasis, present in all living organisms, for all operations to procure energy sources, incorporate, transform and eliminate waste. Its function is to maintain the chemical parameters of the organism (the internal milieu) within that magical range compatible with life. Damasio shows how life appeared 3.8 billion years and that bacteria, with their simple and not nucleated cells, were the uncontested rulers of the planet; only after two billion years eukaryotic cells, cells with a nucleus, appeared through endosymbiosis. While the bacteria need to live in colonies, eukaryotic cells, which are also multicellular organisms, could survive even individually. In reference to the eukaryotic cell, he argues: «However simple they were and still are, the individual cells had what looked like a firm and unwavering determination to stay alive as long as the genes inside the microscopic nucleus ordered them to do so. The government of their lives included a stubborn insistence to persist, resist and prevail until some genes in the nucleus had not suspended the will to live, allowing them to die.
It is difficult - I know - to imagine the concepts
of desire and will be
in a single cell. How can attitudes and intentions -which we associate with the
human mind and we sense to be the result of the mechanisms of the great human brain-,
be present at a level
so simple? Yet, those specific aspects of
cell behaviour are present –are there- however you choose to call them. The
single cell - with no consciousness and no access to sophisticated devices of
choice available in our brains -seems to express an attitude: it wants to live
life to the fullest prescribed by its genes. The will and all that is necessary
to achieve the goal, precedes the
explicit knowledge of the living conditions, in both the reflecting) thoughts, because the single cell has neither the one nor the other.
Moment after moment, the nucleus and the cytoplasm, tackle the problems posed
by the living conditions and adapt the cell to the contingent situation, so
that it can survive. According to the conditions of the ambiance, they rearrange and redistribute the molecules inside them and modify
the shape of under components demonstrating amazing accuracy».
Now, the origin of life must have been definitely an emergency. The emergency must be understood in the sense given by Ernst Mayr (quoted work): «The appearance of unexpected characteristics in complex systems». «The system does not enclose any kind of metaphysics». «Often in complex systems properties that are not obvious appear (or can’t be expected) even knowing the individual components of these systems».
In fact, this is true even for simple systems. The water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen. Knowing the properties of these two gases, no one can predict the properties of water. And this is true for all chemical compounds. But we managed to associate with laws the properties of simple systems and their transformations. On the other hand, complex systems that produce life don’t have specific properties but to communicate through concepts.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to form a single complex system, at a go: that is, a biochemical structure that embodies the origin of life (meaning the origin of the first cells capable of giving life to offspring and give more offspring than can survive). If it was emergency, it had to consist of various thresholds, such as a ladder at each step a new threshold, and for each threshold a biochemical structure slightly different and a bit more complex.
If the single eukaryotic cell expresses intentionality, which concept does the bacterial cell expresses and which concept expresses the first biochemical structure that pushed emergency to climb the ladder of life?
When, starting from data and facts and proceeding towards a possible theory of the origin of life, we will meet the systems for which the laws of chemistry are no longer of any help, there is where the emergency may have originated. That, perhaps, is the first step where life begins and where chemistry becomes biology.
Translated by: Sydney Isaiah Lukee