“I am quite conscious that my speculations run beyond
the bounds of true science.” 1
Charles Robert Darwin
Two years before the publication of The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin wrote to Asa Gray admitting that in the absence of supporting evidence one’s “imagination must fill up the very wide blanks.” 2
But even Darwin’s innovative mind never came close to filling the gaps in his imaginings or grasping the complex rhythm of the simplest living cell.
Primitive wisdom envisioned cells as little more than infinitesimal pieces of cytoplasm, “a relatively disappointing spectacle appearing only as an ever-changing and apparently disordered pattern of blobs and particles.” 3
Lacking access to electricity or the magic of the electron microscope, and presumably without knowledge of the genetic information revealed in Mendel’s garden, Darwin crafted an idea that has been patched-up and presented to today’s world as the Modern Synthetic Theory of Evolution.
Blind to his ignorance of cell composition and unaware of the typical prokaryote cell’s complexity with its nucleus, DNA, proteins and cell wall, Darwin imagined, incorrectly, that physical traits, acquired by use or disuse, could be transferred genetically to offspring.
Lacking the first clue as to the what, how, when, and where a coincidence of nature activated first life, Darwin conceded, “Science as yet throws no light on the far higher problem of the essence or origin of life.” 4 This nagging lack of a rational naturalistic explanation for the origin of first life emerging spontaneously from non-living matter, stretched beyond anything his mind could conjure-up.
The best the naturalist could do to explain this “far higher problem” was to side-step the obvious incongruity and the inadequacy of the non-explanation. Undeterred, he chose to plunge ahead, rocking the 19th century world by releasing his 1859 edition of Origin of Species.
Darwin, the naturalist, never claimed microbiologist credentials. But his instincts warned him of the unresolved design dilemma. Baffled by the lack of a viable scientific explanation for the sudden appearance of first life, he likely struggled with the implications inherent in his hypothesis.
Without that first-ever living cell making its début, Darwin’s Origin of Species dream of evolving branches on a “tree of life” would be stranded rootless with no chance to grow—even in several billion years. Attempting to build the chance hypothesis on the assumption that life created itself from nonlife makes no more sense than constructing a skyscraper anchored, without pilings, on a seashore of unstable, shifting sand—its only a matter of time before a tidal wave of fact will tilt and eventually topple the tipsy tower.
Building on the assumption first life had somehow created itself from non-living matter, he conjectured that an original simple cell had been the ancestor to all complex animal and plant life forms that ever lived on earth. Natural selection supposedly picked the superior genetic traits that enabled the simple to transit life kinds to the complex given mega chunks of deep time.
After publication of Origin of Species, Darwin admitted to second thoughts. Writing to his American friend, Harvard botanist Asa Gray, Darwin dropped a verbal bombshell. After proposing a theory built on “chance,” evolution’s big gun confessed to finding his thinking a “hopeless muddle.”
“I am conscious that I am in an utterly hopeless muddle. I cannot think that the world, as we see it, is the result of chance, and yet I cannot look at each separate thing as the result of Design.” 5
What he viewed as an “utterly hopeless muddle” remained an unresolved enigma throughout his lifetime. With reason, the naturalist ranked his grand scheme as “a mere rag of an hypothesis with as many flaw[s] & holes as sound parts.” 6
Instincts warned him that his theory faced confrontation with scientific reality. Before his 1882 death, he confessed in a burst of candor, “I am quite conscious that my speculations run beyond the bounds of true science.” 7
But he never lived long enough to see what century 21 had in store.
Darwin’s wanderings in a dark, intellectual wilderness offered latitude for gross error. Evolution’s premise, built on life from non-life, is more than a dilemma—intellectually it’s catastrophic. Neither design by chance nor fantasy can pass muster as true science.
Charles Darwin imagined, that given enough time, descendants of a “mother cell” would evolve gradually, eventually replacing the ancestor life form with increasingly complex life forms.
Undeterred by lack of verifiable scientific evidence explaining the origin of first life, and relying on his own “warm little pond” 8 scenario—Darwin plunged ahead with his grand scheme alleging every diversified plant and animal life form on earth shared common ancestry with some unidentified, first-ever, mother cell.
In his initial, ardent fervor to illustrate this extravagant notion, Darwin postulated that given time, a bear might evolve into a marine mammal “as monstrous as a whale.” 9 This land animal-to-ocean-going-whale fiction appeared as a figment of Darwin’s fertile imagination in the first edition of his Origin of Species.
This is an excerpt from a chapter of the 2016 Edition
of “Three Days Before the Sun”, now available
from leading online retailers.