Did Life Originate on Earth or in the Cosmos? Part 2


In last week’s post, “Did Life Originate on Earth or in the Cosmos? Part 1,” I described how an international, interdisciplinary team of 33 scientists exposed the shortcomings of an Earth-based naturalistic model for the origin and 3.8-billion-year history of life on Earth. In this week’s sequel, I will describe the strengths and shortcomings of what the team proposes to be the only naturalistic alternative to an Earth-based origin and history of life.

Cometary (Cosmic) Biology
Much of the team’s 21-page paper is an update on the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe (H-W) panspermia model. Astronomer Fred Hoyle (1915–2001) was the founder of the modern theory of panspermia. Mathematician and astronomer Chandra Wickramasinghe joined Hoyle in the 1970s and produced spectra demonstrating that interstellar dust is richly endowed with carbonaceous molecules.

The thesis of the H-W panspermia model holds that life was seeded on Earth by life-bearing comets as soon as conditions on Earth permitted life to survive. The model further states that comets have—both continuously and in sporadic bursts—delivered genes, viruses, bacteria, eukaryotic cells, and even fertilized ova and seeds to Earth throughout the past four billion years. Therefore, according to the model, such continuous delivery explains the evolution of life on Earth, including the emergence of human beings, pandemics, epidemics, and new diseases.

A core feature of the H-W model is that the entire Milky Way Galaxy, and perhaps the entire Local Group of galaxies, constitutes a single interconnected biosphere. The 33 researchers assert as a “modern fact” that “hundreds of billions of habitable planets exist in the galaxy alone.”1 Consequently, they conclude that “exchanges of biotic material between adjacent planets and therefore a single connected biosphere appears inevitable.”2 To get the time needed for abiogenesis (the naturalistic origin of life from nonliving matter), the 33 appeal to the Hoyle-Burbidge-Narlikar quasi-steady state model for the universe.3 With this cosmic model, the 33 avow, “infinite time provides all the time needed for abiogenesis by trial-and-error elimination in trillions of warm-little ponds throughout the Cosmos.”4 In this view, biology becomes timeless.

In support of their cometary (cosmic) biology, the team cited research showing that the infrared spectra of dust in the interstellar molecular cloud, GC-IRS7, located near the center of our galaxy, yields a similar match to the laboratory spectra of a mixture of semi-bituminous coals and desiccated E. coli bacteria.5 This “match,” the team concluded, stands as evidence that life is ubiquitous throughout our galaxy and likely other galaxies as well.

Avalon and Cambrian Explosions
The team noted that the Cambrian explosion was “a sudden emergence of essentially all the genes that subsequently came to be rearranged into an exceedingly wide range of multi-celled life forms.”6 They argued that copying errors (mutations) of existing genes cannot produce new genes with functional utility in the same manner that errors generated in copying a computer code will not lead to new software capabilities but rather to serious degradation in the computer code.7

They conclude, therefore, that the new genes that appeared in the Cambrian explosion “must logically be supplied by the ingress of extraterrestrial virions [viruses] and other microorganisms.”8 Specifically, the researchers claim that at the time of the Cambrian explosion, comets brought an intense rain of retroviruses upon Earth’s surface. These retroviruses, in combination with horizontal gene transfer, they aver, were responsible for the sudden, simultaneous appearance of new phyla and classes of life that mark the Cambrian explosion.

According to the 33, comets have been raining retroviruses on Earth throughout its history. Not until the time of the Cambrian explosion, however, were conditions on Earth’s surface conducive to the survival of complex multi-celled life-forms that retroviruses and horizontal gene transfer would have generated.

Case against Panspermia
The panspermia hypothesis is founded on the assumption that life exists throughout our galaxy and likely throughout the entire universe. The assertion as “modern fact” by the researchers that “hundreds of billions of habitable planets exist in the galaxy alone” is based on two assumptions: (1) the only requirement for habitability is that a planet could conceivably possess liquid water on part of its surface for part of its history, and (2) all red dwarf stars, which comprise at least 75% of the stars in our galaxy, are candidates to host habitable planets.

I have written several articles explaining why red dwarf stars cannot possibly host habitable planets,9 and I provide a more thorough demonstration in my next book, Designed to the Core.10 Furthermore, the 33 researchers are incorrect in assuming that temporal liquid water on a planet is the only habitability requirement. For a planet or moon to be truly habitable it must simultaneously reside in all 13 known planetary habitable zones.11 The planet or moon also must simultaneously reside in the known galactic and supergalactic habitable zones.12 For just the habitable zones discovered so far, the probability of a planet or moon residing in all of them, without invoking miraculous divine intervention, is indistinguishable from zero. Furthermore, habitability requires a planet-moon system nearly identical to the Earth-Moon system, both in its origin and its physical characteristics.13

The researchers assume that viruses, genes, microbes, ova, and seeds can survive long—in both distance and duration—traverses of interstellar space. In the book Origins of Life, which I coauthored with Fazale Rana, I described astronomical observations and studies that definitively ruled out the possible naturalistic transport of intact proteins, DNA, and RNA across interstellar space, let alone the transport of intact viruses, genes, and microbes.14

The appeal to the quasi-steady state universe model to obtain the time needed for a naturalistic origin of life fails for several reasons. One, the model fundamentally depends on accreting supermassive black holes as not being the explanation for quasars and active galactic nuclei. Today, the astronomical evidence for accreting supermassive black holes explaining the energy output and characteristic features of quasars and active galactic nuclei is overwhelming.15

Two, the model fundamentally depends on rejecting the cosmological nature of the redshifts of galaxies and quasars—that these redshifts are explained by the expansion of the universe. Direct distance measurements, based on Newton’s laws of motion and plane geometry theorems, out to galaxies as distant as 470 million light-years affirm that cosmic expansion explains the totality of the measured redshifts.16

And three, the model rejects the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) as evidence for a big bang creation event only 13.8 billion years ago. The rejection is based on attributing the CMBR to large, ubiquitous quantities of intergalactic dust. However, measurements place intergalactic dust quantity at only about a hundredth the minimum amount needed by the quasi-steady state cosmic model.17 For a review of other failures of the quasi-steady state cosmic model see my book The Creator and the Cosmos.18

As proof for their cometary (cosmic) biology model, the researchers claim that spectra of interstellar dust match the spectra of a mixture of semi-bituminous coals and desiccated E. coli bacteria. This “match,” the team concluded, stands as evidence that life is ubiquitous throughout our galaxy and likely other galaxies as well. But the team failed to acknowledge that astronomers are unable to distinguish the spectra of dozens of simple carbonaceous molecules found in many interstellar molecular clouds from the laboratory spectra of desiccated bacteria or a mixture of coals and bacteria. Spectra of interstellar molecular clouds only show that about 135 different carbonaceous molecules are present in these clouds at low abundance levels (a few parts per million per molecule or less). Even at abundance levels below 1 part per billion, astronomers have yet to detect any amino acids, nucleobases, or 5- or 6-carbon sugars. That is, not even the “building blocks of the building blocks” of life molecules are present in interstellar space at anything close to the needed abundance levels.19

What’s Left?
The most important scientific contribution the researchers made was to show—beyond any reasonable doubt—the impossibility of a naturalistic origin of life on Earth. They also demonstrated that a naturalistic, Earth-based progression of life from bacteria to large-bodied animals to humans is not possible. They correctly discern that the only naturalistic alternative to the origin and development of life on Earth is their panspermia model of cometary (cosmic) biology. However, their naturalistic model is no more viable than the naturalistic models they proved intractable.

The 33 researchers and the origin of life and evolutionary biologists they critiqued both seemed to ignore the one model for life’s origin and history that is compatible with all the astronomical, geological, biochemical, paleontological, and genetic data. That model is the biblical model for the creation and history of Earth’s life. In this model, the Causal Agent who created the universe of matter, energy, space, and time—as affirmed by the space-time theorems20—in a similar matter supernaturally created Earth’s first life. And on many occasions thereafter, he supernaturally intervened to introduce new life-forms to gradually prepare Earth and its life for God’s ultimate terrestrial creation: human beings.

In the biblical creation model, to achieve his ultimate purposes, God complements the natural processes he established with perfectly timed and placed supernatural interventions. The scientific enterprise flourishes best when it is not close-minded. What the 33 researchers unknowingly demonstrated is that just as a strictly supernatural perspective on the universe, Earth, and Earth’s life can stultify scientific advance, likewise, a strictly natural perspective on the universe, Earth, and Earth’s life stultifies the advance of scientific knowledge and understanding.

Reading the 21-page paper reminded me of what I witnessed toward the end of the last day of the 1999 International Conference on the Origin of Life/International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life Conference. A scientist came to the Q&A/comment microphone to tell the assembled origin-of-life researchers that during the conference various speakers had ruled out Earth, Mars, the other solar system bodies, and panspermia as possible explanations for the origin of life. The only possible explanation that remained, the scientist asserted, was directed panspermia—aliens must have come in spaceships and deposited life on Earth. This scientist’s conclusion was met with dead silence.

As researchers were leaving the conference, I had the opportunity, though, to say to a few of them that the scientist’s conclusion was close to the right answer. Life was brought to Earth by an “alien.” This alien is a Being beyond space and time who has made himself known to humans and who desires to deliver willing humans from their sin and to bring them into an eternal, loving relationship with him.

Endnotes

  1. Edward J. Steele et al., “Cause of Cambrian Explosion—Terrestrial or Cosmic?” Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology 136 (August 2018): 18, doi:10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2018.03.004.
  2. Steele et al., “Cause of Cambrian Explosion,” 18.
  3. Fred Hoyle, Geoffrey Burbidge, and Jayant V. Narlikar, A Different Approach to Cosmology: From a Static Universe through the Big Bang towards Reality (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000).
  4. Steele et al., “Cause of Cambrian Explosion,” 18.
  5. S. G. Coulson and N. C. Wickramasinghe, “IR Spectrometry of Coals,” in Frontiers of Life, Proceedings of the XIIth Recontres de Blois, edited by L. M. Ceinikier and J. Tran Thanh Van (2000): 233–236.
  6. Steele et al., “Cause of Cambrian Explosion,” 15.
  7. Fred Hoyle and N. Chandra Wickramasinghe, Evolution from Space: A Theory of Cosmic Creationism (London: J. M. Dent, 1981); Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, Why Neo-Darwinism Does Not Work (Cardiff, UK: University College Cardiff Press, 1982).
  8. Steele et al., “Cause of Cambrian Explosion,” 15.
  9. Hugh Ross, “Red Sky Paradox Points to Rarity of Earth’s Life,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, August 23, 2021; Ross, “Inhabitability of Planets Orbiting Red Dwarfs,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, July 30, 2017; Ross, “Flares Challenge Habitability of Bodies beyond Earth,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, November 13, 2017; Ross, “Tiny Habitable Zones for Complex Life,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, March 4, 2019; Ross, “Grip of Tidal Locking Challenges ‘Habitable’ Planets,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, August 27, 2017; Ross, “‘Electric Wind’ Becomes 9th Habitable Zone,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, July 4, 2016; Hugh Ross, Designed to the Core (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2022).
  10. Ross, Designed to the Core.
  11. Hugh Ross, “Earth-Moon Coupled Magnetosphere Paved the Way for Life,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, September 20, 2021; Ross, “Moon’s Early Magnetic Field Made Human Existence Possible,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, November 16, 2020; Ross, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Global Cooling and Planet Habitability,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, December 9, 2019; Ross, “Long-Term Habitability Requires a Sun-Earth Twin,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, August 8, 2016; Ross, “Tiny Habitable Zones”; Ross, “Complex Life’s Narrow Requirements for Atmospheric Gases,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, July 1, 2019.
  12. Hugh Ross, “Does Science Say We’re Alone in the Universe?Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, May 9, 2022; Ross, “Life Requires Galactic and Supergalactic Habitable Zones,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, April 8, 2019.
  13. James Green et al., “When the Moon Had a Magnetosphere,” Science Advances 6, no. 42 (October 14, 2020): id. eabc0865, doi:10.1126/sciadv.abc0865; Ross, “Moon’s Early Magnetic Field,” Ross, “Earth-Moon Coupled Magnetosphere.”
  14. Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross, Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2014), 206–209.
  15. Hugh Ross, “Black Holes As Evidence of God’s Care,” Religions 12, no. 3 (March 18, 2021): id. 201, doi:10.3390/rel12030201; Hugh Ross, “No Nearby Nasty Supermassive Black Holes,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, May 13, 2019; Ross, “A Supermassive Black Hole Like No Other, But Optimal for Life,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, May 20, 2019; Ross, “Black Hole Discovery Yields More Evidence of Cosmic Design,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, August 30, 2021.
  16. C. Y. Kuo et al., “The Megamaser Cosmology Project. V. An Angular-Diameter Distance to NGC 6264 at 140 Mpc,” Astrophysical Journal 767, no. 2 (April 20, 2013): id. 155, doi:10.1088/0004-637X/767/2/155; J. A. Braatz et al., “The Megamaser Cosmology Project. II. The Angular-Diameter Distance to UGC 3789,” Astrophysical Journal 718, no. 2 (August 1, 2010): 657–665, doi:10.1088/0004-637X/718/2/657; J. R. Herrnstein et al., “A Geometric Distance to the Galaxy NGC4258 from Orbital Motions in a Nuclear Gas Disk,” Nature 400 (August 5, 1999): 539–541, doi:10.1038/22972; A. L. Argon et al., “Toward a New Geometric Distance to the Active Galaxy NGC 4258. I. VLBI Monitoring of Water Maser Emission,” Astrophysical Journal 659, no. 2 (April 20, 2007): 1040–1062, doi:10.1086/512718.
  17. Cameron Thacker et al., “H-ATLAS: The Cosmic Abundance of Dust from the Far-Infrared Background Power Spectrum,” Astrophysical Journal 768, no. 1 (April 15, 2013): id. 58, doi:10.1088/0004-637X/768/1/58.
  18. Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Latest Scientific Discoveries Reveal God, 4th ed. (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2018), 90–95.
  19. Anthony J. Remijan et al., “A Survey of Large Molecules toward the Proto-Planetary Nebula CRL 618,” Astrophysical Journal 626, no. 1 (June 10, 2005): 233–244, doi:10.1086/429750; L. E. Synder et al., “A Rigorous Attempt to Verify Interstellar Glycine,” Astrophysical Journal 619, no. 2 (February 1, 2005): 914–930, doi:10.1086/426677; Yi-Jehng Kuan et al., “A Search for Interstellar Pyrimidine,” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 345, no. 2 (October 21, 2003): 650–656, doi:10.1046/j.1365-8711.2003.06975.x; Hugh Ross, “No Prebiotics in Proto-Planetary Nebulae,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, August 7, 2005.
  20. Arvind Borde, Alan H. Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin, “Inflationary Spacetimes Are Incomplete in Past Directions,” Physical Review Letters 90 (April 15, 2003): id. 151301, doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.90.151031; Ross, Creator and the Cosmos, 111–122.

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