July 22, 2024

Evolution Part 2: Life’s Origins


This archived article was written by: Nathaniel Woodward

Since humans began to write their thoughts several thousands of years ago, an important question continues to trouble us. “Where did I come from?” This is indeed an important question to ask. I aim to present this subject disregarding personal biases and the inevitable backlash it has always produced and to simply bare my scientific soul you. All philosophy aside, I ask my readers to examine this question, if only for a moment, from the eyes of science and evidence, then make the decision for themselves whether its proofs hold up.

In the beginning of Earth’s existence some 4.5 billion years ago, the planet was a lonely rock dotted with vast open spaces and containing an atmosphere made of almost entirely of hydrogen and helium. Elements began condensing such as ammonia, water vapor, carbon dioxide and nitrogen, giving birth to clouds, rain and oceans. Within these oceans and various bodies of water, hot vents from the Earth’s molten core provided the energy which in turn caused a mixture of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, phosphate and calcium we’ll call the “Primordial Soup” to form. All around these ancient hot tubs something inevitable happened; the first amino acids began to condense. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which when combined just right, in turn provide the building blocks for cells and eventually life.

I’ve come across an analogy which described this event as a, “tornado hitting a pile of garbage and a 747 jet popping out” or other similar nonsensical quips. Know that that understanding is categorically and methodically flawed. Experiments originally designed in 1953 by Stan Miller, which we can perform today, replicating those early conditions show amino acids condensing on their own within a week or .000000000029% of Earth’s total existence to date and if given time, will logically produce the same results as all those years ago.

So life not only was possible to form in these conditions, it was overwhelmingly probable which makes the probability of life on other planets entirely likely. I can only provide you with so many examples in my short column, so I implore all of you to seek more examples of these evidences in writings, research, whatever reliable source you may come upon and make the decision yourself.
With amino acids and proteins forming, the first membranes that surround the cells, followed by specialized organelles which copied RNA, then DNA, the building code for all life. DNA is the common link between all living things. In a sense, it’s a detailed family tree of all our origins. I understand it is difficult to stomach human relationships with other organisms, how we descended from ancestral great apes, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, worms, single-celled organisms and bacteria, but the proof lies within each of your 80 trillion cells.

In my experience, as I hike through our local mountain ranges and brush against trees with whom I share a common ancestor, I find my ancient relationship with these cousins an incredibly spiritual experience.

These are our best theories supported by the evidence we collected. I remind you that science works on the frontier between knowledge and ignorance. We’re not afraid to admit what we don’t know, there’s nothing wrong with that. The only fallacy is to pretend we have all the answers. Perhaps someone reading this will be the one to discover the answers to all those unanswered questions.

As I stare into the skies at night holding my little girl on my lap, she points upwards and names the stars with her own imagination, pointing to ones she finds particularly fascinating, that imagination is what drives me to understand the cosmos around me and of the origins of life. I can’t help but wonder in amazement if near one of her special stars is another father holding his little girl asking the same questions. “Nothing is too wonderful to be true if it be consistent with the laws of nature.”- Michael Faraday. Reach for the stars my friends.