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The beginnings of life on Earth

The beginnings of life on Earth

The origin of life is unknown, though speculation abounds. 


For thousands of years philosophers, scientists, and theologians have argued that Earthly life comes from non-life. This belief has been part of Catholic Church dogma since the 4th century (Augustine, 1957).


Although known by many names (e.g. vitalism, spontaneous generation, the organic soup, abiogenesis), claims as to the abiogenic origins of Earthly life are based on belief in super natural forces and are firmly rooted in the Jewish-Christian Bible, Genesis, Chapter 1: "And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so."

Thus, according to the early Church Fathers, god gave the Earth special life giving powers for spontaneously generating plants and animals: "The earth is said then to have produced grass and trees causaly, that is, to have received the power of producing" (Augustine, 1957).

Certainly, if given billions of years of time where all the essential ingredients and conditions are present, it is possible life may have begun in a nebular cloud or on an ancient world whose chemistry is different from Earth (Joseph and Schild 2010a,b).

However, there is no evidence to support the belief that life on Earth originated from non-life. Given the complexity of a single-celled organism and its DNA, the likelihood that life on Earth began in an organic soup is the equivalent of discovering a computer on Mars and claiming it was randomly assembled in the methane sea.

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