Is the Origin of Life Part of the Evolution Discussion?
by Lenny Esposito
Whenever the subject of evolution comes up, you can usually find a lot of fuzziness in the arguments. As I and many others have noted before, the word “evolution” is itself a very slippery term, that can be used much like Silly Putty—shaped and molded to fit the interlocutor’s need. Because of this, I usually like to avoid the term for serious dialogue and instead label the discussion as the fairly precise neo-Darwinian synthesis (which is a mouthful!) or the even more precise blind-watchmaker hypothesis. This latter term points specifically to Richard Dawkins’ model outlined in his book The Blind Watchmaker.
However, even here there can be stumbling blocks. Take for example the problem of abiogenesis. I see many of those supporting the blind watchmaker model object when the discussion starts to focus on the origin of life. Here’s a recent example:
Here’s the thing, Lenny: if you don’t even know what evolution is, what business do you have arguing against it? You’re confusing your own concepts! Macroevolution would be change at or above the species level. You’re talking about abiogenesis, which is a separate theory from the theory of evolution.
In one sense, the objector is right – Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species doesn’t address the creation of life from non-living material. He specifically focuses on the variations of species we see today from a common ancestor. However, in the public sphere and even within scientific circles, I think this objection is disingenuous. There are two primary reasons for this: 1) those supporting evolutionary theory lump abiogenesis into their discussions and 2) descent with modification can’t get started until life exists…
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