An important milestone in understanding the Origin of Life

Charles Darwin's famous Theory of Evolution gave us the theory of how a unicellular organism can evolve into complex creatures as humans, which was substantiated by monumental evidence since then. Before Darwin, people perplexed by the complexity of life took refuge in the intelligent design by a higher power as a reason for the complex life. Darwin's theory conclusively proved that an intelligent design is not necessary for the complexity to emerge.

The debates on life didn't end there. While Darwin could explain the evolution from unicellular organism to complex creatures, the question still remained - how did the first living organism get created from non-living material?

Several experiments have been conducted to explore this question, the famous one being the Miller-Urey experiment in the 1950s. In this experiment, Miller-Urey simulated the conditions of early earth and checked for the resulting chemical reaction. They reported the formation of amino acids, which are essential components for living cells. Several variations of this experiment have been conducted until now and the work is still in progress.

A new experiment by the researchers at the University of Cambridge sheds further light on the question of the origin of life from non-living material.

The unique insight of the theory behind the experiment is that UV light is essential for causing the chemical reactions that can lead to living cells. The carbon from meteorites hit the earth with Nitrogen causing a rain of Cyanide (CN). Hydrogen Cyanide in presence of UV light reacted with elements on earth to result in "building blocks of RNA".

They tested it as follows:

1. It turns out that the temperature of our Sun is in the appropriate range for the UV light emission. Many stars in the universe are too cold to emit UV light. This is a test for the availability of UV light in our solar system.

2. Researchers conducted two sets of experiments on Cyanide - one in the absence of UV light and the other in presence of UV light. The experiment conducted in the absence of UV light led to an inert compound while the one conducted in the presence of UV light yielded amino acids and nucleotides, which are essential building blocks of living cells.

These two findings suggest, there's a significant probability that early life has emerged through this mechanism.

The final test for this theory is to look for planetary systems whose star emits UV light, and further look for planets in those systems with water. If there's a trace of life in these planets, then we have a reasonable answer for the puzzle behind the emergence of life from non-living material.

There's an important lesson in this for us - As I argued in one of my earlier posts "The validity of God explanation", invoking God as a reason for things that we don't understand is not only logically invalid but also hinders the scientific progress. If everyone settled for the explanation that complex life is the result of human evolution, we wouldn't have had Darwin's Theory of evolution. Similarly, if we settle for the explanation that intelligent design is the reason for the emergence of life from non-living material, we wouldn't have had insights that the above experiment generated.

Explanations that invoke "intelligent design" as a reason behind things that we don't understand hinder our scientific progress. We all should be wary of this, before invoking such explanations.

Question Everything. Shed Dogma. Embrace Science.