The origin of life is a heavily debated topic in society nowadays with many possible theories being presented, a large variety of opinions, and nobody knowing the definite answer. Scientists explain that human life as we know it today has evolved over billions of years from a minuscule organism in the ocean. However, the Christian religion dictates that God is the most viable explanation.
In science, evolution is understood to be the idea or theory that all the different kinds of living things present in our modern world have developed (evolved) form earlier types. Over time the basic species grew, changed, and mutated which created the large array of different species on planet earth. This theory of how species developed is credited to Charles Darwin who also presented the idea of natural selection (survival of the fittest).
Natural selection is believed to be the process by which organisms adapt to their surroundings or environment to ensure greater chances of survival and produce a greater number of offspring. It was coined survival of the fittest as any organisms with mutations (weaknesses) that hindered their abilities would have a more difficult time living in a the highly competitive environment.
Factors affecting the random mutations of a species can, in many cases, be directly linked back to their surroundings. Genetic variation plays a key role in ensuring the effectiveness of natural selection. As the “strongest” organisms reproduce with one another their genes are passed on to offspring to enable future generations of that species to survive for as long as possible.
The theory proposed by Charles Darwin can be backed up by a variety of things including vestigial organs. Vestigial organs is the term given to organs that have no real purpose in the human body e.g. the appendix. These organs puzzled scientists as no one had a clear understanding of why they were present in the human body if they didn’t function. Darwin himself proposed that these seemingly useless organs were once functional and necessary to human survival but as we evolved and adapted the function was no longer needed thus leaving them unnecessary.
This is considered evidence toward the theory of evolution as over billions of years humans have adapted to their environment and the organs which, at one point, had a purpose were no longer needed. The study of early embryos (embryology) is also provided as evidence for evolution in many situations. The in-depth study allowed scientists to discover that many organisms in the early embryonic stage formed features that were not needed or not functional in the fully formed adult of the same species.
For example, the existence of eyes in moles in the embryonic stages. Darwin discovered that specialised features do indeed develop later in embryonic growth which permits a more distinctive species however at the beginning of species development many embryos share similarities with others even if some features are inappropriate to their adult form.
This is considered evidence as it shows that from an early development stage there are commonalities present amongst a variety of species and that some species are still prone to developing unnecessary features, likely due to ancestors possessing said features. This is similar to the evidence of species sharing features even after development.
It’s clear to the naked eye that other species to share some similarity to humans, dogs are understood to mimic actions of their owners and be able to interpret their mood and science has proven we share 97% of our DNA with chimpanzees. This is provided as evidence of where life came from as it shows that we are not all made unique and that there must be one common ancestor from which living organisms originated which leaves the theory of evolution as the most viable reason.
A final and very important piece of evidence for the theory of evolution is fossil records. Over many years, scientists have found a large array of fossils which show the evolution of organisms over millions of years. The discreet differences between the many fossils are believed to show the complex development path which has allowed us to evolve into the complicating organism we are today.
The fossil record (the entire history of life on earth shown through fossils) demonstrates how different we are from our ancestors however Darwin found that the record was (and still is) incomplete. Some fossils have even been found of species that are not known to exist today.
This again supports the concept that we evolved and adapted from one species many millions of years ago. All of these points support the idea Darwin presented of species deriving from one shared ancestor and adapting and mutating to survive and become the expansive variety of living organisms visible on planet earth today.
Despite the various points of evidence for evolution there are some problems which, in many eyes, are perceived as weaknesses against the theory. This includes the fact that science gives scope to a lot of guesswork as you cannot see all the evidence and it is still indeed simply a theory. There also exists the fact that scientists are only humans and so have the capability to disagree and make mistakes which could seriously affect the evidence presented.
Another commonly voiced problem is the fact that the theory of evolution does not give an explanation of why the world was created in the first place, something many have a problem with. Science does not give a description of human purpose which leads many people to disagree with the theory as they do not believe humans are on earth for no reason.
Charles Darwin himself said “To suppose that the eye… could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree” Evidently Darwin, a man who did consider himself a Christian, seen the possible doubt many may have with evolution and understood that it was a difficult proposition to gain understanding and acceptance of.
That said, he did not allow this, nor the opposition of many at the time he proposed his theory, to discourage him from his revolutionising work toward establishing what exactly was the origin of life.
In contrast to the highly evidential evolution theory, Christian Religion dictates a rather different viewpoint on the origin of life. As is well known the Christian holy book is the Bible in which they find many directions for morals and examples of how life should be lived. Genesis 1 explains how God created planet earth and everything on it in 6 days and rested on the 7th. Throughout Genesis 1 there is emphasise on man overseeing all other living things on earth.
All creatures were created individually, lacking any descent from one another, a stark contrast from what is explained in the theory of evolution. Genesis 2 tells the story of the first humans to ever grace the surface of earth: Adam and Eve. It explains that God created Adam from dust and breathed life into him, following this God planted the garden of Eden for Adam to live and to care for.
Soon after God created Eve from one of Adams ribs and they (Adam and Eve) became man and wife. God told them they could eat from any tree except the tree of knowledge, if they dared to do so they would die. However, one day a snake told Eve that eating from the tree of knowledge would not kill them but rather make them as wise as God. Eve ate some fruit and took some for Adam to eat also.
God was furious with them and told them nothing would come easy, they’d have to work to grow food, childbirth would be hard, and they would eventually grow old and die but God also granted Adam power over Eve as it was her who disobeyed first and encouraged Adam. Christians look at this passage in a variety of ways but there are two main types:
- Literal Christians: Christians who regard the word of the Bible as being the exact account of events, would take both genesis’ and see them as exact replicas of what happened and believe them to be the exact origin of life and
- Liberal Christians: Christians who see many stories in the bible as symbolic and draw different messages from them without totally believing it happened exactly as it is written.
Liberal Christians would believe the passages deliver truth through imagery and metaphors, but the accounts are not factually correct. These Christians believe the story of Adam and Eve has symbolic meanings about the relationship between God and his creations. Many interpret the talking serpent to be a representation of thoughts.
The serpent was the ultimate downfall of Adam and Eve, this gives the idea that negative thoughts can invade the mind and cause unwanted actions if the thoughts are adhered to. It is also a common misconception that liberal Christians believe that God creating Eve from Adam means men are greater than women and/or that women would not be here if men were not however many liberals would say that this was Gods way of demonstrating that women are more intricate and delicate than men; Adam was created from dust on the ground while Eve was crafted from a human rib.
The two divisions can cause a divide between Christians of what parts of Genesis we can consider a directive narrative however all Christians would agree that God created earth and everything on it himself making him the origin of life. The belief in God being the origin of life is all down to faith and personal belief because of course, it cannot be proven. Both these explanations have holes in them and religion is certainly no exception.
The biggest problem many have is that there is no evidence. This explanation is entirely dependent on belief and faith and leaves no scope for research. It is impossible to prove if the events described in Genesis actually happened which causes many doubts. It’s becoming more and more frequent that are realising the faults in the religious explanation and they are now turning to scientific theory to provide a previously unavailable reason to the origins of life and with modern society allowing greater personal individuality and less less people feel pressured to stick
Many also believe that it is entirely possible for both the scientific and religious versions of the origin of life to go hand in hand with one another. How evolution began is something that scientists do not have a direct answer for and some religious people take the view that evolution did indeed happen, and it was God who caused it to begin.
Famous Chemist and Physicist Albert Einstein once said “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind” this clearly demonstrates his belief that one without the other is pointless and that we should consider both as having valid explanations which can work together. They are not always fighting against the other’s view.
The religious explanation for the origin of life also helps fill in one of the missing gaps in evolutionary theory. We gain a reason of how life originated through science whilst religion grants us a reason for why life originated. The majority of those who believe in both argue that whilst science is the best explanation of how we must consider God a catalyst for evolution and science only a partial explanation where religion may fill the gaps.
Having considered both the strengths and weaknesses of both explanations I believe science to be the most plausible explanation for how life began. The theory of evolution proposed by Darwin has a variety of valid evidence (and albeit some questionable evidence) accompanying it and I find it very difficult to put strong trust into the religious reason when there is no solid evidence to back anything up. Although both reasons have a heavy following, in many eyes the explanation offered from religion is considered to have very little supporting evidence and, in some cases, be outdated.
However, Religion does provide a reason for the origin of life which is necessary for many people. So, it can undoubtedly be argued that both do indeed provide an in-depth clarification of the origin of life but due to lack of solid evidence and logical explanations I personally, am unable to put full belief in religious explanations and so understand the view that the theory of evolution provides the best explanation.