1902 Encyclopedia > Biology > Abiogenesis and the Doctrine of Evolution. Persistent Types of Life.

(Part 20)

Abiogenesis and the Doctrine of Evolution

It is argued that a belief in abiogenesis is a necessary corollary from the doctrine of Evolution. This may be true of the occurrence of abiogenesis at some time; but if the present day, or any recorded epoch of geological time, be in question, the exact contrary holds good. If all living beings have been evolved from pre-existing forms of life, it is enough that a single particle of living protoplasm should once have appeared on the globe, as the result of no matter what agency. In the eyes of a consistent evolutionist any further independent formation of protoplasm would be sheer waste.

The production of living matter since the time of its first appearance, only by way of biogenesis, implies that the specific forms of the lower kinds of life have undergone but little change in the course of geological time, and this is said to be inconsistent eith the doctrine of evolution. But, in the first place, the fact is not inconsistent with the doctrine of evolution properly understood, that doctrine being perfectly consistent with either the progression, the retrogression, or the stationary condition of any particular species for indefinite periods of time; and secondly, if it were, it would be so much the worse for the doctrine of evolution, inasmuch as it is unquestionably true, that certain, even highly organized, forms of life have persisted without any sensible change for very long periods.

Persistent Types of Life

The Terbratula psittacea of the present day, for example, is not distinguishable from that of the Cretaceous epoch, while the highly organized Teleostean fish, Beryx, of the Chalk differed only in minute specific characters from that which now lives. Is it seriously suggested that the existing Terebratulae and Beryces are not lineal descendants of their Cretaceous ancestors, but that their modern representatives have been independently developed from primordial germs in the interval? But if this is too fantastic a suggestion for grave consideration, why are we to believe that the Globigerinae of the present day are not lineally descended from the Cretaceous forms? And if their generations have succeeded one another for all the enormous time represented by the deposition of the Chalk and that of the Tertiary and Quaternary deposits, what difficulty is there in supporting that they may not have persisted unchanged for a greatly longer period?

The fact is, that at the present moment there is not a shadow of trustworthy direct evidence that abiogenesis does take place, or has taken place, within the period during which the existence of life in the globe is recorded. But it need hardly be pointed out, that the fact does not in the slightest degree interface with any conclusion that may be arrived at deductively from other considerations that, at some time or other, abiogenesis must have taken place.

If the hypothesis of evolution is true, living matter must have arisen from not-living matter; for by the hypothesis, the conduction of the globe was at one time such that living matter could not have existed in it (FOOTNOTE 1), life being entirely incompatible with the gaseous state. But living matter once originated, there is no necessary for another origination, since the hypothesis postulates the unlimited, though perhaps not indefinite, modifiability of such matter.

1. It makes no difference if we adopt Sir W, Thomson's hypothesis, and suppose that the germs of living things have been transported to our globe from some other, seeing that there is much reason for supposing that all stellar and planetary components of the universe are or have been gaseous, as that the earth has passed through this stage.

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