Science: Truth and Fiction
Once upon a time (as in a fairy tale), most of us believed that the food we ate was basically wholesome, nutritious and free from dangerous chemicals, that advertising may have been believable, and that product labels truly described the qualities and contents of what we fed ourselves and our families. Once upon a time, most of the world believed in the integrity of our heads of state, high-ranking political officials and local leaders. Once upon a time, we thought our children were getting a solid education in the public school system. Once upon a time, many of us believed atomic energy had "peacetime uses" that were perfectly safe and completely congruous with a happy and healthy society.
Yet in recent times our illusions have been shattered. Repeated exposes of widespread consumer fraud and grand political collusion and bribery have all but destroyed our former innocence. We now know that through mass marketing and the media, a veil of fantasy and deception can be created with such unprecedented expertise that it can become impossible for us to distinguish between substance and simulation, reality and illusion.
Today many scientists are propagating the doctrine that life originates from matter. However, they cannot provide proof, either experimentally or theoretically. In fact, they hold their stance essentially on faith, in the face of all sorts of scientific objections. Śrīla Prabhupāda points out that this groundless dogma has done great damage to moral and spiritual standards worldwide and has thus caused incalculable suffering.
Though beset by internal doubt and division, modern scientists have somehow managed to present a united front to the nonscientific public. Their behavior brings to mind the worst in political and corporate trickery. For instance, despite the recent outcry over their masking the difficulties of maintaining safety standards at nuclear power plants, the scientists and the government remain committed to nuclear power and even make light of the fact that there is no safe way of dealing with radioactive waste.
In popular works and in textbooks scientists present their account of the material origin of life as the only possible scientific conclusion. They claim that no other theory can be scientifically acceptable. And so everyone is taught that life gradually arose from chemicals, a "primordial soup" consisting of amino acids, proteins and other essential ingredients. Yet in their journals and private discussions, the same scientists acknowledge that their theory has grave, sometimes insuperable difficulties. For example, certain features of the DNA coding mechanism cast serious doubt upon the substance of evolutionary thought. The noted biologist W. H. Thorpe writes, "Thus we may be faced with a possibility that the origin of life, like the origin of the universe, becomes an impenetrable barrier to science and a block which resists all attempts to reduce biology to chemistry and physics." The highly committed evolutionist Jacques Monod has pointed out these same difficulties. Theodisius Dobzhansky, another prominent advocate of evolution, can only agree: "Our scientific knowledge is, of course, quite insufficient to give anything like satisfactory accounts of these transitions [from no life to life, from no mind to mind]. Biologists as basically different in their... views as W. H. Thorpe and Jacques Monod agree that the origin of life is a difficult and thus far intractable and unsolved problem. I concur." Dobzhansky goes on to call the origin of life "miraculous." These admissions by Dobzhansky, Monod and Thorpe are by no means unique. Yet in popular presentations and textbooks one finds little hint of such widespread doubt.
Nobel prize-winning physicist Eugene Wigner has shown that the probability of the existence of a self-duplicating unit is zero. Since the ability to reproduce is one of the fundamental characteristics of all living organisms, Wigner concludes that our present understanding of physics and chemistry does not enable us to explain the phenomenon of life. Herbert Yockey has demonstrated by information theory that even a single informational molecule such as cytochrome c (what to speak of complex organisms) could not have arisen by chance in the estimated lifetime of the earth: "One must conclude that, contrary to the established and current wisdom, a scenario describing the genesis of life on earth by chance and natural causes which can be accepted on the basis of fact and not faith has not yet been written."
As we can see, on the one hand many scientists have a deep personal commitment to the concept that life comes from matter. On the other hand they admit that they do not have the evidence to corroborate their conviction, and that their theory is beset with intractable problems. They are convinced that life arose from matter and is reducible to matter, yet at the same time they must confess to having scant scientific grounds for their conviction. Thus their theory is a priori: it supersedes the scientific method and science itself. Their fervent, almost messianic hope is that someday, somehow, someone may be able to validate it, and in the meantime their faith is unshakable.
Dazzling technological achievements have given modern scientists an aura of infallibility, and so when the scientists present untested or unprovable theories about life's origin, people tend to accept with blind faith. In Passages About Earth William Irwin Thompson writes, "Just as once there was no appeal from the power of the churches without risking damnation, so now there is no appeal from the power of science without risking a charge of irrationality or insanity." And as botanist Garrett Hardin notes, anyone who questions the status of Darwin "inevitably attracts the speculative psychiatric eye to himself."
The dialogues in Life Comes From Life may seem revolutionary, but then were not Newton, Pasteur and Einstein scientific revolutionaries? Life Comes From Life does not simply criticize those who support the theory that matter is the origin of life. Rather, this book encourages them to rededicate themselves to a more genuine and intense quest for truth and knowledge, and to thereby redirect their valuable intelligence, resources and work toward the true benefit of the world.