There are many scientists who read and comment on this blog, for which I am, and my other readers are, I am sure, very grateful. So I have a plea which I hope will find fertile ground.
Evolution, as we all know, is a process by which biology changes over time. It is always referred to as proceeding from the simple to the complex, and that is a little misleading, as it implies that the simplest forms of life – perhaps judged simple in intelligence, or motivation, in range of movement, or because of their humble size – are biologically simple. Evolution is, after all a biological process.
So, saying we know it proceeds from the simple to the complex doesn’t fit with the facts: should we not say, it proceeds from the highly complex to the staggeringly complex, or at the very least from the complex to the highly complex.
The simplest form of life we know of today is the humble bacteria. Its motivations are straightforward, its size is minuscule, its lifespan and range of movment are limited and its cellular arrangment is basic – one cell. But we don’t have factual evidence of any life form simpler than this. We can suppose it, we can imagine it, we can theorise it, we can assume it, we can demand that the idea be declared mandatory and taught in schools, we can even openly admit that we intuitively propose it, but science prides itself on being based on facts, not suppositions, imaginings, demands for acceptance in the absence of proof, or intuitive assumptions: scientific readers always remind me of this. Today I was told that intuition must play no part in science; I argued otherwise, but perhaps I am wrong.
So, since we have no factual proof of a simpler life form than the bacteria – that is, no fossils, no living fossils, no laboratory specimens of our own creation validating our theories, and no traces at all that we can point to – we are bound to say, life on Earth evolved, as far as we can prove now – based only on facts – from the highly complex to the staggeringly complex, or at the very least, from complex to the highly complex. The rest we can fairly say: assume as you see fit pending laboratory proof.
Of course, we can project a line from the bacteria backwards to simpler forms – just as we can extrapolate a line from humanity to Divinity, as I often do, and am then (perhaps fairly) accused of being far fetched and fanciful in so doing – and of course, we might well imagine that such forms exist, because logically these bacteria had to come from somewhere. To blithely say they came from outer space is to shift the problem out of reach, and now the credibility becomes more convoluted as we are safe to shape the origin in any imaginary form, no matter how fantastic, since nobody is likely to travel to the distant corners of the Universe simply to contradict us.
We have fossil proof of the dinosaurs along with their age and progressions, as also many of the earliest vegetation, so we are at liberty to talk about these as genuine entities all we want. And one day we may have factual proof of the proposed simpler-than-bacteria entity, whatever it may have been, but today if we are basing our science on facts, should we not draw the line at what we can strictly prove – lest we be accused of letting assumptions, imaginings, preferences, and wishful thinking be labelled science and thereby throw all our other conclusions into disrepute?
Coming next: Nature’s Chainsaws!