THE SYNTHESIS PERSPECTIVE

It seems equally unlikely that life was created accidentally and that an agent acted/acts like an engineer, putting various parts together or programming DNA sequences. A more plausible explanation that combines spiritual and scientific insights (without their religious and materialistic baggage) is that life was intended. As suggested earlier in relation to the tuning of the four forces and other physical properties, ‘design' or the direct involvement of an external agency need not to be invoked. In accord with the criterion of cohesiveness, it is sufficient to postulate as the most likely explanation an intended abiogenesis. The Intent acts, on one hand, as a driving force pushing the matter into more complex organisation and, on the other, as a restricting force, a ‘funnel' that converges a huge number of possibilities into one point - the appearance of life[1]. Of course, there could not be direct evidence for such an intent (it cannot be expected that the One would leave ‘fingerprints'). However, there are some suggestive indicators, making this explanation more likely than highly improbable chance. They include the distinctive properties of the building blocks that enable the formation of complex forms conducive to life, and finely tuned (physical, chemical and environmental) conditions. Several examples will be brought up to illustrate this.

It is not only the physical forces, constants and solar objects that are precisely adjusted to enable life, but also many physical and chemical properties, established much before life appeared, are uniquely fit for carbon-based organisms. Biologist Denton (who is not associated with Creationism or similar movements) should be credited for collecting comprehensive and compelling evidence that life is unlikely to be an accident. He points out that life could not exist if ‘various constituents - water, carbon dioxide, carbon acid, the DNA helix, proteins, phosphates, sugars, lipids, the carbon atom the oxygen atom, the transitional metal atoms and the other metal atoms from groups 1 and 2 of the periodic table: sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium - did not possess precisely those chemical and physical properties they exhibit in an aqueous solution ranging in temperature from 0ºC and about 75ºC' (1998, p.382).

Let us consider water, for example, arguably the most important substance for life. Water is very unusual. While most substances shrink when cooled, water starts expanding (below 4°C) so solid ice is atypically less dense than liquid water. Water is also extraordinary slow in warming up - another anomaly. What is amazing is that all this and many other characteristics of water (e.g. the low viscosity, the surface tension, the capacity to dissolve a vast number of different substances, etc.[2]) are beneficial to life. For example, if ice was heavier (more dense) than water, the oceans would have frozen completely, killing all marine life; the slow warming up of water protects organisms against massive swings in temperature, and so on. Scientists find it hard to explain many of these properties. They are most likely linked to hydrogen bonds between water molecules, and they again depend on zero-point vibration energy - energy from ‘nowhere'.

Many other physical and chemical features are also well adjusted for life. For example, carbon (the building block of organic matter) has a whole range of such properties: maximum utility of both the strong covalent bonds (that keep atoms together) and the weak bonds (e.g. hydrogen bonds) in the same temperature range at which water is fluid; the perfect fit between the α helix of the protein with the large groove of the DNA; the relative stability of organic molecules below 100°C; the relatively un-reactive nature of oxygen, a source of energy for carbon-based life, below 50°C; the fact that carbon dioxide is a gas (which enables the excretion of the products of carbon oxidation); the sufficient strength of hydrogen and other weak bonds to hold proteins and DNA at temper­atures conducive to life, and so on. Moreover, atmospheric gases (including water vapour) and liquid water, absorb virtually all the harmful radiation from space and transmit only a tiny band that is of visual range and is at the same time, fit for photochemistry. Also, all the classes of atoms in the periodic table play a harmonious role in the formation and sustenance of life. Adaptation of life to these circumstances is not a sufficient explanation. If only a few of them had not been already there, life would not have had a chance to adapt to anything. In addition, these properties are not only conducive to the appearance of microorganisms, but seem to anticipate more complex multicellular life forms. To quote Denton again:

Many of the properties and characteristics of life's constituents seem to be specifically arranged for large, complex, multicellular organisms like ourselves. The coincidences do not stop at the cell but extend right on into higher forms of life. These include the packaging properties of DNA, which enable a vast amount of DNA and hence biological information to be packed into the tiny volume of the cell nucleus in higher organisms, the electrical properties of cells, which depend ultimately on the insulating character of the cell membrane, which provides the basis for nerve conduction and for the coordination of the activities of multicellular organisms; the very nature of the cell, particularly its feeling and crawling activities, which seem so ideally adapted for assembling a multicellular organism during development; the fact that oxygen and carbon dioxide are both gases at ambient temperatures and the peculiar and unique character of the bicarbonate buffer, which together greatly facilitate the life of large air-breathing macroscopic organisms. (1998, p.381-2)

One can also add to the list the decrease in the viscosity of the blood when blood pressure rises, which increases the blood flow to the metabolically active muscles of higher organisms (without it, the circulatory system would be unworkable); the quite slow hydration of carbon dioxide, which prevents a fatally high level of acidity in the body of complex organisms in anaerobic exercises (that require increased pace or greater effort). Curiously, only atmospheres with between 10 and 20% oxygen can support an oxidative metabolism in a higher organism; and it is only within that range that fire - hence technology - is possible. As Denton puts it,

...for every new constituent we required, there was a ready-made solution that seemed ideally and uniquely prefabricated, as if by design, for the biological end it serves... (1998, p.230)

Even those phenomena that are taken as calamities, are, in fact, often purposeful. For example, volcanic eruptions bring water and metals to the surface, contribute to the atmosphere, regulate heat, and finally, fertilise the land, enabling agriculture.

Without going into further details, it can be concluded that it is consistent with the Synthesis perspective that life started from very simple forms, as scientists claim too. Whether it originated in a ‘primeval soup', in hot-water vents at the bottom of the ocean, in clay sediments, or on Mars, is a technical issue that does not affect the basic assertion, which is that life being intended is not only congruent with the known facts, but highly probable. The above indicates that life could hardly appear by chance, and that the funnelling of randomness was necessary.[3] This is all that can be claimed at this point (the process that led to the beginning of life will be considered on p.149). To make further inferences about the appearance of life as we know it, the question of what life is, what it consists of, needs to be addressed first. This issue (that will require the examination of some complex aspects of human life) will be the subject of the following part.

  • [1]. Later on, in evolution, a divergent process takes place (analogous to the Big Bang explosion, after the energy had been first compressed into singularity). So, different principles govern the proliferation of various life forms (see chapter 16).
  • [2]. Professor Martin Chaplin listed over 40 anomalous characteristics of water.
  • [3]. It is sometimes claimed (e.g. Dawkins, 2006, p.138) that even if the chance is one in a billion, providing that there are a billion planets in the universe, life will appear at least on one of them. This argument is based on either misunderstanding or misuse of statistics, so it does not deserve a serious consideration.