WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
The Origin of life-Evolution Part 2
by Ernest O'Neill
What is the meaning of life? That's the question we're discussing. You may remember we're tried to tackle it, first of all, from the point of the earth itself. Is there any clue in the existence of the earth? We've asked the question, "How do you explain the existence of the earth?" For instance, these mountains and the rivers that you see and the earth under your feet, how do you think it came about? Is there anything there that gives us a clue as to why we're here or what the meaning of the whole arrangement is?
You remember we tackled some of the usual answers that people like you and I give. We've learned certain responses to that question, "Where did the earth come from?" Some of us say, "Oh, well, it was a decomposing substance." Of course, our problem is where did the substance come from and start to decompose?
Probably it all came from a great explosion? You remember we mentioned that people in Paris or in Ireland or in the Middle East don't agree that explosions create too much in these days but anarchy, chaos and pain. It's a little difficult to believe that the whole thing just came somehow from an explosion.
Of course, at times we've tried to suggest, "Well, evolution, that's how it all came about. Evolution explains the existence of the earth." The amazing thing is that if you go back to The Origin of Species that was written by the person that we often think of as the father of evolution, Darwin, you find that he concluded his thesis in an amazing way with some strange words. Here is almost the closing sentence of the book, The Origin of Species, "There is a grandeur in this view of life with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one and that whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity from so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been and are being evolved." In other words, Darwin himself did not for a moment suggest that evolution was a hypothesis of the origin of the universe or the world. He himself said, "No, there is a grandeur in this view of life with its several powers having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one." It's amazing. He puts a capital "C" at the Creator and makes it plain that something, somewhere had to start the thing. All I'm suggesting is a way in which it might have evolved after the first proton or the first neutron was created, but evolution itself I do not claim as an explanation of the origin of things. It's only a possible explanation of the origin of species, how maybe different kinds of birds have evolved or how different kinds of animals or insects have evolved. But it's not a suggestion for a moment as to how the original one was brought into existence.
And, of course, that's what we said when we talked about evolution itself. It has certain basic problems built in . We say, "Oh, well, evolution, you know, that's the explanation of how things originated. Evolution, the idea that things evolve from simple forms into complex forms. That's how it all came about." That begs the question of what programmed the simple forms to evolve into more complex forms. Why did it not work the other way? What programmed that direction into evolution?" There is a tendency for us to say, "Oh, well, it all came about by mutation." But the fact is that we oppose nuclear explosion so vehemently because of the disaster that they bring about through mutations in human beings. The mutations that are produced by nuclear explosions do not bring an evolution from simpler forms into more complex forms. They bring a deterioration into life generally. It's the same with our other suggestions of the way in which evolution might have taken place.
Indeed, you run up against some real difficulties and some real contradictions in applying the theory of evolution to life as a whole. The fact that there is evolution within species I don't think anyone will question. The scientific data is so strong and so obvious that, of course, there has evolution taken place among birds or among insects. It's less obvious that evolution has taken place across the species. but even if it has, it is very difficult to begin, therefore, to apply evolution as a universal law to the existence of the whole world and the whole universe. Neither Darwin nor any respectable scientist attempts to do that.
That begins to get into scientism and not science. Science itself holds evolution within certain very limited areas, but when you begin to apply evolution to the universe as a whole, you find yourself coming up against certain other laws of science that contradict it. For instance, the first law of thermodynamics states that the energy in the universe remains the same. And, of course, if you apply evolution to the existence of the universe as a whole, you're contradicting that. It is just incompatible to say that evolution, which requires the dissipation of motion from the universe, is compatible with the fact of the conservation of energy in the universe as a whole. In other words, evolution suggests that there is a dissipation of energy, not a conservation of energy.
Similarly, the second law of thermodynamics states that there is a tendency for things to return to their original formless state. Of course, evolution is suggesting that, in fact, things are constantly evolving into higher and higher forms of life. Indeed, scientists talk not about evolution when they talk about the universal existence or the laws of the universe. They rather talk about a devolution of life. They talk about a devolution, that there is a progress downward. They don't attempt to suggest that there is an evolution upward, and they don't attempt to make that an invariable law of universal progress.
Indeed, individuals as we all know, do not all make progress. Nations rise, but other nations fall. Civilisations grow, but civilisations decay. Arts grow and decline. There's a steady increase in knowledge, but this is because knowledge is accumulation, not growth. Many nations have progressed, but not all. Vanished Aztecs, perished Incas, the degenerate remnants of ancient African civilisations, Asia, Africa and the Americas are strewn with immense evidences that progress is not universal in human life and society. In other words, evolution does not mean universal progress. It is not a universal law. It's not a law of the universal being of things. It's a very limited theory of how things might have developed inside certain species.
So, when we talk about evolution, we're talking about something that is limited to what is taking place in some species themselves, but it is not talking about the way the universe itself originated. That is a question that is bigger than evolution. So when we're asked the question, "Well, where did the earth come from?", or, "Where did the world come from?", it's really not intelligent to mumble that oh, evolution, evolution explains it all. No, Darwin himself never suggested that evolution explained it all. He said simply that it was a way in which species might have developed. Also, men of science and the great men of our era do not for a moment suggest that evolution explains the origin of the world. They themselves tie it to some very limited areas of life itself, and they still hold to the fact that the origin of the world requires some explanation beyond evolution.
What is the explanation beyond evolution? What is the explanation of the origin of the world? Well, are there any clues? Are there any clues in the world itself? Tomorrow I'd like to talk about some of the clues that are very obvious to all of us who look at the earth day by day.
Meaning of Life Table of Contents