• Peter Kupisz

Origin of Life and Burden of Proof

When Charles Darwin published his landmark book The Origin of Species, he recognized that the burden of proof was on him if he was going to explain the evident design of biological life apart from the actions of an intelligent mind. And this he sought to do by providing an explanation for how species originated through the process of natural selection. Darwin’s theory eventually gained great acceptance throughout the scientific community but there was one area that Darwin did not even attempt to provide any kind of plausible explanation for – the origin of the first replicating cell. This was, and is, a very important piece of the puzzle; for if natural selection is to act, there must first be some type of replicating organism that natural selection can act upon. And since, as Darwin recognized, the burden of proof lies on those who argue against the idea of Intelligent Design, this has prompted a significant amount of research by the scientific community.

An article in Scientific American was published in 2011 and titled “Pssst! Don't Tell the Creationists, but Scientists Don't Have a Clue How Life Began”. It notes that so far, the scientific community has failed to discover any plausible explanation for life’s origin. The situation is so desperate that some scientists are arguing that life was intentionally placed here by aliens from outer space. The author notes,

…some frustrated scientists are resorting to much more far out—literally—speculation… that aliens came to Earth in a spaceship and planted the seeds of life here billions of years ago. This notion is called directed panspermia.

Although the article rejects the idea of Intelligent Design (ID), and it certainly rejects the idea that the designer could have been God, the fact remains that the burden of proof lies on those who deny ID. And given the scientific community's failure to explain the origin of the first replicating organism, this burden has yet to be met.


John Horgan, “Pssst! Don’t Tell the Creationists, but Scientists Don’t Have a Clue How Life Began,” Scientific American Blog Network (blog), February 28, 2011, https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/pssst-dont-tell-the-creationists-but-scientists-dont-have-a-clue-how-life-began/.

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