[A little digression from the ongoing exasperation of trying to understand human behavior.]
Test Tube Life
Every scientific attempt to “make” life has failed. They have all involved mixing all the right chemicals together in a test tube and waiting for life to happen. It didn’t. But haven’t we forgotten something?
Life didn’t begin in a test tube, and it didn’t involve a very brief time, like a mere human lifespan. The conditions that gave rise to life probably occurred not in Darwin’s “warm little pond”, but in a vastly greater area, like hundreds of square miles, even thousands. And they didn’t involve only one set of conditions, but probably many thousands, even millions, only one of which gave rise to life.
The truth is, we have no idea of the scale of natural “experiments” that were required to create life on early Earth. But we do know it wasn’t test tube sized. It was Earth sized, and it happened early, just tens of millions of years after Earth’s formation, when conditions were quite different from what they are today. The mixing probably happened in places cold and hot, on land and in the sea, maybe very deep, where Earth’s volcanic core creates jets of hot water. But it probably went on for many millions of years, and then, suddenly, in only one place, stuff got put together just the right way and there was life. The most primitive form of life, out of which our whole existence eventually came.
Is it any wonder our puny test tube experiments all failed?
Life From Space
There is also the possibility that the building blocks of life arrived as part of the never ending bombardment by meteorites and comets. Think about this: a meteorite broke up near Melbourne in 1969, and numerous fragments were found and studied. They were 4.5 billion years old, about the age of Earth itself, and were well stocked with the necessary amino acids required for the formation of life. How many other such occurrences might have occurred over the tens of millions of years before Earth life formed? In the millions, no doubt.
Given the vast stretches of time evolution requires, it should not surprise us if it took tens of millions of years of “fermentation” of natural or space chemicals before a few of them hooked up in exactly the right way and eventually turned into every life form there ever was, including us.
Our One and Only Shot
But it only happened once. We know this is true because we share the very same elemental essence as every other living thing on the planet. We share more than half of our DNA with yeast, that most primitive of life forms, and we share over 98% of our DNA with chimps, and we share it with everything else! Every living thing, plant and animal alike, is built from DNA, just like us. Miraculous, all right.
But chew on this, too. Our total existence is so far only about one percent of the era in which dinosaurs lived, and they were successful for many millions of years. Yet there is more than a little evidence that in the tiny sliver of time we have been in charge we have probably created the conditions for our own extinction. A crashing asteroid killed off the dinosaurs. It looks increasingly like we’ll be killed off by our own stupidity.