Scientists tell us that, once upon a time, the Earth was extremely hot. Volcanoes were everywhere, spewing out hot molten lava, gases, and water vapor. The gases caused the sky to be very dark and gloomy.
Once in a while, shafts of strong sunlight pierced the gloomy skies. They were frequently illuminated by lightning and the red glare of huge volcanic eruptions.
According to these scientists, there was no sea, land, or life. After a long passage of time, the earth’s crust started cooling and became very thin and brittle. Occasionally, hot and turbulent lava sloshed beneath this crust.
Within a few hundred million years, the outer layers of the crust thickened, with only a rare volcano here and there. Then, somehow, water vapor in the air was condensed and began to fall as rain on the earth’s surface where it collected in low-lying volcanic craters.
Suddenly, life began. But how and when did it begin? How did it “evolve?”
In an investigation of claims made by various scientists as to the origin of life, we can observe that the “best brains” rely more on theories than on actual facts.
Two scientists, Charles Darwin and A.R Wallace, who worked independently of one another and published their work almost simultaneously, advanced the theory of evolution shortly before 1858. They attempted to account for the evolution of life from its first and simplest forms – single celled organisms – to the most complex of plants and animals, including man.
The theory of evolution took the scientific community by storm – so much so that it was almost immediately accepted without its finer details being analyzed (for example, how each species of animals evolved from a common ancestor). These things could be decided later; the immediate problem they faced was determining how the first living organisms arose. To answer this tricky question, a number of theories were advanced.
Among these was the consideration that life first made its appearance through a supernatural event; in other words, an act of God. This was the belief held by theologians who based it on a literal interpretation of their religious texts. Most scientists, though, prided themselves as atheists and agnostics, and immediately rejected this interpretation as unbelievable, incredible, and bizarre. They refused to accept this theory since it was not subject to scientific scrutiny and investigation.
They started proposing one theory after another – each of them equally bizarre and totally unsupported by facts or field evidences. In 1903, as the debate on the theory of evolution continued to rage, a scientist by the name of S. Arrhenius proposed that life developed on earth as a result of a spore or some other stable form of life that came to the earth on a meteorite from outer space or by the pressure of sunlight. One form of this theory assumed that life had no origin – that like matter had always existed.
Being that scientists always like to discredit one another, other scientists immediately rejected this theory on the grounds that evidence exists that long-lived radioactive elements were formed billions of years ahead of life. They believed it was unimaginable that life could have simultaneously come into existence.
As soon as that theory was ruled out on the basis of scientific reasoning, another theory proposed that life was formed on another planet and then traveled to earth. However, it did not answer the question of how life arose on the first planet. In addition, most scientists doubt that any form of life can survive in outer space and fall through the earth’s atmosphere without being destroyed. Therefore, this theory was soon rejected as highly improbable.
A fourth hypothesis held that the first living organism arose from inorganic matter by an improbable event. This theory was rejected on the grounds that, in order for such an organism to grow from an inorganic environment, it would have to synthesize all its cellular components from carbon dioxide, water, and other inorganic nutrients. Scientists had to reject this theory because their knowledge of biochemistry indicated that even the simplest bacteria are extremely complex. The probability of a spontaneous generation of a cell from inorganic compounds in a single event was unlikely in the approximately five billion years since the earth’s formation.
In 1920, a theory was advanced that was considered plausible by most scientists – that life arose spontaneously in the oceans of the primitive earth. It was proposed by two scientists working independently of each other, Alexander Oparin from Russia and J.B.S. Haldane from Britain, and detailed sequences whereby life could have emerged from non-living interacting chemicals. Haldane pondered on the vigorous chemistry, cosmic rays, and lightning that the volcanoes produced and concluded that “organic” (carbon-based) molecules could have easily formed under these conditions. Because of their similar nature, these molecules accumulated at different places and gave the ancient oceans the consistency of a rich warm broth.
Oparin was also thinking along the same lines. He envisioned the chemical richness of the early oceans – speculating that the first cells would have been sticky floating bubbles called “gel droplets.” As they exchanged chemicals with the sea around them, they eventually assembled into “self -replicating” molecules of greater and greater complexity until a structure was formed that could be called “living.” In other words, the synthesis of the first living organisms involved a series of non-biological processes. Some of the steps he proposed were considered highly improbable.
Later came ingenious experiments that would test these speculations. In laboratory experiments carried out at the University of Chicago in 1953 by biochemists
headed by a scientist named S. L. Miller, methane, ammonia, water and hydrogen (gases that were known to have been present in the Earth’s outer atmosphere during ancient geological times) were mixed. Electrical sparks were then fired into the mixture to simulate the lightning of primitive earth’s atmosphere long ago.
After a week of “cooking,” flasks containing the gases were coated with amino acids (simple nitrogen/hydrogen assemblies that are the building blocks of all proteins). Other basic chemical constituents of life like hydroxyl acids, aliphatic acids, urea and some basic forms of sugars were produced in these experiments. The exposure of this mixture to ultraviolet light also gave similar results.
Demonstrating that bits and pieces of life can be created by lightning and solar radiations from chemicals was one thing, but it was still necessary to determine the mechanisms by which these units were assembled to manufacture protein and genes, and how the entire process could be proven in the laboratory. The missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle was to find the catalyst to concentrate these raw materials so that these reactions would proceed to form polypeptides, nucleotides and polynucleotides capable of self-duplication.
It was not an easy problem to solve. Oparin suggested that water would bring different molecules to close proximity, but it would also keep washing them apart and making it difficult for them to “plug” the chemically active end of one molecule to the “socket” of a receptive molecule. Therefore, the gel droplets suggested by Oparin were too wet to work.
To get around this problem, evaporation was suggested, as it is a good way of eliminating unwanted water. Haldane suggested a tidal shore billions of years ago that washed up soapy organic solutions that then dried out leaving a rich residue of organic compounds to react with one another. Other scientists had very little difficulty imagining such.
However, J.D. Bernal, another British scientist, pointed out in the 1940’s that some of these organic compounds evaporated as readily as water. He suggested the use of clay, usually found near seashores, which consists of numerous stacked sheets of silicate with just enough clearance between individual sheets to allow air or water to circulate. These sheets contain positive and negative electrical charges arranged in a neatly structured way. Bernal also suggested that these electrical fields would have imposed certain orientations on any compounds passing through them.
Further laboratory experiments suggest that mineral sheets of clay tend to concentrate organic molecules in a confined volume, as water evaporates, and orient them in a way that facilitates their link-ups to other molecules and shields these fragile newly formed molecules from ultra-violet rays from solar radiation.
Proteins are one of the two major chemical systems that orchestrate life. Nucleic acids are the other. Both are made of smaller compounds – a group of proteins combine to form amino acids, and nucleic acids are made up of nucleotides which are compounds of carbon and nitrogen joined with sugars and phosphates.
DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid, on the other hand is recognized by scientists as the “architect of life” and uses a sequence of nucleotides as a “code” or blueprint to spell out what life form is being built. Proteins form the horizontal beam or material with which life is constructed according to this plan. The unanswered question for scientists is: which came first – the blueprint or the assembly of material for proteins?
According to Professor Leslie Orgel of the Silk Institute in La Jolla, California, the blueprint clearly came first. He tells us that proteins could not have occurred first because they must be assembled according to a plan laid out by genes, or nucleic acids with enzymes, to assist their replication.
Now it is well known that a single gene in the smallest virus known to man is made up of thousands or more units of nucleotides and they are a far cry from the millions of nucleotides that constitute one human gene in a single cell. Who laid the blue print for
such a gene?
A layman on reading this would immediately answer “God”.
But the scientists are not the type, who would give up at this stage that the process for the plan was not started with the DNA but with transfer RNA [t-RNA, or t-Ribonucleic acid], which is a family of simple compounds that are exact copies of parts of the more complex DNAs’. Transfer RNAs work like construction crews to the larger DNA architect-they round up amino acids in the cells and move them to the biological assembly line where they join to make a specific protein required for by the DNA blueprint.
But, who authorized the t-RNAs to work as construction crews for the bigger DNA? The scientists tell us that the t-RNAs could be helped by a small enzyme that assisted in the replication process.
Where and how did the small enzyme come from and how did it know as to what are the exact quantities required of it to help the t-RNA to replicate it into an RNA-DNA hybrid? Or becomes a DNA under special conditions as suggested by the scientists?
The scientists have no perfect answers. They have only theories and hypotheses. They are and will be on a crusading zeal till the end of the world to come up with all the answers. The answer will elude some of them.
For others they have only got to pick up and read the Holy Qur’an. They will find the answer in Chapter 7:11-12, which reads as follows;
11. ” It is We, Who created you and gave you shape.
Then we bade the angels to prostrate to Adam, and they
prostrated, not so Iblis [Satan]; He refused to be
those who prostrate.”
12. (Allah) said: ” what prevented thee from
prostrating when I commanded thee?” He said: I am
better than he is: Thou didst create me from fire and
him from CLAY.”
In the verse 13 of the same chapter we are told that Allah casts out Iblis who had become Satan the accursed for his open rebelliousness towards Allah (swt), and Allah further tells us that he the Satan was the meanest of all creatures in the sight of Allah.
In the verse 14, Satan in his rebelliousness begs of Allah a respite from his punishment tills the Day of Resurrection of Mankind.
In verse 15, when he is granted that respite, he promises Allah (swt) with the following words;
16. He said: “Because thou hast thrown me out (Of the Way), lo! I will lie in wait for them, on Thy Straight Way.
17. ” Then will I assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and their left; nor will Thou find in most of them gratitude (frothy mercies).
18. (Allah) said: Get out from this (garden), despised and expelled. If any of them follow thee-Hell, will I fill with you all.
The warning in verse 18, of Chapter 7, of the Holy Qur’an is from Allah, the God of all mankind. Will the scientists at least now pay heed?
By applying the same yardstick of the scientists, it is not possible to believe in the Theory of Evolution as postulated by the scientists is not acceptable to the students of Islamic theology and Muslims unless proved so scientifically by the scientists. The fossil records do not lie; it is the scientists who utter the falsehood by saying that animals “evolved from a common ancestor and thereby mislead many among mankind from the path of Allah.
By A.I. Makki