The Origin of Life on the Earth

The Origin of Life on the Earth

The Origin of Life on the Earth

The Origin of Life on the Earth

Excerpt

The question of the emergence of life, of the origin on the Earth of the first living things, raises a number of important and fundamental problems of natural philosophy. Every man, whatever his stage of development, has, consciously or unconsciously, put this question to himself and found some sort of answer to it, for without some such answer one cannot form even the most primitive picture of the world.

History shows that the problem of the emergence of life has fascinated the human mind from time immemorial. There has been no religious or philosophic system and no great thinker that has not devoted serious attention to this problem. In different epochs and at different stages of cultural development the question of the origin of life has been answered in different ways. This problem has however always been the focus of a bitter conflict of ideas between two irreconcilable schools of philosophy--the conflict between idealism and materialism.

At the beginning of our century this conflict did not merely fail to abate but took on a special bitterness because, although science had already achieved glittering and dizzy successes in many fields, it seemed unable to give a rational, scientifically based answer to the question of the origin of life. It appeared that a dead end had been reached as far as this problem was concerned.

Such a state of affairs was by no means fortuitous. It may be explained as follows. About a century ago almost everybody held that the principle of spontaneous generation prevailed so far as the origin of life was concerned. They were convinced that living things could originate, not only from others like themselves, but that they could also come into being spontaneously, appearing all at once, fully formed and organised, among inanimate objects.

Both idealists and materialists held this point of view. The only point of dispute was: what was the cause and what the nature of the forces determining this coming into being.

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