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spontaneous generation and panspermia

Jonathan Badger badger at phylo.life.uiuc.edu
Sat Jan 21 18:15:58 EST 1995

GENES at american.edu (C. Richard Wrathall) writes:

>In article <badger.790306063 at phylo>
>badger at phylo.life.uiuc.edu (Jonathan Badger) writes:
>>Unfortunately, Oparin 1) lived in the
>>pre-molecular biology age (he did most of his work in the 1920's) and 2)
>>was an ardent Marxist and his work tends to suffer from Marxist mysticism
>>(the idea of History (with a capital H) marching forward to a glorious future
>>is present in a lot of his work)
>I am not sure what to make of these comments. Sure, Oparin did most of his work
>in the 1920's, but so did Muller, and S. Wright certainly did a lot of work
>at that time - are we to discard these because they are so old and out of
>date that they have no relavance to the age of Molecular Biology? (By the way,
>much of my work involves Recombinant DNA, what ever that includes.)
>And as far as the second, are we only to admit staunch free-market believers
>into our ranks, such as Speaker GingRICH - I am sure that he would be one of
>the first in line to "zero out" funding for a Marxist like Oparin. Of course,
>a number of other workers might suffer the same fate - de Chardin - he of the
>"ascending arrow of the great biological synthesis" - certainly his writings
>must be purged. Even the great Sir Charles (Biology, not Basketball) wrote
>"...[evolutionary theory] .... may give [man] hope for a still higher
>destiny in the distant future."
>Oh, well - I must be mistaken, and this was not what the Jonathan had in mind.
>At least I hope so.

Well, I have several comments. First of all, yes many fine scientists
worked before the molecular age. But the origin of life, is, I think
you would agree, an inherently molecular problem, and it is not clear
how any account ignoring molecular detail could be useful today.

Secondly, I do not care what Oparin's _personal_ views were. The
problem was that his Marxism crept into his science. Consider Werner
Van Braun -- a most objectionable human being -- he was after all, a
Nazi. Yet he was a brilliant rocket scientist whose work allowed
America to reach the Moon. If however, he had let his Nazism affect
his science, causing him to postulate that rocket engines worked via
an "Aryan force" or some such nonsense, he would have been a bad
scientist, besides being a bad human being. Oparin's insistence that
evolution was progressive (an idea not supported by data, then or
now), weakened his scientific arguments.

As for the notion that "evolution may give man hope for a still higher
destiny in the distant future", be aware that this is a religious
rather than scientific statement. Science deals merely in observable
fact. Any "meaning of life" that may exist is the domain of religion
(and Marxism is a religion too, with History as its god).

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