“All organic beings that have lived on Earth could be descendants in some primordial way,” explained Darwin in The Origin of Species in 1859. Despite this statement, the scientist prevailed the task of understanding the evolutionary processes that underlie biological diversity.
“Darwin was convinced of the central importance of this question for his theory and had a tremendously modern materialistic and evolutionary vision on the transition from inert chemical matter to living matter, despite being very familiar with Pasteur’s experiments against spontaneous generation ”, Juli Peretó, lead author of this study and researcher at the Cavanilles Institute of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology of the University of Valencia, explains to SINC.
The study, which is published in the latest issue of the journal Origins of life and evolution of biospheres , shows that Darwin had an advanced idea of the origin of the first species, and a concern for the problem. “It is flatly false to think that he was invoking divine intervention; It is also perfectly documented that the mention of the “Creator” in The Origin of Species was an addition to the gallery that he later regretted having done, ”says Peretó.
According to the researchers, all of Darwin’s views on the origin of life are found in his private correspondence and in his notebooks. The exception, a review of a book on foraminiferous microorganisms published in 1863 in the London social club Athenaeum where Darwin “drops his opinion on spontaneous generation.”
The international team, made up of Spanish, American and Mexican scientists, has not only examined in detail the sentences, texts and paragraphs of the letters, but has also put into context all Darwinian views on the origin of the life, locatable online and in the original manuscripts.
The hypothesis of the origin of life
An entry in a notebook from 1837, in which Darwin explains that “the intimate relationship of vital phenomena with chemistry and its laws make spontaneous generation not impossible ”, put the researchers on the trail.
In another famous letter sent in 1871 to his friend the English botanist and explorer Joseph D. Hooker, Charles Darwin imagines a small hot pool where inert matter would organize itself into evolving matter, with the help of the components suitable chemicals and energy sources.
In other letters, the naturalist recognized colleagues such as Alfred Russel Wallace or Ernst Haeckel, that spontaneous generation was important for the coherence of the theory. However, “at the same time, he admitted that science was not mature to address the issue (hence his resistance to talking about this in public) and that he would not live long enough to see it resolved,” says Peretó.
Pereto, Juli; Bada, Jeffrey L .; Lazcano, Antonio. “Charles Darwin and the Origin of Life” Origins of life and evolution of biospheres 39 (5): 395-406 October 2009.
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