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Life’s Hard Stop: Fortune? Or Foresight?


Astrophysicist Ethan Siegel points out another “incredibly fortunate” thing about the Cambrian explosion and about evolution generally. He reminds readers of his popular Forbes blog that life on Earth, at least on Earth’s surface, has a time limit as the Sun ages. That will come a long time prior to the actual death throes of our home star:

Global warming will destroy life on Earth in the end: not just human life, but all life on the planet’s surface, including in the seas. A billion or two years from now, long before the Sun becomes a red giant and starts fusing helium, the temperatures on our world will rise too high for plants, animals or any creatures we know to survive. Perhaps we’re incredibly fortunate that life took the path it did to lead to us; if the Cambrian explosion or the workings of biological evolution were just a little bit slower, intelligent life like us may have never had the time to arise. [Emphasis added.]

Of course we know that the explosion of diversity in the Cambrian event, the history of animal life since, and the relatively recent origin of human intelligence, display more than just fortune, incredible or otherwise. Biological information, including the information that underlies our species, is not a matter of good luck but of programming, action by a source of intelligence working with purposeful deliberation. 

“Time Is the Enemy”

As Stephen Meyer puts it in the new Science Uprising series, “The bottom line is that the mutation-selection mechanism simply lacks the creative power to generate the new information necessary to build new organisms in the history of life.” No matter what the timeframe. Synthetic organic chemist James Tour goes further, in another Science Uprising episode. When it comes to the origin of life itself, he explains, “Time is actually the enemy.”

Evolutionists habitually point to the vast time available for their unguided mechanism to operate. Let’s say we grant them that time is not the enemy (Tour), nor ultimately a non-factor (Meyer), but the great friend of evolution. If you were to grant that, then the timing is, as Siegel says, “incredibly fortunate.” The Cambrian explosion happened in a hurry, geologically speaking. Evolution came together in a more rapid fashion than seems credible, even on a superficial view, given what we know now about the complexity of life. But it needed to do so, given the hard stop to terrestrial biology that will come eventually. It’s as if life, intelligent life, was looking forward to its own future needs.

Is that fortune? Or as chemist Marcos Eberlin would have it, is it evidence of foresight?

Photo credit: Dan Gold via Unsplash.