Not long ago (March 9, 1958) the British Broadcasting Company carried a symposium on the Origin of Life. All the speakers took the view that life had in some way arisen spontaneously from nonliving matter at a remote epoch in time. But in his summation, Dr. J. D. Bernal, who was in the chair (and who is well known for his materialistic views), made a striking statement. “It would be much easier,” he said, “to discuss how life didn’t originate than how it did.”

A similar comment might seem appropriate to almost every attempt to unravel the problems connected with the distant past. Let us look at some of the basic difficulties, especially in connection with evolution, since this year marks the centenary of the publication of Darwin’s famous book, The Origin of the Species.

The Course Of Nature

Of all the laws of nature, perhaps the most fundamental is concerned with nature’s time sense. When events take place they do so in a way which serves to distinguish between backwards and forwards. This fact was known to the ancients who made lists of events which never took place in reverse. Rivers did not run uphill, plants and men did not grow backwards, fires did not turn ashes into fully grown trees. At the beginning of the scientific era Newton extended the same idea—warm water never turns back into the hot and cold water from which it is obtained by mixing. Heat, therefore, is becoming degraded and becoming less available. In the nineteenth century the principle was enshrined in the law of entropy (second law of thermodynamics) and was applied in the theory of the steam engine. Since that time the entropy law, expressed mathematically (it was Boltzmann who showed how this might be done), has been applied in new directions—to the ...

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