I still remain fixated, well, fixated for five minutes at a time after which my head aches, with this problem of the very first incident of inanimate matter becoming suffused with life. What's the problem you ask? Well, after the 'Big Bang' it is surely the Singularity of Singularities. Absolutely everything that has ever lived, that lives now and that will live in the future depended utterly on that single little chemical burp which resulted in biology. As Matt Ridley puts it:
The three-letter words of the genetic code are the same in every creature. GCA means an arginine and GCG means an alanine - in bats, in beetles, in bacteria. They even mean the same in the misleadingly named archaebacteria living at boiling temperatures insulphorous springs thousands of feet beneath the surface of the Atlantic ocean or in those microscopic capsules of deviousness called viruses. Wherever you go in the world, whatever animal, plant, bug or blob you look at, if it is alive, it will use the same dictionary and know the same code. All life is one. The generic code, bar a few tiny local aberrations, mostly for unexplained reasons in the ciliate protozoa, is the same in every creature. We all use exactly the same language. This means - and religious people might find this a useful argument - that there was only one creation, one single event when life was born.
Matt Ridley: Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, 1999, p21.
"One single event"! Can that be right? It seems like it because we all, from people to plants, bacteria to baboons, share the same genetic 'language' and presumably if some other bits of matter had been kick-started in the same environment at that time then there would have been a plethora of different languages - and one shudders to imagine the chaos that would have been created! As it is, the human genome which was thought likely to contain at least 100,000 genes turned out to consist of only 26,000, and that is a mere 5,000 more than - a blind, millimetre-long roundworm! So, one single event, in one single place in certain very specific conditions. What are the chances of that? Of course, the 'Dawkinistas' will propose, on nil evidence so far, that life probably exists on other planets in the cosmos, hence their desperate hopes that signs of life will be found on Mars. There may well be signs there but if and when they are found they need to be treated with great caution and scepticism because, like global warming, inference will become fact overnight!
Anyway, we are left ruminating on the great, nay, humungous, singularity of the start of life on our planet and then we have to consider those absolutely critical, six physical constants which, had any of them varied by a hair's width (or the physics equivalent thereof) then the whole bloody universe would not have been possible. Makes you think, doesn't it? Well, it might make you think - it gives me a headache!
Incidentally, I'm on an away-day tomorrow, back on Wednesday.