Life Theories

Life Theories

Paul J. Dejillas, Ph.D. - November 17, 2020


Is Life Free to Do What It Likes Or Is It Predetermined?

For science, life is dictated by the behavior of atoms and molecules that made it. For religion, life emerges on earth for a purpose, set already by an intelligent designer.

Our task is to know when to leave life to the behavior of atoms and molecules or to the will and intent of the designer. This is a process of "going with the flow" of Nature and of the Author of Creation so we can live the kind of life we want to the full.

But there is more to this and the details are a long and winding road. I will discuss some life theories below from the scientific point of view. Yet, many of them appear to correlate with those espoused by religion.

1. The Mechanistic Theory. Living organisms are complex machines which function according to the usual laws of physics, causality, and rationality.

Living cells are ‘factories’ directed by DNA molecules. DNA molecules contain millions of atoms strung together in a precise double-helix pattern. Life is already determined by laws of time, space, and matter.

2. The Theory of Evolution. Charles Darwin advanced that life emerged on Earth through the process of mutation and natural selection. Mutations occur when genes become rearranged within an organism’s DNA.

Natural selection is the continuing struggle for resources; the organisms that are better suited to their environment are more likely to survive and reproduce than their weaker competitors. Darwin and neo-Darwinian's advocate that life emerged from the “organic soup” or “muddy water”.

3. Vitalism and Entelechy. All nature is alive. Life did not emerge from dead matter. We came from a single primal cell that possesses a ‘life force’ or ‘élan vital’. We are therefore related to all living things and to everything in the Cosmos.

Entelechy introduces the idea of an organizing force that propels a species to grow, change, and reproduce for a definite purpose. Example: inside an egg is an entelechy that enables it to develop and become a chick or fish, but not something else like a tree.

4. The Reductionist Theory of Life. Life emerges as a result of the operations in the atomic and molecular level. At each level, each elements has a specific purpose and function, acting with a common purpose and organized in a cooperative and coherent fashion.

Each level brings into existence new life and qualities. Yet, life in the molecular level can be reduced to the atomic level.

5. Panspermia Theory. Life came from extraterrestrial objects like meteors and asteroids that bombarded Earth during its early formation, carrying with them life that contained genetic and DNA instructions, memories, and codes necessary for the formation of earthly life.

Life can be easily transferred from planet to planet, for example, from the Earth to the moon and back again, due to frequent cosmic collisions.

6. Biocentrism. The first DNA did not originate from an organic soup of Darwin, but outside our planets. The primeval oceans and deep blue seas were soon swimming with life and harboring a variety of single celled organisms and their DNA led to the emergence of other forms of life in sea and on land.

Biocentrism advocates that the universe as a whole was fine-tuned for life for a reason. The clear conclusion is that the universe was designed for life by a purposeful designer.

7. Morphogenesis. This theory contains more questions than answers. Morphogenesis is creation of various human forms or organs like kidney, heart, lungs, eyes, hair, and so on. But how was a disorganized collection of molecules assembled into a coherent whole that constitutes a living organism?

How did the embryo develop from a single fertilized cell produced millions of cells become specialized to form parts of nerves, liver, bone, etc.? Was there perhaps a blueprint somewhere, or plan of assembly, carrying the instructions needed to achieve the finished form?

This implies a ‘metaplan’ a strong element of teleology. It seems as if the developing embryo is being directed towards its final state by some sort of global supervising agency.

But is this metaplan located? In the DNA? If so, how do some cells ‘know’ they have to become blood cells, while others must become other organs of our body?

Flatworms, when chopped up, develop into several complete worms. Salamanders can regenerate an entire new limb if one is removed. Most bizarre of all is the hydra, a simple creature consisting of a trunk crowned by tentacles. If a fully developed hydra is chopped into pieces and left on its own, it will reassemble itself in its entirety!

The idea is that certain genes within the DNA strand are responsible for certain developmental tasks. Normally these genes lie dormant, but at the appropriate moment they are ‘switched on’ and begin their set functions. When it goes wrong, the organism can turn into a monster.

8. Multiregional Metamorphosis Theory. This theory advances that the Earth was genetically seeded to grow humans which sprang not from a single trunk line, but from multiple “genetic” seeds that gave rise to a “forest of life.”

From 4.4 to 2 million years ago, over a dozen different species of hominids dwelled throughout parts of Africa, the Far East, Euro-Asian, and Asia. Neandertals and Cro-Magnons also appear to have emerged multiregionally, and separate trunk lines.

In the end, our challenge lies in knowing where science and religion have their respective influence on the quality of our daily life. This is the simplest formula.

But life gets more complicated and challenging if we insert our free will into the equation. Why? Because free will can also go beyond the realm of science and religion.