3.8 billion years ago, the Earth was mostly ocean. And that ocean was populated by billions of tiny archaea and bacteria. That was life. Life stayed like that for 2 billion years. These prokaryotes existed in an “energy canyon” they did not have the energy to get bigger and more complicated, and the only way they could develop the mechanisms to get bigger and more complicated, they would need energy. It’s a paradox. So for 2 billion years, nothing really changed, and there was no reason life wouldn’t continue like that for billions of more years. But one day, complicated, diverse life began to develop. The theory as to how this miracle happened is as follows. An archaean (a bigger single celled organism) and a bacterium (a smaller organism) are floating along, and they happen to bump into each other. Improbably, impossibly, the two cells merge. The bacterium, now stuck inside a bigger cell, should struggle to survive. It shouldn’t be able to eat, or live, or reproduce. The larger cell should protest, should excrete the imposter bacterium. But that didn’t happen. Very improbably, very impossibly, the bacteria, called a mitochondria, survived. The big cell fed it, allowed it to reproduce, built mechanisms to keep the growing population alive.
You might be wondering, but where did the energy for this growth come from? What about that energy canyon. The answer is across the cell membrane of the mitochondria. They are a special type of cell that produces a large electric charge across its membrane. It’s an electric charge equivalent to a bolt of lighting. So it grew, and diversified, and made proteins and DNA and organelles, it reproduces and spread, and over the next 1.8 billion years that 2 cell merge evolved into all the complex, eukaryotic life on Earth today.
Based on this theory, the story in the Book of Genesis of Adam and Eve, of two things coming together and creating life, doesn’t seem that far from evolutionary biology. If Genesis is, as many Christian scientists believe, a romanization of reality, then this theory of evolution might fit into the Bible.
The other societal implication that arises from this theory is the possibility of alien life. Because of the pure improbability of how complicated life came to be, it’s statistically very unlikely that this could have happened anywhere else, no matter the vastness of the universe. However, it is not that unlikely that we could find bacteria roaming the surface of far away planets. But alas, no E.T.
Inside of myself, there are mitochondria and DNA remnant of that original merge. If you look hard enough, you can see how I am related to the origins of life.
Abumrad, J. (Producer). (2016, April 6). Radiolab [Audio podcast]. Retrieved From http://www.radiolab.org/story/cellmates/
Rosen, J. (2015, October 19). Scientists may have found the earliest evidence of life on Earth. Science Magazine. doi:10.1126/science.aad4732
Brom, R. H. (2004, August 10). Adam, Eve, and Evolution. Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://www.catholic.com/tracts/adam-eve-and-evolution