How Did Evolution Start?

Without an answer, psychology remains impressionistic.

Posted Jan 16, 2019

How did evolution start? Some say it didn’t since, evolution just means unrolling like a scroll. There’s no start if evolution just means events unfolding, or even God unrolling the scroll of predestined fate.

But, evolution by natural selection? How did it start? Darwin doesn’t say. Selection implies an active selector, but there isn’t one—no one is choosing the fittest like God choosing Noah to survive the floods. Natural selection is really natural degeneration, organisms failing in their struggle for existence.

Natural selection, therefore, started when life started, organisms striving on their own behalf, struggling for their own existence and trying to prevent their own degeneration. So how did life start? We haven’t known. Darwin sidestepped the question saying merely that life is “breathed into a few forms or into one.” Since Darwin, surprisingly few researchers have tried to explain the origins of organisms and their struggle for existence. Even origins of life researchers sidestep. Most bet on replicating molecules as how life started even though molecules don’t struggle for their existence—not even DNA or RNA. Genes are molecular patterns. Patterns aren’t struggling to exist. What do you get when you plant a sterile planet with replicating molecular patterns? A sterile planet.

Even the simplest life forms struggle for their existence—even those that can’t feel or think. A tree, bacterium, begonia or corral is trying to keep going, not just by making copies of itself either but by regenerating in real time despite natural degeneration.

When life emerged—that’s when evolution by natural selection started. And saying that it emerged is no more an explanation than saying that life just popped out. The question is how.

Evolution isn’t the only feature that starts with the emergence of life. You get everything that matters to anyone. You get fitness which is not the same as a rock fitting in a crevice. Fitness is trying to regenerate in ways that fit one’s circumstances. You get value, what’s valuable for an organism’s struggle for existence. And you get trying, purposeful work, effort to regenerate.

Life’s struggle for existence is something different from nothing but chemistry. What and how did it emerge? It’s a question researchers sidestep like dejected lovers who have gone so long without a satisfying answer that they’d rather not ask.