Are they looking at the right place?
The intriguing question, “What are the Origins of Life on Earth?” has always been a FAQ (Frequently Asked Question), SAQ (Sought After Question), MCQ (Multiple Choice Question), and a MDQ (Million Dollar Question) for people all over the world since time immemorial. The two formidable camps that have attempted to solve this riddle are religion and science. But more often than not they have been at loggerheads in their outlooks towards this riddle. In fact this one question has been the most contentiously debated topic between science and religion. Most religions of the world trace the origin of life to divinity, a divine power, distinct from matter. And over the same issue, science has split into two camps: materialist science and non-materialist science. Materialist scientists contend that life is simply the chance result of highly evolved combinations of matter; in plain words, they believe life has no special element or dimension to it, being just another form of matter, though in a much evolved stage of existence. Non-materialist scientists, on the other hand, conclude that life has to it several facets that can’t be explained just in terms of combinations and interactions of matter. Theories like Intelligent Design are products of non-materialist science, postulating that some divine or extra-terrestrial power must be there behind the creation and control of life as we know it. Between these two camps, materialist science has always dominated non-materialist science in the realms of academic and media influence.
The Different Views
Unlocking the deep mystery surrounding the origins of life would have deep ramifications for religion, science, and human society in general. Materialist science in particular has since its inception discovered, perceived, experimented with, and put forth theories for a world defined by four dimensions – the three dimensions of space plus time. A world composed of these four dimensions can support nothing except inter-actions and intra-actions of matter and time. Therefore, whatever it is – whether a universe, a star, a planet, a subatomic particle or life on earth – must be explained in the context of these four dimensions. But if materialist science were to grant, as religion and non-materialist science do, the existence in this world of a fifth dimension – let us call it the dimension of divinity – then a flurry of combinations and permutations of multi-dimensional inter-actions and intra-actions come under the purview of scientific enquiry. And for human society in the twenty-first century, which is largely geared towards a hedonistic and consumerist lifestyle that has created crucial global issues like global warming, radiation hazards, and nuclear wars, acknowledging this fifth dimension could lead to a global thought renaissance.
It needs to be clarified here that, conceptually speaking, this fifth dimension is not on a linear, straight-forward continuum with the other four dimensions; it is on an entirely different level of existence and comprises a radical discontinuity from the four dimensions we are under normal circumstances acquainted with. Moreover, the word “dimension” here is not used in a technical but rather a non-technical, generic sense. The Vedas, books of wisdom from ancient India, describe all that is material in terms of the three modes of material nature. These three modes are like three dimensions of goodness, passion and ignorance on Vedic scale, which determine the relative grading of any action, place, behavioural pattern, doer etc. Therefore they refer to transcendence, as the fourth dimension – in Sanskrit, turiya, literally “the fourth” or “Pure consciousness.” The fifth dimension that we are referring to here more or less collates with this concept of turiya in the Vedic literature.
But can scientific methods successfully uncover that fifth dimension and unravel its mysteries? Over the years, materialist scientists have come up with volumes and volumes of research work to establish that life is nothing but meaningless matter driven by chance in the vast cosmic emptiness. In support of this theory, the volume of the work produced and the credentials of the scientists who have produced it are impressive, which is responsible for the theory gaining wide acceptance in the global populace through television, mass media, education, textbooks, and the like. What exactly are the claims of mainstream materialist science?
“Life is entirely the result of physics and chemistry inside cells and among cells.” (Tom Pollard, Former President, American Society for Cell Biology)
So in essence what they are saying is this: “Life is nothing but evolved matter (rather than being a synergy of a divine life-energy and matter). All the varied and complex vegetation and life forms on Earth are results of chance combinations of matter leading to complex chemical reactions. These reactions and transformations over large periods of time have produced these complex machines called life forms, be they cells or plants or fish or reptiles or mammals or even human beings.” The fundamental premise behind these claims is that all the physiological, metabolic, and other bodily functions of any life form can be more or less understood and explained in terms of standard science-textbook processes of physics, chemistry, or electrochemistry. Thus a life form is nothing but an electro-physio-chemical machine – pure matter. A deeper evaluation of the theory reveals that it gives too simplistic and reductionist a model for the complex phenomena we call life. In the following paragraphs, we will see how such a blanket denial of the existence of the fifth dimension of divine life-energy has certain fundamental defects and loopholes.
The Characteristics of Lifeforms that no Matter can Duplicate There are several peculiar features or characteristics which are intriguingly displayed only by lifeforms. These are the systematic processes of birth, growth, self-maintenance, reproduction of self-duplicating units, aging, and death. Nonliving objects are created, deteriorate over time, and eventually meet with destruction, whereas living systems exhibit three additional features: maintenance, growth, and reproduction. When we cut our finger, even without any conscious effort the clotting process starts and automatically in a few hours or so fresh new skin covers the wound. Can an artificial hand follow suit? A unicellular organism can grow but why can’t even the most sophisticated computer at least expand the size of its memory if not its physical dimensions? Even trees can reproduce, but robots can’t. Why do machines not exhibit the phenomena we have come to associate with life? Thus, even at the outset, a keen observer can see that there is something unique about life forms.
Consciousness Unknown to Matter
Several characteristic elements of life forms cannot be explained in terms of science-textbook processes of physics, chemistry, or electrochemistry. The elements of observership, judgment, decision making, and emotion are features unnoticed in any form of matter or machine of this world. Why is it that in all games and sports, a living person is appointed as the umpire or referee for observing the game and giving judgements? A camera can capture images like the human eye, and a computer can process the images even faster than human beings. Why is it then that wherever we need judgment, from the sports field to the court, a human being is irreplaceable with any machine or dead matter. We all have the experience of breathing in cool, refreshing air of the mountains but can any machine feel that experience. Materialists would likely retaliate that the experience is the result of secretion of chemical hormones in the brain. But the brain is just dead matter. The process of chemical combination does not give joy, or any other emotion, to the constituent elements involved. It remains what it is – a lifeless interaction. Even if we assume that human experience if the result of hormones, still the experiencer or the witness is out of our grip. Neither the dead matter of the brain nor the hormonal chemicals are the subjective entities at the center of what we experience when we breathe in fresh mountain air. Who, then, experiences it? Where in the brain is the experiencer or witness to that fresh air?
The scientific explanations for the bodily functions may prove that a life form is a conscious self, possessing and governing a physio-chemical machine, but to say that life form is a physio-chemical machine and nothing more is an illogical extrapolation. There is much more to a life form than just the mechanical and chemical functions going on inside its body.
Creation: by Chance or by Glance
For inventing complex machines like computers or even for upgrading their technology, several scientists have been honored and awarded the Nobel Prize. Shouldn’t Dr. Chance be entitled to a million Nobel Prizes? After all, scientists obsessed with this concept of chance have credited chance with the creation of the material elements, planets, stars, universes, living cells, life forms, human beings, and practically everything else as well. Perhaps scientists have just delegated the mysteries they found too difficult to unravel to Dr. Chance.
In common experience, no useful thing in this world ever popped up by chance. The most complex machine on the planet is the human brain, which is itself the source of even supercomputers. When the most simple of all machines never came into existence by chance, how is it that the most sophisticated of all machines, the human brain could have come by chance? In contrast, the Vedas describe the creation happening not by chance, but by the glance of the Supreme Lord. It is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.25.9 and 10.87.29) that by the glance of the Supreme Lord the total material elements are set into motion, having been suffused or superimposed upon with the fifth dimension, the divine life energy.This process leads in turn to the creation of millions of species of life. In the Bhagavad-gita (9.10), Krishna says, mayadhyaksena prakrtih suyate sa-caracaram: “Under My direction material nature is producing all moving and nonmoving beings.”
In recent times, the theory of cosmic accident has become popular. In short, it says that the origin of mass, and therefore of all that we can see, is a kind of extraterrestrial happenstance. In other words, something, indeed everything, can come from nothing and when something can come from nothing, what is the need of a creator?
This theory, if it can be called one, has many glaring defects:
1. If for a moment we assume that the Laws of Physics and Quantum Mechanics can cause universes to pop up from nothing, then the obvious question is Who creates these laws and forces them to act?
2. What is this “nothing,”and where does it come from?
The Fifth Dimension
Experiments by Dr. Wilde Penfield testify to the existence of the fifth dimension. Dr. Penfield noticed that by stimulating with an electrical probe a particular part of the motor cortex of a patient’s brain, the hand of the patient would rise. Surprisingly, the patient reported that though he could feel his arm rising, he had never made a conscious decision to do it. When requested to lift his arm himself, the patient moved it and acknowledged that this time he had made the decision to do so. This clearly proves that though the human body seems to function like any mechatronic gadget, the decision-making faculty of the human being is not a part of this machine. Even with the best instruments, neuroscientists have not been able to locate that decision maker. After four decades of brain research, Dr. Penfield concluded, “The brain is a computer . . . But it is programmed by something which is outside itself.” Is it possible that Dr. Penfield’sresearch suggests that a fifth-dimensional force is in control of the brain computer?
What are the Scientists’ Conclusions?
Seeking to understand the mysteries of life, Nobel-prize-winning scientist Albert Szent Gyorgyi began his quest by studying simple organisms. Next he switched to studying cells and then to the chemistry of proteins. Finally he settled upon electrons. At the end of his search he confessed, “In my search for the secret of life, I ended up with atoms and electrons, which have no life at all. Somewhere along the line life ran out through my fingers. So, in my old age, I am retracing my steps.”
Nobel Laureate, Eugene Wigner says that the possibility of a self-duplicating unit emerging on its own is zero. He concludes that our understanding of physics and chemistry does not enable us to explain the phenomenon of life.
Thus even great scientists have acceded that we need a different approach to unravel the mysteries of life, which we have here referred to as the study of the fifth dimension.
For decades now materialist scientists have been positing that life has come from matter. But, in reality, has any laboratory been able to produce from dead mattereven one blade of grass? Or has any dead body, with all its chemical constituents intact, been brought back to life? The scientists’ promises to some day deliver these results are like so many post-dated cheques; we are left waiting for them to make good on their promises.
To conclusively resolve the issue, we would like to put forward a challenge for the scientists making these promises:
1. Any piece of metal or liquid or gas or a primordial mix of all these may be taken and contrived to produce the following six transformations: birth, growth, self-maintenance, reproduction of self-duplicating units, aging, and death.
2. Next an attempt may be made to conjure that dead matter to experience and express emotions like happiness, distress, sorrow, joy, pain, anger, and fear.
3. That dead matter should also be stimulated to make a conscious wilful decision to move or eat or anything similar.
If they can deliver payment in full for their claims rather than issuing post-dated cheques, we are ready to accept their theory that life comes from matter. It is worth noting that despite their glaring inability to do so, the general populace has great faith in the theories set forth by materialist scientists about the origin of life. This is because in the past two centuries science has become humanity’s most coddled and pampered child. We as a race are proud of the discoveries and technological advancements that science has given us. So, it is often difficult to objectively see the evidence and reasoning science provides, as if a veil of bias and sentiment has covered our collective vision and intellect.
In conclusion, though scientific research has doubtlessly proved that the physical body functions like a mechatronic-chemical-audio-visual machine, the claim that this understanding is the be-all and end-all of life is illogical. It may prove that a life form is a conscious self, possessing and governing its body-machine, but it does not prove that a life form is a machine and nothing more. The modern scientist is far from proving that life is nothing but a product of combinations and interactions of matter. Therefore we say that bystudying the mechanistic functions of lifeforms, scientists are looking for the origins of life in the wrong places. We humbly suggest that scientists instead turn their gaze towards the fifth dimension, which holds the mysteries of the origin of life.
Rajat Choudhary has done his post graduation in Industrial Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. He is currently serving at the ISKCON Mumbai temple as a resident monk. This article is based on Devamrita Swami’s book Searching for Vedic India.