August 12, 2006

The Genesis of Biogenesis

Biogenesis [pron. Bī-ō-GEN'-E-SIS] the origin of living organisms from others preceding them. this doctrine is opposed to that of abiogenesis, or spontaneous generation, a theory that had many supporters until the end of the 19th century. The appearance of maggots in meat, bacteria and yeast in fermenting sugar solutions, and worms in water containing horse hair, was adduced as evidence of spontaneous creation, and it was not until Pasteur showed that no fermentation or putrefaction could occur on sterilised media enclosed in sterilised vessels, that many people abandonned this theory.
Although biogenesis is now generally accepted as the mode of origin of all known forms of life, it is thought by some scientists that, since there is evidence that ultra-microscopic filterable viruses are living organisms, there may be no real border between living and non-living material, and that forms recognisable as living were evolved by the synthesis of smaller particles. this conception of abiogenesis is on a different plane from the theory of spontaneous generation, and raises the problem of the vitalist and mechanistic conceptions of life.
See Also: Bacteriology; Biology; Embryology; Evolution
This text is from the 1935 Modern World Encyclopaedia, a source I have started transferring to create articles on Wikipedia. As you can see I've only reached "Bioge"
in volume 2 (BED-CIG) of the collection.

Made between the two great wars (still refering to THE World War) it offers an expecially interesting insight into the political climate of Europe at this most turmulous of times. It also, as the above entry shows, has an interesting insight into science at this stage in its development, just as genetics and modern biology were taking off.

Note that this entry makes a clear distinction between "spontaneous generation" and the modern conception of abiogensis (simplified: proteins -> self replicating proteins -> proto-organisms -> micro-organisms). I think this is something that modern science does not do enough to make clear, and something that creationist detractors often continue to repeat - citing Pasteur's experiments, and similar ones, as evidence of science against evolution. They aren't, not only is not evolutionary theory, but it is not even the theory they are trying to associate with it.

Biogenesis, even in 1935 was the "generally accepted ... mode of origin of all known forms of life" and is a key necessity for evolutionary models to work. Life came from previous (but different) life. You are not your parents, you are new and unique and special for a variety reasons, all a result from this simple process - life begets new life.

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