The Story of Darwin The Barrel-Mixer and Those Who Believe in Him (1/2)
When Darwin the barrel-mixer was young, he went on a boat trip. On this voyage, he thought he would find the answers to some questions about living things.
Darwin: Here are the Galapagos Islands; I’ll do my research here.
While wandering across the islands, Darwin came across some interesting-looking birds with very attractive colors.
Darwin: The beaks of those birds are very interesting. How did they get those beautiful wings, I wonder?
After a long trip, Darwin returned to England and continued thinking about the creatures he had seen and how they came into existence.
Darwin: Did these birds come into being by chance? If so, how did those peacocks get such wonderful feathers? I'm getting tired trying to explain it.
In the years that followed, Darwin continued his work. But the scientific instruments of his day were too primitive to let him examine the inner workings of cells. So, he made several errors.
Darwin: Cells are very important. I should explain their existence first.
With his primitive scientific instruments, Darwin couldn’t see that cells were composed of several structures, which he could perceive only as spots. Using his primitive instruments, Darwin drew false conclusions, believed they were true, and he was happy.
Darwin, jumping up and down and shouting for joy: Cells are only simple, tiny structures that probably came into being by chance.
But caught up in this wrong idea, Darwin still had many questions to answer.
Darwin asked himself: There are so many species of living things in the world. How did they all come into being from one cell?
Even though Darwin's idea was erroneous, he thought it was true and proposed the theory of evolution. According to his idea, living creatures developed by chance from inanimate matter. First of all, an imaginary first cell inexplicably came into being, and then all living creatures supposedly evolved from this one cell.
Darwin's being an atheist exerted a great influence on his thinking. With this theory, he would advance a series of ideas that would give strong support to atheism.
Darwin explained his ideas in a book, The Origin of Species, published in 1859.
At that time, the misstatements and errors contained in that book gave great support to some people who did not believe in God.
But even so, Darwin was not happy because some scientific developments which occurred after he proposed his ideas caused him great difficulty. For example, an Austrian botanist (or plant scientist) by the name of Gregor Mendel made experiments with plants and, as a result, proposed what he called the laws of heredity— which proved that Darwin's claims as set out in the theory of evolution were untenable.
Darwin (anxious and unhappy): Mendel has discovered the laws of heredity. What can I do now?
When we examine his evolutionary theory, we see that Darwin believed living things were simple structures. But this was not so. One day, a friend of Darwin’s who did not accept his claims came to see him and started a conversation:
Friend: Charles, your claims are not convincing. Living beings of such perfection could not have come into being by chance, from inanimate matter. No such event could ever happen.
Darwin: Why not? The world is very old. I think that over time, inanimate matter could have jiggled itself together to form living things.
Friend: You claim that humans, fish, horses, plants and everything else came into being by chance, through the wind and the Sun's rays. But very few are convinced. So, do you still insist on this?
Friend (patiently): And you also propose that these magnificent living things were formed when one single cell divided by chance and came together—again by chance?
Friend: But you have no clear proof. You're just guessing. If you believe that these things happened by chance, it would be easy for you do an experiment under the right conditions and form a cell.
Darwin (after a short pause): I think I could make one.
Friend: There's one point that you didn't consider when you proposed your theory, and that is that there is no consciousness in the natural world. Rocks, soil, lightning and the Sun's rays can't think on their own. They can't do experiments. And there is something else that you overlooked. You are not unconscious like a rock or soil; like all human beings, you have the ability to think. You will take advantage of this in your experiments, but you will see that the results will still be the same. You cannot form a conscious, living being from inanimate matter.
Darwin (long silence) . . . .
Friend: Let's do an experiment to show that your theory is wrong. Let's call it the "barrel experiment."
Darwin: The barrel experiment?
Friend: Why are you worried? Don't you think that a barrel and the proper materials are enough?
Darwin: I hope so.
Friend: In this experiment, you can use anything you need—and in whatever proportions you determine.
Darwin (thinking out loud): The environment of the experiment will be more advantageous for me than a natural environment. I will be able to prove my theory!
Friend: Well, then, let's consider everything and try to imagine what this experiment will prove.
Darwin: All right.
Friend: I can tell you plainly that you will not be able to do it. No matter what you do, you will never produce a living being from inanimate matter.
After their conversation, Darwin and his friend considered all the stages of the experiment and started to make the necessary preparations. First of all, Darwin bought a barrel from a shop.
Darwin: I want to buy this barrel.
Then he made a guess about the elements that make up a living thing.
Darwin: Here's the carbon. And here are the phosphorus and the magnesium.
Just before doing the experiment, Darwin hired an assistant to complete the preparations.
Darwin: Everything is ready. The temperature and the humidity are right.
First, Darwin put the appropriate amounts of the elements into the barrel.
Darwin: Yes, I'll add a little iron.
Thinking that the Sun plays an important role in the combining of the elements, Darwin asked his assistant to heat the mixture.
Darwin: Be careful, not too hot.
Darwin didn’t forget the lightning. He took the barrel outside in a heavy storm.
Darwin (looking anxiously at the sky): I wonder if I should wait a bit longer for the lightning?
Darwin included the possibility of earthquakes in his calculations. He and his assistant periodically shook the barrel containing the mixture.
Darwin: Not so fast! You'll spill it.
Assistant (thinking out loud): What a strange experiment!
And he thought that it might help to stir the liquid in the barrel from time to time.
Darwin : Soon the first cell should come into being.
Assistant (thinking out loud): I don't think so.
Darwin : Pay close attention to how I stir it with this ladle.
Assistant (thinking out loud): What am I doing here?
After performing the required procedures, Darwin decided to check the mixture.
Darwin: The big day is now here. Would you bring me a bit of the mixture, please?
Assistant: Right away.
Darwin poured out the liquid from the tube. His assistant looked on to see what will happen, as Darwin examined the mixture with a primitive microscope.
Darwin: Let's see. How many cells are there?
All of a sudden, Darwin the barrel-mixer shouted in anger. He did not expect this result.
Darwin: What does this mean?
Assistant: What, sir?
Darwin: I don't believe it; there must be some mistake.
Darwin (sadly): There's nothing here.
Darwin: I wonder where we went wrong. It didn't work this time, so let's do it again.
Darwin worked on this first experiment for a long time without achieving any results. He didn’t acknowledge the facts and, instead of conceding that living things could not be formed in this way, he decided to do a new experiment.
Darwin: This can't be possible. I must have made a mistake somewhere. Let me think. Maybe I didn't add enough nitrogen. And I think I could have reduced the amount of oxygen.
And it all started over again . . .
Darwin: This time, I'll mix it faster. (To his assistant) Let's reduce the temperature.
Then the assistant lowered the temperature.
Darwin: We have to shake it more. Get someone else in here.
Another person came in, and they all shook the barrel together.
Darwin: Shake it. Shake it faster!
The experiment continued for years in this way ... but Darwin’s attempts to prove his theory were in vain.
Darwin: I wonder if more lightning would have made this work?
Every once in a while, Darwin would leave his experiment and look into his microscope to see what changes had taken place in the mixture. But there were none.
Darwin: It's not working. It's not working.
Assistant: It's time to get out of here . . .
Darwin: Come here! Don't run away. This time it's going to work, I promise.
Years passed without any change. Darwin still couldn’t do it.
Darwin: What am I going to do now?
Darwin: I've tried everything. No living thing has come into being, not even a single cell. I've tried everything. I've used every method, but with no success.
Darwin: What if I throw in a snail and say that it was formed in the experiment? But no, that lie will be found out like the other ones I told.
Later, Darwin and his friend met again to discuss the experiment.
Friend: What do you say, Charles? You see for yourself that your experiment was a failure. You must have abandoned your ideas by now.
Darwin: No. My ideas have not changed. No matter what you say, I still believe that I can form living things from inanimate matter.
Friend: You're wrong. Life requires a particular creation. Nothing comes into being by chance.
Darwin: I think that everything comes into being by chance. Let's wait and see.
After this conversation, Darwin and his friend left each other. Many years passed, and Darwin died.