In 1859 the proponents of spontaneous generation lined up against Louis Pasteur in a battle that nailed the theory in its coffin, to the dissatisfaction of many. Some would surprise to you.
So who were the people who favored spontaneous generation? Contrary to what you might expect, generally the proponents of theory were the antiestablishment forces of their day. They were those free-thinkers whom science had brought within arm’s reach of dumping God. They would no longer have to sit through boring masses, confession, and other religious screws to the joints. Politically, they could start creating pragmatic doctrines that were devoid of morality. Howbeit, humanist platitudes made it easier to manipulate the masses. Science, of course, was better off because we no longer had to apologize for making statements that conflicted with the Bible. If orcs could just generate themselves from muck then God was no longer needed.
On the other side you had Pasteur, a strong Catholic, who felt, along with his supporters, that if matter could not organize itself into a living system, then God was required to make life. A reasonable point, however some of those proponents thought it also mean that life could not mutate into other forms. I.e. evolution could not happen in spite of Darwin’s evidence that it could. They’re view was that God set up in heaven, engaged in the hobby of creating new things now and then, and poofing them to Earth, where they appeared, locked in form until he came up with a replacement model. Obviously they had misconstrued the principle proved by Pasteur. To restate it—matter cannot organize itself into a living system. It doesn’t say living systems cannot beget mutations.
It’s interesting that previous scientists thought they had proved spontaneous generation by running an experiment very similar to Pasteur’s. They boiled organic matter, hay, to kill all microbes and isolated the resulting sterile mush from contamination. Behold, microbes were later found in the supposedly sterile mix, proving that life could arise out of organic mush. In short their error was poor execution. I contend that sloppy practice continues today with regard to many startling discoveries—cold fusion, for example. Pasteur did the experiment, but was more meticulous, and, behold, no microbes in his sterile soup. It was repeated by others enough to validate it, and spontaneous generation was dead, much to the dissatisfaction of many.
Darwin had written Origin of Species in 1859, the same year that the French prize was announced. He should have been happy with Pasteur’s proof, once pigs dying and reorganizing their dead flesh into maggots was differentiated from pigs having faster, meaner, fatter, or otherwise different pigs as offspring. Darwin’s theory described the later and had nothing to do with the former—so you think.
But Darwin had a dirty little secret. He was one microbe away from getting rid of God, but that one microbe may as well have been on the other side of the galaxy—someday it would be proposed that it was. [Note: Personally I use “higher intelligence” in place of “God”. Not that I wish to disrespect God, I just don’t know what form He, She and It comes in and by being wishy-washy I leave the door open to be acceptable regardless of the form.]
Let’s imagine Darwin trying to go to sleep at night, contemplating his masterpiece much as we would count sheep. His thought process might follow this ditty: The human bone connects to the primate bone, the primate bone connects to the lemur bone, the lemur bone connects to the mammal bone… connects to the amoeba bone, the amoeba bone connects to the…, reboot, connects to the…, reboot, connect to the—ah shit, connects to the primordial muck, i.e. spontaneous generation—AGAIN!
Never mind Pasteur, Darwin proposed it anyway. I’m not sure whether he was brave enough to suggest an experiment to prove it, but his followers attempted many experiments over the next century. They tried every combination of primordial soup, gas, and ignition method possible, without true success.
Meanwhile the political opportunists didn’t let a simple amoeba stand in their way. Nietzsche prematurely declared God dead. Surely He was in the hearts of the elite intelligentsia.
Masters of deception learned that material capitalism could be replaced with ideological capitalism. Both are based on sale of something for profit but with ideology, one need only get dolts to buy bullshit and he can obtain wealth and fame without ever inventing and producing anything useful. Ideologies aren’t that much different from religions. In fact, one might say they are religions, repackaged and repositioned to be marketed in modern times.
Next time, the third and maybe final essay on spontaneous generation: “Genetics & Dr. Crick’s Alternative”