KF: there is a simple misunderstanding here. In Darwin’s words:
There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone circling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.
In other words, Darwin, and indeed modern evolutionary theory is about descent from “few forms or one”.
It is NOT about the origins of those “few forms or one”.
If you want to uses the tree analogy, it accounts for the trunk to the twigs; it does not account for the origin of the trunk.
Liddle is correct on a basic point: Darwin’s theory proposed to explain transformations of species, not origin of life. That said, most Darwinians have hoped to extend the scope of the theory to encompass prebiotic “evolution” – and they routinely do.
No surprise, because their alternatives are grim: Space aliens, God, or non-Darwinian evolution theories – all of which they minimize or reject because every competitive possibility detracts from their rule. That is the actual reason Darwin in the schools lobbies don’t want competing naturalistic possibilities taught. Such possibilities force an evaluation of the strength of the argument for natural selection as the driver in each and every single case instead of just equating Darwin’s theory with evolution generally. Which is, of course, what they want and need to do.
Darwinism can succeed only as a totalistic system. Of course natural selection does not create complex new organs in life forms in reality. But if all other possibilities are removed, it remains, as Richard Dawkins said back in 1993, the only possibility. And therefore, you see, it or something like it must be true.
I experienced much confusion in these matters until I finally understood that aspect of the struggle. Darwin’s followers will at one and the same time say their theory does not cover OOL and tout with approval papers about chemical prebiotic evolution along Darwinian lines with no inner sense of contradiction. Because their system is totalistic, they do not experience any contradiction, merely an awareness of territory they have not yet claimed.