Quite often when confronted with the problematic nature of explaining the arrival of the first life capable of supporting descent with modification an evolutionary theorist will say the theory has no bearing on how the first life came into existence – the theory only explains what happened after that.
Is this true?
Well, yes and no. Evolutionary theory doesn’t explain exactly how the first life was created and doesn’t demand any particular modus operandi. However, that’s not to say it doesn’t make any assumptions at all. It assumes that the first life was a simple cell and the mechanism(s) described by the theory made a simple common ancestor (or perhaps a few simple common ancestors) into the complex and diverse spectrum of life we observe today.
If you want to find out if NDE really cares about how life originated just try asserting that life originated as very complex forms that were programmed to diversify in a prescribed manner. Try saying the original form of life on the earth was like a stem cell in that it contained the unexpressed potential in it to diversify into many different forms with chance playing little if any role in the diversification process. Or better yet, for some real shrieking and howling rejection, try proposing that life originated as very complex perfect forms such as described in the Garden of Eden and the story of evolution is really a story of devolution from originally perfect, diverse forms.
In short not every modus operandi for the origin of life is acceptable – only those which don’t involve intelligent design in the origin of life. The problem is that if you admit intelligent design in the origin of life you open the door for it anywhere in the subsequent story of life. As Richard Lewontin said “We can’t let a divine foot in the door”. In actuality it’s the foot of any intelligent agent, divine or not, that isn’t allowed in the door.
It’s relatively easy to pin someone like Richard Dawkins into the uncomfortable position of either exposing his non-scientific presumptions about the origin of life or admitting that life on earth was possibly intelligently designed. All you have to do is get them to agree that intelligent life such as ourselves with the requisite skills in biochemistry to design a simple cell can evolve without intelligent agency. They are forced by their own beliefs to agree. Then you next ask if it’s possible that intelligent life evolved somewhere else in the universe first and that form subsequently designed the life we find on this planet. They must either agree that’s possible or explain why, scientifically, it isn’t possible. At that point they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. In order to maintain the illusion of being an objective scientist with no ideological presuppositions they must admit that life on earth could be the result of design. Dawkins chose to maintain the illusion by admitting that design is a possibility then tried to weasel out of it by saying that the designer is almost certainly an evolved intelligence. If he doesn’t say almost certainly then again he admits to holding a non-scientific presumption.