We told you, things are lightening up. A friend mentioned that Caltech physicist Sean Carroll offers a podcast at his Preposterous Universe site. A recent guest is astrobiologist Stuart Bartlett, a postdoc at CalTech (geochemistry).
At 06:50 of the podcast, says friend, What “Life” Means, July 20, 2020, Bartlett offers doubt that natural selection is the explanation for biological complexity. “I am not confident,” he says, “that we can rely on Darwinian evolution to explain the complexity that we see.”
Cue firing squad, right?
Well, no, apparently. Carroll appears shocked by such Wrongthink (“fighting words, obviously — I can’t just let you get away with saying that!”). But he doesn’t put a stop to the podcast. He just asks Bartlett to affirm that he doesn’t mean God (19:50) or “creationism” (28:30).
So Bartlett goes on to say (01:14:31), that “even the idea of life coming from a single universal ancestor — I’m not sure that we can definitely say that that was the case.”
Of course it’s not definite. Why should it be? If, as many origin-of-life researchers claim, there was a special time that was just right for the origin of life, life could have had multiple ancestors.
The dogma about the One Single Common Ancestor that kicked off Darwinian evolution is the product of a prior belief in life’s sheer Flukiness. If you do not believe that life is a fluke, whatever else you believe, you can discard that One Single Cell doctrine as nonessential and problematic.
Here’s a recent (open access) paper by Bartlett and a colleague, Michael L. Wong.