On March 19, 1981, the Governor of Arkansas signed into law Act 590 of 1981, which stated: "Public schools within this State shall give balanced treatment to creation-science and to evolution-science." On May 27, 1981, a suit was filed challenging the constitutional validity of the Act (1). Although Chandra Wickramasinghe does not endorse creation-science, he was called as an expert witness to rebut the claim that neo-Darwinian evolution was a proven fact. He gave the prepared statement which follows. (Unfortunately, the seven exhibits to which he refers were not preserved with this transcript; only the last one is reproduced here; two others are shown elsewhere on this website.)
Neo-Darwinist ideas became firmly imprinted in my mind and they became part and parcel of my scientific inheritance. Since I did not make a systematic study of biology until about 5 years ago, I had not until this time any opportunity of seeing for myself what the facts really were. I obtained my early training in mathematics at the University of Ceylon, where I obtained a First Class Honours degree in Mathematics and a Commonwealth Scholarship to Cambridge. My later instruction in theoretical astronomy was obtained at the University of Cambridge under the direction of Professor Sir Fred Hoyle, then Plumian Professor of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge. I hold the degrees of M.A., Ph. D. and Sc. D. of that university, and I was at onetime a Fellow and Tutor at Jesus College. I am presently Professor and Head of the Department of Applied Mathematics and Astronomy at University College, Cardiff, U.K. In addition to my joint work with Sir Fred which are court depositions, I have written two other technical books in Astrophysics and over 250 technical papers.
The reason for my standing here to challenge accepted beliefs in Darwinian evolution stems from my joint work with Sir Fred Hoyle. In 1962 we began our work on the nature of interstellar dust and we were led at this time to argue that dust grains in space must contain a component in the form of submicron-sized graphite spheres. Our prediction of an Ultraviolet absorption feature at 2200 A due to graphite in the spectra of stars was subsequently borne out by observations made from above the Earth's atmosphere. It was our struggle to find out what else there was in interstellar dust besides graphite that has a profound relevance to my testimony. In 1972 I published that there was a good argument for a polymer based on the molecule formaldehyde being a component of the dust. Sir Fred Hoyle and I showed thereafter that a polymer similar to cellulose, built essentially of formaldehyde units, was required in order to explain certain aspects of the astronomical observations at infrared wavelengths. This work was published in Nature and in our joint book Lifecloud. Two years ago we reached the conclusion that a whole body of astronomical data pointed to micro-organisms being present in our galaxy. We discussed this work in our joint papers in Astrophysics and Space Science and in a joint book Space Travelers. Here we showed that the way in which starlight of various colours was dimmed by interstellar dust was indicative of the presence of living cells in space, some of which had become selectively degraded into graphite. This correspondence is shown in Exhibit 1. We concluded now with a considerable measure of confidence that microbiology operated on a cosmic scale, partly because of the very close agreement shown here and partly because this fit came about after nearly two decades of failure and frustration to obtain even a tolerable fit to the same data using more conventional models of the dust.
In studying the spectral behavior of micro-organisms in the laboratory we next noted that a diagnostic thrumbprint of biology existed over the 3.4 micrometer waveband as shown in Exhibit 2. We then compared laboratory data with the observed behaviour of infrared absorption for a star at the centre of our galaxy and found the remarkably close correspondence between microbiology and astronomy shown in Exhibit 3 [same as graph in "An Interview with Fred Hoyle"]. Bacteria seemed therefore to be present on a galaxy-wide scale. These identifications are, in the view of Sir Fred Hoyle and myself, as decisive as any that could be obtained from a comparison between laboratory data and astronomical observations. The failure on the part of most scientists today to recognise such obvious facts owes in large measure to the early indoctrination in Darwinism.
Independent evidence that life is a cosmic phenomena was obtained by Professor H. D. Pflug of the University of Giessen in West Germany. Professor Pflug has obtained new evidence, using a variety of modern techniques, that point to the definite existence of microfossils of bacteria and microfungi in the Murchison meteorite. A comparison between structures in the meteorite and similar structures in both fossil and present life on Earth is shown in Exhibits 4-6. [Two photos of microfossils from the Murchison meteorite are shown within "Comets: The Delivery System"]. Exhibit 6 shows the striking similarity between strings of fossilized cells in the Murchison meteorite and those in two groups of terrestrial sediments. Since this type of evidence, together with chemical data, which also exist for the Muchison meteorite, is used to establish the biologic origin of mircofossils in the Earth's sediments, a space origin of life would seem to be securely established. It would require an almost incredible perversity of logic to deny this data.
The facts as we have them show clearly that life on Earth is derived from what appears to be an all pervasive galaxy-wide living system. Terrestrial life had its origins in the gas and dust clouds of space, which later became incorporated in and amplified within comets. Life was derived from and continues to be driven by sources outside the Earth, in direct contradiction to the Darwinian theory that everybody is supposed to believe.
Recent evidence points to life first appearing on the Earth about 3.8 billion years ago. This life was in the form of micro-organisms— bacteria and microfungi now evident in the Earth's oldest sediments. It would seem significant that life appears in an instant, geologically speaking, almost at the very first moment the Earth possessed a quiescent crust, an atmosphere and oceans, at the very first moment in fact that life was able to survive. Throughout subsequent epochs of geological time life developed and evolved both in complexity and sophistication. It is believed by neo-Darwinists that the full spectrum of life as we see it today as well as in the past is accounted for by the steady accumulation of copying errors and the consequent development of variety as a primitive living system is copied billions upon billions of times. It is stated according to the theory that the accumulation of copying errors, sorted out by the process of natural selection, the survival of the fittest, could account both for the rich diversity of life and for the steady upward progression from bacterium to Man.
In our recent book Sir Fred Hoyle and I have argued strongly against this proposition. We agree that successive copying would accumulate errors, but such errors on the average would lead to a steady degradation of information. It is ridiculous to suppose that the information provided by one single primitive bacterium can be upgraded by copying to produce a man, and all other living things that inhabit our planet. This conventional wisdom, as it is called, is similar to the proposition that the first page of Genesis copied billion upon billions of time would eventually accumulate enough copying errors and hence enough variety to produce not merely the entire Bible but all the holding of all the major libraries of the world. The two statements are equally ridiculous. The processes of mutation and natural selection can only produce very minor effects in life as a kind of fine tuning of the whole evolutionary process. There is above all an absolute need for a continual addition of information for life, an addition that extends in time throughout the entire period for the geological record.
Frequent and massive gaps in the fossil record and the absence of transitional forms at the most crucial stages in the development of life show clearly that Darwinism is woefully inadequate to explain the facts. What the fossil record does show beyond doubt is that new properties of life at the level of expressed genes have been introduced by successive experiments. Only when these experiments were successful did the changes endure. Lines with unsuccessful or inoperable gene additions simply died away.
Gene additions could take place by the interaction between space borne viruses and viroids and the spectrum of life as it exists on the Earth at any given time. When the structure viruses was first discovered, it was argued by some scientists that these particles were the long-sought-for missing link in the Darwinian picture between non-living matter and life. Yet it was soon realised that the proteins of viruses were far too complicated for this to be true. In fact the structures of various viral proteins bore so close a relationship to those higher life that it was thought at one time that the particles might in some way be derived from higher life. In our book Diseases From Space Sir Fred Hoyle and I argued that our genomes are chock-a-block with viruses and viroids. Viral invasions could lead to epidemic diseases as for example in the case of influenza. Patterns of influenza outbreaks clearly proved a direct space incidence for the causative pathogens.
Exhibit 7 [right] shows the distribution of victims in several boarding houses in the 1978 outbreak of influenza at Eton College. The very large fluctuations form the mean attack rate of 35% shown here points clearly to non-person-to-person infection. How else could College House escape with only 1 victim in 70, representing a deviation of 6 standard deviations from the expected mean? The virus arrived from space and distributed itself with a patchiness detectable over the scale of hundreds of metres.
Viruses, although often bad for the individual, are in the view of Sir Fred Hoyle and myself of paramount importance to the evolution for species on our planet. They carry with them the store of cosmic genetic information needed for the generation of new species, classes and orders, and for the progressive forward march of life.
On our picture it is entirely possible that certain characteristics of life might emerge which are unrelated to the needs of particular species, or even, in some cases, unrelated to any possible need for life on our entire planet. We think that the extreme radiation resistance of certain types of bacteria, e.g. micrococcus radiodurans fall into this category. These bacterial types can withstand doses of radiation of 100,000 rem, far in excess of the radiation doses resulting from any naturally occurring sources on our planet. This glaring incongruence is in strict defiance of Darwinism. So also is the property that insects respond to ultraviolet light of wavelengths too short to be found on our planet, now or at any time in the past when life was possible.
In our view every crucial new inheritable property that appears in the course of the evolution of species must have an external cosmic origin. Although apes and man admittedly have much in common, biochemically, anatomically and physiologically, they are at the same time a world apart. We cannot accept that the genes for producing great works of art or literature or music, or developing skills in higher mathematics emerged from chance mutations of monkey genes long ahead of their having any conceivable relevance for survival in a Darwinian sense. Just as for the case of the most primitive life on our planet, all these properties had to be implanted from outside. If the Earth were sealed off from all sources of external genes: bugs could replicate till doomsday, but they would still only be bugs: and monkey colonies would also reproduce but only to produce more monkeys. The Earth would be a dull place indeed.
Yet perhaps the most significant single difficulty associated the the neo-Darwinist view of life is that microorganisms are far too complicated. When bacteria were created, or accomplished, or formed as the case might be, it is true to say that 99.99% of the biochemistry of higher life was already discovered. Some 2000 or so enzymes are known to be crucial over a fairly wide spectrum of life ranging from simple micro-organisms all the way up to Man. The variation of amino acid sequences in these enzymes are, on the whole, rather minor. In each enzyme a number of key positions are occupied by almost invariant amino acids. Let us consider how these enzymes sequences could have been derived from a primordial soup containing equal proportions of the 20 biologically important amino acids. At a conservative estimate say 15 sites per enzyme must be fixed to be filled by particular amino acids for proper biological function. The number of trial assemblies needed to find this set is easily calculated to be about 10 ^40,000 —a truly enormous, super astronomical number. And the probability of discovering this set by random shuffling is 1 in 10 ^40,000. This latter number could be taken as a measure of the information content of life as reflected in the enzymes alone. The number of shufflings needed to find life exceeds by many powers of 10 the number of all the atoms in the entire observable Universe.
There is also a serious difficulty to understand how any re-shuffling of amino acids could occur at all in the context of a canonical terrestrial-style primeval soup. To link two amino acids together requires the removal of a water molecule and the supply of some 150 times more energy than heat in the Earth's oceans could supply. In the absence of a joining enzyme used by biology or without an excessively large flux of ultraviolet light at the ocean surface, no new arrangements could be achieved. But even if chemical barriers for the linkages are artificially and miraculously removed, the really vast improbability of 1 in 10 ^40,000 poses a serious dilemma for the whole of evolutionary science. Life could not be an accident, not just on the Earth alone, but anywhere, anywhere at all in the Universe. The facts as we now see them point to one of two distinct conclusions: an act of deliberate creation, or an indelible permanence of the patterns of life in a Universe that is eternal and boundless. For those who accept modern cosmological views as gospel truth, the latter alternative might be thought unlikely, and so one might be driven inescapably to accept life as being an act of deliberate creation. Creation would then be brought into the realm of empirical science. The notion of a creator placed outside the Universe poses logical difficulties, and is not one to which I can easily subscribe. My own philosophical preference is for an essentially eternal, boundless Universe, wherein a creator of life somehow emerges in a natural way. My colleague, Sir Fred Hoyle, has also expressed a similar preference. In the present state of our knowledge about life and about the Universe, an emphatic denial of some form of creation as an explanation for the origin of life implies a blindness to fact and an arrogance that cannot be condoned.
Professor C handra Wickramasinghe: homepage by Bill Smith, online Jul 2013.
Prof. W.M. Napier defends Chandra against blogger Phil Plait in an open letter [ docx], received 3 Oct 2013.
British scientists claim to have found alien life, posted by Alejandro Rojas on "Open Minds", 10 Sep 2013.
Chandra Wickramasinghe, "Impact of Discovering Extraterrestrial Life on Humanity" [local docx], address at the joint meeting of the Ceylon College of Physicians and the Royal College of Physicians (reported, right), Colombo, Sri Lanka, 12 Sep 2013.
3 May 2012: A new Mars meteorite may contain biological fossils, according to Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe's team at BCAB.
13 Sep 2011: The Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology (BCAB)....
N. Chandra Wickramasinghe, "Extraterrestrial Life and Censorship" [abstract], arXiv:1104.1314v1 [astro-ph.CO], 7 Apr 2011.
12 Mar 2011: The world is witnessing birth pangs of a paradigm shift.
25 Jan 2011: Chandra Wickramasinghe has a new article about panspermia, available online.
6 Nov 2010: Chandra Wickramasinghe reviews the case for cometary panspermia.
Chandra Wickramasinghe, "Bacterial morphologies supporting cometary panspermia: a reappraisal" [abstract | local PDF], doi:10.1017/S1473550410000, International Journal of Astrobiology, 10 Jun 2010.
All humans are 'aliens from outer space', scientist claims: interview with Wickramasinghe, The Telegraph (London), 3 Feb 2010.
A new Journal of Cosmology is the subject of email from Chandra, 16 Sep 2009.
Evolution of Life: A Cosmic Perspective, by N. Chandra Wickramasinghe and Fred Hoyle, ActionBioscience.org, May 2001.
Chandra Wickramasinghe, "Life from space" [3.1Mb PDF], p 40-44, The Biochemical Society, Feb 2009.
30 Jul 2009: Comets contained oceans of liquid water during the first million years of their formation.
'Microbes from Venus could be reaching earth every 540 days', The Hindu, 30 Apr 2008.
4 Apr 2008: Astrobiology and the connection of life with the external universe is more widely accepted....
13 Mar 2008: The biosphere of the Earth can ...be thought of as linked to a galactic or cosmic biosphere.
Prof. Dr. Chandra Wickramasinghe ...at the WMF, Basel, May 10 and 11, 2008.
14 Nov 2006: Chandra Wickrammasinghe is featured on BBC's Horizon series.
Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe..., by Walter Jayawardhana, Asian Tribune, 26 Oct 2006.
20 Aug 2006: Cosmic dust contains our genetic ancestors. — Chandra Wickramasinghe quoted on Red Orbit.com.
29 Jun 2006: Conference on Cosmic Dust and Panspermia, Cardiff University, Cardiff UK, 5-8 Sep 2006.
5 Apr 2005: Chandra Wickramasinghe's scientific autobiography.
Panspermia is the subject of an interview with Chandra Wickramasinghe for UFO Review, 2 Nov 2004.
2 Oct 2004: Chandra Wickramasinghe comments on sugar in space.
2003, March 23: Wales television features Chandra Wickramasinghe.
2002, May 19: "Life from space: Did comets seed the Earth?"
1998, Nov 18: "Microorganisms from the Leonid Meteor Stream."
References1. McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education. U.S. District Court Judge William R. Overton handed down the Decision in favor of the plaintiff, 5 Jan 1982. The transcript [PDF] was published in Science, 19 Feb 1982.