Who would have ever thought of the old stupid Athenæum taking to Oken-like transcendental philosophy written in Owenian style! It will be some time before we see “slime, snot or protoplasm” (what an elegant writer) generating a new animal. But I have long regretted that I truckled to public opinion #find more randurls[1|1|,|CHEM1|]# & used Pentateuchal term of creation, by which I really meant “appeared” by some wholly unknown process.—It is mere rubbish thinking, at present, of origin of life; one might
as well think of origin of matter». Three weeks later, Darwin (1863) finished a sharp response to Owen’s criticism, and submitted it to the Athenæum, which promptly published it [www.darwinproject.ac.uk/] [Letter 4108] «Down, Bromley, Kent, April 18. I hope that you will permit me to add a few remarks on Heterogeny, as the old doctrine of spontaneous generation is now called, to those given by Dr. Carpenter, who, however, is probably better fitted to discuss the question than any other man in England. Your reviewer believes that certain lowly organized animals have been generated spontaneously—that is, without pre-existing
parents—during each geological period in slimy ooze. A mass of mud with matter decaying and undergoing complex chemical changes is a fine hiding-place for obscurity of ideas. But let us face the problem boldly. He who believes selleck compound that organic beings have been produced during each geological period from dead matter must believe that the first being thus arose. There must have been a time when inorganic elements alone existed on our planet: let any assumptions be made,
such as that the reeking atmosphere was charged with carbonic acid, nitrogenized compounds, phosphorus, &c. Now is there a fact, or a shadow of a fact, supporting the belief that these elements, without the presence of any organic compounds, and acted on only by known forces, could produce a living creature? At present it is to us a result absolutely inconceivable. Silibinin Your reviewer sneers with justice at my use of the “Pentateuchal terms”, “of one primordial form into which life was first breathed”: in a purely scientific work I ought perhaps not to have used such terms; but they well serve to confess that our ignorance is as profound on the origin of life as on the origin of force or matter. Your reviewer thinks that the weakness of my theory is demonstrated because existing Foraminifera are identical with those which lived at a very remote epoch. Most naturalists look at this fact as the simple result of descent by ordinary reproduction; in no way different, as Dr. Carpenter remarks, except in the line of descent being longer, from that of the many shells common to the middle Tertiary and existing periods. The view given by me on the origin or derivation of species, whatever its weaknesses may be, connects (as has been candidly admitted by some of its opponents, such as Pictet, Bronn, &c.