It has been a failure of all us atheistical Darwinists intent on dragging the world, kicking and screaming, into the 1860s, and out of the clutches of the religion-be-deviled proudly ignorant dark-age-living creationists. A failure of nerve or conviction perhaps, a kind of naive apolitical strictly scientific honest-to-a-fault response to people who have been made brain dead by one of the most ruthless and dishonest brain-washing operations ever seen.
You will all be familiar with the sequence, indeed it is the kind of ritualised blog ballet that has developed over a whole range of questions in the last few years (climate change and Iraq being just two of the other most obvious). One of us who regularly writes about evolution will mention some new fossil discovery, or explain a particular aspect of evolution, or a new hypothesis about some evolutionary mechanism, or some outrage about teaching children creationism instead of science, or will simply pour scorn on some ignorant man with staring eyes and odd sexual tastes who loves guns and war and hates gays and who is ranting that the problem with the world today is Darwinism. We will calmly and rationally outline the scientific proposition, and then at some point a poster will say, well, it's all very well talking about how viruses mutate, or bird beaks in the Galapagos, but you have to admit that evolution has nothing to say about the ORIGIN OF LIFE.
Now at this point I tend to be very rude. Many years since I have suffered fools gladly (well, to be honest I have never suffered fools gladly, but I used to be a lot more patient than I am now). But many of my colleagues on the creationbusters team do tend to be polite, and they will metaphorically shuffle their feet at this point and write a response along the lines of, "yes, you are quite right, evolutionary theory doesn't address the origins of life, just everything that has happened since". And then, in a gotcha moment equivalent to the response Hannity might make to Obama saying "yes, yes, I am a socialist", the fundamentalist fool at the keyboard will say that this means god created life. And, as the first night follows the first day, if god created life, it logically follows that he could have chosen to create man as a separate event, and for other species could have been dabbling in DNA ever since,
No, I don't know why they do it. Well, some of it is the natural politeness which us Darwinists have evolved as a defense mechanism against idiots. But the rest of it I think is a case of not understanding the rough beast we are up against. It is a kind of scientific good manners, in which those of us who work on say reptile evolution, or demonstrating that chimpanzees are the closest thing we have to a living long lost brother, defer questions about origins to those who actually look at ancient rocks, or investigate exobiology, or who carry out experiments in abiogenesis and so on. That is their field, and if they want to write about it they can, but those of us in other biological specialities would be treading on toes if we tried to comment.
I guess in practical terms there is some kind of division between those who work on origins and those of us who study the fact of evolution that followed, but there is no theoretical division at all. natural selection works just as well on non-biological materials as on living organisms. In fact I would argue that you couldn't evolve life without the process of natural selection operating to gradually favor collections of chemicals with a structure that could survive more than a short time, and then favor the structures that could reproduce themselves. The point at which this process produces things we might call "life" is a matter for academic debate, but is irrelevant to the realty of the process. Structures that last longer than other structures will become more numerous, structures which can reproduce themselves will become more numerous than those that can't. It is impossible to visualize life emerging without a process of natural selection to act as midwife. And that truism, incidentally, means that any planet that has water could potentially produce, could potentially have produced, life. It need not necessarily have done so, many a slip twixt the complex chemical and the primeval slime, but the chances are that not just all over the universe, but even just all over the galaxy, there are creatures who have their own Darwins replacing primitive mythologies about their origins.
So no more Mr Nice Biologist - natural selection doesn't just help life evolve, it creates life in the first place. Not to insist on that, at every possible opportunity, would have been like Killer Kowalski letting his opponents up from the mat, dusting them down, and giving them a free shot at him. Life evolved on this planet by a mechanism that is simply a tautology, and the planet having burst into life, its subsequent history was a matter of carefully refining its characteristics by that same tautology, and multiplying its forms by geographic separation. There is no mystery here, no outstretched finger breathing life, nothing to puzzle over except the minor details of when and where and precisely how the chemicals changed from inorganic chemistry to organic chemistry. Life evolved. In both senses of that term.
My last Huffington post, suggesting a vaccine against religion, to be used on children, was picked up by blogs all over the world, and visitors came flooding in to see what other rude things were said about religion on the Watermelon Blog. Now they can check out all the other rude things I say about creationists too.
Follow David Horton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/watermelon_man