One explanation for how humans formed was that babies grew from a very small version of the same thing—termed a homunculus. This theory was termed preformation and competed with epigenesist (the spontaneous generation of life from organic material) on the origin of life. These ideas emerged at a time when mechanistic explanations for the world began to blossom and struggled for reconciliation with religious doctrine.
One problem with preformation was that it created the reductio ad absurdum of preformed humans inside of homunculi that had preformedhumans in them and so on all the way down. But this was not necessarilya fatal objection since it neatly explained how it was that "in Adam all hadsinned": the whole of humanity resided within his loins and so when hesinned so did all of his contained homunculi.
The physician and alchemist, Paracelsus (1541), claimed to know how humans were formed. His recipe consisted of a bag of bones, sperm, skin fragments, and hair from any animal of which the homunculus would be a hybrid. This was to be laid in the ground surrounded by horse manure for forty days, at which point the embryo would form. No female womb was even necessary.
Discoveries in genetics, conception, embryology, and gestation are impressive but simply reveal mechanics. We have become so distracted by revelations about the nuts and bolts of life that we seem to have forgotten the fundamental and most important question: Where did the complex information embedded in the DNA homunculus come from in the first place? What is the origin of life?
On their own, atoms do not know how to combine to form a blueprint for a person. Nowhere can there be rescued an answer from the hundreds of years of research and millions of pages of scientific literature. No matter how much the problem is divided into tiny biochemical baby steps, no plausible explanation for atom's ascent to life results.
We have become very good at miniaturizing the problem with our microscopy and chemistry, but the basic question of the origin of life still looms as big as ever. Add every materialistic explanation for the origin of life up, draw a line, and the same impossible conclusion emerges: massive amounts of information must magically come from no information.
Complex things with meaningful information–like life–must come from a sufficient cause. Preformation, or better said today, preinformation, is always necessary to take fundamental things beyond their intrinsic nature. But, on their own, snowflakes do not become ice sculptures, letters do not become books, dust does not create skyscrapers and atoms do not create DNA homunculi.
We are back to where we ended with the last chapter on the question of the origin of life: only with the interjection of an outside intelligent agency do things gather more information and become more intelligent than they are.
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Living Life As If Thinking Matters