Living Cell - How Did the First Cell Come to Existence?
It may appear that I am taking off in a different direction and not focus on Buddha Dhamma. But I want to assure that this issue is very much relevant to Buddha Dhamma. This basic picture is essential to understand what is meant by "sansāric journey without a beginning" in many suttas, and thus to understand what suffering the Buddha taught how to stop. (Any sufferings that we encounter in this life are insignificant).
How Cells Come to Existence
1. Biochemistry says all cells existing now come from pre-existing cells. How did the first cells on Earth come to existence? Both creationists and evolutionists say those "first cells" could only have come from one of two possible places:
(i) Spontaneous creation - Random chemical processes created the first living cell.
(ii)Supernatural creation - God or some other supernatural power created the first living cell.
- However, both sides have not even realized that there is a third possibility, i.e., "first cells" were created via kammic energy, which is the same as "mental energy".
2. The Buddha taught that there is "no traceable beginning" to life. Therefore, it is not possible to trace back to a "first gandhabba (mental body)"
. When a human (or an animal) is born, it has a physical body in addition to the mental body. That physical body is made with cells.
- Of course, the Buddha did not talk about cells. I am just bridging that part of the puzzle, based on modern science and Aggañña Sutta; see, ”Buddhism and Evolution – Aggañña Sutta (DN 27)“ at puredhamma.net.
- This is important because, now scientists are able to perform "cloning" of animals. That is not the same as creation of a new life form. What is done there is to basically make a zygote starting with existing cells and then an existing gandhabba can the "take possession" of that zygote. This is actually related to the observed "evolution of species" supporting Darwin's theory of evolution; see, "Cloning and Gandhabba" at puredhamma.net.
Origins of "First Cells" on Earth
3. It is important to realize that Darwin's theory of evolution is NOT about the "evolution of a cell".
It is about the evolution of complex species of plants and animals STARTING WITH simpler lifeforms with a single cell.
- Most scientists who believe in the theory of evolution of SPECIES also believe that it MAY BE possible that A FIRST CELL also evolved starting with inert matter.
- Some scientists have concluded that a living cell is too complex to have been evolved -- but they erroneously conclude that therefore life must have been created by a Creator God.
4. Since Robert Hook discovered the existence of cells in 1665, scientists have uncovered a lot of information about cells. The current "cell theory" in biochemistry has two basic axioms:
i. All living things (living beings or a living plants) are made of cells,
ii. New cells are made by "cell division", i.e., by the division of existing cells.
Biochemistry books do not discuss how "first cells" came into existence!
5. Therefore, the question remains as to how the "first cells" on Earth came to existence. Evolutionists says they were created by random combinations of inert molecules.
- Despite what you may have heard in science fiction or popular science literature, scientists are NOT EVEN CLOSE to making even the simplest cell in a laboratory.
- In fact, they will NEVER be able to do so. Once we discuss the current status of cell research you will see why.
- On the other hand, creationists say all life was created by a Creator God.
Buddhist Explanation of Life
According to Buddha Dhamma, a sentient living being has both a mental body (gandhabba) and a physical body. An exception is in brahma realms where there are no physical bodies like ours (therefore no cells).
6. A NEW living being can never be created starting from scratch. A dying gandhabba gives rise to a new one.
Any living being creates CAUSES and CONDITIONS that lead to the next existence (bhava)!
- For example, one may be born many times with a human body while in the "human bhava", but when the energy for that "human bhava" runs out, that lifestream gets hold of a new bhava (as a brahma, deva, animal, etc) because of a strong kamma done in the past, as we discussed in previous posts. Therefore, it is kammic energy that gives rise to a gandhabba!
- A gandhabba has ALWAYS been associated with our past rebirths. It is just that the form of the gandhabba keeps changing from bhava to bhava, i.e., an "animal gandhabba" or "brahma gandhabba" is different from a "human gandhabba", but the same lifestream can take all those different forms.
- If one is able to follow that "chain of past lives", one will go through billions of past lives a minute, but will never be able to find a "beginning" life! The Buddha did that upon attaining the Buddhahood, and reported that there is no "discernible beginning to life"; see, for example, "Gaddulabaddha Sutta (SN 22.99)":“bhikkhus, there is no discernible beginning to the rebirth process”
7. A physical body for a human or an animal is made out of cells. That physical body starts with a single cell (called a zygote) and grows to a body with trillions of cells after a gandhabba (born of a patisandhi viññāna) "descends to the womb" and gets possession of that zygoye. For Tipitaka references, see, "Gandhabba State – Evidence from Tipitaka" at puredhamma.net.
- On the other hand, a brahma has no physical body made of cells. It is just the mental body (gandhabba) with a trace of matter at suddhāshtaka level.
- The question of a how "first cells" on Earth came to existence is discussed below. We first need to discuss how complex a cell is.
Complexity of a Cell
8. Even the simplest cell is very complex and amazing. Even though nanotechnology has made great advances, it is nowhere close to be able to make a functioning cell.
- The key issue is not making new complex DNA molecules. Those DNA strands in a cell nucleus are "coded with information", just like a computer is programmed.
- Just like a computer program can run by itself and manage a factory, a cell's functions are controlled by information coded in those DNA strands in the nucleus of the cell.
- This "information" comes not by a Creator and not created via random jostling of molecules in early Earth. It comes from kammic energy, just like a gandhabba is created by kammic energy.
9. In the following video, one can good idea about the basic layout and the complexity of a cell.
10. It becomes even more impressive when we look at how small an animal cell is. Here are some rough numbers (in comparison, a mustard seed is 1 to 2 mm in diameter):
(per side) 0.050 mm (or 50 micrometers).
- Cell membrane 0.000007 mm thick.
- Nucleus (diameter) 0.007 mm.
- Nucleolus (diameter) 0.0025 mm.
- Endoplasmic reticulum: each layer 0.0002 mm (0.0001 mm gap between layers)
- Golgi complex 0.007 mm thick, each layer.
- Ribosomes 0.00003 mm (30 nanometers) in diameter.
11. But the most amazing thing is not that such a small cell has all that complexity. It is that a cell has a "built-in computer-like program" that manages all cell functions including what kind of proteins are to produced.
Yes. A cell is a factory that makes proteins in addition to making copies of its own DNA.
- In humans, a copy of the entire genome—more than 3 billion DNA base pairs—is contained in all cells that have a nucleus.
The DNA from a single human cell has a length of ~1.8 m or about 6 feet (but at a width of ~2.4 nanometers).
- This genome has the blueprint for a given human (animal) body.
12. The machinery and the activities inside a cell -- which cannot be even be seen with the naked eye -- is truly amazing. As mentioned, a cell is a pre-programmed, very sophisticated factory. Whatever progress that nanotechnology has made cannot even come close to the level of a cell, as can be clearly seen with the following video:
First Cells on Earth Created via Kammic Energy (Same as a Gandhabba)
13. At the present time, new cells of different properties are formed via splitting of existing cells. A new human baby starts with a single cell (zygote) created by the merger of two cells from the mother and father.
- When the Earth was formed, the first cells were created by kammic energy.
That happened a long time after the "first humans" who were without physical bodies. The first humans had very fine bodies (like brahmās), and thus they did not have physical bodies with cells. Hundreds of million years later, those early (brahma-like) humans got back their "human gati" and their bodies become visible with a physical body made of cells.
- The "first cells" come into existence via kammic energies from the past. Once they get started, then the "normal method" of cell division led to more cells (what we see now).
- In the same way, no new gandhabbas are created either. When an existing gandhabba dies (at cuti-patisandhi), a new gandhabba comes to existence because a new patisandhi viññāna (which is also kammic energy) is grasped via Paticca Samuppāda.
- Therefore, MIND is the precursor to EVERYTHING.
Even plant life has origins in collective kammic energies of all conscious beings on Earth. We will get to that in the future. This is why the Buddha declared, "mind is at the forefront of everything in this world"; see, "Manōpubbangamā Dhammā..":[html]https://puredhamma.net/dhammapada/manop ... ma-dhamma/
14. It is important to realize that the heavy physical body, say of a human being, is not directly created by mind energy.
- Mind energy just provides the two seeds: gandhabba and the first cell, zygote. Even there, only the first cells on Earth had direct connection to kammic energy when the first human bodies "emerged from brahma-like fine bodies". These days, a zygote is formed by the union of two cells from mother and father.
- When a gandhabba merges with a zygote in a womb, that starts a process where no more kammic energy is needed. That first "live cell" multiplies and leads to more and more cells using energy from the mother and that is how an embryo grows. After birth, a baby grows by eating its own food.
15. Another important point is that the cells of ALL LIVING THINGS are similar and they depend on each other.
- Cells of humans and animals are very similar. The differences come from the variations in the genome (DNA that is inside the cell nucleus).
- Even cells of plants are not that different. The main difference in a cell plant is the presence of chloroplast which generates energy using sunlight.
- In fact, energy to sustain bodies of humans and animals can be traced back to plants. Even though humans and animals do eat other animals, it is those animals like cows who first extract energy from plants.
- Now we can see how inter-related and inter-dependent ALL LIFE is. And how complex life is, even at the physical level.
- The mental body (gandhabba) is even more complex, which is based on Paticca Samuppāda. Only a Buddha can sort out these complexities of life. We are fortunate to live at a time when modern science helps us clarify some of his teachings. More will be confirmed with time.