The robotic explorer Curiousity just touched down on Mars within the last few weeks. The touchdown ended a 350 million mile journey from the Earth’s surface to the Martian surface with each inch of its journey planned out using Newtonian Mechanics. All the calculations involving rocket thrust, insertion into Earth orbit, navigating from Earth to Mars, insertion into Mars orbit, breaking orbit and descending, maneuvering to the right landing spot and so on used Newton’s Laws of Motion and Gravity. Newton’s Laws of Motion and Gravity have been characterizing all classical motion for us over the last 400 years. It is one of the most successful long lasting scientific theories we have. Yet it makes no mention and provides no explanation for the origin of masses, forces, and gravity.
Additionally, the robotic explorer was made out of plastic, metal, and other materials using theories of chemistry, metallurgy, and other science of materials that we have been using for some 150 years now. Plastics are formed from chemical reactions that we predict and control using theories about how molecules can be synthesized, based on the characteristics of neutrons, protons, and electrons. Yet none of these theories make mention of the origin of neutrons, protons, and electrons.
Similarly, communications with the ship was done with our modern communications technology which uses electromagnetic waves, static electric fields, and static magnetic fields. All of these phenomena have been completely characterized by Maxwell’s Equations which Maxwell developed in the 1800s. We have been using Maxwell’s Equations for the last 150 years as the basis for all technology that uses electromagnetism in any form. Yet Maxwell’s Equations make no mention nor does it provide an explanation for the origin of electric and magnetic fields.
Similarly, we sterilized the robotic explorer because our hundreds year old germ theory of disease on which we base much of modern medical science informed us that we could possibly contaminate martian life or seed the planet with bacteria from earth if we did not do the sterilzation. Yet the germ theory of disease makes no mention of the origin of bacteria.
The list can go on forever, naturally, and it should be clear that these highly successful theories that we have been using for hundreds of years in some cases are not theories about origins.
The origins of the things mentioned in these theories is the subject matter of other theories that are in different states of establishment. Electrons, protons, and neutrons are fabricated out of fundamental particles that are the subject matter of atomic physics. And the origin of mass, forces, and gravity are the subject of relativity, the Big Bang Theory and so forth. And naturally, some of the people who might have worked on theories about how these things behave, work on the theories that seek to determine their origins.
Similarly, the theory of evolution is a theory that provides an explanation for a process that can give rise to the diversity of life forms on the planet that we see today, having evolved from one or a small number of original life forms. But the theory of evolution itself makes no mention of how those first life forms came about out of inorganic materials and the initial conditions some 4 billion years ago. (Darwin speculated on this, naturally, but it is not part of the theory of evolution.)
While the theory of evolution has been highly successful and well established for the last 150 years, theories about how life first began, the new field of Abiogenesis, is still working on a comprehensive hypothesis for how this occurred (see article, Cradle Of Life: Deep-Sea Alkaline Vents). Abiogenesis is a field of its own that naturally employs the kind of chemists and biologists that might have worked on the theory of evolution.
So it is very true that the theory of evolution does not address the origin of life itself. But to regard this as some kind of deficiency in the theory, or as some kind of refutation of the theory is very disingenuous.