This page is from the "Y-Files"
Despite incredible odds, and seemingly insurmountable problems, spontaneous generation is taught as a fact from grammar school to university.
Stanley Miller's Bombshell
In 1953 a graduate student named Stanley Miller set out to verify the Oparin-Haldane-Urey hypothesis with a simple but elegant experiment.1 The results of this experiment have been taught to every high school and college biology student for nearly four decades.
Using a system of glass flasks, Miller attempted to simulate the early atmospheric conditions. He passed a mixture of boiling water, ammonia, methane and hydrogen through an electrical spark discharge. At the bottom of the apparatus was a trap to capture any molecules made by the reaction. This trap prevented the newly-formed chemicals from being destroyed by the next spark. Eventually, Miller was able to produce a mixture containing very simple amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.
Miller drew on decades of knowledge of organic chemistry in setting up his experiment. The proportions of the various gases used, the actual apparatus, the intensity of the spark and the chemical trap, were all carefully adjusted to create maximum yield from the experiment.
On the first attempt, after a week of electrical discharges in the reaction chamber, the sides of the chamber turned black and the liquid mixture turned a cloudy red. The predominant product was a gummy black substance made up of billions of carbon atoms strung together in what was essentially tar, a common nuisance in organic reactions.2 However, no amino acids used by living systems, or other building blocks of life, were produced on the first attempt.
After rearranging the apparatus, the experiment produced two amino acids, glycine and alanine, the simplest amino acids found in living systems. If we search the remaining products, we find a number of simple amino acids, but in yields so low that their concentrations would be insignificant in a body of water.
|Carboxlic acids not important to life||13.0%|
Regarding the products of the Miller-Urey experiment, evolutionist Robert Shapiro stated:
"Let us sum up. The experiment performed by Miller yielded tar as its most abundant product....There are about fifty small organic compounds that are called 'building blocks'.....Only two of these fifty occurred among the preferential Miller-Urey products."3
In the past forty years, many scientists have repeated the work of Miller and Urey. Electrical sparks, heat, ultraviolet radiation, light, shock waves, and high energy chemical catalysts have been used in an attempt to create the building blocks of life.4 In general, when amino acids have been made, they occur in approximately the same proportion, with glucine and alanine predominating, as in the Miller's experiment.
The Case of the Missing Letters
In the English language convention there are twenty-six letters that are used to write sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and books. These letters are strung together according to hundreds of predetermined rules. Anyone with a knowledge of those rules can understand the information conveyed by the sequence of letters.
In all living systems there are a special set of four chemical "letters," called nucleotides, which are used to "write" the information stored by the code of life, the Genetic Code. Millions of these nucleotides are strung together, end to end, in long chains, thus forming the DNA molecule (Figure 1). The instructions necessary to produce all the living structures on earth are "written" by the rules of the genetic code and carried by these chains of chemical letters. These chemical letters represent only a tiny part of the "hardware" that must arise by chance in order for spontaneous generation to occur. However, nucleotides are much more complex then the simple amino acids made by Miller and Urey, and would require much more chemical expertise to produce.
Many claims have been made that nucleotides of DNA have been produced in such "spark and soup" experiments. However, after a careful review of the scientific literature, evolutionist Robert Shapiro stated that the nucleotides of DNA and RNA,
"....have never been reported in any amount in such sources, yet a mythology has emerged that maintains the opposite....I have seen several statements in scientific sources which claim that proteins and nucleic acids themselves have been prepared...These errors reflect the operation of an entire belief system...The facts do not support his belief...Such thoughts may be comforting, but they run far ahead of any experimental validation."5 (Emphasis added).
The DNA molecule is formed by two chains of nucleotides which are bonded together to form the structure of a spiral double helix. Somewhat like a ladder which is twisted from the top down.
After nearly four decades of trying, with the best equipment and the best minds in chemistry, not even the "letters" of the genetic code have been produced by random chemical processes. If the letters cannot be produced by doctorate-level chemists, how can we logically assume that they arose by chance in a chemical quagmire?
A Troubled Paradigm
Stanley Miller's experiment was seen by believers as virtual proof that organic chemicals, and ultimately life, could be produced by chance chemistry. It brought a greater measure of scientific respectability to the theory of spontaneous generation and evolutionary thought. Evolution, according to the purists, could now be taught as a virtual certainty. The impact of this experiment on the scientific community is expressed by evolutionist and astronomer Carl Sagan:
"The Miller-Urey experiment is now recognized as the single most significant step in convincing any scientists that life is likely to be abundant in the cosmos."6
This opinion, however, is not universally held by evolutionists. With the advantage of three decades of hindsight, and extensive discoveries in molecular biology, evolutionist Robert Shapiro comments on the significance of the Miller-Urey experiments:
"The very best Miller-Urey chemistry, as we have seen, does not take us very along the path to a living organism. A mixture of simple chemicals, even one enriched in a few amino acids, no more resembles a bacterium than a small pile of real and nonsense words, each written on an individual scrap of paper, resembles the complete works of Shakespeare."7
After a careful examination of the Miller experiment, Shapiro recognized that the simple chemicals he produced are a far cry from the incredible complexity of a living cell.
In the last 20 years a number of scientists have spoken out regarding the problems with the Haldane-Oparin paradigm. Most of the assumptions of the primordial atmosphere, even the existence of the "primordial soup," have been seriously questioned by origins researchers. Carl Woese, of the University of Illinois expressed the inadequacy of the Oparin thesis:
"The Oparin thesis has long ceased to be a productive paradigm: it no longer generates novel approaches to the problem...These symptoms suggest a paradigm whose course is run, one that is no longer a valid model of the true state of affairs."8
Let's look at some of the evidence that has threatened the Oparin-Haldane-Miller thesis.
THE MYTH OF THE PRE-BIOTIC ATMOSPHERE
The Oxygen Problem
The atmospheric conditions proposed by Oparin, Haldane and Urey were radically different from what presently exists. Because oxygen destroys the chemical building blocks of life, they speculated that the early earth had an oxygen-free atmosphere. However, in the last twenty years, evidence has surfaced that has convinced most atmospheric scientists that the early atmosphere contained abundant oxygen.
In the 1970's Apollo 16 astronauts discovered that water is broken down into oxygen and hydrogen gas in the upper atmosphere when it is bombarded by ultraviolet radiation. This process, called photo dissociation, is an efficient process which would have resulted in the production of large quantities of oxygen in a relatively short time. Studies by the astronauts revealed that this process is probably a major source of oxygen in our current atmosphere. 2 H2O + uv Radiation -- H2 (hydrogen gas) + O2 (oxygen gas)
The assumption of an oxygen-free atmosphere has also been rejected on theoretical grounds. The ozone layer around planet earth consists of a thin but critical blanket of oxygen gas in the upper atmosphere. This layer of oxygen gas blocks deadly levels of ultraviolet radiation from the sun.9 Without oxygen in the early atmosphere, there could have been no ozone layer over that early earth. Without an ozone layer, all life on the surface of planet earth would face certain death from exposure to intense ultraviolet radiation. Furthermore, the chemical building blocks of proteins, RNA and DNA, would be quickly annihilated because ultraviolet radiation destroys their chemical bonds.10 It doesn't matter if these newly formed building blocks are in the atmosphere, on dry ground, or under water.11,12,13
So we have a major dilemma. The products of the Miller-Urey experiments would be destroyed if oxygen was present, and they would be destroyed if it wasn't! This "catch 22" has been noted by evolutionist and molecular biologist Michael Denton:
"What we have then is a sort of 'Catch 22' situation. If we have oxygen we have no organic compounds, but if we don't we have none either."14
Even if the building blocks of life could survive the effects of intense ultraviolet radiation and form life spontaneously, the survival of any subsequent life forms would be very doubtful in the presence of such heavy ultraviolet light. Ozone must be present to protect any surface life from the deadly effects of ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
Finally, the assumption that there was no oxygen in the early atmosphere is not borne out by the geologic evidence. Geologists have discovered evidence of abundant oxygen content in the oldest known rocks on earth. Again, Michael Denton:
"Ominously, for believers in the traditional organic soup scenario, there is no clear geochemical evidence to exclude the possibility that oxygen was present in the Earth's atmosphere soon after the formation of its crust."15
All of this evidence supports the fact that there was abundant oxygen on the early earth.
Ammonia and Methane Short Lived
The assumption of an atmosphere consisting mainly of ammonia, methane, and hydrogen, has also been seriously questioned. In the 1970's scientists concluded that ultraviolet radiation from the sun, as well as simple "rainout," would eliminate ammonia and methane from the upper atmosphere in a very short time.16 In 1981, Atmospheric scientists from NASA concluded that:
"the methane and ammonia-dominated atmosphere would have been very short lived, if it ever existed at all."17
The Myth of the Pre-biotic Soup
During the last two decades, the notion of a primordial soup has not fared too well either. Studies of the atmosphere, ultraviolet radiation, and the dilutional effect of a large body of water, have convinced many scientists that the ocean could not have developed into the "hot dilute soup" that was envisioned by Darwin, Oparin, and Haldane.
Oparin envisioned the production of cellular building blocks in the atmosphere as a result of lightning or ultraviolet radiation. Stanley Miller's experiment attempted to validate this concept. Once produced, these chemicals would theoretically build up in the primordial oceans and combine to form the first living systems. However, since Miller's experiments in 1953, it has been estimated that it would take up to two years for amino acids to fall from the atmosphere into the ocean.18 This is a problem because even small amounts of ultraviolet radiation would destroy the building blocks before they reached the oceans. Furthermore, as we saw earlier, lack of ozone would further expedite this destruction.19
Saved By The Trap!
A problem seldom noted by textbooks is that the chemical reactions that produced the amino acids in Miller's experiments are reversible. That is, the same energy sources that cause the formation of the building blocks of life will also destroy those same building blocks unless they are removed from the environment where they were created. In fact, the building blocks of life are destroyed even more efficiently than they are created. This was foreseen by Miller and Urey, so they included a chemical trap to remove the newly formed chemicals before the next spark. Of course, this luxury would not be available on the early earth.
These problems have convinced many origins researchers that the idea of a primordial soup is quite unlikely. Michael Denton comments on the lack of evidence for the primordial soup:
"Rocks of great antiquity have been examined over the past two decades and in none of them has any trace of abiotically produced organic compounds been found...Considering the way the pre- biotic soup is referred to in so many discussions of the origin of life as an already established reality, it comes as something of a shock to realize that there is absolutely no positive evidence for its existence."20 (Emphasis added).
The Origin of DNA and Proteins
Up to this point we've discussed the origin of just the building blocks of living cells. The destructive effect of oxygen, ultraviolet radiation from the sun and the short duration of an optimal atmosphere for their production, makes it unlikely that significant quantities of viable nucleotides and amino acids could ever accumulate in the primitive ocean. However, even if they did accumulate in sufficient quantities, the next step is to explain how they combined to form the self-duplicating DNA molecule and the thousands of proteins found in the simplest living cells. For the materialistic scenario to be taken seriously, it must provide a plausible explanation for the origin of these enormous molecules without the introduction of biochemical know-how.
The Problem of Chirality
One of the most difficult problems for the materialistic scenario on the origin of life is something called molecular chirality. The building blocks of DNA and proteins are molecules which can exist in both right and left-handed mirror-image forms (Figure 2). This "handedness" is called "chirality."21,22 These mirror-image chemicals are referred to as dextrorotary (dextro-form) and levorotary (levo-form).23
In all living systems the building blocks of the DNA and RNA exist exclusively in the right-handed form, while the amino acids in virtually all proteins in living systems, with very rare exception, occur only in the left-handed form.24
The dilemma for materialists is that all "spark and soup-like" experiments produce a mixture of 50% left (levo) and 50% right-handed (dextro) products.25,26 Such a mixture of dextro and levo amino acids is called a "racemic mixture." Unfortunately, such mixtures are completely useless for the spontaneous generation of life.27
Complex molecules such as DNA and proteins are built by adding one building block at a time onto an ever-growing chain. In a "primordial soup" made up of equal proportions of right and left-handed building blocks, there is an equal probability at each step of adding either a right or left-handed building block.28,29 Consequently, it is a mathematical absurdity to propose that only right-handed nucleotides would be added time after time without a single left-handed one being added to a growing DNA molecule. Sooner or later an incorrect, left-handed nucleotide will be added. The same goes for proteins. Every time another amino acid is added to the growing chain of amino acids the chances are virtually certain that both right and left-handed amino acids will be added.
With unguided or undirected chemistry, a primordial ooze consisting of right and left-handed building blocks can only result in the production of DNA and proteins composed of a mixture of right and left-handed building blocks.
This dilemma has enormous implications for the materialistic scenario.30 For a living cell to function properly, it is absolutely necessary for it to contain the correct three-dimensional structure in its DNA and proteins.
This correct three-dimensional structure is in turn dependent upon proteins built from a pure mixture of left-handed amino acids and DNA built from right-handed nucleotides. Consequently, if even one nucleotide or amino acid with the incorrect "handedness" is inserted into a DNA or protein molecule, the three-dimensional structure will be annihilated and it will cease to function normally.
Enzymes: The Cell's Miniature Factories
The importance of the three-dimensional structure of proteins can best be illustrated by the function of enzymes. Virtually all of the complex chemical reactions in living cells involve special proteins called enzymes. Enzymes act to speed up (catalyze) chemical reactions in biological systems. Enzymes are employed in the production of DNA, RNA, proteins, and nearly every chemical reaction in the cell. Digestion, thought, sight, and the function of nerve and muscles all require the use of enzymes. In fact, these activities would be impossible without them.
Enzymatic reactions occur like "lock and key" mechanisms. An enzyme (the lock) has a highly specific three-dimensional shape which will only allow chemicals with the correct three-dimensional fit (the key) to bind and result in a chemical reaction. (Figure 3).
In this illustration the enzyme breaks the bond that holds two sugar molecules together releasing two unbonded sugars.
The three-dimensional structure of these protein enzymes (which is determined by the sequence of pure l-amino acids) must be preserved within a narrow range or these "lock and key" chemical reactions cannot occur. Consequently, a primordial soup consisting of equal portions of left and right-handed amino acids, which will only result in proteins containing equal portions of left and right-handed amino acids, is incapable of forming enzymes with the correct three-dimensional shapes and precise "lock and key" mechanisms. Therefore, a primordial soup of left and right-handed building blocks is completely incapable of forming life.
Since all spark and soup experiments produce a 50/50 mix of right and left-handed amino acids, chemists have tried to decipher how only left-handed amino acids became integrated into the proteins of living systems. For decades chemists have attempted to separate out a pure mixture of left-handed amino acids from a racemic mix by chance chemistry alone. Chance, or un-directed chemistry has, however, consistently proven to be an inadequate mechanism for the separation of the right and left-handed amino acid forms.31 So, how did it happen? Mathematically, random-chance would never select such an unlikely pure molecule out of a racemic primordial soup.
The solution is simple, yet it has profound implications. To separate the two amino acid forms requires the introduction of biochemical expertise or know-how, which is the very antithesis of chance! However, biochemical expertise or know-how comes only from a mind. Without such know-how or intelligent guidance, the right and left-handed building blocks of life will never separate. Consequently, enzymes, with their lock and key mechanisms, and ultimately, life, are impossible!32
However, the existence of a mind or a Creator involved in the creation of life is anathema to the atheist's scenario. But the volume of biochemical knowledge supports this fact: To produce pure mixtures of left-handed amino acids and right-handed nucleotides, requires intelligent guidance. And since no human chemists were around before the origin of life on earth, the source of this intelligent guidance must have been extraterrestrial!
Toxic Waste Wipes Out Spontaneous Generation
The major products made in Miller's experiment were a mixture of tar and thousands of organic acids. This "chemical junk," which comprised 98% of the material produced by Miller, is very similar to the chemical waste that the U.S. government is spending billions of dollars to remove from neighborhoods all around the country. Why are they removing these chemicals? Because they are toxic to humans.
Organic acids, such as those produced by Miller, can damage DNA, causing cancer and other diseases. They also poison our enzymes by irreversibly binding to them.33 Any primordial soup would be filled with these toxic products and would quickly and efficiently prevent the functioning of DNA, RNA, and proteins. The result: death! In fact, it is unlikely that any currently living cell on earth could survive in the chemical environment produced by Miller's experiment.34 Considering the toxicity of the primordial soup, it is perhaps the last place on earth that life might arise.35
H2O "Washes Up" Spontaneous Generation
We noted previously that DNA and proteins are built by adding one building block at a time onto an ever-lengthening chain. With the addition of each amino acid or nucleotide, a molecule of water is released. This is called a condensation reaction and is fully reversible, i.e., it can proceed in either direction as indicated by the arrows in figure 4.
In previous sections we have seen that neither air nor land are safe havens for the newly formed building blocks of life because of their certain destruction by oxygen or intense UV radiation. So believers in spontaneous generation have concluded that the first life forms may have arisen near a deep sea volcanic vent, safe from oxygen and UV radiation. Although a water environment may seem like safe place for the formation of life, it is the release of a water molecule in the above reaction that creates one of the most difficult problems for the theory of spontaneous generation.
Every first-year chemistry student is taught that reversible chemical reactions will never proceed in a direction that produces a product that is already present in excess amounts in the reaction vessel.36 The production of DNA and proteins from their building blocks results in the production of a large number of water molecules. A problem for the oceanic vent theory (or any water based primordial soup theory) is that there is already an abundance of water. Consequently, the reaction above will never proceed in a direction which produces more water. In fact, the laws of chemistry and thermodynamics demand that the reaction go in the opposite direction! Therefore, in a watery solution containing the building blocks of life, the overwhelming majority of these building blocks would be unbonded. As a result, a watery environment is perhaps the last place that long chains of amino acids or nucleotides would form.37
Equilibrium - The Villain of the Plot
There is one final hurdle that must be successfully cleared if the materialist's scenario on the origin of life is to have credibility. This is the problem of chemical equilibrium. The notion of equilibrium is one with which you are all familiar, even if you've never taken a chemistry course. In any broth or solution we notice that there is the tendency for the materials to become evenly distributed with time. This tendency is called the development of equilibrium.38
A simple example will help us to understand. If a drop of red dye is put into a container of water the dye particles gradually disperse throughout the solution until the entire solution turns a dilute red color. The larger the volume of the solvent (i.e., the water in our dye experiment), the more dilute will be the solution once the dye particles have become evenly distributed. This dilutional effect is irreversibly tied to the arrow of time. As time advances, as predicted by the Second Law, the dye particles become evenly distributed until the solution reaches a state of chemical equilibrium.39
As we saw previously, the chemical reactions leading to the formation of DNA and proteins are reversible. This means that the building blocks of DNA and proteins are broken off of the chain just as easily as they are added. Consequently, the building blocks of life, if they survived the effects of oxygen and UV radiation, would constantly be combining and coming apart in the primordial soup. This combining and coming apart of chemical building blocks proceeds until a state of equilibrium is reached. In the case of amino acids and nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA and proteins will be predominantly unbonded when the solution is at equilibrium.40,41
Since the natural tendency for the building blocks of life is to disperse and remain un-bonded, the question materialists must answer is how did the building blocks of life become bonded and stay bonded in a primordial soup which is steadily progressing towards equilibrium?
In living systems enzymes are "programmed" to accomplish this feat by extracting and utilizing energy from the environment to synthesize and preserve DNA and proteins.42 Consequently, in this capacity enzymes fulfill the definition of a machine or an engine, as defined by Nobel Laureate Jaques Monod - a purposeful (teleonomic) aggregate of matter that uses energy to perform work.
In the absence of such molecular machinery (i.e., enzymes), the reversibility of these chemical reactions ensures that any building blocks which may have become bonded will rapidly become unbonded in a watery environment unless they are removed from the solution in equilibrium.43,44 However, removing the building blocks from equilibrium requires a mechanism or a metabolic machine (which do not arise by chance).
Harold Blum dealt with this very dilemma. He recognized that the production of proteins or DNA from a solution of unbonded building blocks required a "mechanism" or metabolic "motor" that can capture free energy from the environment, then use it to remove the building blocks from equilibrium, i.e. keep them bonded:
"...If proteins were reproduced as they must have been, if living systems were to evolve - free energy has to be supplied. The source of this free energy is a fundamental problem we must eventually face...the fact remains that no appreciable amounts of polypeptides [proteins] would form unless there were some factor which altered the equilibrium greatly in their favor."45
By altering "the equilibrium greatly in their favor," Blum means allowing them to stay bonded. However, inanimate matter contains no "mechanism," "machines," or "biochemical knowhow" that can extract free energy from the environment and store or preserve the bonded building blocks before they break down again.
Therefore, the dilemma for the materialist is explaining the origin of the first such metabolic "machine" by chance. In practice and in theory, machines are never the result of chance. They are the result of design.46,47 This fact is not only intuitive, but it has been verified by the overwhelming body of experimental science.
A.E. Wilder-Smith addresses this problem of the origin of the first metabolic motor:
"What Dr. Blum is saying is: how was the motor to extract the energy from the environment built before life processes had arisen to build it? Once a motor (enzyme metabolic system) is present, it can easily supply the free energy necessary to build more and more motors, that is, to reproduce. But the basic problem is: How do we account for the building of the first complex enzymatic protein metabolic motor to supply energy for reproduction and other cell needs....The Creationist believes that God synthesized non-living matter into living organisms and thus provided the motors which were then capable of immediately extracting energy from their environment to build more motors for reproduction. This view is thus perfectly sound scientifically and avoids the hopeless impasse of the materialistic. Darwinists in trying to account for the design and building of the first necessarily highly complex metabolic motors by random processes. Once the motor has been designed, fabricated, and is running, the life processes work perfectly well on the principles of the known laws of thermodynamics...."48
So the net of this dilemma is that intelligent guidance is required to create a metabolic motor which will synthesize and preserve the chains of DNA and proteins. Such guidance comes only from a mind, and not from inanimate inorganic matter!
Time: The Unlikely Villain
When confronted with the problem of equilibrium, most scientific materialists will appeal to the magic ingredient of time. In chapter one we saw this appeal by Nobel Laureate, George Wald:
"Time is in fact the hero of the plot. Given so much time the impossible becomes possible, the possible probable, and the probable virtually certain. One has only to wait: Time itself performs the miracles."49
However, Dr. Blum, who is a materialist, points out that Wald's faith in the miraculous ingredient of time is mere wishful thinking. Prolonged time periods, he asserts, actually worsen the dilemma:
"I think if I were rewriting this chapter [on the origin of life] completely, I should want to change the emphasis somewhat. I should want to play down still more the importance of the great amount of time available for highly improbable events to occur. One may take the view that the greater the time elapsed the greater should be the approach to equilibrium, the most probable state, and it seems that this ought to take precedence in our thinking over the idea that time provides the possibility for the occurrence of the highly improbable."50 (Emphasis added)
According to Dr. Blum, the magic bullet of time does not increase the likelihood that chains of DNA or proteins will form by chance chemistry. In fact, according to Dr. Blum, increasing the time factor actually ensures that any primordial soup would consist of predominantly unbonded amino acids and nucleotides!
The Chicken or the Egg?
Any discussion of the origin of life would not be complete without a look at the greatest paradox of all: What came first, DNA or the proteins essential for the production of DNA?
Since the structure of DNA was deciphered in 1953, biologists have discovered that the process of duplicating DNA requires as many as twenty specific protein enzymes. These enzymes function to unwind, un-zip, copy, and rewind the DNA molecule. There are even enzymes that screen and correct for copying errors!
The instructions for the production of all proteins, including these enzymes, are in turn stored on the DNA molecule. So which came first: The DNA molecule or the proteins necessary to make DNA? You can't make DNA without highly specific proteins. But you can't make proteins unless you have a system in place to code for and build those proteins in the first place. And that means DNA.
Harold Blum recognized this catch 22 when he stated:
"...The riddle seems to be: How, when no life existed, did substances come into being which, today, are absolutely essential to living systems, yet which can only be formed by those systems?...A number of major properties are essential to living systems as we see them today, the origin of any of which from a 'random' system is difficult enough to conceive, let alone the simultaneous origin of all."51
Robert Shapiro also commented on this dilemma:
"Genes and enzymes are linked together in a living cell - two interlocked systems, each supporting the other. It is difficult to see how either could manage alone. Yet if we are to avoid invoking either a Creator or a very large improbability, we must accept that one occurred before the other in the origin of life. But which one was it? We are left with the ancient riddle: Which one came first, the chicken or the egg?"52
The simultaneous origin of DNA, RNA, and the proteins necessary to produce them is, according to Blum and Shapiro, very difficult to conceive. In fact, as we will see next, it is a mathematical impossibility.
During the last several decades a number of prestigious scientists have attempted to calculate the mathematical probability of the random-chance origin of life. The results of their calculations reveal the enormity of the dilemma faced by materialists.
In the 1950's Harold Blum estimated the probability of just a single protein arising spontaneously from a primordial soup. Equilibrium and the reversibility of biochemical reactions eventually led Blum to state:
"The spontaneous formation of a polypeptide of the size of the smallest known proteins seems beyond all probability. This calculation alone presents serious objection to the idea that all living matter and systems are descended from a single protein molecule which was formed as a 'chance' act."53
In the 1970's British astronomer Sir Frederick Hoyle set out to calculate the mathematical probability of the spontaneous origin of life from a primordial soup environment. Applying the laws of chemistry, mathematical probability and thermodynamics, he calculated the odds of the spontaneous generation of the simplest known free-living life form on earth - a bacterium.
Hoyle and his associates knew that the smallest conceivable free-living life form needed at least 2,000 independent functional proteins in order to accomplish cellular metabolism and reproduction. Starting with the hypothetical primordial soup he calculated the probability of the spontaneous generation of just the proteins of a single amoebae.54 He determined that the probability of such an event is one chance in ten to the 40 thousandth power, i.e., 1 in 1040,000. Prior to this project, Hoyle was a believer in the spontaneous generation of life. This project, however, apparently changed his opinion 180 degrees.
Mathematicians tell us that if an event has a probability which is less likely than one chance in 1050, then that event is mathematically impossible. Such an event, if it were to occur, would be considered a miracle.
Consider this. To win a state lottery you have about 1 chance in ten million (10/7). The odds of winning the state lottery every single week of your life from age 18 to age 99 is 1 chance in 4.6 x 1029,120. Therefore, the odds of winning the state lottery every week consecutively for eighty years is more likely than the spontaneous generation of just the proteins of an amoebae!
In his calculations Hoyle assumed that the primordial soup consisted only of left-handed amino acids. As we noted before, spark and soup-type experiments always yield a 50/50 mix of left and right-handed building blocks. Hoyle knew that if the soup consisted of equal portions of right and left-handed amino acids then mathematical probability of the origin of pure left-handed proteins would be exactly zero!
After completing his research, Hoyle stated that the probability of the spontaneous generation of a single bacteria, "is about the same as the probability that a tornado sweeping through a junk yard could assemble a 747 from the contents therein.55
Hoyle also stated:
"The likelihood of the formation of life from inanimate matter is one to a number with 40 thousand naughts [zeros] after it. It is enough to bury Darwin and the whole theory of evolution. There was no primeval soup, neither on this planet nor on any other, and if the beginnings of life were not random they must therefore have been the product of purposeful intelligence."56 (Emphasis added)
Hoyle's calculations may seem impressive, but they don't even begin to approximate the difficulty of the task. He only calculated the probability of the spontaneous generation of the proteins in the cell. He did not calculate the chance formation of the DNA, RNA, nor the cell wall that holds the contents of the cell together.
A more realistic estimate for spontaneous generation has been made by Harold Morowitz, a Yale University physicist.57 Morowitz imagined a broth of living bacteria that were super-heated so that all the complex chemicals were broken down into their basic building blocks. After cooling the mixture, he concluded that the odds of a single bacterium re-assembling by chance is one in 10100,000,000,000. This number is so large that it would require several thousand blank books just to write it out. To put this number into perspective, it is more likely that you and your entire extended family would win the state lottery every week for a million years than for a bacterium to form by chance!
In his book, Origins-A Skeptics Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth, Robert Shapiro gives a very realistic illustration of how one might estimate the odds of the spontaneous generation of life. Shapiro begins by allowing one billion years (5 x 1014 minutes) for spontaneous biogenesis. Next he notes that a simple bacterium can make a copy of itself in twenty minutes, but he assumes that the first life was much simpler. So he allows each trial assembly to last one minute, thus providing 5 x 1014 trial assemblies in 1 billion years to make a living bacterium. Next he allows the entire ocean to be used as the reaction chamber. If the entire ocean volume on planet earth were divided into reaction flasks the size of a bacterium we would have 10/36 separate reaction flasks. He allows each reaction flask to be filled with all the necessary building blocks of life. Finally, each reaction chamber is allowed to proceed through one-minute trial assemblies for one billion years. The result is that there would be 1051 tries available in 1 billion years. According to Morowitz we need 10100,000,000,000 trial assemblies!
Regarding the probabilities calculated by Morowitz, Robert Shapiro wrote:
"The improbability involved in generating even one bacterium is so large that it reduces all considerations of time and space to nothingness. Given such odds, the time until the black holes evaporate and the space to the ends of the universe would make no difference at all. If we were to wait, we would truly be waiting for a miracle."58
Regarding the origin of life Francis Crick, winner of the Nobel Prize in biology, stated in 1982:
"An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going."59
Regarding the probability of spontaneous generation, Harvard University biochemist and Nobel Laureate, George Wald stated in 1954:
"One has to only contemplate the magnitude of this task to concede that the spontaneous generation of a living organism is impossible. Yet we are here-as a result, I believe, of spontaneous generation."60
In this incredible statement by Wald we see that his adherence to the materialist's paradigm is independent of the evidence. Wald's belief in the "impossible" can only be explained by faith: "...the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."61
Despite these incredible odds, and the seemingly insurmountable problems we have discussed, spontaneous generation is taught as a fact from grammar school to university. In fact, NASA scientists reported to the press in 1991 their opinion that life arose spontaneously not once, but multiple times, because previous attempts were wiped out by cosmic catastrophes!
The reason for this fanatical adherence to spontaneous generation is eloquently pointed out by George Wald:
"When it comes to the origin of life there are only two possibilities:
According to Wald, it's not a matter of the evidence, it's a matter of philosophy! Like George Wald, many people do not like, and cannot accept the alternative: that all life on earth was created by a transcendent Creator. So, as Wald said, they are willing to "believe the impossible," in order to cling to their belief that the universe is a closed system. A system that has no room for such a Creator.
Man A Machine!! Paley Vindicated
When William Paley put forth his watchmaker argument in 1818, the force of his argument was weakened by David Hume's assertion that the "machine" analogy was only superficial. Hume argued that the analogy between machines and living systems could not be shown to extend to the "deepest" (molecular) level. Therefore, according to Hume, the analogy was invalid and there was no need for a designer for biological systems.
During the time of Darwin and Hume, the living cell was viewed as a mere blob of amorphous unorganized protoplasm. Consequently, Hume's assertion that the cell was not "machine-like" seemed reasonable. For nearly 150 years Paley's watchmaker argument was felt to be fatally weakened by the reasoning of Hume.
However, the astonishing discoveries in molecular biology during the last 40 years have finally and unequivocally demonstrated that living systems are, in fact, machines - even to the deepest, molecular level! From the tiniest enzyme to the most complex organ systems found in man, Paley's machine analogy is confirmed.
At the enzymatic level we see an eerie resemblance to the design and operation of chemical factories. At the organ level we find "hardware" of an unimaginable complexity and ingenuity. In our five senses we find sensory receivers made of multiple components, each machine-like, the operation of which is absolutely necessary for each sense (taste, sight, smell, hearing, touch) to function properly. In the function of the human heart we see an incredibly efficient and durable hydraulic pump, the likes of which no engineer has imagined. Finally, in the structure of the human brain we find a computer 1000 times faster than a Cray supercomputer with more connections than all the computers, phone systems and electronic appliances on planet earth!
In each of these systems, at every level, we find machine-like structures which are truly "teleonomic" (purposeful) aggregates of matter, each executing its role in a pre-programmed manner.
In 1985 evolutionist Michael Denton made this astonishing admission regarding Paley's machine analogy:
"It has only been over the past twenty years with the molecular biological revolution and with the advance in cybernetic and computer technology that Hume's criticism has been finally invalidated and the analogy between organisms and machines has at last become convincing...In every direction the biochemist gazes, as he journeys through this weird molecular labyrinth, he sees devices and appliances reminiscent of our own twentieth-century world of advanced technology. We have seen a world as artificial as our own and as familiar as if we had held up a mirror to own machines...Paley was not only right in asserting the existence of an analogy between life and machines, but was also remarkably prophetic in guessing that the technological ingenuity realized in living systems is vastly in excess of anything yet accomplished by man."63 (Emphasis added)
The implication of vindicating Paley's machine analogy were also noted by Denton:
"If we are to assume that living things are machines for the purpose of description, research and analysis, and for the purposes of rational and objective debate, as argued by Michael Polyani and Monod among many others, there can be nothing logically inconsistent, as Paley would have argued, in extending the usefulness of the analogy to include an explanation for their origin."64
Since machines need a designer and since living systems possess "appliances reminiscent of our own twentieth-century world of advanced technology" it is "logically" consistent to assert that such appliances (the mechanisms in living systems) must, according to Denton, require a designer as well!
Consequently, according to Denton:
"The conclusion may have religious implication."65
Finally, consider this provocative statement by Hoyle and Wickramasinghe:
"The speculations of The Origin of Species turned out to be wrong...It is ironic that the scientific facts throw Darwin out, but leave William Paley, a figure of fun to the scientific world for more than a century, still in the tournament with a chance of being the ultimate winner."66
If the most knowledgeable chemists using the most up to date equipment cannot create machines as complex as a single amoebae, is it credible to assert that chance, which is the antithesis of intelligence or know-how could do so? I think not.
The Emperor is naked-and many in the scientific establishment are beginning to suspect!
Reference: Mark Eastman, M.D. and Chuck Missler, "The Creator Beyond Space and Time", Copyright 1996 The Word For Today. p.39-65
1. Stanley Miller, Science, Vol 117,(1953).pp. 528-529.
2. The remaining 15% of the reaction products consisted of thirteen organic chemicals in concentrations ranging from .25% to 4%. All of the thirteen products were in a class of chemicals known as carboxylic acids. Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins are one type of carboxylic acid. There are an unlimited number of carboxylic acids that could be made. The smallest carboxylic acid possible is formic acid, with only one carbon atom, and in fact, was the most prominent carboxylic acid made with a yield of 4%. This acid is unimportant in most life forms, a although it is found in ant venom! Three other carboxylic acids, with three carbon atoms, but unimportant to life, were made with a yield of 2.7%.
3. Robert Shapiro, Origins-A Skeptics Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth,(1986),pg. 105.
4. This body of work is detailed in the book The Mystery of Life's Origin. C. Thaxton, W. Bradley, R. Olsen, Chapter 3.
5. Shapiro, op. cit., 108-109.
6. Shapiro, op. cit., 99.
7. Shapiro, op. cit., 116.
8. Shapiro, op. cit., 114.
9. Ozone, which consists of three oxygen atoms bonded together, is made when oxygen in the atmosphere interacts with ultraviolet radiation from the sun. O2 + Ultraviolet Light = Ozone (O3).
10. Eventually, exposure to ultraviolet radiation will break down amino acids down into tar, water, methane, and ammonia.
11. Ultraviolet radiation of this intensity would wipe out all newly formed building blocks even to a depth of ten meters under the water.
12. It has been estimated that in order to form an effective ozone layer, the atmospheric oxygen content would need to be at least 10% of the amount in our current atmosphere. However, this same concentration of oxygen is also enough to quickly and effectively wipe out those same building blocks. Ultraviolet light breaks the chemical bonds of complex molecules such as amino acids and nucleotides, making them useless for the spontaneous generation of life.
13. C. Thaxton, W. Bradley, R. Olsen, The Mystery of Life's Origin; Chapter 3.
14. Denton, op. cit., 262.
15. Denton, op. cit., 261.
16. Rainout means the effect that simple rain would have on the concentrations of atmospheric methane and ammonia. In a very short time, rain alone would eliminate most of these substances from the early atmosphere.
17. Joel Levine, and Tommy Augustson, The Pre biological Paleoatmosphere: Stability and Composition. Presented at the 6th College Park Colloquium, October 1981. See Origins of Life, Volume 12 (1982), pp. 245-259.
18. Organic building blocks would be destroyed even if it only took a few minutes for them to fall from the atmosphere to the ocean. Once in the ocean, the intense ultraviolet radiation would destroy them up to a depth of ten meters.
19. Upon reaching the water, chemicals produced in the atmosphere would need to combine to form DNA, RNA and proteins. To form the first cell, these chemicals would need to be concentrated and then covered by the protective covering called the cell wall. A serious problem for such a scenario is the normal dilutional effect of water. Chemicals tend to disperse, causing watery solutions to become very diluted with the progression of time. The rate of destruction of unprotected building blocks, combined with this dilutional effect, would greatly decrease the concentration of the "soup" envisioned by Oparin and Haldane.
20. Denton, op. cit., pg. 261.
21. Molecular chirality results when a carbon atom is attached to four different chemical groups or substituents. The result is molecules that are mirror images of one another, just as our two hands are mirror images of one another.
22. The amino acids made by Miller's experiment were among the simplest in nature, containing only one asymmetric carbon. More complex molecules, such as nucleotides, may contain more than one asymmetric carbon. With the addition of each asymmetric carbon the number of possible molecules (called isomers) doubles.
23. The terms dextrorotory and levorotary refer to the direction these chemicals rotate the plane of polarized light. A solution of dextrorotory amino acids rotates the plane of polarized light to the r right while levorotary solutions to the left.
24. The Penicillin fungus makes d-amino acids to poison potential bacterial invaders. Strychnine, an obvious poison, is also a d-amino acid and is toxic to cellular enzymes.
25. For 80 years chemists have been trying to synthesize optically pure mixtures of amino acids in the lab using stochastic chemical processes. However, this has never been accomplished. According to physical chemists, it is impossible because the two isomers have identical entropy states.
26. Miller and Urey acknowledged that the chemical makeup of their experiment consisted of equal portions of left-handed and right-handed amino acids.
27. Racemates are not optically active and in the laboratory always result in proteins which contain a 50/50 mix of levo and dextro amino acids or nucleotides.
28. In practice, laboratory experiments have shown that right-handed building blocks have a slighter greater affinity, or attraction, for other right-handed building blocks. Therefore, at each step in the addition of another building block, there is a 3/7 chance that the next one added will be the same optical isomer as the one previously added.
29. The smallest known free living life forms, bacteria, have about 12,000,000 nucleotides in their DNA. If we were to calculate the odds of adding twelve million successive right-handed nucleotides to the growing chain, without a single left-handed one being added, it would be .5 raised to the 12 millionth power, (.5/12,000,000)!
30. The materialist is left with a limited number of options. Either the first life forms had a mix of right and left-handed building blocks in their DNA and proteins, or a racemic primordial soup (which always results from Miller-Urey type experiments), somehow defied the laws of mathematics and gave rise to pure mixtures of left-handed amino acids and right-handed nucleotides. The first option (racemic life) is impossible because of a three-dimensional structure of enzymes and proper functioning is not possible with a mix of dextro and levo amino acids. The second option is a mathematical absurdity.
31. Some have suggested that certain clay or crystal surfaces might "select" one isomer over another and therefore, purify a mixture of like handed (optically pure) molecules. However, this argument ignores that fact that the entropy states of the two isomers are identical and are very difficult to separate. Secondly, experimental chemistry shows that it is impossible to get pure mixtures of one or the other isomer this way. Irregularities in the structure of the clay or crystal surfaces would result in the accumulation of both isomers, i.e., contaminants. Since this is so, if even one incorrect isomer gets integrated into a protein or nucleic acid, its 3-D structure would be destroyed.
32. A minority of chemists have suggested that perhaps life started out with racemic proteins and later only the levo amino acids were selected out. However, there is no known mechanism whereby chance chemistry can accomplish such a "selection" process. Furthermore, the structure of proteins is so tightly coupled to function that the intermediates between the racemic proteins and the optically pure proteins (consisting of only levo amino acids) would not be functional. In fact, the removal of even one amino acid often destroys the structure and function of a protein. To change from a racemic protein to an optically pure one would mean the substitution of 50% of the amino acid residues.
33. Most chemicals that are poisonous to plants, animals or humans kill their victims by binding specifically and irreversibly to the active site of metabolic enzymes.
34. Another devastating fact regarding the "toxic waste" produced by "spark and soup" experiments is that these chemicals, composed mainly of carboxylic acids, bind to amino acids far more readily than amino acids bind to each other! Therefore, it is incredulous to conclude that pure, uncontaminated mixtures of amino acids or nucleotides could combine, or be selected out by chance, from such a mixture of "chemical junk."
35. Anyone that has worked in a biochemistry lab knows that the smallest amount of impurity in the reaction vessels will halt the activity and efficiency of enzymes. In fact, the presence of common ocean water is "dirty" enough to halt the function of free enzymes in such an experiment. Therefore, even the ocean is an unlikely place for enzymes and life to evolve.
36. This is called the law of mass action.
37. Recognizing the dilemma that these reversible condensation reactions pose, some have proposed that the origin of life occurred near super hot oceanic volcanic vents. Next to such vents the temperatures can reach thousands of degrees, thus causing a relative decrease in the amount of water. This would theoretically drive the condensation reaction toward the production of "post-cursors" or proteins. The flaw in this argument is that heat (110 degrees Fahrenheit or greater) quickly and efficiently breaks down (denatures) proteins rendering them structurally and functionally incompetent.
38. A solution is said to be at equilibrium when it reaches a state of greatest entropy and lowest energy state.
39. In a solution that is in equilibrium there will always be local areas where the dissolved particles may, for a transient period, not be evenly distributed. That is, there will be areas of decreased entropy (increased order). These exceptions are transient since they are in equilibrium with the surrounding particles.
40. The Second Law, coupled with the fact that these condensation reactions are reversible, drives the solution in the net direction of a mixture containing predominantly unbonded building blocks. According to thermodynamic calculations by Harold Blum (Time's Arrow and Evolution), in a watery solution about 1% of amino acids will exist as dipeptides (two bonded amino acids), .001% as tripeptides and less than one in 10/20 will exist in a chain of ten amino acids. Those that do bond will be quickly unbonded when a collision with water occurs unless these unlikely, reduced entropy molecules are stored and kept away from the solution in equilibrium.
41. In a primordial soup, random molecular movement would cause the building blocks of life to diffuse away from their site of origin. Just as concentrated red dye will disperse when dropped into water, the building blocks of DNA and protein will also diffuse until equilibrium is reached. At this point there would be billions of water molecules for every unbonded building block. This process, along with the rapid breakdown of nucleotides and amino acids by oxygen and UV radiation, makes it almost impossible to imagine how, in a watery environment, biochemical precursors could combine, stay combined and continue to build upon each other in the fact of the concept of chemical equilibrium.
42. Enzymes are able to function as metabolic machines which extract free energy from the environment (e.g. photosynthesis) and use this energy to overcome the effect of equilibrium in the synthesis and preservation of DNA and proteins. During the synthesis of proteins, enzymes first "activate" or energize amino acids (using ATP) and allow them to bond and stay bonded. This enormously complex process requires a specific transfer RNA molecule for the activation and bonding of each of the twenty amino acids used in living systems. This energy is then used to overcome the effect of equilibrium in the preservation of DNA and proteins in a state of increased order. In effect, enzymes capture the building blocks, bind them together, essentially removing them from the solution, and then preserve them in their bonded state. However, these cellular machines or mechanisms (enzymes) are designed to store and maintain these deviations from equilibrium. The problem for the materialist is to explain how such deviations from equilibrium were stored in the absence of any mechanism or system capable of doing this. Inorganic matter possesses neither the know-how nor the mechanism to store the decreased entropy found in the chains of DNA and proteins.
43. To overcome the effect of equilibrium, many scientists will unwittingly assert that the addition of enough energy into a thermodynamically open system (such as the earth) will cause the system to stray from equilibrium and allow the accumulation of storage of "corners" of increased order (or negative entropy). It is true that the introduction of more energy causes an increase in the number of chemical collisions and a corresponding increase in the number of unlikely polymers (consisting of two, three, four or more bonded building blocks). However, in order for DNA or protein synthesis to occur, these deviations from equilibrium must be stored or preserved. If they (the polymers) are not stored, then collisions with water, which are constantly occurring, will just as easily break down the randomly-formed polymers. Furthermore, the addition of long time periods simply acts to drive even localized "corners" of decreased entropy to a state of equilibrium, i.e. predominantly unbonded building blocks.
44. Crystals are often presented as examples of structures that display reduced entropy, and yet are at equilibrium. However, the order that we see in a crystal is a secondary order which is dependent upon the order already present in the atoms.
45. Harold F. Blum,. Time's arrow and Evolution.(2d ed., Princeton, N.J. Princeton University Press, 1955).
46. Machines result when information (know-how) is intelligently and deliberately combined with the natural law in matter for the purpose of creating a purposeful mechanism.
47. For a detailed discussion on the origin of machines see The Scientific Alternative to Neo-Darwinian Evolutionary Theory: Information Sources and Structures. A.E. Wilder-Smith, The Word for Today Publishers, Costa Mesa, Ca. 92628 (Phone 1-800-282-WORD).
48. A.E. Wilder-Smith, Man's Origin Man's Destiny, (1993 English ed.) The Word for Today Publishers, (Phone 1-800-282-WORD).pp. 45-46.
49. George Wald, "The Origin of Life", Scientific American 191:48 (May 1954).
50. Blum, op. cit., 178a.
51. Blum, op. cit., 17.
52. Shapiro, op. cit., 135.
53. Harold F. Blum, Time's Arrow and Evolution (2d ed., Princeton, N.J. Princeton University Press, 1955).
54. In Hoyle's experiment he assumed a primordial soup that contained all of the twenty essential amino acids.
55. Nature, vol. 294:105, November 12, 1981.
56. Nature, vol. 294:105, November 12, 1981.
57. Harold Morowitz, Energy Flow in Biology (New York; Academic Press, 1968).
58. Shapiro, op. cit., 128.
59. Francis Crick, Life Itself-Its Origin and Nature, Futura, London, (1982).
60. George Wald, "The Origin of Life", Scientific American 191:48 (May 1954).
61. See the New Testament, Hebrews 11:1.
62. George Wald, "The Origin of Life", Scientific American (May 1954).
63. Denton, op. cit., pg. 340.
64. Ibid., 341.
65. Ibid., 341.
66. Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, Evolution from Space: A Theory of Cosmic Creationism (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981), pp. 96-97.