Life — God’s Creation, or Abiogenesis?

Author: Curt Sewell
Subject: Creation Overviews
Date: 11/8/1999

We all know the theory of evolution says that complex creatures have evolved from lower forms of life. But where did those lower forms come from? How did it all begin?

The ancient Greeks had a partial answer. They thought that small creatures sprang spontaneously from mud. Aristotle taught that plant-lice sprang full-grown from dew on plants. Others have said that rats were produced by piles of decaying rags, and that maggots came from decaying meat. Today these ideas are called spontaneous generation, or abiogenesis (that is, lifeforms derived from non-living matter). Anton von Leeuwenhoek in 1683, using his new high-power magnifier, gave science some formal basis for this belief, when he demonstrated the tremendous variety of microscopic organisms in nature, probably the first bacteria seen by man. These ubiquitous tiny creatures seemed to appear spontaneously, with no parents.

The ancient Hebrews, thousands of years before the Greeks, also had an answer. Their scriptures told how God had created the first plants and animals — all of the basic kinds that we see today — within a span of six days. He programmed their reproductive mechanisms so that they would reproduce “after their kind.” He equipped them with enough genetic variation to allow limited amounts of change from one generation to the next. Today this reproduction is referred to as biogenesis (that is, life comes only from other similar life).

These two widely differing views on the origin of life have always been controversial. In 1668 Francesco Redi showed that maggots only appeared on spoiled meat if flies had laid eggs there. If he placed a screen to keep flies off, no maggots appeared, even though fly eggs were on the screen. But it remained for creationist Louis Pasteur, in 1861, to describe his simple, yet elegant, experiment that finally proved that life came only from life. Pasteur used a glass flask having a long curved neck, filled with a broth. He first showed that if a broth was exposed to air containing microorganisms, it was soon swarming with microorganisms. However, if the air was first heated or adequately filtered, no growth in the broth was observed. But when that germ-laden filter was put in the broth, growth was immediate. He announced at the Sorbonne, “Never will the doctrine of spontaneous generation recover from the mortal blow of this simple experiment.”

Pasteur’s experiment is still accepted as proof against abiogenesis. But this leaves evolutionists with no source for small “simple” organisms — a key part of their mechanistic Weltanschauung, or world-view. Several schemes involving panspermia were proposed. These said that life seeds had been imported from outer space via comets or meteorites, or even by interplanetary travelers. This falls into the realm of science fiction — there’s no evidence of such a far-out happening, and much evidence against it. Some simple organic molecules have been found in meteorites, but nothing even remotely capable of life. Space is filled with deadly radiation that would destroy any form of lifelike molecules.

Proponents of evolution were left with only one chance. In 1924 Alexander Oparin suggested that maybe simple chemicals, under the right conditions, might spontaneously form complex organic molecules, and these might then combine to form simple living cells. J.B.S. Haldane, Harold Urey and others elaborated this idea, and many scientists began trying to explain how such a spontaneous decrease in entropy (an obvious violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics) might actually happen. It quickly became apparent that this would require a reducing atmosphere, that is, one that was rich in hydrogen but that had no free oxygen. Other planets have been observed to have such an atmosphere, but all evidence still shows this was never true on the earth. Yet this has become the orthodox scientific description of our early earth — in spite of evidence to the contrary, they maintain that we must have had a reducing atmosphere at one time, because without it life couldn’t have evolved! This is truly scientific faith in action!

This sort of chemical evolution would require three phases:

1) simple inorganic chemicals, with the addition of energy, in a reducing atmosphere, must spontaneously form organic molecules such as amino acids and sugars, 2) these organic molecules must then combine to form macromolecules such as nucleic acids and proteins, and 3) these would then have to combine to form self-replicating entities such as simple cells. But each of these steps has a major problem, in that they require completely different conditions, and the probability of destructive reactions is much higher than that for the desired reactions.

In 1953 (the same year that Francis Crick and James Watson proposed the double-helix model of DNA) a report was made by Stanley Miller, describing his first experiments in attempting to show prebiotic evolution — the first phase in the above threesome. His experimental setup is shown at right. It required a great deal of intervention — careful selection of components, isolating, purifying, concentrating and extraction. But it did produce a number of amino acids.
Experiments such as Miller’s stretch the credulity considerably. In the first place, it takes a tremendous amount of careful operator intervention and intelligence to try and simulate what is thought to have happened by random chance, with no outside help. Second, all actual physical evidence shows that the early earth had a lot of free oxygen but very little free hydrogen; after all, in the earliest rocks there are many oxides. But all of the chemical evolution experiments use hydrogen-rich atmospheres, with all oxygen excluded.

The next two phases that are needed in order to show the possibility of chemical evolution of life itself have never produced favorable results. In order for phase 3 to take place, there must have been a master control such as is contained in all the genes of a living cell. But how could this have come about naturally before that cell was assembled? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Statistical analysis shows that spontaneous assembly of macromolecules to form self-replicating cells is not likely to ever happen.

Thaxton, Bradley and Olsen wrote a very comprehensive book devoted solely to examining various aspects of this theory of the chemical origin of life. They described the early work on laboratory synthesis, what is known about conditions on the early earth, and thermodynamic considerations of chemical reactions.

They showed that the probability of destructive reactions in any natural environment is much higher than that for favorable combinations, therefore the probability for a long series of favorable reactions to manufacture any DNA-style complex molecules is essentially zero. They said,. Charles B. Thaxton, Walter L. Bradley, & Roger L. Olsen, “The Mystery of Life’s Origin: Reassessing Current Theories,” (Philosophical Library, New York, 1984, pg. 66).

“Furthermore, no geological evidence indicates an organic soup, even a small organic pond, ever existed on this planet. It is becoming clear that however life began on earth, the usually conceived notion that life emerged from an oceanic soup of organic chemicals is a most implausible hypothesis. We may therefore with fairness call this scenario “the myth of the prebiotic soup.” (emphasis added)

In summary, materialistic formation of life from non-life would seem to require intelligent actions too miraculous to imagine. It’s much more realistic (and requires less blind faith) to simply acknowledge, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth [and all of the life-forms contained therein].” (See Genesis 1.)