Creative Science 25 – Life from Non-Life

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” – Jer 1:5 (NKJV)

Darwin’s Origin of Species proposes natural selection as the mechanism by which simple organisms became increasingly complex, yet he never made a direct claim as to how the first simple organisms came about. Most evolutionists are quick to claim that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution does not claim to explain how life actually began. The question of how the first simple living cell formed requires an answer. The Materialist answer is called abiogenesis – life from non-life through some yet to be identified purely natural process. Non-materialist answers vary from agnostic Intelligent Design to literal biblical Creation.

Abiogenesis is the branch of evolutionary research that seeks to understand and explain how life arose from non-life. This endeavor assumes the materialistic view that life arose through undirected (chance) natural chemical activity. The picture most people have in mind is of a lightening bolt striking some primordial soup. The result is the perfect combination of atoms to form amino acids, the most basic chemical building blocks. Subsequent energy input from heat or electricity supposedly caused these amino acids to bond correctly to form proteins and, somewhere on the heel of this magnificently simple idea, Evolution takes over to drive the ever increasing complexity of life. A number of significant problems make the popular notion of life arising from some ancient soup extremely unlikely.

Life’s most basic chemical components require an environment where the chemicals are free to react. The presence of water in any primordial soup would prevent amino acids and nucleotides from combining. A chemical principle known as the Law of Mass Action says that reactions proceed from highest to lowest concentration. Water forms as a byproduct of amino acid polymerization. The Law of Mass Action means that any process that produces water cannot be performed in the presence of water.

If we assume the soup was completely water-free, containing only free amino acids and nucleotides, the variable reaction rates would require a highly precise timing of reactions for any meaningful combinations to take place to produce a higher functioning polymer. Even the simplest polymeric sequences in our DNA require a degree of precision virtually impossible to be the product of random chance. In addition to the difficulty of random timing of reactions, the location of each reaction matters. Once two amino acids join they form a chain. When the additional acids react, they may react at either end of the chain. A four-part chain would require not only the correct amino acids combining, but combining at the right ends of the chain. With each new link in the chain comes a 50/50 chance of it being added at the wrong end. This means the odds of an incorrect chain combination double with each additional amino acid. Proteins contain hundreds of amino acids linked in a chain, activated in the right sequence and at the right rate. Even if only the right raw amino acids are present in the right relative proportions, the odds of forming an original protein are so slight as to be virtually impossible.

Nucleotides are necessary for DNA and RNA. They are formed by the reactions involving sugars known as reducing sugars. Amino acids are required to form proteins. Reducing sugars and amino acids would be mutually exclusive in a primordial soup because they instantly react with each other. Both components are removed from the mixture and the resulting chemical is useless for the formation of nucleotides or proteins.

Assuming all of the problems above are somehow overcome, the necessary amino acid and sugar molecules must have exactly the correct three-dimensional shape to combine properly. This three-dimensional property of a molecule is called chirality. Chirality can be thought of as handedness. To join correctly, every amino acid of every protein must be left-handed while every nucleotide must be right-handed. If any of the naturally occurring proteins or sugars are handed wrong, the original gene cannot form.

The only way to form a useful polymer sequence is to carefully control the process under very specific laboratory conditions. Abiogenesis – the logical extension of Darwin’s theory – assumes random natural processes formed life. Without conditions and contents being directed by an intelligent designer, formation of original DNA or RNA in a lab is simply impossible. [Dr. Charles McCombs, Acts & Facts 2/09]

Let us put some statistical mathematics in our imaginary primordial soup to understand just how absurd is the possibility of accidental life. The rate of complexity increases exponentially as the number of components increases in a machine. The odds of four unique parts combining in an exact order is 1 in 24; five parts = 1 in 120. If you mix 100 unique parts in a box then pull them out randomly, the odds of doing so in an exact order is about 1 in 10158. If all 1080 atoms in the universe were scrambled twice per second for 30 billion years (1018 seconds), the odds of a 100 atom chain forming in the right order are only 1 in 1042. The most basic living protein has far more than 100 amino acids, each consisting of several atoms. This math does not even factor in the problems of three dimensional shape requirements. The odds of life from non-life are infinitesimal. It seems ridiculous to suggest the building blocks of life formed and combined originally by accident.

Odds have not stopped hopeful evolutionists in their daunting task to demonstrate how life might have arose from non-life. The principles of abiogenesis were most famously put to the test in the 1953 experiment was performed by Stanley Miller with the help of Harold Urey. They reproduced an artificial atmosphere to simulate what they thought might be early earth conditions. They then added the necessary soup components into that atmosphere, then applied electricity. The result was the spontaneous organization of organic molecules. The initial results were hailed as a huge step forward in human understanding of origins. Only later did the various problems with the experiment come to light. First, the simulated atmosphere, made up primarily of methane and ammonia, is universally rejected as impossible as an early Earth atmosphere. Very high electric charges had to be used to cause formation of the organic (carbon-based) molecules. The molecules generated were actually cyanide and formaldehyde, both of which are lethal to living cells. Although the Miller-Urey experiments have now been discredited and generally disavowed even by Evolutionists, the basic idea still lingers. Some text books in use today still provide a false impression that these experiments effectively demonstrated how life arose. Thus far every successful attempt to organize atoms, molecules, chemicals of any other level of complexity has involved the careful and purposeful implementation of an intelligent design under tightly controlled conditions not found in nature. It seems, then, that for man to create he must play at God, imitating Him with purpose, design, and very careful hands.


About Lance Ponder

Christian author of "Ask James one"; public speaker; husband and father. Available to speak on Creation and the Gospel.
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