The Origin of Life

by David N. Menton, Ph.D.

Copyright © 1997 Missouri Association for Creation, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

One of the most fundamental axioms of biology is that all life comes from pre-existing life. Still, until the later part of the 19th century, life was believed to arise from non-living matter by a process called "spontaneous generation." Ancient Egyptians, for example, thought mice arose from the mud of the Nile. In 1600, J. B. Helmont even reported "proof" for the spontaneous generation of mice claiming that if wheat, cheese, and soiled linen are placed together in a jar, mice will eventually appear! This idea of the spontaneous generation of life from non-life was so deeply ingrained in biological thought that it took nearly 200 years of experimental evidence to completely disprove it.

In 1650, Francesco Redi, an Italian physician, proved that maggots come from living flies and not from lifeless meat as was widely believed. This was a serious blow to spontaneous generation, but when bacteria were later discovered, it was thought that at least micro-organisms might arise from non-life. This notion too was finally laid to rest in 1864 by the great scientist (and creationist) Louis Pasteur, who demonstrated that bacteria can only come from living bacteria. When Pasteur reported his results before the French Academy he confidently declared that, "never will the doctrine of spontaneous generation arise from this mortal blow." Pasteur never dreamed that the widely discredited evolutionary ideas of his contemporary, Charles Darwin, would one day become widely accepted by the scientific community, reviving once again the notion of spontaneous generation. In his book, The Origins of Life, evolutionist Cyril Ponnamperuma said:

"It is, perhaps, ironic that we tell beginning students in biology about Pasteur's experiments as the triumph of reason over mysticism yet we are coming back to spontaneous generation, albeit in a more refined and scientific sense, namely to chemical evolution."

Most evolutionists are dead certain that life evolved by chance (without divine intervention) from non-living chemicals through a process called "chemical evolution." Some evolutionists even insist that life must have independently evolved more than once on earth. Most evolutionists are confident that life has evolved many times in many other places in the universe. Although Darwin spoke longingly of the chance origin of life from simple chemicals in some "warm little pond," there has never been evidence that anything remotely like this has ever happened. In fact, the evidence for chemical evolution is so embarrassing, some evolutionists insist that the whole idea of the origin of life is not even a part of the theory of evolution but rather is a creationist plot to discredit evolution!

Evolutionists speculate that life gradually evolved from mere hydrogen in a series of stages. The first stage began about 15 billion years ago with the "Big Bang" which produced an expanding cloud of hydrogen gas -- all else was void. With time and energy, hydrogen transformed into all the other chemical elements. Then, about 4 billion years ago, the earth's atmosphere consisted of methane, ammonia, hydrogen and water, from which life would inevitably evolve.

During stage two it is believed that simple chemicals from stage one formed the small organic molecules essential to life such as sugars, amino acids and nucleotides. In 1953, Miller and Urey claimed to "simulate" the evolution of some of these organic molecules from methane and ammonia using apparatus and conditions designed to achieve the desired result.

Stage three in chemical evolution is supposed to have involved the stringing together of small organic molecules into long chain-like molecules called polymers. The most important biological polymers are starches (polymers of sugars), proteins (polymers of amino acids), and DNA (polymers of nucleotides). In another "evolution simulation" experiment, Sidney Fox produced protein-like molecules by heating pure-dry amino acids at high temperatures. When this material was allowed to cool in water it formed small globules which he called "microspheres." Although these microspheres are stone dead, evolutionists refer to them as "protocells," implying that they represent an early stage of living cells. In fact, about the only similarity between microspheres and living cells is they are, as their name implies, small and spherical.

The final stage of chemical evolution involves the chance transformation of organic molecules and polymers into the unfathomably complex machinery of living cells. Here evolutionary speculation is so unrestrained by evidence, or even plausibility, that it fails to merit serious consideration. The biochemist Dr. David Green pretty well summed it up when he said in his book Molecular Insights into the Living Process:

"the macromolecule-to-cell transition is a jump of fantastic dimensions, which lies beyond the range of testable hypothesis. In this area all is conjecture. The available facts do not provide a basis for postulating that cells arose on this planet."

Evolutionists have tried to get around this problem by invoking long periods of time in the hope that, given enough time, virtually anything is possible -- except, of course, special creation.

Now even some evolutionists fear that time and chance may not be the answer. The Nobel laureate Dr. Francis Crick (co-discoverer of DNA), in his book Life Itself, insists that the probability of life's chance origin simply defies calculation. Crick, an atheist, says:

"What is so frustrating for our present purpose is that it seems almost impossible to give any numerical value to the probability of what seems a rather unlikely sequence of events... An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle."

Incredibly, Crick concludes that the first living organisms on earth may have been "seeded" in our oceans by intelligent beings from another planet!

Sir Fred Hoyle, the man who named the "Big Bang" theory, has recently concluded that the origin of life by chance is an absurd idea. In his book Evolution From Space, Hoyle insists that it is obvious that the complexity of life demands an intelligent designer, possibly even (heaven forbid!) God. According to Hoyle:

"Once we see, however, that the probability of life originating at random is so utterly minuscule as to make it absurd, it becomes sensible to think that the favorable properties of physics on which life depends are in every respect deliberate. ... It is therefore almost inevitable that our own measure of intelligence must reflect... higher intelligences... even to the limit of God... such a theory is so obvious that one wonders why it is not widely accepted as being self-evident."

In a recent address at Cal Tech, Hoyle said that no amount of time now being considered by evolutionists is even remotely adequate to accomplish the formation of a higher living organism by chance. Such an event, he said, would be comparable to the chance that "a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from materials therein"!

Evolutionists, who must essentially invoke miracles without God, have no other choice than to believe in chance events so improbable they undermine the statistical foundation on which modern science rests. In his book Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to Creation of Life on Earth, evolutionist Robert Shapiro abandons all skepticism and lamely argues:

"One escape hatch yet exists for spontaneous generation. Why need the event have been probable? We can just stare at the odds, shrug, and note with thanks how lucky we were... After all, improbable events occur all the time."

Think of it, with an unquestioning faith like this in God, we Christians could move mountains!

Originally published in St. Louis MetroVoice, August 1993, Vol. 3, No. 8