Creative Science: Life from Non-life

by Lance Ponder

abiogenesisDarwin’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…


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The Poached Egg

Recommended Resources: Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design | The Cell’s Design: How Chemistry Reveals the Creator’s Artistry