Reality Check: Has Science Explained the Origin of Life?

by Kirk Durston

Imagine you wanted someone who hasn’t the faintest idea what a book is to make a book from scratch. In that case, on the topic of how to make books from scratch, at least three things would be required.

1. He would need to acquire the ingredients to make a book — raw material to make paper, something to make glue and thread to bind the book, and the ingredients for ink.

2. He would require the information the book needed to contain.

3. He would have to find a way to assemble all the ingredients and the information together to produce the finished product.

Nature has been described as a “blind watchmaker.”1 It is also mindless, with no plans or objectives for anything at all, including creating life. For over sixty years, thousands of scientists have tried to figure out how nature could have created life. It is kind of like making a book from scratch for someone who has no idea what a book is. We can divide the problem into three steps:

  1. Discover how nature can get the ingredients or “building blocks,” all at the same time and location.
  2. Figure out how mindless natural processes could produce the digital code required for life.
  3. Come up with a natural, testable, reproducible explanation as to how all these pieces came together to build the first living cell.

So what progress has science made over the past sixty years?

The News Is Not Good

I just counted the number of papers and articles on the origin of life I have filed on my computer. The total is 54, and that is only a small sampling of what is out there. Reviewing this collection, the news is not good. We are still working on a plausible, reproducible process for the first step…

Reality Check: Has Science Explained the Origin of Life?