Poisoned Thinking



In a controversial study, scientists have shown that some bacteria can substitute arsenic in place of phosphorus in their DNA and other molecules.1 This specialized bacterium was found in California’s Mono Lake, which has high levels of arsenic. Although chemically similar to phosphorus, arsenic is toxic to most creatures. Nonetheless, this bacterium is able to live in the lake, so researchers have speculated that arsenic-based life might have evolved somewhere on earth.

Learning that a bacterium can live on a different chemical cocktail, however, does not show that many different sorts of life can evolve, as some scientists have now claimed; the two are unrelated. Given the difficulty of explaining life with conventional molecules, explaining a life-form that evolved independently would, says molecular geneticist and creationist Dr. Georgia Purdom, “actually raise more questions than it would answer, and only cast further doubt on the evolutionary enterprise.”

Mono Lake

© Oleksandr Buzko | iStockphoto.com

At first researchers were ecstatic about discovering in California’s Mono Lake (above) bacteria that substitute arsenic for phosphorus in their DNA. Could a different kind of life have evolved on earth? Not so fast, responded creationists.

As of press time, fresh doubts about the original research have surfaced. One prominent science writer recorded what some are calling “fatal flaws” in the study, claims that may not be sorted out for months.2

Answers Magazine

April – June 2011

Continual attacks on God’s Word can cause even Christians to question the Bible. Are you prepared to answer the attacks, or more important, questions from those who honestly want to learn how we know God’s Word is true? This issue of Answers will burrow down to the heart of the matter, highlighting seven reasons we know the Bible is true!

Browse Issue Subscribe


  1. Felisa Wolfe-Simon et al., “A Bacterium That Can Grow by Using Arsenic Instead of Phosphorus,” Science Express, December 2, 2010, p. 1.
  2. http://www.slate.com/id/2276919


Get the latest answers emailed to you or sign up for our free print newsletter.

I agree to the current Privacy Policy.

Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Learn more

  • Customer Service 800.778.3390