Miller-Urey Experiment

Hall of Life—Origins of Life Exhibits

on November 30, 2015

Some museums may discuss the Miller-Urey experiment of 1953 as evidence that abiogenesis can occur. Anti-evolutionist Philip Johnson informs us:

Because post-Darwinian biology has been dominated by materialist dogma, the biologists have had to pretend that organisms are a lot simpler than they are. Life itself must be merely chemistry. Assemble the right chemicals, and life emerges. DNA must likewise be a product of chemistry alone. As an exhibit in the New Mexico Museum of Natural History puts it, “volcanic gases plus lightning equal DNA equals LIFE!” When queried about this fable, the museum spokesman acknowledged that it was simplified but said it was basically true. (Phillip Johnson, Weekly Wedge Update, April 30, 2001, p. 1.)

This experiment actually showed that abiogenesis cannot occur.

Miller Experiment
  • The Miller-Urey experiment used a methane-ammonia atmosphere, without oxygen because researchers once thought that earth’s original atmosphere lacked oxygen, and oxygen was known to have detrimental effects on the experiments they were conducting. However, scientists have now found that “the accepted picture of the earth’s early atmosphere has changed: It was probably O2-rich with some nitrogen, a less reactive mixture than Miller’s, or it might have been composed largely of carbon dioxide, which would greatly deter the development of organic compounds.” (C. Flowers, A Science Odyssey: 100 Years of Discovery. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1998, p. 173.)
  • In addition to producing amino acids, the experiment also produced an abundance of toxic chemicals (cyanides, carbon monoxide, etc.) that are harmful to the amino acids.
  • The very forms of energy suggested to have initiated abiogenesis actually destroy the amino acids formed in the process. The experimenters built a trap in the apparatus to collect the formed amino acids to prevent that destruction. No such trap existed in the supposed primordial earth.
  • Naturalistic philosopher Karl Popper remarks: “What makes the origin of life and of the genetic code a disturbing riddle is this: the genetic code is without any biological function unless it is translated; that is, unless it leads to the synthesis of the proteins whose structure is laid down by the code. But … the machinery by which the cell (at least the non-primitive cell, which is the only one we know) translates the code consists of at least fifty macromolecular components which are themselves coded in the DNA. Thus the code can not be translated except by using certain products of its translation. This constitutes a baffling circle; a really vicious circle, it seems, for any attempt to form a model or theory of the genesis of the genetic code.” (Karl Popper, “Scientific reduction and the essential incompleteness of all science” in Francisco Ayala and Theodosius Dobzhansky, eds., Studies in the Philosophy of Biology. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974, p. 270.)

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