Abiogenesis: Can Life Come from Non-Living Chemicals?

Naturalistic evolutionists require life to arise from non-life—which hasn’t been observed and is antithetical to God’s history of the universe in Genesis.

by Troy Lacey on September 22, 2021
Featured in Answers in Depth


The naturalistic (evolutionary) worldview claims that life arose from non-living chemicals. That first organism, whatever it was supposed to be (usually assumed to be some type of microorganism living near hydrothermal sea vents), eventually gave rise to our supposed evolutionary ancestor. This organism is often called LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor), and it supposedly gave rise to all other lifeforms on earth—archaebacterial, bacterial, fungal, plant, animal, and human. However, from the Bible, we know that God is the Creator of all life. He supernaturally created the original plant kinds on day three, the original sea and flying kinds on day five, and the original land animal kinds and people on day six. As far as microorganisms are concerned, we are not given their creation dates, but it is reasonable to conjecture they were created the same day that the biome in which they live was created (for example, soil bacteria on day three, water-based microorganisms on day five, animal and human gut bacteria on day six, etc.). At any rate, they were all created within a space of at most six days. And since God finished his supernatural creative acts at the end of the sixth day, we would not expect to see life being created today other than by the normal processes God set in place during creation week (i.e., reproducing after their kinds).

Where Did the Idea of Abiogenesis (or Spontaneous Generation) Come From?

The idea that life can spontaneously generate from non-life goes back at least as far as the philosophers of ancient Greece, likely to Anaximander (610¬–546 BC) or possibly even his mentor, Thales (c. 623–545 BC).

The idea that life can spontaneously generate from non-life goes back at least as far as the philosophers of ancient Greece, likely to Anaximander (610¬–546 BC) or possibly even his mentor, Thales (c. 623–545 BC). Later Greek philosophers, for example, Aristotle (384–322 BC), also believed this and wrote, “It is recorded time and again in the classical languages that bees are generated in the bodies of putrefying oxen. . . . Other insects are not derived from living parentage, but are generated spontaneously: some out of dew falling on leaves, ordinarily in springtime, but not seldom in winter when there has been a stretch of fair weather and southerly winds; others grow in decaying mud or dung, others in timber, green and dry; some in the hair of animals . . . certain fish spring either from mud and sand, or from the foul matter that rises as a scum” and eels "grow spontaneously in mud and in humid ground; in fact, eels have at times been seen to emerge out of earthworms, and on other occasions have been rendered visible when the earthworms were laid open by either scraping or cutting. Such earthworms are found both in the sea and in rivers, especially where there is decayed matter; in the sea in places where seaweed abounds, and in rivers and marshes near to the edge; for it is near to the water's edge that sun-heat has its chief power and produces putrefaction.”1

The Slow Death of Spontaneous Generation

The Italian physician Francesco Redi in 1668 devised a number of experiments, all pointing to the same conclusion: if flies are excluded from rotten meat, maggots do not develop. On meat exposed to flies, however, eggs laid by flies develop into maggots. He tested the spontaneous creation of maggots by placing fresh meat in each of two different containers. One flask was left open and the other was covered with a gauze-like cheesecloth. Days later, after both meats had rotted, the open flask contained maggots, whereas the covered flask had no maggots. Redi had successfully demonstrated that the maggots came from fly eggs.2 But French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc De Buffon and English microscopist John T. Needham in the 1740s conducted experiments that they claimed proved spontaneous generation (because they had inadequately heated their liquids and let air into their broth). But Italian physiologist Lazzaro Spallanzani showed that, by boiling the meat broth for one hour and sealing the flasks from air, their experimental methods were faulty and their conclusions tainted. Needham responded that Spallanzani had ”much weakened, and maybe even destroyed, the vegetative force of the infused substances.”3 Spallanzani then performed subsequent experiments to conclusively show that Needham’s objections were invalid. He heated the broth for three hours but did not seal the flasks, and the broth became cloudy with microorganisms. Needham could no longer argue that he had killed the vegetative force by the heat treatment. Nevertheless, spontaneous generation still retained supporters for another century.

Nevertheless, spontaneous generation still retained supporters for another century.

The Death Blow to Spontaneous Generation

In 1859, (the same year that On the Origin of Species was published by Darwin), creation scientist Louis Pasteur performed experiments using meat broth kept in a flask with an elongated and bent neck that trapped dust particles and other contaminants before they could reach the body of the flask. The meat broth inside never became cloudy. But when the neck of the flask was broken off, the broth, being newly exposed to air, eventually became cloudy, indicating microbial contamination. Pasteur had demonstrated conclusively that “spontaneous generation” (or what is now called abiogenesis) was a fallacious idea. He showed that life can only come from life (biogenesis). Despite the scientific evidence, those who accept the Neo-Darwinian naturalistic worldview continue to accept by blind faith that billions of years ago, non-living chemicals must have, through blind trial and error over long spans of time, eventually got it right and turned into life. However, evolutionists now distance this original chemical evolution from biological evolution, claiming they are separate fields.

Abiogenesis, the New Spontaneous Generation, and the Miller-Urey Experiments

Some textbooks still discuss the Miller-Urey experiments of 1953 as evidence that abiogenesis can occur. Neo-Darwinian biology has been dominated by a materialist dogma, mandating that organisms are a lot simpler than they really are. Life itself must be merely chemistry. If you assemble the right chemicals, then life emerges. DNA, though clearly sophisticated and coded information, must likewise be a product of chemistry alone, if one accepts the evolutionary paradigm.

The Miller-Urey experiment used a methane-ammonia-hydrogen and water atmosphere without oxygen because scientists once thought that earth’s original atmosphere lacked oxygen (or had only trace amounts)— oxygen was known to have detrimental effects on the experiments they were conducting.4 However, the accepted picture of the earth’s early atmosphere has changed. Secular scientists now think it was oxygen-rich with some nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and water vapor—a more reactive mixture than Miller’s, which would greatly deter the development of organic compounds.5 In addition to producing amino acids (mostly glycine and alanine), the Miller-Urey experiment also produced an abundance of toxic chemicals (cyanides, carbon monoxide, etc.) that are harmful to the amino acids. In addition, equal quantities of both right- and left-handed organic molecules were consistently produced by the Miller-Urey procedure. In life, nearly all amino acids that can be used in proteins must be left-handed, and almost all carbohydrates and polymers must be right-handed. The opposite types are not only useless but can also be toxic (even lethal) to life.6

The very forms of energy suggested to have initiated abiogenesis actually destroy the amino acids formed in the process.

Even after further refinements made in the lab, scientists were able to produce only small amounts of less than half of the 20 amino acids required for life. The very forms of energy suggested to have initiated abiogenesis actually destroy the amino acids formed in the process. And in both the Miller-Urey experiment and subsequent ones, 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. Additionally, the very fact that these amino acids are now hypothesized to have formed in water, which is now believed by secular geologists to have been on the early earth, is very problematic. As the National Academy of Sciences acknowledges, “Two amino acids do not spontaneously join in water. Rather, the opposite reaction is thermodynamically favored.”7

No Life Support for Abiogenesis

Developmental Biologist Jonathan Wells candidly admitted, “So we remain profoundly ignorant of how life originated. Yet the Miller-Urey experiment continues to be used as an icon of evolution, because nothing better has turned up. Instead of being told the truth, we are given the misleading impression that scientists have empirically demonstrated the first step in the origin of life.”8

Far from showing how a chemical could have suddenly “become alive,” the Miller-Urey experiment showed that even intelligent scientists using state-of-the-art labs and controlled processes cannot replicate the supposed accidental chemical evolution of life.

Far from showing how a chemical could have suddenly “become alive,” the Miller-Urey experiment (and subsequent tweaking of that experiment) showed that even intelligent scientists using state-of-the-art labs and controlled processes cannot replicate the supposed accidental chemical evolution of life. Somehow even the irony of the intelligent design of experimental processes being used to “prove” an accidental naturalistic cause escapes them. And even if it were granted that they had succeeded in producing some of the components of life (which they had not), to go from this baseline of ingredients to fully developed life with cellular intricacy and a sophisticated DNA code is ultimately a quantum leap of unimaginable proportions, with each step an insurmountable hurdle.

Naturalistic philosopher Karl Popper remarked, “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 cannot 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.”9

Life Comes from the Author of Life

It is evident from both Scripture and observational science that abiogenesis is a myth, Genesis is real history, and God is the true life.

All life was designed and made by God during creation week and is supported and upheld by God in this present world. This naturalistic world we live in has things completely backward, with people concluding that abiogenesis is true and Genesis is myth. But it is evident from both Scripture and observational science that abiogenesis is a myth, Genesis is real history, and God is the true life.

So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:21)
And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds — livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds." And it was so. (Genesis 1:24)
Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:7)
So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:21–22)
You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. (Psalms 145:16)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1–4)
He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15–17)

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  1. Dr. Eugene S. McCartney, “Spontaneous Generation and Kindred Notions In Antiquity,” Transactions of the American Philological Association, Vol. 51 (1920): 104–108, https://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Journals/TAPA/51/Spontaneous_Generation*.html.
  2. “Francesco Redi,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Francesco-Redi.
  3. Ari Ben-Menahem, “The Spontaneous Generation Controversy (340 BCE–1870 CE),” Historical Encyclopedia of Natural and Mathematical Sciences. (Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2009), 273.
  4. Stanley L. Miller, “Production of Some Organic Compounds under Possible Primitive Earth Conditions,” Journal of the American Chemical Society 77, no. 9 (May 12, 1955): 2351–2352, http://image.sciencenet.cn/olddata/kexue.com.cn/upload/blog/file/2008/9/2008922131449638394.pdf.
  5. Shige Abe, “Reflections From a Warm Little Pond,” NASA, Last modified April 27, 2001, https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/news/reflections-from-a-warm-little-pond/.
  6. Jerry Bergman, “Why the Miller–Urey Research Argues Against Abiogenesis,” https://answersingenesis.org/origin-of-life/why-the-miller-urey-research-argues-against-abiogenesis/.
  7. Committee on the Limits of Organic Life, The Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems (Washington D.C.: National Academy Press, 2007), 60.
  8. Jonathan Wells, Icons of Evolution (Washington, DC: Regnery Pub., 2000), 24.
  9. Karl Popper, “Scientific reduction and the essential incompleteness of all science,” Studies in the Philosophy of Biology, Francisco Ayala and Theodosius Dobzhansky, eds. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), 270.


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