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Batteries Started Life?

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on June 30, 2012
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NewScientist: “Life: is it inevitable or just a fluke?In the beginning, batteries begat life?

Where are all the aliens? If life evolved here, wouldn’t it inevitably have evolved in lots of places in the universe? If not intelligent beings like us, then surely something simpler. After all, water, chemicals, energy, time, and habitable conditions are all it takes, right? In pondering the glaring absence of any actual evidence of extraterrestrial life, Nick Lane—writing about the evolution of life from chemicals—says, “Looking at a vital ingredient for life—energy—suggests that simple life is common throughout the universe, but it does not inevitably evolve into more complex forms such as animals.”

Lane believes energy-acquisition was key to the evolution of life.

Lane believes energy-acquisition was key to the evolution of life. Living systems are powered by “proton gradients” in which protons moving across membranes produce usable energy, like little batteries. Lane therefore maintains undersea batteries cradled the first life. Non-volcanic alkaline hydrothermal vents form form on the sea bottom “as seawater percolates down into the electron-dense rocks . . . such as the iron-magnesium mineral olivine.” Resulting chemical reactions produce hydrogen gas. Cracks in rock then allow minerals in the water to precipitate and form towering vents once able to generate life. Recalling geologist Michael Russell’s theory of the origin of life, Lane says these porous towers are full of “cell-like spaces enclosed by flimsy mineral walls” where metallic minerals could catalyze conversion of CO2 into organic molecules.” And such life-generating chemical reactions would have been powered by the battery-like ion gradients created by acidic and alkaline fluids in and around the spaces in these towers.

Having now confidently explained where the energy came from to power the creation of the original organic molecules, Lane leaps over the troubling problems of how random chemicals could organize themselves into functional structures, build a code and coding system to store information for their own design, and transmit that code to future generations. Diving into the difficulty of moving from prokaryotic bacteria-like cells to eukaryotic cells, the presumed ancestral cell of all complex life forms, Lane is certain endosymbiosis explains how cells acquired the extra energy to become eukaryotic.

Endosymbiosis is the idea that prokaryotic cells engulfed by other cells became mitochondria, which powered primitive cells on their evolutionary journey into the future. “It’s hard to imagine any other way of getting around the energy problem,” Lane writes, “and we know it happened just once on Earth because all eukaryotes descend from a common ancestor.” However, he considers successful endosymbiosis a “fluke” whereas the original evolution of simple life from sea-batteries was inevitable. Therefore, he concludes, we’ll find simple life on other planets—the recipe’s ingredients being common in space—but probably not much complex life.

Observable biological laws demonstrate life never randomly emerges from nonliving elements, but Lane writes, “We know it happened.” How do we know? Well, because we’re here, so how else could we have gotten here? When God is rejected as the originator of all life, the evolutionist must figure out how life came to be. Ion gradients and organic molecules can be present in non-living systems. But ion gradients and organic molecules still lack the information required to organize into something alive. Endosymbiotic theory also has a number of problems. Read about them in “Non-Evolution” of the Appearance of Mitochondria and Plastids in Eukaryotes: Challenges to Endosymbiotic Theory.

The Bible does not say that God didn’t create life elsewhere in space. However, “without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). Therefore, if life were to be indisputably found on another world, its existence would not confirm molecules-to-man evolution. Such life would simply demonstrate God’s power to create life where He chooses.


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