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Learning the Right Tricks About Life's Origins

on September 1, 1991
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Originally published in Creation 13, no 4 (September 1991): 35.

Overview of a recent Scientific American article on the origin of life. Do they then consider that the supernatural or miraculous (that is, creation) could have been involved?

A recent Scientific American summary article on the origin of life admits that:

  • The classic ‘chicken and egg’ problem of ‘which came first, protein or DNA’ (since both need each other to reproduce) has not been solved by the 1980s idea of ‘self-reproducing’ RNA, as many textbooks imply. This is because the laboratory simulations are highly artificial with a ‘great deal of help from the scientists’.
  • Stanley Miller’s classic 1953 synthesis of life’s ‘building blocks’ in the test tube, as well as Sydney Fox’s ‘proteinoids’ (which produced circular blobs claimed to be ‘protocells’) are now largely regarded as dead ends.
  • Cleverly designed artificial self-reproducing molecules have no relevance to the origin of life.
  • Highly speculative ideas about life’s beginning on clay, floating in from outer space, forming on the surface of fool’s gold, in mid-ocean vents, and so forth, are just that. Stanley Miller, who is now a chemistry professor still leading in this area, himself says, ‘I come up with a dozen ideas a day, and I usually discard the whole dozen.’
  • The chairman of a recent National Academy of Sciences committee reviewing all origin-of-life research (which concluded that ‘much more research is needed’), stated that ‘the simplest bacterium is so [expletive] complicated from the point of view of a chemist that it is almost impossible to imagine how it happened.’

Do they then consider that the supernatural or miraculous (that is, creation) could have been involved? Not at all, says Stanley Miller. ‘I think we just haven’t learnt the right tricks yet.’


John Horgan, ‘Trends in Evolution: In the Beginning…’, Scientific American, February 1991, p. 100-109.

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