Attempts to Trace Life Back to Chemical Origins Maps the Willful Ignorance of the Hunters

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on April 24, 2014

Mapping Ignorance: Living beings: systems all the way back to their chemical origins

Though evolutionists consider the origin of life a great unresolved mystery, there is a book . . .

Goo-to-you, molecules-to-man, chemicals-to-cats, abiogenesis—all these terms refer to the essential starting point for evolution of life through natural processes. Yet in a massive review published in the American Chemical Society’s Chemical Reviews, researchers report, “The origin of life is a fascinating, unresolved problem.”1 And it will remain unresolved for them until they acknowledge God’s eyewitness account of the origin of life in the Bible.

chemical soup

How could simple molecules evolve into living cells? They could not. Natural processes cannot explain the origin of life. Evolutionists grasp for explanations in vain willfully ignoring the eyewitness origins history provided by the Author of life. Image: NASA through

Unsolved Mystery

Cosmos host Neil deGrasse Tyson, in the first episode of the new series, says, “The origin of life is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of science.”2 Scooping up some water, Tyson adds, “That’s life cooking, evolving all the biochemical recipes for its incredibly complex activities.”2 Yet while evolutionary scientists, educators, and television personalities promote supposed transitional forms, if they cannot get living cells to evolve from non-living elements through natural processes, their supposed evolutionary extravaganza is over before it starts. 

In “Prebiotic Systems Chemistry: New Perspectives for the Origins of Life,” Ruiz-Mirazo and colleagues, biophysicists and biochemists specializing in molecular evolution, spend 82 pages detailing all the things that have failed to demonstrate how life began on its own. They explain that working out plausible pathways to get the chemical components of life to perform in some life-like ways—self-replication, or glomming together in an organized fashion, or wrapping themselves into a membrane-like bubble—isn’t enough. Rather, chemists need to analyze ways in which all the needed chemical accomplishments can happen at once.

This “system integration approach,”1 according to the authors, is essential if they are to have any hope of showing how the first cell evolved. Simply put, they envision that once upon a time, when countless interdependent chemical processes happened to strike the right combination, the first cell popped into being with all the biochemical basics in place, functioning properly, and able to reproduce itself.

What Hasn’t Worked

Abiogenesis has never been observed in experimental biology and violates the most fundamental law in biology, the law of biogenesis. Nevertheless, the authors of the review are confident there was a naturalistic chemical origin for life. Their tome, however,makes one wonder what side of the argument they’re on. Statement after statement describes why all approaches thus far have been inadequate, emphasizing the staggering complexity of the problem. “Even the simplest microorganisms known on Earth are breathtakingly complex,” they write. “Indeed, the probability that a random sequence of physicochemical events would lead to a bacterium by spontaneous self-organization of biomolecules is negligibly low1 (emphasis ours).

Abiogenesis has never been observed in experimental biology and violates the most fundamental law in biology, the law of biogenesis.

Just showing how membranes could spontaneously assemble and wrap around evolving protocells on a primitive earth has proven prohibitive. The authors admit, “Despite the pioneering work of Hargreaves et al. in 1977, who demonstrated that the synthesis of phosphatidic acid and other lipids could be achieved abiotically, it is considered very improbable that fatty acids, glycerol, and phosphate (i.e., the standard molecular components of a phospholipid) could have been present together in high enough concentrations on the primordial Earth.”1

Membranes aren’t the only missing ingredient. For instance, the authors say, “Successful chemistries for synthesizing nucleobases, sugars, and condensed phosphates, under primordial conditions, have been developed over the last 40 years, though most of the individual synthetic steps face difficulties.”1  

Listing many other unanswered questions—such as “Where on Earth did life emerge? Or did life arrive here from some extraterrestrial source instead? Did life originate only once, by accident, or is it the probable outcome of chemical evolution, which has frequently occurred elsewhere in the universe? Which property of living beings came first: their ability to reproduce and transmit information to progeny, their metabolic capacity, or their compartmentalization as individual entities?1—the authors admit that scientists cannot even know what the original conditions were on earth when life supposedly evolved. They write, “Resolving these questions and other related ones is extremely complicated because of our lack of knowledge about the conditions existing on Earth more than 3.5 billion years ago”1 (emphasis ours).

Researchers search for the origin of life in a “pool of simple molecules”1 like ammonia and hydrogen cyanide struck by sparks, various soups of amino acids, in “RNA world,”  “pre-RNA world,”  “lipid world,” and “nucleopeptide world,” and through the gift of “extraterrestrial infall.”1 Nevertheless, they write, “none of these views has yet gained a unanimous preferential position over the others, each having its own shortcomings. When these various difficulties are considered, it is unlikely that scientists will ever know which exact synthetic itinerary led to the first forms of life.”1

It is unlikely, the authors indicate, that any experimental model can truly test the capability of evolutionary models to produce living cells from nonliving elements. They write, “The combination of complex chemical but still infrabiological [non-living] systems . . . into a living entity was probably the main challenge that supramolecular assemblies had to solve during the process of the origins of life. Having said that, integrative experimental approaches are also difficult in the laboratory, since many, not always compatible chemical and physical events need to be coupled in time and space, making diverse types of compounds and dynamic structures come together.1

Summing up the challenges of experimentally creating life in imitation of the supposedly random natural processes by which life created itself, they write, “From a chemical standpoint, the pursued ideal case would be the construction of a living cell from scratch, that is, by self-organization of its most basic molecular building blocks. This is actually what must have happened on the prebiotic Earth, when the first or most primitive cell-like structures appeared and developed into increasingly complex cellular organizations, without any cognitive agent (e.g., an experimental biologist) witnessing the process or interfering with it.”1

The Crux of the Problem

Cells are the building blocks of life. And while in their review the authors note that even imagining that viruses1 qualify as life-forms hasn’t helped unravel the mystery of life’s origin, they see the nature of the cell itself as the reason science has failed thus far in its quest. Ruiz-Mirazo writes:

Cells, as everybody knows, are made of those complex organic molecules; yet the latter come to existence and play a role by virtue of an intricate web of dynamic inter-relationships and transformation processes, which in practice holds all of them together. Remarkably, most biomolecules (except for DNA) have relatively short ‘lifetimes’, much shorter than the lifetime of the collective entity they integrate. Each living organism is a molecular factory in continuous turnover, whose far from equilibrium activity is maintained precisely thanks to the generation of all those structures that are required to build the factory up and keep it running. Without the factory the various pieces, their sheer existence and purpose, just would not make sense: each is produced and has a function in the context of the activity of all the others. If this fact is seriously assimilated, it becomes obvious that the first appearance of something resembling a living being could not be thanks to molecules of a single type. It would be easier to study if it were in that way, doubt, but life is hard — also for researchers in the field of origins.

After this ode to the irreducible complexity of the living cell, Ruiz-Mirazo expresses confidence that modern chemistry will ultimately solve the problem. “Scientists interested in the chemistry-biology gap will find, at last, a natural bridge between the two,” he says, enabling us to “cross that river, deep and wide, that still separates us from our chemical roots” knowing that “Nature became a ‘perfect queen’ in these affairs long ago: the integration of diverse molecular components performing different tasks within a complex organization surely started at a proto-cellular stage, long before natural selection pushed the birth of more robust, full-fledged living cells — made of DNA, RNA and proteins.”

Yet these authors still overlook the key component, the element evolutionists are unable to conjure through naturalistic processes. Information. Whether information to become alive in the first place, or information to naturalistically progress all the way up the tree of life, evolutionary science suffers from an appalling lack of information.

What is the source of the information evolutionists seek in vain? Answers in Genesis molecular geneticist Dr. Georgia Purdom sums it up well:

The river between non-life and life is indeed "deep and wide" and cannot be crossed by a deeper or better understanding of biology and chemistry. Information is required for life and without an information-giver life cannot come about by random chance from a chemical soup. As researchers continue to search for that “magic bullet” to understand the origin of life, they will continue to be frustrated and in their rebellious hearts fail to acknowledge that life can only come from the one true Life-Giver, the Creator God.

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  1. K. Ruiz-Mirazo, C. Briones, and A. de la Escosura, Prebiotic Systems Chemistry: New Perspectives for the Origins of Life. Chemical Reviews 114 (2014): 285–366, doi: 10.1021/cr2004844.
  2. From Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey episode one, “Standing Up in the Milky Way.”

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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.