One Step Closer to Life?

Mystery of Life

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on March 1, 2017; last featured November 7, 2021
Featured in Answers Magazine
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If all the ingredients necessary for life can occur naturally, does that mean over time they can evolve into a living creature?

Scientists have learned that many of life’s molecular building blocks can form spontaneously under the right conditions. This is true not only in the laboratory but also in outer space. While nothing alive has ever been found on a meteorite, we keep finding more examples of life’s chemical building blocks on space rocks. That’s pretty intriguing. Does this mean time and chance could have gathered all the chemical ingredients for life, and evolution could be the cook that brewed up life itself?

Ingredients They’ve Found So Far

Let’s start by looking more closely at what scientists have found. Scientists now know that nonliving processes can produce the four essential building blocks of living cells.

DNA Bases Found on Meteorites

Some meteorites contain organic materials, including nucleobases. These are like “letters” in the genetic “alphabet” that combine to make DNA.

How is it possible for nonliving sources to produce such substances? Living cells need help from specialized tools, called enzymes, to form organic substances efficiently. We now know, however, that many ordinary chemical reactions produce organic materials. Enzymes simply speed up chemical reactions that could still happen without them, so it is no surprise that nonbiological processes can produce some organic molecules.

After all, God created chemistry. He made the same rules to govern the behavior of atoms and molecules whether they are found in living cells or inanimate matter. So the fact that many chemical reactions occur in both living and nonliving settings is no problem for creationists.

DNA’s Sugar Backbone Can Form in the Lab

In addition to nucleobases, DNA requires a second component—a sugar backbone. DNA’s backbone is derived from a sugar called ribose.

Scientists haven’t found ribose on space debris, but in 2016 they reported an experiment showing ribose forms spontaneously when ultraviolet light shines on a frozen cocktail of water, methanol, and ammonia. Evolutionists believe these substances were common in space when our solar system formed. If true, the newly evolved sun could have cooked up lots of ribose from these chemicals, raw material for that magical moment when life popped into existence.

Do you see any problems with this scenario? What if these conditions never existed? Observational science does not show that the solar system formed the way evolutionists claim it did. And then there’s the problem of joining the ribose and nucleobases together in a meaningful way, but more on that in a moment.

Amino Acids Found in Meteorites

Proteins are the chemical workhorses of the cell. Proteins, a third critical component of life, are made of amino acids. Many different amino acids have been found on meteorites, along with some simpler chemicals that react to produce them. Is the origin of life from chemistry starting to sound convincing? Let’s look at the next ingredient before commenting.

Building Materials for Protective Membranes Found in Meteorites

Living cells need a fourth component, membranes around them to control what comes in and out. These barriers are built from fatty acids. Fatty acids have been found on meteorites. And under certain conditions, fatty acids spontaneously react with other simple chemicals to produce phospholipids, molecules found in all cell membranes.

Moreover, some of these building blocks naturally organize themselves into arrangements that mimic membranes. For example, fatty acids can arrange themselves like the two-layered structure of a cell’s membrane, forming tiny bubbles that isolate everything inside from whatever is outside.

Could these sorts of things be showing us how the first cell membranes evolved? Many evolutionists think so.

The Missing Ingredients

By finding how simpler organic molecules form spontaneously, evolutionists hope to show how they could go on to form highly complex cellular macromolecules and assemble themselves into a living cell. Is this reasonable?

No, not by a long shot. Even if all the chemical ingredients were present under optimal conditions, and even if some combined in ways that imitated a very simple sort of membrane, that chemical collection would not be alive.

To be alive, even the simplest cell also needs the genetic information telling its parts how to function and how to reproduce itself.

But don’t DNA bases and the sugar backbone do this? Once the nucleobases are all strung together, don’t they spell out the information of life?

No amount of time could create a meaningful code containing instructions and the machinery to decode and carry out those instructions.

A sequence of randomly linked nucleobases has no more meaning than a string of letters randomly typed by a monkey. It spells nonsense unless there is a preexisting code, or language, giving the sequence meaning. The only reason dots and dashes mean anything in Morse code is that we have a preexisting key. Without a language, Morse would be gibberish.

Living things also operate by a preexisting code, the genetic code, which has strict rules of grammar. The patterns in this code contain real information. Living things also have machinery to decode and carry out instructions!

No, the evolutionists’ hope that life arose out of a “prebiotic soup” is dead in the water. Scientific observations show life comes only from other living organisms that already contain the information to operate each part and to replicate themselves.

Random chemical reactions can’t produce living organisms any more than a pot of vegetables and spices can produce full-grown bean and carrot plants. Instead of a chemical soup, a real information source must have endowed every kind of organism with the wealth of information needed to fill this earth with such marvelous varieties of life. The only scientifically supportable answer is that every kind of organism came from the only source of life—and information—that existed before the world began: the all-wise Creator God, the Author of life.

Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell earned her MD from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, she practiced medicine until she retired to be a stay-at-home mom. Since 2011 she has written regularly on both ancient history and science news for the Answers in Genesis website and various ministry publications.

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