The Origin of Life
“In Him we live, and move, and have our being.”
The Apostle Paul, 1st Century, Lecture at the University of Athens
When I took biochemistry years ago in college, the “origin of life” question was still unanswered. So I decided to check up on how science was doing in answering this important question. The awarding winning BBC story by Michael Marshall (October 31, 2016 ) seemed like a good place to update.
Marshall begins his report by exposing the error of vitalism, the belief that living things were “endowed with a special, magical property that made them different from inanimate objects.” He then relates this to God’s gift of the “breath of life” in Genesis and then states, “There’s just one problem. Vitalism is plain wrong.” He proves his case by showing how chemists have produced organic compounds like urea, produced by living organisms, from inorganic material.
He then presses the point that it was in the Soviet Union, the communist world, that rejected God, where a scientist like Oparin had the freedom to test his thesis that organic compounds in living cells could be generated by purely chemical means, and that John Haldane, also an atheist, could suggest the constituents of the primordial soup that provided the launching pad for life. Here Marshall is propagating the frequently told story that the Bible and Christianity continually block scientific advancement and that atheism is a far more acceptable worldview for science.
In 1952 when Stanley Miller, a doctoral student, put boiling water, hydrogen gas, ammonia, and methane in a series of glass flasks, subjected them to electric shocks, and generated glycine and alanine, two essential amino acids present in living things, it appeared that soon chemists would create life in the lab> But then scientists probed deeper into the cell.
In 1953 the discovery of the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick and its internal programming code made Miller’s experiment seemed naïve. The idea that life formed spontaneously and naturally on primitive Earth suddenly had to explain how an intricate program spontaneously generated itself by chance.
Some scientists argued that the molecule RNA began life, but stumbled over whether or not it could have formed spontaneously in the primordial soup and then copied itself. Another group said that metabolism came first and that life began in deep-sea hydrothermal vents, but stumbled over the fact that the heat would kill the molecules essential for life. This led to a third hypothesis that it wasn’t RNA or the ability to generate energy that came first, but a membrane, a bag, to hold all the right chemicals together came first.
Today the latest hypothesis puts all three models together and proposes that the right chemicals in a fatty glob containing replicating RNA and the right minerals all came together at once and voila—the first cell. Marshall does conclude his article with a bit of humility—“we cannot yet know the wisdom of the origin of life will reveal.”
Forgive me for going back to my chemistry days and all this scientific stuff, but I have friends who have abandoned the Faith because they feel that science and their childhood faith are mutually exclusive. They need to look at the history of science more carefully.
Marshall’s article mentioned scientists who reject God but failed to mention Louis Pasteur, the chemist who shortly after Charles Darwin published the Origin of the Species in 1859 conducted the brilliant experiments that disproved the widely held belief that life spontaneously generates from inanimate material. Pasteur was also a committed believer in Jesus who saw no antithesis between his science and his faith.
LORD, I pray for some of my friends who in studying biology and the experiments on the origins of life have turned away from You. Help them to probe deeper and discover that you have a lot of children, like Pasteur, who had confidence that when all the facts of science were in, there would be no antithesis between your revelation in nature and your revelation in your written Word.
Note: You can read about Louis Pasteur’s views on creation, evolution, and the genesis of germs at www.answersingenesis/origin-of-life/lous-pasteur.
For more from Dave Wyrtzen please visit TruthEncounter.com!
You can also listen to weekly messages from Dave on OnePlace.com.