by Bill Nugent
In the early fifties the news flashed around the world that Stanley Miller Ph. D. had formed amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) by shooting electricity through a simulated early earth atmosphere. This was a bold attempt to try to prove that single-celled organisms such as bacteria could form by random interaction of energy and chemicals.
This experiment was gleefully cited in biology lectures and textbooks all over the world as proof that life could come from nonliving chemicals. However, according to origin of life scientist Walter L. Bradley, Ph.D. and many other learned observers, the experiment contained major flaws that invalidated its results.
To begin with, Miller used a simulated atmosphere composed largely of ammonia, methane and hydrogen. It was a very bold assumption on Miller’s part to assume that the early earth atmosphere was composed of these highly reactive gases.
Secondly, Miller isolated the amino acids as soon as they formed because he knew that they would otherwise be immediately destroyed by the same processes used to form them! Miller stacked the deck very favorably and obtained some very bare chemical building blocks. This did not even remotely prove that life could come from nonlife.
Nevertheless, generations of Americans, indeed, people all over the world, have read in their biology textbooks that this experiment proved that life could come from nonlife. (Life coming from nonlife is also called spontaneous generation orproto-evolution or chemical evolution or abiogenesis.) The experiment unquestionably served to buttress atheistic materialism and therefore has served to accelerate the secularization of Western Civilization. Miller continued with his experiments but none of his later experiments generated either convincing results or great publicity.
Even if one were to grant that amino acids could form randomly and be preserved, this is still a long, long way from being gathered together to form a living cell. A living cell is more complex than the computer you are using to read this! There are about 80 different types of amino acids but only about 20 are found in living organisms. Some amino acids are toxic to living things. The 20 correct amino acids have to be randomly sorted out and then randomly assembled into proteins which are very complex molecules. An average protein is composed of over 400 amino acids arranged in precise order.
A “simple” one-celled organism is composed of at minimum 225 different varieties of proteins, assembled in precise order forming cell membrane, mitochondria, nucleus, etc. All of this has to occur by a blind, mindless process in a primordial chemical soup composed of tars and other byproducts that bond more readily to amino acids than amino acids bond to each other!
As the field of microbiology has progressed the impossibility of single-celled organisms forming by chance is more and more apparent. There is not even a generally accepted theory in place among origin of life scientists that seriously attempts to explain how life could form by chance. Many bizarre theories have been put forward but none has been generally accepted.
Even the illustrious biologist Dean Kenyon of San Francisco State University repudiated chemical affinity theory. Chemical affinity theory is a theory of life origins that Kenyon once championed. Dean Kenyon had the academic integrity to openly repudiate this theory when experiments revealed its flaws.
Finally Stanley Miller himself who, perhaps unwittingly, misled generations of science students, had this to say to Scientific American in the February 1991 issue: “The problem of the origin of life has turned out to be much more difficult than I, and most other people envisioned.”
In order to solve the problem of the origin of life I would exhort Dr. Miller to turn to God. God has created us and God sent His Son Jesus to die in our place to take upon Himself the penalty for our sins so that we can be reconciled to God. (For much of the material in this article I’m indebted to Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Faith pages 129-151.)
“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:2