The Experiment that Shook the World


by Bill Nugent


In 1953 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. Secular evolutionists claimed it was proof that life could come from nonliving chemicals. I should point out that Stanley Miller, being a respected biologist, never claimed to have produced “life in a test tube” or anything close. He did claim it was a step in that direction. Miller’s modesty didn’t prevent others from hyping the significance of his experiments.

I remember a discussion of the Miller-Urey experiments in my high school biology class in the early seventies. (They were called Miller-Urey experiments because Miller was assisted by his doctoral mentor, Harold Urey.) Some of the students were persuaded that life could come from nonlife even though it was totally absurd to make such a bold leap of faith.

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 and protected them from the simulated atmosphere as soon as the amino acids formed. He also formed a large amount of tar or resin. The newly formed amino acids were collected and sequestered. He knew that the amino acids 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 gave some degree of proof to the claim that life could form from random interaction of nonliving molecules. (Life coming from nonlife is also called spontaneous generation or proto-evolution or chemical evolution or abiogenesis.) The Miller-Urey experiments unquestionably served to buttress atheistic materialism and therefore has served to accelerate the secularization of Western Civilization.

As a personal note, I remember talking about God with a young man back when I was in college. The young man resisted my claim that God is creator. He said “Didn’t they form life in a test tube a few years ago?” The young guy was no doubt referring to Miller’s famous experiment.

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 their being gathered together to form a living cell. A living cell is more complex than the computer you’re 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 a structure consisting of cell membrane, protoplasm, 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. Microbiologists uncover new layers of cellular complexity with each passing year. There is not even a generally accepted theory in place among origin of life scientists 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 renounce 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.” A great understatement indeed!

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


Steps to salvation:

Jesus said “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).

  • 1) Believe that God created you and loves you and sent the Messiah (Messiah is Hebrew for Christ) to redeem you.
  • 2) Believe that Jesus Christ came in fulfillment of over 300 Bible prophecies to die for you, to take upon Himself the penalty of your sins (Isaiah 53:5-6, John 6:29, Romans 4:5, First Peter 3:18).
  • 3) Turn from sin and call on the name of Jesus to receive forgiveness of sins (Romans 10:13).
  • 4) Receive Jesus as Savior and experience the new birth (John 1:12, Acts 2:38).
  • 5) Follow Jesus Christ as Lord (John 14:21).

Prayer to receive salvation:

“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

To receive the salvation that Jesus purchased for us at the terrible cost of His suffering and death on our behalf I invite you to pray this simple prayer:

“Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus, the promised Messiah, to die for my sins. I admit that I am a sinner. I repent of my sins and I ask for your forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit to empower me to serve you under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

If you prayed this prayer in the humble sincerity of your heart then you have received everlasting life, which includes power to live right in this life and entrance into heaven in the afterlife!

(C) 2016 William P. Nugent, permission granted to email or republish for Christian outreach.

One thought on “The Experiment that Shook the World

  1. I’m really impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to get a nice blog like this one today..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *