The Origin of Life Problem

The question of how the first living cell came to be is no closer to being solved than it was in Darwin’s day. In fact, it is much farther from a solution than it was in Darwin’s day. Recall that when Darwin wrote “On the Origin of the Species” in 1859, many still believed in spontaneous generation. Francesco Redi and Lazzaro Spallanzani had begun to debunk the spontaneous generation myth in the 17th and 18th centuries, respectively. But the theory still had its proponents in the mid-19th Century. Louis Pasteur’s 1862 experiments using swan-neck flasks finally and conclusively dismissed spontaneous generation. Life always comes from life. There is no exception to this rule.

So where did the first living cell come from?

Science does not know, but because it is officially committed to the idea that life developed naturally and by accident, without supernatural input, it is constrained to revive the sponaneous generation hypothesis. They don’t call it that anymore; they call it “abiogenesis.” But it is the same thing.

In 1952, Stanley Miller and Harold Urey showed that if you started with some simple chemicals and subjected them to electricity, you could synthesized more complex organic compounds. How well their laboratory conditions paralleled the conditions of the Earth 4.5 billion years ago is up for debate. But Miller and Urey were a long way from showing that life could spontaneously generate. Synthesizing some organic compounds and saying you’ve explained the origin of life is like hauling some brick to site and claiming you’ve built a building. That analogy seriously understates the problem, but you get the idea: most of the work has yet to be done.

And the Miller-Urey experiment of 67 years ago seems to have been the high point of origin-of-life studies. The field has gone not anywhere since then.

Here, James Tour, a working bio-chemist explains the endless problems and challenges awaiting anyone who wants to claim that life could have created itself. No, it couldn’t have.

Organic Chemist James Tour at the Dallas Faith and Science Conference, Jan. 18-19, 2019.