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Spontaneous Generation Is Impossible

 

Eric V. Snow

 

Is spontaneous generation possible?  The biggest hurdle for the theory of evolution is the creation of the first cell, since the processes of natural selection and genetic mutation are inapplicable at that point.  Instead, the first self-replicating cell had to occur by random probabilistic chance.  Many evolutionists, when they feel candid, have made concessions on this subject, which destroys the intellectual foundation of their entire materialistic worldview.   For example, the physicist  H.S. Lipson, Physics Bulletin, 1980, Vol. 31, p. 138, once conceded. “The only acceptable explanation is creation.  I know that this is anathema to physicists, as indeed it is to me, but we must not reject a theory that we do not like if the experimental evidence supports it.”  Obviously, he made this public admission only under the strongest kind of intellectual compulsion; he wasn’t optimistically sanguine about the possibility that spontaneous generation could have occurred.  Evolutionist Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey (New York, 1957), p. 199 admitted the philosophical inconsistency of his own side about this matter:  “After having chided the theologian for his reliance on myth and miracle, science found itself in the unenviable position of having to create a mythology of its own:  Namely, the assumption that what, after long effort, could not be prove to take place today had, in truth, taken place in the primeval past.”  Dr. George Wald, a Nobel prize winner and Harvard biology professor, “The Origin of Life,” The Physics and Chemistry of Life (Simon and Shuster, 1955), p. 9, made this concession:  “One has only to contemplate the magnitude of this task to concede that the spontaneous generation of a living organism is impossible.  Yet here we are--as a result, I believe, of spontaneous generation.”  If Christians had the same amount of faith as this evolutionist, they would be moving mountains daily as warm-up exercises!  Perhaps for this reason and others, Wald eventually ended up embracing some kind of pantheism, although he was an agnostic or atheist when making this confession.  The results of “origin of life experiments” and other research haven’t improved the situation any since the mathematician J.W.N. Sullivan, Reader’s Digest, January 1963, p. 92, confessed: “The hypothesis that life has developed from inorganic matter is, at present, still an article of faith.”

 

So with a sufficient number of eons and oceans, would life inevitably occur by chance?  Time cannot be the hero of the plot for evolutionists when even many billions of years are insufficient.  But this can only be known when the mathematical probabilities involved are carefully quantified, which is crucial to all scientific observations.  That is, specific mathematical equations describing what scientists observed need to be set up in order to describe how likely or unlikely this or that event was.  But so long as evolutionists tell a general “just-so” story without specific mathematical descriptions, much like the ancient pagan creation myths retold over the generations, many listeners will find their tale persuasive.  For example, upon the first recounting, listeners may find it plausible to believe the evolutionists’ story about the first living cell arising by random chance out of a “chemical soup” in the world’s oceans.  But after specific mathematical calculations are applied to their claim, it is plainly absurd to believe in spontaneous generation, which says life comes from non-living materials.  At one academic conference of mathematicians, engineers, and biologists entitled, “Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution,” (published 1967) these kinds of probabilities were applied to evolutionary claims.[1]  One professor of electrical engineering at the conference, Murray Eden, calculated that even if a common species of bacteria received five billion years and was placed an inch thick on the earth, it couldn’t create by accident a pair of genes. Many other specific estimates like these could easily be devised to test the truthfulness of Darwinism, including the likelihood of various transitional forms of plants and animals being formed by chance mutations and natural selection. 

 

The astronomers Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, “Evolution From Space,” p. 24, once described the chances against certain parts of the first living cell to occur by random chance through a chemical accident.  “Consider now the chance that in a random ordering of the twenty different amino acids which make up the polypeptides; it just happens that the different kinds fall into the order appropriate to a particular enzyme [an organic catalyst--a chemical which speeds up chemical reactions--EVS].  The chance of obtaining a suitable backbone [substrate] can hardly be greater than on part in 10[raised by]15, and the chance of obtaining the appropriate active site can hardly be greater than on part in 10 [raised by]5.  Because the fine details of the surface shape [of the enzyme in a living cell--EVS] can be varied we shall take the conservative line of not “piling on the agony” by including any further small probability for the rest of the enzyme.  The two small probabilities are enough.  They have to be multiplied, when they yield a chance of one part in 10[raised by]20 of obtaining the required in a functioning form [when randomly created by chance out of an ocean of amino acids--EVS].  By itself , this small probability could be faced, because one must contemplate not just a single shot at obtaining the enzyme, but a very large number of trials as are supposed to have occurred in an organize soup early in the history of the Earth.  The trouble is that there are about two thousand enzymes and the chance of obtaining them all in a random trial is only one part in (10 [raised by]20)2000 = 10 [raised by]40,000, an outrageously small probability that could not be faced even if the whole universe consisted of organic soup.  If one is not prejudiced either by social beliefs or by a scientific training into the conviction that life originated on the Earth, this simple calculation wipes the idea entirely our of court.”  To put this calculation into some kind of context, the number of electrons within the universe that can be observed by mankind’s largest earth-based telescopes is approximately 10 raised by the 87 and the number of atoms is about 10 raised to the 80. [2]  By contrast, these two astronomers maintain the chances of spontaneous generation is one out of one followed by 40,000 zeros, which would require about five pages of a standard-sized magazine to print.

 

Let’s consider another colorful concession by Sir Fred Hoyle (“The Big Bang in Astronomy,” New Scientist, vol. 92 (November 19, 1981), p. 527, emphasis removed:  “At all events, anyone with even a nodding acquaintance with the Rubik cube will concede the near-impossibility of a solution being obtained by a blind person moving the cubic faces at random.  [Henry Morris comments that there are 4 X 10 raised to the 19 power combinations of the Rubik Cube].  Now imagine 10 raised to 50 blind persons each with a scrambled Rubik cube, and try to conceive of the chance of all of them simultaneously arriving at the solved form.  You then have the chance of arriving by random shuffling of just one of the many biopolymers on which life depends.  The notion that not only the biopolymers but the operating programme of a living cell could be arried at by chance in a primordial organic soup here on Earth is evidently nonsense of a high order.  Life must plainly be a cosmic phenomenon.”  Hoyle and Wickramasinghe both became believers in pantheism and panspermia, the belief that life originated on other planet(s) in outer space, because they saw no way that life could have arisen on earth by purely mechanistic biochemical processes.

 

In order for the first self-replicating cell to be created by random chance out of a “prebiotic soup” in the ancient ocean, several major hurdles have to be successfully jumped.  1.  The right atmospheric and oceanic meteorological and other conditions must exist.  2.  The oceans need to have a sufficient quantity and concentration of “simple” molecules in the “organic soup.”  3.  A sufficient number of specifically needed proteins and nucleotides randomly combine together and acquire a semi-permeable membrane around them.  4.  They also develop a genetic code using DNA and replicate themselves using RNA and DNA information.  Notice that all of this supposedly occurred in the non-observed past; it’s merely assumed to have happened based upon materialistic philosophy projecting its assumptions of naturalism infinitely into the past.  It’s equally presumed to never have happened again.

 

In this context, consider some details of the old “origin of life” experiments of Stanley Miller back in 1953.  Using a chosen concoction of hydrogen, methane, ammonia, and water, he got just four of the 20 amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, for making life.  Note also that he had to “save” them from the area of sparks in his lab equipment since what created them also would have destroyed them if he hadn’t removed them by his own deliberate intervention.  Even through  intentionally contrived, designed experiments over the next 30 years, scientists weren’t able to create all 20 amino acids under the conditions that they deemed to be plausible.  And what is arbitrarily being deemed to be “plausible”?   Hitching, in the “Neck of the Giraffe,” p. 65 explains the dilemma involved:  “With oxygen in the air, the first amino acid would never have got started; without oxygen, it would have been wiped out by cosmic rays.”  After all, does anyone really “know” what the earth’s atmosphere was like billions of years ago?  Furthermore, even when oxygen is present, sunlight’s ultraviolet radiation remains a deadly enemy of a pro-biotic soup’s complexity.  Water “naturally inhibits the development of more complex molecules,” as Hitching admits.  The basic problem is that water naturally promotes the breaking up of long molecules, not their generation.  George Wald, already quoted from above, points out (“Chemical Evolution and the Origin of Life, “Scientific American,” August 1954, pp. 49, 50:  “Spontaneous dissolution is much more probable, and hence proceeds much more rapidly, than spontaneous synthesis.”  So why would any “pre-biotic soup” ever accumulate to begin with?  He saw this as “the most stubborn problem that confronts us.”  The principle here is that entropy, as per the second law of thermodynamics, is inevitably much greater than any organizational principle; it’s deception to compare the organization of an inorganic crystal with that of biological life, which would be like confusing the making of a single brick with constructing the Empire State Building.

 

Now there is another set of problems that confronts the proponents of spontaneous generation.  Naturally, over 100 amino acids exist, but only 20 of them are needed for life; the rest are useless junk that would interfere in the generation of life.  The molecules, for both amino acids in all proteins and for all nucleotides in nucleic acids, also have to be all “left-handed” in form; not one is “right-handed.”  So as the specific details of the pre-biotic soup’s composition are examined, it becomes more and more evident that only very specific kinds of molecules (amino acids and the proteins formed from them) are helpful to generating life; the rest of the randomly generated chemicals would be useless floating junk that would interfere with the evolutionist’s desired outcome.  Consider this analogy:  Suppose someone had a big pile of white and read beans together that represent this prebiotic soup.   There are over a hundred kinds of each one.  The red ones are right-handed, and the white ones left-handed.  In a random scoop, what is the chance that someone would pull out not only twenty specific “white” ones, but each one would have to be in a specific place and position relative to the others with nothing else interfering or blocking the chemical reactions needed for self-replication?  (See generally, “Life—How Did It Get Here?  By Evolution or By Creation,” pp. 39-45).

 

Now it’s necessary to keep in mind that protein molecules themselves, let alone RNA and DNA ones, are extremely complex.  It has been calculated that the chance for generating even a complex protein molecule is one out of 10 raised to 113, which is many orders of magnitude greater than the number of electrons in the observable universe, which is roughly 10 raised to the 87.  Francis Crick himself, famous for being one of the co-discoverers of the DNA molecule’s role in making life, calculated the chance of making a particular amino acid (polypeptide chain) sequence by chance.  If it is 200 amino acids long, which is less than the average length of a protein, there are 20 possibilities at each location in the chain.  He calculated that the possibility of having a specific protein to be simply 20 raised by 200, as this is an exercise in calculating combinatorials or factorials.  As he concluded, “The great majority of sequences can never have been synthesized at all, at any time.”  For these reasons, he confessed:  “An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.”  (Life Itself:  Its Origin and Nature (New York:  Simon & Schuster, 1981), pp, 52, 88. 

 

It’s one thing to have a specific quantity of highly specific proteins in the right positions relative to each other, which is hard enough; it’s quite another to have the machinery in place, using the incredibly complex DNA and RNA molecules, to replicate and manufacture more of them in specifically needed quantities.  Scott Andrew, in “Update on Genesis,” in “New Scientist, vol. 106 (May 2, 1985), pp. 31 perceived the “chicken-and-egg” dilemma:  “Nucleic acids are required to make proteins, whereas proteins are needed to make nucleic acids and also to allow them to direct the process of protein manufacture itself.”  Proteins depend on DNA to be formed, yet DNA cannot form without pre-existing proteins.  It’s once again the problem of “all or nothing,” which so frequently confronts evolutionists, as per Michael Behe’s mousetrap analogy.  Andrew further describes the problem involved (p. 32), “The emergence of the gene-protein link, an absolutely vital stage on the way up from lifeless atoms to ourselves, is still shrouded in almost complete mystery.”  So then, he made this honest confession (p. 33):  “In their more public pronouncements, researchers interested in the origin of life sometimes behave a bit like the creationist opponents they so despise—glossing over the great mysteries that remain unsolved and pretending they have firm answers that they have not really got. . . .  We still know very little about how our genesis came about, and to provide a more satisfactory account than we have at present remains one of science’s great challenges.”  John Horgan, “In the Beginning,” Scientific American, vol. 264 (February 1991), p. 119 conceded how hard it was to create RNA molecules in a laboratory by deliberate intention:  “How did RNA arise initially? RNA and its components are difficult  to synthesize in a laboratory under the best of conditions, much less under plausible prebiotic ones.”  Leslie E. Orgel, “The Origin of Life on the Earth,” Scientific American, vol. 271 (October 1994), p. 78, proposed the idea that RNA came first, but then noticed two key problems with that hypothesis:  “This scenario could have occurred, we noted, if prebiotic RNA had two properties not evident today:  a capacity to replicate without the help of proteins and an ability to catalyze every step of the protein synthesis.” 

 

Much more could be said about the problems that spontaneous generation confronts the proponents of evolution.  For example, the problem of the random generation of photosynthesis, the process by which light energy is chanced into chemical energy by plants, could be examined in detail.  Once the specifics are examined and detailed, and mathematical calculations are made about the chances of organic molecules being formed, it becomes totally implausible to non-prejudiced minds.  Nature can’t always explain nature; the inference to the supernatural is the only reasonable explanation when confronted with such high odds.  Sir Fred Hoyle once compared the chance of life’s formation through random organization to that of “a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the material therein.”  (“Hoyle on Evolution,” Nature, vol. 294, November 12, 1981, p. 105.  Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, “Evolution from Space” (New York:  Simon & Schuster, 1984), p. 184, made this point against those who believe in a purely materialistic origin of life by random chance:  “No matter how large the environment one considers, life cannot have had a random beginning.  Troops of monkeys thundering away at random on typewriters could not produce the works of Shakespeare, for the practical reason that the whole observable universe it not large enough to contain the necessary monkey hordes, the necessary typewriters, and certainly not the waste paper baskets for the deposition of wrong attempts.  The same is true for living material. . . . The likelihood of the spontaneous formation of life from inanimate matter if one to a number with 40,000 noughts after it. . . . It is big enough to bury Darwin and the whole theory of evolution.  There was no primeval soup, neither on this plant nor on another other, and if the beginnings of life were not random, they must therefore have been the product of purposeful intelligence.”  When it is recalled who makes this kind of concession, men who had been utterly materialistic skeptics, it is devastating to anyone trying to making the case that life had a purely mechanistic, random origin in the mixing of chemicals.

 

When confronted with these kinds of calculations that show life couldn’t have occurred by biochemical accident, atheistic and agnostic evolutionists may resort to two potential escape hatches.  One of them is the “multiverse” metaphysical concept.  When there isn’t enough space, matter, and time to create life by chance in the universe that we humans can sense, they argue that there are an infinite number of parallel universes.  Given an infinite amount of time, matter, and space, life indeed could have occurred by chance.  Peter T. Mora, “The Folly of Probability,” in “The Origins of Prebiological Systems, ed. Sydney Fox (New York:   Academic Press, 1965), p. 45, perceives the problem with engaging in such philosophical inquiries:  “I believe we developed this practice (i.e., postulating prebiological natural selection) to avoid facing the conclusion that the probability of a self-replicating state is zero. . . . .  When for practical purposes the concept of infinite time and matter has to be invoked, that concept of probability is annulled.  By such logic we can prove anything, such as that, no matter how complex, everything will repeat itself, exactly and immeasurably.”  Notice that the existence of “multiverses” parallel to our universe can’t be proven experimentally or sensed directly.  It’s merely the secular version of invoking a unrepeatable miracle to prove that something occurred in the unobserved past.  Furthermore, as the creationist David F. Coppedge observed, “There’s Only One Universe,” Back to Genesis, No. 216, December 2006, p. d, the blunt tool of “Occam’s Razor would surely prefer a single Designer to uncountable universes.”   This concept also contradicts the big bang theory, which maintains that the universe had a beginning, instead of being eternal.  By invoking parallel “multiverses,” the evolutionists are obviously engaged in a post-hoc modification to escape the falsification of their theory by simple mathematical calculations.

 

Then there’s another escape hatch that evolutionists will resort to at this point, with their backs against a metaphysical wall as they face a statistical firing squad:  “Everything is rare.”  For example, if we drive to work, the car in front of us will have a license plate number.  If there are (say) 4 million cars with license plates in that state, the a priori chance of driving behind that particular car with another one is one in four million in a given day.  The absurdity of this kind of argument can be easily exposed.  For example, in order to play Mega Millions, players choose six different numbers for each lottery ticket. The chance of winning the jackpot is officially pegged at 1 in 302,575,350.  A priori, the chance of each computer-generated “easy pick” ticket winning this jackpot is the same as the ticket that actually does win the jackpot.  Furthermore, the six numbers on each ticket are just as unlikely to be randomly generated as those on any other.  So if a player buys a ticket with a randomly chosen number, it’s just as “rare” as any other.  However, almost of these equally “rare” tickets are utterly, completely worthless.  The only one that matters is the one chosen by the organization managing the lottery.  Likewise, almost all the “rare” biochemical events that would occur in a prebiotic soup are utterly, completely worthless.  Only the one that creates a self-replicating cell counts, not all the equally rare failed attempts.  We should intuitively perceive the nonsense of this kind of argument, even when clever, sophisticated, credentialed academics promote it. 

 

So when the specific details of spontaneous generation are examined, it becomes utterly absurd to believe that the first self-replicating cell was the result of a biochemical accident somewhere in an ancient ocean.  Specific quantitative calculations about the likelihood of such an accident are simply devastating to the purely materialistic version of the theory of evolution.  The idea that RNA, DNA, and the related necessary proteins all occurred together in one place inside a semi-permeable membrane is the purest poppycock.  Evolution is a long modern mythological story without a good intellectual foundation.  It’s far more rational to infer that God created life than to believe that it occurred by chance.  Clearly, when these long odds are considered, David was right (Psalm 14:1):  “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

 

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[1] See Denton, Evolution:  A Theory in Crisis, p. 314; http://www.pathlights.com/ce_encyclopedia/Encyclopedia/20hist12.htm

[2] http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_atoms_are_in_the_observable_universe