Creating Life in the Laboratory

Creating Life in the Laboratory - Miller-Urey Experiment
Miller-Urey Experiment

A graduate student named Stanley Miller at the University of Chicago conducted an experiment in 1952, and it became news headlines in 1953. The news reports suggested that scientists were creating life in the laboratory. That was a bit of an exaggeration, or what might be called “fake news.”

The Miller-Urey Experiment, as it came to be known, was intended to show that life could arise spontaneously from non-living chemicals. In a sealed system, Miller attempted to duplicate what was then thought to be the composition of the early Earth’s atmosphere. An electric spark discharge inside the system resulted in the formation of some amino acids. Amino acids link together to form proteins, which are the building blocks of life.

Scientists thought they had made a breakthrough to show how life began, but amino acids are a long way from living cells. Since then, science has found many problems with the Miller-Urey Experiment. One of them is that the gases inside the device were nothing like the early Earth’s atmosphere. Probably the biggest roadblock to life creating itself (abiogenesis) is that amino acids have two geometric configurations, known as right-handed and left-handed. To combine into proteins, all of the amino acids must be left-handed. Amino acids in nature are a mixture, and there is no natural source for all left-handed amino acids. Besides that, all DNA and RNA molecules are connected by sugars that must all be right-handed. Natural sugars exist in mixtures of right- and left-handedness.

Since the 1952 experiment, scientists have continued working hard to solve the question of how life could emerge spontaneously. The solution has only gotten more complicated as they have learned more about the amazing design in every living cell. In 2007, an Associated Press news release said, “Scientists Believe Artificial Life Will Be Possible in 3 to 10 Years.” Sensational headlines sell, but the news reporters don’t know what the scientists know.

It has been 68 years since the Miller-Urey experiment, and the goal of creating life in the laboratory is still a dream. Perhaps, someday scientists will achieve that goal. What will they have proved? They will NOT have shown that life can emerge from non-life on its own. They will have demonstrated that great intelligence with the proper resources can create life. That is what the Bible has been telling us for thousands of years.

— Roland Earnst © 2020