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

Scientists and God: A Different View

Scientists and God
J. B. S. Haldane in 1914

In each issue of our printed publication, we have a feature called Scientists and God, in which we quote from a leading scientist who is also a believer in God. Today I would like to do something a little different. I want to quote the words of a leading scientist who was not a believer.

J. B. S. Haldane (1892–1964) was a British geneticist and evolutionary biologist. He was also an outspoken atheist and a Marxist. Because of the political controversy caused by his Marxist ideology, he left England in 1956 and spent the remainder of his life in India.

Haldane was a brilliant man who made contributions in the areas of genetics, evolutionary biology, and mathematics. In many ways, he was ahead of his time. He proposed the central ideas of in vitro fertilization. He was the first to suggest human cloning. In fact, he coined the use of the term “clone” for that purpose. He also helped to create the science of population genetics.

Haldane proposed correctly that sickle-cell disease gives immunity to malaria. He prepared gene maps for color-blindness and hemophilia. Nobel Prize winning biologist Peter Medawar called Haldane “the cleverest man I ever knew.”

In 1929, Haldane introduced the “Primordial Soup Theory,” which said that life began on the early Earth in a chemical soup where the elements of life came together. That theory became the leading concept of abiogenesis–the idea of life coming from non-living matter by a natural process. Haldane’s theory led to the famous Miller-Urey experiment in 1952. In that experiment, Stanley Miller created a sealed container with the chemicals thought to have been part of the early atmosphere of Earth. He subjected the chemicals to an electric spark and collected some amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins. The news media went wild over “creating life in the laboratory,” but that was an example of media exaggeration–or as it would be called today “fake news.”

Incidentally, science has since shown that the Miller-Urey experiment did not emulate the conditions or chemicals of the early Earth and therefore is not a valid demonstration of the first step in abiogenesis. However, it is still shown to students in school textbooks because science has not produced anything better, and it is easy to understand. Today’s attempts at abiogenesis are far more complex, proving that it takes great intelligence and carefully controlled lab conditions to produce even the basic building blocks of life. In other words, it takes intelligence to create life, which has been our message for many years.

Haldane wrote numerous books presenting his ideas and defending Darwinism. In 1949 he debated British ornithologist Douglas Dewar on the topic “Is Evolution a Myth?” In that debate, Haldane said that evolution would not be capable of producing “various mechanisms, such as the wheel and magnet, which would be useless till fairly perfect.” In other words, if those mechanisms could be found in living organisms it would be an indication that evolution did not create those organisms.

Since that debate, we have found magnets in anaerobic bacteria which are considered to be the most “primitive” forms of life. The sightless, single-celled magnetotactic bacteria consume iron and produce magnets which they use to guide them to anaerobic areas that are safe for them to live. The magnets they produce are better for some scientific purposes than what humans can produce in the laboratory. Turtles, birds, and other more advanced animals also use magnets for navigation. Wheels can also be found in living organisms. As Janine M. Benyus (another Darwinist) wrote in her book titled Biomimicry, “Even the wheel, which we always took to be a uniquely human creation, has been found in the tiny rotary motor that propels the flagellum of the world’s most ancient bacteria.”

So wheels and magnets are found in the most “primitive” and “ancient” of single-celled bacteria. If that 1949 debate were taking place today, I doubt if J. B. S. Haldane would say that those mechanisms could disprove evolution. On the subject of Scientists and God, there are many views. Our view is that those mechanisms found in bacteria indicate an intelligent Creator who understood magnets and wheels long before humans did.
–Roland Earnst © 2017