Louis Pasteur and his swan-necked flasks supposedly disproved, one-and-for-all, the idea of the spontaneous generation of life. However, if one watches very many nature videos on PBS, Discovery, National Geographic etc., one gets the impression that scientist were around to observe the actual origin of life from non-living material. However, if one pays closer attention, that person will notice that these videos often give different accounts as to how life originated. The truth is, no one has ever observed life originate from non-living chemicals. This is a serious problem for atheists, but points to the existence of God.
However life originated, the process needs to explain the origin of the many processes, machinery, and information I have described in my last two posts. When Darwin first speculated on the origin of life very little was known about how a cell worked. Now, the more we understand the complexities of life and a cell the harder any explanation for its origin becomes. There is currently no generally accepted theory for the origin of life. Some still hold to the well-debunked Urey-Miller explanation, some look to deep-sea vents, others to clay crystals, some even look to unobservable processes in outer space and brought to earth by micrometeorites and there are even more scenarios (cf. Rana, Fazale, Creating Life in the Lab, p.104). Many ignore the problem altogether claiming it is outside the scope of science and has nothing to do with evolution.
Bio-chemist Fazale Rana in his book Creating Life in the Lab, describes the attempts to create life and the many problems that must be overcome to do so. Dr. Rana points out that at the very least, for a living cell to originate, there must be a membrane, an information system to direct the life processes and reproduce, and a way to extract energy from the environment (p.19). The problem is that scientist debate which of these came first since they all are needed. A membrane is needed to protect any genetic system and life processes. Although phospholipids naturally form bi-layers and micelles, these are far from the complex cell membranes that are necessary for life as we know it. Life-sustaining cell membranes can only be produced by the complex processes of metabolism; but those processes cannot be performed without a protective cell membrane to isolate the machinery from the environment and regulate the molecules that enter into the system. Not only so, but the information system found in DNA cannot work and cannot survive without various proteins, but these proteins are produced by a complicated process directed by the DNA. The DNA does not work without the proteins abut the proteins are produced by working DNA. Then there is the chirality problem. Molecules have three-dimensional shapes and can be described as being “handed” i.e. “left-handed” or “right handed.” The amino acids in proteins are all “left-handed” and the sugars in DNA and RNA are all “right-handed.” Chemical processes that produce amino acids and sugars produce an equal number of left and right-handed molecules. There are no natural chemical processes that produces the homochirality needed to produce nucleic acids and and proteins. All of the processes of life requires a means of obtaining and transporting usable energy. This requirement is met by the many complex steps of cellular respiration which is difficult, if not impossible, to be derived by random processes even assuming a step-by-step development. Finally, there is the need to produce the information found in DNA. I covered this in my last post. There is no known chemical process or law of chemistry that would organize the base sequences in DNA to store complex specified information in a decipherable language. For life to form, all the above problems have to be solved. Although some of the problems have been overcome, they have been overcome under highly controlled and carefully engineered laboratory conditions that have nothing to do with natural processes. Hence, those who support particular origin-of-life scenarios often expose the errors of the other scenarios. They are all right in that they all have serious flaws.
Once again, then, we need to consider what scientific model best explains the origin of life. The advances in the laboratories documented by Dr. Rana only point to the need of intelligence designing the machinery and information of life. The more we make advances towards creating life in the lab, the more we see that not natural processes, but carefully controlled engineering by intelligence is necessary to produce life. Although there are a number of highly imaginative stories of how life began, often repeated in popular science shows, these are not backed by observation and are all filled with serious problems. Only a commitment to naturalism even makes them plausible. Since we have shown that one cannot prove that God’s existence is impossible and that the probability of His existence is exactly what we are demonstrating, it is far more logical to postulate an omniscient, wise Creator than to say life began by natural random processes for which we have no observational support and for which all the scenarios are fraught with difficulties. This is not a “God-of-the-gaps” argument for we are not arguing from what we do not know, but from what we clearly do know. The natural chemical/physical processes we do know about and the advancements made in creating life all point to the need of a Creator for the origin of life. The God’s revelation model is once again superior to the random natural process model. Hence faith in the existence of God is more rational than faith that things are as they are without the existence of God.