February 24, 2021 | Jerry Bergman

Pasteur Was Right: Abiogenesis Is Impossible

Still Trying to Disprove Pasteur … and Still Failing!
It is Becoming more Obvious that Origin of life
by Purely Natural Processes Cannot Occur

 by Jerry Bergman, PhD

When the problem of gaps in evolution is discussed, many major examples could be cited. Examples include the major gap between invertebrates and vertebrates, between prokaryotes and eukaryotes, between males and females, and between diffusion and heart circulation. The largest gap, which some experts are beginning to agree will never be filled, is the unbridgeable gap that exists between nonlife and life. This gap exists in spite of a century of effort expended to bridge it. The search has intensified since Stanley Miller’s 1953 experiment to explore abiogenesis – life from nonlife by “chance” – which actually ending up doing the opposite that he intended. His research has highlighted the unbridgeable chasm between non-life and life.

Louis Pasteur famously stated the Law of Biogenesis: life begets life. No experiment has ever refuted it. Evolutionists must believe it was violated in the past when life spontaneously originated somehow, somewhere.

Popping into Existence

The last book written by Lucasian Professor of Physics Stephen Hawking before he died attempted to answer what he considered the most important questions that humans can ask. Number 2 in his list is “How did the universe and life begin?” Hawking noted that this question can be answered either by religion or science. He decided that the religious answer is wrong, and that his science answer, which I will now explain, is correct.[1] Hawking’s attempt to explain how life was created without God is as follows:

somehow, some . . .  atoms came to be arranged in the form of molecules of DNA . . . . As DNA reproduced itself, there would have been random errors, many of which would have been harmful, and … a few errors would have been favorable to the survival of the species—these would have been chosen by Darwinian natural selection.[2]

In his view, humans and all life are the result of “somehow, chance and billions of mistakes.” This is hardly scientific. We know from genetics that an estimated 99.9 percent of mutations (mistakes) are harmful or nearly neutral. The accumulation of these mistakes has been shown to produce genetic meltdown, not progressive evolution. Hawking speculates that, thanks to the Big Bang, “you can get a whole universe for free” because “the fantastically enormous universe of space and energy can materialize out of nothing” by the Big Bang.[3]

Chance or “Stuff Happens” is not a scientific explanation.

What is the consequence of such faith in miracles of chance? Hawking writes, “the universe itself, in all its mind-boggling vastness and complexity, could simply have popped into existence… [and] we do not need a God to set it up so that the Big Bang could bang.”[4] One chance miracle is worth another, thinks Hawking: life also “popped into existence” from nonlife by time, chance, and luck. His bias against a Creator is evident in these statements.

Those who study the problem are not so sure that time, luck and chance solve the problem of the origin of life. Here’s why.

The Simplest Cell More Complex than Expected

In November 2009, a group of the world’s most eminent scientists thought about the bare essentials required for life.[5] They concluded that the minimal set of parts required is far more complex than they expected. The results of their research, published in America’s most prestigious journal Science, covered the first comprehensive picture of the minimal parts required for a cell to exist, “based on an extensive quantitative study of the biology of the bacterium that causes atypical pneumonia, Mycoplasma pneumoniae” – the simplest free-living cell known.

The simplest cell requires a host of molecular machines, genetic information, metabolism and a membrane. Everything must be capable of accurate replication.

The study documented that “even the simplest of cells is more complex than expected.” They did not study parasites because parasites cannot survive on their own, but require a more complex cell to survive; the first cell would have had to survive and reproduce on its own.

One team of scientists described M. pneumoniae’s transcriptome by identifying every RNA molecule produced from its DNA under various environmental conditions. Another team researched all the cell’s metabolic reactions, collectively known as its metabolome. A third team researched every multi-protein complex the bacterium produced, called its proteome.

A big surprise was that, although having a very small genome, this bacterium is incredibly flexible and readily adjusts its metabolism to specific environmental conditions. The research team concluded that the first cell must have been very similar to the one they studied, M. pneumoniae, noting that its cells “have remained untouched by millions of years of evolution.”[6] This research has increased the gap between non-life and the simplest possible cell.

Another myth deserves debunking: the notion of “simplistic” cytoplasm. Last year in Nature, Michael Marshall pointed out that all those popular images

of the cytoplasm — the substance inside the cell — are often wrong. We are taught that cytoplasm is just a bag that holds everything, and everything is swimming around…. That’s not true, everything is incredibly scaffolded in cells, and it’s scaffolded in a gel, not a water bag.[7]

Each new insight, such as this one, makes the gap between non-life and life larger.

Darwin himself contributed to that myth in an 1871 letter to his friend Joseph Hooker. He wrote that life may have arisen “in some warm little pond with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity etc present, that a protein compound was chemically formed, ready to undergo still more complex changes.” Such an idea is now completely untenable. Proteins do not form in water, and even if they did, they could not do anything without genetic control. Genes and DNA were completely unknown to Darwin.

The Origin of Life Cesspool

Last year’s Nature article examined some of the proposals by leading origin-of-life theorists on different sides of the issue of where life started.[8] There is no agreement. Some believe life originated deep in the ocean somewhere, others near the ocean surface, others on the surface of the Earth, others in shallow water fed by streams, others in clay minerals. Still others claim that life originated somewhere on Mars or in outer space.

Dr Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute commented, “What comes through clearly is that the field can’t even agree on the environment where life originated, a disagreement that stems directly from deep problems facing each proposal.”[9]

The Water Paradox

When considering physical challenges to abiogenesis, irreducible complexity is only one problem that must be solved. Another problem is the so-called water paradox. We know that water is essential for life, but water is also the universal solvent. Given enough time, water dissolves almost everything. It also rapidly breaks up DNA, RNA and many other key organic molecules that origin-of-life theorists want. For this reason, many scientists today correctly conclude there exists a fundamental problem with the widespread idea that life arose in a watery environment. Marshall writes,

life’s corner-stone molecules break down in water. This is because proteins, and nucleic acids such as DNA and RNA, are vulnerable at their joints. Proteins are made of chains of amino acids, and nucleic acids are chains of nucleotides. If the chains are placed in water, it attacks the links and eventually breaks them. In carbon chemistry, “water is an enemy to be excluded as rigorously as possible”, wrote the late bio-chemist Robert Shapiro in his totemic 1986 book Origins, which critiqued the primordial ocean hypothesis.[10]

Water does not build complex molecules; it tears them apart.

In his Nature article, Marshall then asks, “how did the first cells deal with such a necessary and dangerous substance?”[11] To address this problem, some origin-of-life researchers propose that the molecules went through wet and dry cycles in shallow ponds on the surface. This, of course, exposes the delicate molecules to UV radiation that would have destroyed them. Other researchers try to use UV radiation (which damages cells and causes cancer) as an energy source to drive the chemical process that might have produced life. Another proposal to the water problem is purely circular: assuming evolution, when evolution is the issue! “Just as prey animals evolved to run faster or secrete toxins to survive predators, the first biological molecules might have evolved to cope with water’s chemical attacks.”[12]

The Information Paradox

Marshall also points out the information requirements for life. Before a protocell can evolve, it must have

information-carrying molecules — DNA, RNA or something else. There must have been a way to copy these molecular instructions, although the process would have been imperfect to allow for mistakes, the seeds of evolutionary change. Furthermore, the first organisms must have had a way to feed and maintain themselves, perhaps using protein-based enzymes. Finally, something held these disparate parts together, keeping them separate from their environment.[13]

It’s clear that the heady days of the Miller Experiment are just a historical anecdote with little significance to the problems faced by origin-of-life theorists today.

Stanley Miller working on his famous origin-of-life experiment. Its actual accomplishment was to show his technique could not do more than create some simple amino acids. Notice the complex equipment required to produce small amounts of these simple amino acids. From Wiki Commons.

Origin-of-Life Theorists are Still Far from a Solution

Evolutionists claim we have been on the verge of solving the origin-of-life problem since 1953 when Stanley Miller completed his famous research that was widely touted as being close to the origin-of-life solution. Luskin writes,

In 2006, in a debate with Stephen Meyer, evolutionary paleontologist Peter Ward observed that, “Harvard University just put a hundred million dollars into a center for the origin of life,” and predicted that because origin of life research is “one of the hottest scientific areas in the world we will have artificial life … in a decade.” Ten years later, in 2016, also in a debate with Steve Meyer (and Denis Lamoureux), physicist Lawrence Krauss promised “We’re coming very close” to explaining the origin of life via chemical evolutionary models. We’re now 15 years out from the Meyer-Ward debate and nearly five years past the Meyer-Krauss-Lamoureux event. How are these promises of origin-of-life research faring?[14]

From this experience I am not optimistic about solving the origin of life problem any time soon, if ever.

Summary

As research on the design and operation of the cell presses forward, the gap between non-life and life grows increasingly larger. This requires an attempt to create more innovative solutions to bridge the gap. At the most, the solutions discussed above are able to produce some of the compounds used in life, such as RNA and polypeptides, but the challenge is not only to have the parts, but to correctly assemble the parts to produce life. Just as words can be made from letters by some stochastic process, a biochemistry book is required for the correct assembly of biomolecules. This is the challenge that materialists continue to face.

References

[1]One of the 5 reviewers who worked with me on this manuscript added here that the Bible makes it clear that “the fool says in his heart there is no God.” He felt Hawking’s explanation for the origin of the universe and life, resorting to sheer dumb luck, proves this Biblical claim.

[2]Hawking, Stephen. 2018. Brief Answers to the Big Questions. New York, NY: Bantam Books, pp. 73, 75.

[3]Hawking,  2018, pp. 31-32.

[4]Hawking, 2018, p. 34.

[5] Science Daily. 2009. “First-Ever Blueprint of a Minimal Cell is More Complex than Expected,” November 26; https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091126173027.htm. Links to papers in Science are at the bottom of this article.

[6] Science Daily, 2009.

[7] Marshall, Michael. 2020. The water paradox and the origins of life. Nature, 588(7837): 210-213, p. 211.

[8] Marshall, 2020.

[9] Evolution News, 2021. “Nature Article Admits Unanswered Origin-of-Life Questions, Exposing Broken Promises of ID Critics.” 15 Feb. https://evolutionnews.org/2021/02/nature-article-admits-unanswered-origin-of-life-questions-exposing-broken-promises-of-id-critics

[10] Marshall, 2020, p. 211.

[11] Marshall, 2020, p. 210.

[12] Marshall, 2020, p. 212.

[13] Marshall, 2020, p. 211.

[14] Evolution News, 2021.


Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

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