Miller Experiment Still Sells Building Blocks of Lie
After nearly 68 years, the Miller Experiment still has propaganda value.
Update: just add glass chips, get more lies.
The spark-discharge experiment conducted by Stanley Miller under the supervision of Harold Urey in 1953 set the media ablaze. Here was a simple away to get the building blocks of life! (It amounted to a few amino acids and lots of gunk.)
The propaganda value of this experiment for naturalistic philosophy was enormous. It looked very science-y, with lots of tubes and flasks and white lab coats, conjuring up a modern Frankenstein lab. It set the imaginations of millions of students spinning with visions of cells arising by pure chemistry, without a Creator.
Those students included young Lee Strobel, who became an atheist largely because of that propaganda. The Miller experiment put “God out of a job,” he reasoned. (Decades later, Strobel became a Christian, author and defender of creation; he told his story in the Illustra film The Case for a Creator.)
Numerous critiques of the Miller experiment have arisen in years since, notably Signature in the Cell by Steve Meyer and Undeniable by Douglas Axe, and an updated edition of The Mystery of Life’s Origin by Thaxton et al., including new chapters from scientists in the intelligent design movement.
Even the most supportive naturalistic scientists have found flaws in the reasoning behind the experiment, noting that Miller used the wrong gases, did not address the chirality issue, and sequestered the products from the sparks and gunk that would have destroyed the desirable molecules. At best, some will admit, it was a useful lie that propelled studies into possible naturalistic origins of life (which they assume is a good thing, even though the field is without success and is even farther behind today).
Now, New Scientist has a story that puts a new spin on the Miller experiment: add glass chips, get more molecules. Ernesto di Mauro in Rome considered the container material. He ran controlled experiments in a Miller-type setup with the original type of glass Miller used, then in a Teflon container, then in the Teflon container with added glass chips. The one with glass chips yielded more molecules, says reporter Jason Arunn Murugesu. The motivation for adding glass chips was that silicon (a major component of glass) is abundant on the Earth, and might provide reaction surfaces for the gases.
Di Mauro’s team found that the glass beaker did indeed contain the most diverse mixture of complex organic reaction products. Meanwhile, the Teflon beaker with glass chips produced fewer complex compounds – probably because the glass chips had a lower combined surface area than the glass beaker itself. There were even fewer complex compounds when the experiment was run in a Teflon beaker with no glass present.
“The glass is like the rocks on Earth – it catalyses the reaction,” says Di Mauro.
One commenting scientist says, ” the Miller-Urey experiments were even smarter than originally envisaged.”
….smarter in propaganda value, perhaps, but not in scientific value. All of the previous criticisms still beset this latest attempt. In the official paper about this experiment in Scientific Reports, the authors at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Pathology in Rome recognized the propaganda value of the original experiment.
The 1953’s publication of the Miller–Urey experiment opened the door to the scientific investigation of the origin of life. In this brilliant experiment, Miller and Urey demonstrated that electrical sparking a mixture of methane, ammonia, and hydrogen in the presence of water produces amino acids within a variety of organic compounds. The impact of these results was so high that its mind-opening relevance hardly fades over time.
Their paper, though, is irrelevant to the origin of life. It fails to address the oxygen problem, the chirality problem and the sequestration problem. Yes, they got quite a zoo of compounds, including one dipeptide (two amino acids linked), but just like a jumbo jet has tens of thousands of non-flying parts, the molecules in their resulting brown broth are not stepping stones to a living cell. They used methane, ammonia and nitrogen, but carefully excluded any oxygen which would have destroyed the desired molecules quicker than they formed. They also kept the products away from the energy source (sparks) that also would have destroyed them.
Another Propaganda Approach
Team discovers a new approach to unveil the Origin of Life: Evaporation (University of Hong Kong via Phys.org). A measure of the simplistic thinking that goes into origin-of-life (OOL) work is this story from Hong Kong. The authors think that evaporation helps “shed light” on how droplets of random chemicals could become cell-like containers. Notice the high perhapsimaybecouldness index in their starting assumptions, along with euphemistic catch-phrases like “primordial soup” and use of passive voice verbs:
The synthetic pathways of life’s building blocks are envisaged to have emerged through a series of complex prebiotic reactions and processes. Concentration and compartmentalization of early functional biomolecules and their precursors were essential to the formation of the ﬁrst living cells, which were believed to have evolved from the hypothetical Primordial soup, the liquid substance that existed on the Early Earth around 4.0 to 3.7 billion years ago before the emergence of cellular life.
With those assumptions, what could possibly go wrong? Any contribution, no matter how small or irrelevant, they feel justifies their busy work. It would be hard to overstate the lunacy in the following assessment they give in all seriousness:
“We have shed some light on how molecules may have been separated before the evolution of membranes in early life forms. An important aspect of life is compartmentalization and concentration of biomolecules in sufficient quantities for chemical reactions,” said Dr. Andrew Brian Kinghorn, a post-doctoral fellow from HKU’s School of Biomedical Sciences who specializes in making tools for RNA tracking.
He compared the dissolution to a spontaneous separation of milk and coffee—the life substances inside living cells, in ready-to-drink blended coffee—“Primordial Soup.”
The Missing Essential
Most importantly, these heirs of the Miller Myth fail to understand the essential role of information in the construction of a living cell. Indeed, the very essence of life is found in its information content. A brown broth or droplet is as far from life as a junkyard of jet parts assembled in a random way. It won’t fly without a huge input of information organized by intelligent design.
Watch the Illustra film Origin for details about why the Miller Experiment fails to show a path to a living cell (clips from the video are available at the film website). Lee Strobel’s film The Case for a Creator is available in segments on The John 10:10 website. Start with Illustra’s 11-minute short film First Life which explains many of the insurmountable obstacles in naturalistic origin-of-life theories. Their earlier film Unlocking the Mystery of Life , still highly influential, is available in 12 segments on YouTube. Those with college educations are directed to the books listed above by Meyer, Axe, and Thaxton et al.