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As any good biologist or taxonomist can tell you, there is a fundamental line of demarcation between living and non-living systems. Among others, a few of the prerequisites for a living system of any sort are the abilities to process energy, store information and replicate. A rock, for example, seems to contain information in the form of mineral structure, textual pattern and general shape, but rocks cannot process energy or replicate. Also, all living things must contain amino acids, DNA and/or RNA. But exactly how did the first living thing or things get here? Sometimes referred to as spontaneous generation, in its most rudimentary form abiogenesis refers to the rise of life from nonliving chemical systems.

Scientists of old were known to advise the creation of mice from flies or rancid meat, and early supporters of spontaneous generation included the French biologist Felix Pouchet and the English pathologist Charles Bastian. However, Louis Pasteur, a nineteenth-century scientist generally credited as the founder of bacteriology, showed conclusively through a number of experiments that spontaneous generation appears to be impossible, as in the absence of artificial arrangement, life appears to come only from pre-existing life. This converse principle of spontaneous generation is known as the law of biogenesis. Earlier experiments were precursors to this. Two hundred years before the publishing of Origin, Francesco Redi demonstrated this simple principle with his garbage experiments, showing that living things cannot be produced from non-living material via a process of spontaneous generation. He laid a fine net over his garbage that kept living things out. Redi proved conclusively that meat kept away from flies or parasites cannot develop maggots.

The challenges of abiogenesis have been described as daunting. Twenty or so amino acids are required to get life started, and to get started under a methodologically natural context the correct amino acids in the correct ratios would need a purely natural impetus to somehow isolate then arrange themselves in the correct sequence prerequisite to the formation of life. Amino acids in general are more prone to attract extraneous, ‘junk’ molecules than each other, and objects placed in water usually favor the process of depolymerzation. In order to end up with a bona fide common ancestor in the form of a bacterium capable of giving rise to complex life and ultimately humans, the chemical reactions taking place in the early primordial soup must have produced molecules with the ability to self-replicate. Further challenging is that in order for a cell to divide itself, that cell must have a totally functional mitochondrial DNA. Capacity of an organism for cell reproduction is dependent on the presence of a complete genetic code. “Proteins depend on DNA for their formation. But DNA cannot form without pre-existing protein,” says Francis Hitching. Here we have the Darwinian equivalent of an age-old problem: which came first, the DNA or the protein?
The Neck of the Giraffe, 1982, p. 68

A string of research related to the unexpected production of amino acids in the famous Miller-Urey spark-discharge experiments is close to simulating the rise of life from non-life. Of course, the imminent reality of scientists reproducing abiogenesis in a laboratory does not conclusively prove anything in favor of atheism, and the occurrence can equally be argued as strong evidence for the validity of the teleological worldview. Scientists creating life from nonliving chemicals in a laboratory can hardly be argued as proof for spontaneous generation because scientists working towards a desired end cannot be classified as spontaneous, or blind. Intelligence is required to know which variables and control factors to select, intelligence is required to approximate the reactions of the various chemicals to one another and the real question still remains: How did the original sequencing occur in the complete absence of intelligence?

Arguments about life’s complexity combined with refinements in the field of statistics have pressed a considerable case against the theory of undirected, random emergence of life. As a measure of reference, it is estimated that in the entire known universe we find the smallest measurable unit of matter, the electron, in a quantity of 1080. We would have 10130 electrons in the universe if they were completely crammed in until no more could fit. The great French scientist and probability expert Emile Borel has stated that anything with a probability greater than 1050 to 1 will likely never happen through chance. Several alleged probability experiments have claimed to determine the statistical probability of abiogenesis. While I’ve heard quite a varying range of figures that is not worth repeating here, I will state that none of the figures observed had a probability of less than 1050.

This is not offered as conclusive proof of anything, but a point of reference for further research.

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