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Spontaneous Generation

Spontaneous Generation

What about the spontaneous generation of the first life form? Darwinian (and neo-Darwinian) evolution only focuses on the mechanism for modification over time between kinds of organisms. Evolutionary theory still doesn't deal with the first organism that arose by chance on our so-called "primitive planet" - this is called "spontaneous generation."

Without outside input, "spontaneous generation" is really the only explanation for the first organisms on Earth. The concept goes way back to Anaximander, a Greek philosopher in the 6th Century BC, who proposed that life arose from mud when exposed to sunlight. Although Darwin's theory focused on the mechanism for evolutionary change between life forms, he also maintained that original life probably arose from a "little pond" where sunlight was acting on organic salts. In the 1920's, scientists Oparin and Haldane updated the basic conjecture of "spontaneous generation" by proclaiming that ultraviolet light acting on a primitive atmosphere of water, ammonia & methane produced a "hot dilute soup" of basic life.

As I continued my reading, I discovered an interesting theme. The general public and educational media seemed fine with these basic theories and conjectures. However, over the last couple of decades, the scientific community has grown increasingly uneasy. Whereas 20th century science and technology somehow removed the philosophical need for anything metaphysical, 21st century science and technology were revealing things that can't be explained through merely assumed physical processes.

    Considering the way the prebiotic soup is referred to in so many discussions of the origin of life as an already established reality, it comes as something of a shock to realize that there is absolutely no positive evidence for its existence. 1
Something wasn't connecting here - scientists across the board (whether atheist, agnostic or theist) were declaring that spontaneous generation was disproved one hundred years ago! 2

In fact, evolutionary scientists themselves started looking at the odds that a free-living, single-celled organism (a bacterium, for example) could result from a chance combining of life building blocks (amino acids, for example). Harold Morowitz, a renowned physicist from Yale University and author of Origin of Cellular Life (1993), declared that the odds for any kind of spontaneous generation were one chance in 10100,000,000,000. 3

Sir Fred Hoyle, a popular agnostic who wrote Evolution from Space (1981), proposed that such odds were one chance in 1040,000 ("the same as the probability that a tornado sweeping through a junkyard could assemble a 747"). 4

Francis Crick, an atheist and co-discoverer of the "DNA structure" in 1953, calls life "almost a miracle." 5 He couldn't rationalize the metaphysical implications of his DNA discovery so he devised his "interstellar spores" theory in the 1970s.

By the way, scientists from various disciplines generally set their "Impossibility Standard" at one chance in 1050 (1 in a 100,000 billion, billion, billion, billion, billion). Therefore, whether one chance in 10100,000,000,000 or one chance in 1040,000, the notion that life somehow rose from non-life has clearly met the scientific standard for statistical impossibility.

I think Harvard University biochemist and Nobel Laureate George Wald shed perfect light on the whole situation when he declared:

    One has to only contemplate the magnitude of this task to concede that the spontaneous generation of a living organism is impossible. Yet we are here - as a result, I believe, of spontaneous generation.6
So, what are these scientists discovering?... Why are they declaring such huge odds against their own theories?... Why are they proposing new (and slightly outlandish) conjectures such as DNA spores from alien cultures?...

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1 Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Adler and Adler, 1985, 261.
2George Wald, "The Origin of Life," Scientific American, 191:48, May 1954.
3 Harold Marowitz, Energy Flow in Biology, Academic Press, 1968.
4 Sir Fred Hoyle, Nature, vol. 294:105, November 12, 1981.
5 Francis Crick, Life Itself - Its Origin and Nature, Futura, 1982.
6 George Wald, "The Origin of Life," Scientific American, 191:48, May 1954.

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