Was Life Ever Created in a Test Tube?

14 Aug

AbiogenesisOne of the most puzzling matters I’ve ever considered is the fact that some of the greatest intellects of the world—perhaps of all time—employing the most advanced technology in history to unravel the secrets of the most basic form of life, and failing thus far, still adamantly claim it could all be done through a chance mixture of chemicals excited by another chance spark of energy from the atmosphere. It is astonishing to find that intelligence so great, which is needed to understand and produce such a thing under controlled conditions, this same intelligence would deny its necessity to produce life from the beginning.

Urey Miller Experiment

In the early 1950s a scientific team, Stanley Miller and H.C. Urey conducted experiments in their laboratory in an effort to produce life artificially. What they did was produce two different amino acids, and the scientific world announced it was a success. Was it? Did they prove the hypothesis of abiogenesis—life arising out of non-living elements? No, they didn’t even come close!

The experiment employed methane, ammonia, water vapor and hydrogen. No oxygen was used because the presence of oxygen would have caused the experiment to fail from the start. The gases were circulated through the tubes and the scientists interjected sparks to represent lightening, and sure enough red goo, having amino acids, was produced at the bottom of the flask. What did this prove? Consider what a school textbook claims:

“In the early 1950s, Urey turned his attention to the studies of geochemistry, astrophysics, and the origin of life. He wanted to know how the earth and solar system had come to be. His vast knowledge of biology, physics and chemistry helped him conduct research and write many articles on geochemistry. He reviewed many theories on how the sun and planets were formed. He studied the chemical reactions of gases that existed in Earth’s primitive atmosphere, and he was the first to show that amino acids could have formed in the atmosphere. Although he never proved how life originated, he did add evidence to the theory that life could have started by itself on the primitive earth.” [H.B.J. 1989, page 357] (emphasis mine)

The citation points to a primitive atmosphere in which oxygen is excluded, yet, there is absolutely no evidence that would show oxygen was lacking upon the ancient Earth. However, let’s just suppose for argument’s sake that this were true, would that mean that life could have arisen by itself, accidentally producing amino acids in a primordial soup? No, it couldn’t, because if there were no oxygen in the atmosphere, there would be no ozone layer to filter out the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Without this filtering, ammonia, one of the gases needed in the experiment, would be destroyed by the UV rays.[1]

The Miller-Urey experiment produced red goo at the bottom of a flask that was 85 % tar, 13% carboxylic acid (both toxic to life) and 2% amino acids. The problem is only 2 different amino acids were produced,[2] but 20 different ones are needed for life. 98% of the Miller-Urey mixture was poisonous to life. The 20 amino acids go together to make proteins like the letters of the alphabet go together to make sentences. The two amino acids created bonded with the tar and the other acids very quickly, even more readily than with each other. The experiment was a failure.

Moreover, to put the results in context, a bunch of amino acids are needed to make one protein, and a bunch of proteins are needed to make one cell, and a bunch of cells are needed to make one organism. A living cell is more complex than the space shuttle.

Finally, only half the amino acids produced were left-handed. The other half were right-handed (like LIAF & FAIL). The smallest proteins have 70 to 100 amino acids and **all** of them are left-handed. RNA and DNA nucleotides are all right-handed. The Miller-Urey experiment never came close to showing how life **could have** originated by itself.

[1] Origins of Life, Vol. 12, 1982

[2] Later experiments conducted after Miller’s death in 2007 showed there were trace amounts of other amino acids. I’ll speak of these in another blog post.


Posted by on August 14, 2013 in naturalism, theory of evolution


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2 responses to “Was Life Ever Created in a Test Tube?

  1. Vlad

    August 14, 2013 at 09:11

    If I’m not mistaken aminoacids are not like letters of the alphabet but rather like building blocks made according to the instructions which are made out of letters which are on the DNA. Mentioned experiment basically simulated the creation 2×4 and a nail to build my house, but my house requires other material as well, and it has a blueprint of itself, maintenance crew, and clones itself.

    • Eddie

      August 14, 2013 at 09:25

      I’m not sure if one can get more basic than amino acids in the building block of life. If this is true, then they would be the ‘letters’ that built the ‘words’ (proteins) that compose the ‘sentences’ (cells), which together form the ‘encyclopedias’ (DNA) of life. Perhaps we are looking at this from two different perspectives.


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