One of the greatest questions continuously asked is that of the origin of life. It is impossible to imagine that life on Earth always existed and does not have a beginning, therefore, we inquire to develop a reasonable explanation about how the first life formed on Earth.
In order to discover an explanation that is both plausible and coherent, we need to refer to scientific skills of experimentation and inquiry to come up with the best hypothesis. At the same time, we must not ignore scientific laws such as the law of biogenesis. This law states that all life must come from preexisting life. In other words, the cells that make you a multi-cellular organism came from cells carrying genetic information from each one of your parents. Without your parents’ cells, you would not be alive today reading this article.
All life on Earth shares common characteristics. One of the characteristics of life is that all living things come from preexisting organisms. All cells, even our own, come from preexisting cells. The process of mitosis ensures that cell nuclei divide in order to create offspring with identical genetic material resulting in the continuation of that life form or species. So the question arises: if all organisms came from preexisting organisms, then how did the first organism come into existence?
When one thinks about this question, it seems as if we slam right into a wall, for if all things are contingent of preexisting forms of life, then how did the first life originate at all? We know that organisms are not eternal and have a point of existence; it is essential for the code of life, DNA, to be present for life to even begin to take form.
In 1952, Stanley Miller and Harold Urey conducted an experiment known today as the Miller-Urey experiment which led to the Primordial Soup hypothesis. These two scientists simulated the believed conditions of Earth prior to the existence of photosynthetic organisms. Without the constant process of photosynthesis, Earth’s environment lacked the presence of oxygen. Miller and Urey used water vapor, methane, ammonia and hydrogen and introduced a “sparks” of electricity that would then form amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Proteins are extremely important to the creation and sustenance of living things. In fact, Enzymes, the protein catalysts of our bodies, are essential for many if not all life processes. So having created amino acids, Miller and Urey’s experiment seemed to have proved that life can arise from nonliving, inorganic elements.
The conditions that Miller and Urey created for the experiment were not the exact same conditions thought to be present on early Earth. Not only did Miller and Urey introduce gases that are highly thought of by the scientific community to have not been present in early Earth, their experiment contained a simulation of lightning that did not present a justifiably believed spark that would be present in early Earth. Not only would real lighting have destroyed any amino acids that may have been present, if they had not separated the amino acids once they were made, then it is possible that more lightning would have changed the properties of those same molecules.
Which came first: protein or DNA?
DNA, which stands for Deoxyribonucleic acid, is the chemical blueprint for life. Its four nitrogen bases which serve as letters, code for the physical traits found in an organism. In order for a DNA strand to form, proteins are needed. Proteins are an important part to DNA synthesis and replication, yet the information for protein synthesis is found only in DNA. Amino acids, the subunits of proteins, do not hold the information for life, DNA does. This fact brings us back to the age-old question: which came first, the chicken or the egg? It is rational to believe that a DNA molecule, that is rich in its own genetic code, no matter how simple, would have to exist before any complex life forms.
In his book, The Signature of the Cell, Dr. Stephen Meyer explains how RNA would still need an input of information to begin its process of replication. “The information contained in an English sentence or computer software does not derive from the chemistry of the ink or the physics of magnetism, but from a source extrinsic to physics and chemistry altogether. Indeed, in both cases, the message transcends the properties of the medium. The information in DNA also transcends the properties of its material medium.” Scientists felt that they had a moment of eureka when able to create an RNA molecule that was capable of replicating ten percent of its own information. The very obvious issue in this lies not only in the fact that the RNA molecule was programmed with an initial sequence in order to begin replication but the information had to be programmed by scientists with minds.
So what is the best conclusion?
The Primordial Soup and RNA replication experiments show not only a manipulation of settings to render certain results that scientists have presupposed before experimentation, but that without their own intelligent involvement, desired products cannot be self-formed nor self-replicated. Ironically, many non-theists claim that the scientific community of faith is guilty of the God-of-the-Gaps fallacy, yet it seems they find themselves in greater error having accepted a larger lack of evidence to unjustly support and accept their own hypotheses. As scientists, we must follow the evidence wherever it may lead and in this case, the biological evidence available today leads to the belief that an Intelligent Mind is necessary for the explanation of complex information leading to the formation of complex life forms.