The evolutionary development of life on earth is commonly depicted as an "evolutionary tree." If life did arise spontaneously and then evolve into increasingly complex life forms, then spontaneous generation represents the trunk of that evolutionary tree and the branches are the various species that evolved from these earlier forms. If the origin of life cannot be shown to be plausible by the interaction of matter, random chance, energy and time then the existence of an evolutionary tree is a dubious proposition at best. Without a trunk there can be no tree. Without spontaneous generation there can be no evolution.
Louis Pasteur entered the debate in 1862 when he published the results of his experiments on the spontaneous generation of microorganisms in broths. Using glass flasks, Pasteur showed that previously boiled broths remained uncontaminated with microorganisms unless the neck of the flask was broken. Broken flasks quickly teemed with life as the broths became cloudy. He proved that microorganisms were transported through the air to the broth and not generated from the broth itself. The work of Pasteur seemingly ended the debate on the question of the sudden, spontaneous origin of life.
By the end of the nineteenth century, the majority of scientists believed that spontaneous generation was not possible. Loyal Darwinists, however, insisted on spontaneous generation, recognizing that it was the foundation upon which evolutionary theory rests. Ernst Haeckel, one of the chief proponents of Darwinism, stated in 1876: "If we do not accept the hypothesis of spontaneous generation, then at this one point in the history of evolution we must have recourse to the miracle of a supernatural creation."
In 1929 English biologist J.B.S. Haldane published a paper in which he proposed that ultraviolet light, acting on a primitive atmosphere containing water, ammonia and methane produced oceans with the consistency of a "hot dilute soup" containing the building blocks of life. In the nineteenth century Ernst Haeckel argued that although spontaneous generation was not observable under the current conditions on earth, it did take place in the past under different chemical conditions. Oparin and Haldane made the first serious proposals regarding those conditions.
In 1952 Harold Urey noted that most of the planets in our solar system, except earth, have an atmosphere which contains little or no free oxygen. Furthermore, Urey knew that the building blocks of life are quickly destroyed (oxidized) if they are exposed to an environment containing oxygen. Therefore, he concluded that spontaneous generation must have occurred on the early earth with an atmosphere consisting mainly of hydrogen, ammonia, methane and water vapor, but little or no molecular oxygen. Lightning, volcanic eruptions, sunlight, and deep oceanic volcanic vents are among the energy sources proposed to stimulate the necessary chemical reactions. It was presumed that the building blocks of life were made in the atmosphere and then gradually fell to earth eventually accumulating in the primeval ocean.
Despite absolutely no geological evidence for the existence of this "primeval soup" the Oparin-Haldane-Urey theories became scientific dogma. These foundational assumptions have provided the framework for the modern theory of evolution for the last several decades.
In the 1970s Apollo 16 astronauts discovered that water is broken down into oxygen and hydrogen gas in the upper atmosphere when it is bombarded by ultraviolet radiation. This process, called photo dissociation, is an efficient process which would have resulted in the production of large quantities of oxygen in a relatively short time. Studies by the astronauts revealed that this process is probably a major source of oxygen in our current atmosphere.
The assumption of an oxygen-free atmosphere has also been rejected on theoretical grounds. The ozone layer around planet earth consists of a thin but critical blanket of oxygen gas in the upper atmosphere. This layer of oxygen gas blocks deadly levels of ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Without oxygen in the early atmosphere, there could have been no ozone layer over the early earth. Without an ozone layer, all life on the surface of planet earth would face certain death from exposure to intense ultraviolet radiation. Furthermore, the chemical building blocks of proteins, RNA and DNA, would be quickly annihilated because ultraviolet radiation destroys their chemical bonds. It doesnt matter if these newly formed building blocks are in the atmosphere, on dry ground, or under water.
So evolutionists have a major dilemma. The chemical building blocks of life would be destroyed if oxygen was present, and they would be destroyed if it wasnt! This "catch 22" has been noted by evolutionist and molecular biologist Michael Denton: "What we have then is a sort of Catch 22 situation. If we have oxygen we have no organic compounds, but if we dont we have none either." Even if the building blocks of life could survive the effects of intense ultraviolet radiation and form life spontaneously, the survival of any subsequent life forms would be impossible in the presence of such heavy ultraviolet light. Ozone must be present to protect any surface life from the deadly effects of ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
Finally, the assumption that there was no oxygen in the early atmosphere is not borne out by the geologic evidence. Geologists have discovered evidence of abundant oxygen content in the oldest known rocks on earth. Again, Michael Denton: "Ominously, for believers in the traditional organic soup scenario, there is no clear geochemical evidence to exclude the possibility that oxygen was present in the Earths atmosphere soon after the formation of its crust."
All of this evidence supports the fact that there was abundant oxygen on the early earth. However, with or without oxygen, evolution is in a no-win situation. Spontaneous generation could not have occurred either with oxygenor without it!
Oparin envisioned the production of cellular building blocks in the atmosphere as a result of lightning. Once produced, these chemicals would theoretically build up in the primordial oceans and combine to form the first living systems. However, it has been estimated that it would take up to two years for amino acids to fall from the atmosphere into the ocean. This is a huge problem because even small amounts of ultraviolet radiation would destroy the building blocks before they reached the oceans. Furthermore, as we saw earlier, lack of ozone would further expedite this destruction.
A problem seldom noted by textbooks is that the chemical reactions that create the building blocks of life are reversible. That is, the same energy sources that cause the formation of the building blocks of life will also destroy those same building blocks unless they are removed from the environment where they were created. In fact, the building blocks of life are destroyed even more efficiently than they are created.
These problems have convinced researchers that the idea of a primordial soup is quite unlikely. Michael Denton comments on the lack of evidence for the primordial soup: "Rocks of great antiquity have been examined over the past two decades and in none of them has any trace of abiotically produced organic compounds been found Considering the way the pre-biotic 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."
For example, if a drop of red dye is put into a container of water the dye particles gradually disperse throughout the solution until the entire solution turns a dilute red color. The larger the volume of the solvent (i.e., the water in the dye example), the more dilute will be the solution once the dye particles have become evenly distributed. This dilutional effect is irreversibly tied to time. As time advances, the dye particles become evenly distributed until the solution reaches a state of chemical equilibrium.
Again the chemical reactions leading to the formation of DNA and proteins are reversible. This means that the building blocks of DNA and proteins are broken off of the chain just as easily as they are added. Consequently, the building blocks of life, if they survived the effects of oxygen and UV radiation, would constantly be combining and coming apart in the primordial soup. This combining and coming apart of chemical building blocks proceeds until a state of equilibrium is reached. In the case of amino acids and nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA and proteins will be predominantly unbounded when the solution is at equilibrium.
Since the natural tendency for the building blocks of life is to disperse and remain un-bonded, the question evolutionists must answer is how did the building blocks of life become bonded and stay bonded in a primordial soup which is steadily progressing towards equilibrium? When confronted with the problem of equilibrium, most evolutionists will appeal to the magic ingredient of time. Nobel Laureate George Wald attempted to explain: "Time is in fact the hero of the plot. Given so much time the impossible becomes possible, the possible probable, and the probable virtually certain. One has only to wait: Time itself performs the miracles."
However, Dr. Blum, who is an evolutionist himself, points out that Walds faith in the miraculous ingredient of time is mere wishful thinking. Prolonged time periods, he asserts, actually worsen the dilemma: "I think if I were rewriting this chapter [on the origin of life] completely, I should want to change the emphasis somewhat. I should want to play down still more the importance of the great amount of time available for highly improbable events to occur. One may take the view that the greater the time elapsed the greater should be the approach to equilibrium, the most probable state, and it seems that this ought to take precedence in our thinking over the idea that time provides the possibility for the occurrence of the highly improbable."
According to Dr. Blum, the magic bullet of time does not increase the likelihood that chains of DNA or proteins will form by chance chemistry. In fact, increasing the time factor actually ensures that any primordial soup would consist of predominantly unbonded amino acids and nucleotides!
Dr. Blum estimated the probability of just a single protein arising spontaneously from a primordial soup. Equilibrium and the reversibility of biochemical reactions eventually led Blum to state: "The spontaneous formation of a polypeptide of the size of the smallest known proteins seems beyond all probability. This calculation alone presents serious objection to the idea that all living matter and systems are descended from a single protein molecule which was formed as a chance act."
In the 1970s British astronomer Sir Frederick Hoyle set out to calculate the mathematical probability of the spontaneous origin of life from a primordial soup environment. Applying the laws of chemistry, mathematical probability and thermodynamics, he calculated the odds of the spontaneous generation of the simplest known free-living life form on earth a bacterium.
Hoyle and his associates knew that the smallest conceivable free-living life form needed at least 2,000 independent functional proteins in order to accomplish cellular metabolism and reproduction. Starting with the hypothetical primordial soup he calculated the probability of the spontaneous generation of just the proteins of a single amoebae. He determined that the probability of such an event is one chance in ten to the 40 thousandth power, i.e., 1 in 1040,000. Prior to this project, Hoyle was a believer in the spontaneous generation of life. This project, however, changed his opinion 180 degrees. Hoyle stated: "The likelihood of the formation of life from inanimate matter is one to a number with 40 thousand naughts [zeros] after it. It is enough to bury Darwin and the whole theory of evolution. There was no primeval soup, neither on this planet nor on any other, and if the beginnings of life were not random they must therefore have been the product of purposeful intelligence." Hoyle also concluded that the probability of the spontaneous generation of a single bacteria, "is about the same as the probability that a tornado sweeping through a junk yard could assemble a 747 from the contents therein."
Hoyles calculations may seem impressive, but they dont even begin to approximate the difficulty of the task. He only calculated the probability of the spontaneous generation of the proteins in the cell. He did not calculate the chance formation of the DNA, RNA, nor the cell wall that holds the contents of the cell together.
A more detailed estimate for spontaneous generation has been made by Harold Morowitz, a Yale University physicist. Morowitz imagined a broth of living bacteria that was super-heated so that all the complex chemicals were broken down into their basic building blocks. After cooling the mixture, he concluded that the odds of a single bacterium re-assembling by chance is one in 10100,000,000,000. This number is so large that it would require several thousand books just to write it out. To put this number into perspective, it is more likely that an entire extended family would win the state lottery every week for a million years than for a bacterium to form by chance!
Since each disc has only one number on it, there is one chance in ten (1/10) of selecting it. The probability of selecting the first one followed by the second one is 1/10 x 1/10 or 1 in 100. To select all 10 in the right order the probability is 1/10 x 1/10 x 1/10 x 1/10 x 1/10 x 1/10 x 1/10 x 1/10 x 1/10 x 1/10 or 1x1010. This means that the discs would be selected in the right order only once in 10 billion attempts. Put another way, ‘chance’ requires 10 billion attempts, on the average, to count from 1 to 10.
Let's take that example one step further and say there is a bucket with 27 wooden squares inside. Each square has one letter of the alphabet on it and one square is blank. How many attempts would it take to randomly pull letters out one at a time in order to spell the phrase ‘the theory of evolution?’
Each letter of the alphabet plus one space has 1 chance in 27 of being selected. There are 20 letters plus 3 spaces in the phrase ‘the theory of evolution’. Therefore chance will, on the average, spell the given phrase correctly only once in 2723 outcomes.
This computes to only one success in a mind-boggling 8.3 hundred quadrillion, quadrillion attempts (8.3 x 1032). Suppose ‘chance’ uses a machine which removes, records and replaces all the letters randomly at the fantastic speed of one billion per microsecond (one quadrillion per second)! On average the phrase would happen once in 25 billion years. If, as evolutionists would have us believe, the earth has been in existence for approximately 5 billion years, then nature could not even have created even this simple sentence, much less any protein, even at this phenomenal rate of experimentation.
The information on the discs and squares in the examples above represent the genetic information in DNA. DNA is the storehouse of genetics that establishes each organism's physical characteristics. It wasn't until 2001 that the Human Genome Project and Celera Genomics jointly presented the true nature and complexity of the digital code inherent in DNA. We now know that the DNA molecule is comprised of chemical bases arranged in approximately 3 billion precise sequences. Even the DNA molecule for the single-celled bacterium, E. coli, contains enough information to fill an entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica.
It would take nature 25 billion years to create the correct sequence of 27 letters. Clearly, it could not have correctly sequenced 3 billion chemicals to make even the simplest life form. So if nature couldn’t create life, Who did?
Regarding the probabilities calculated by Morowitz, Robert Shapiro wrote: "The improbability involved in generating even one bacterium is so large that it reduces all considerations of time and space to nothingness. Given such odds, the time until the black holes evaporate and the space to the ends of the universe would make no difference at all. If we were to wait, we would truly be waiting for a miracle."
Regarding the origin of life, Francis Crick, winner of the Nobel Prize in biology, stated: "An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going."
Regarding the probability of spontaneous generation, Harvard University biochemist and Nobel Laureate, George Wald stated: "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 hereas a result, I believe, of spontaneous generation." In this incredibly twisted statement, we see that Walds dogmatic adherence to the evolutionists paradigm is independent of the evidence. Walds belief in the "impossible" can only be explained by faith: " the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
Despite these incredible odds and insurmountable problems, spontaneous generation is taught as a fact from grammar school to the university level. In fact, NASA reported to the press in 1991 their opinion that life arose spontaneously not once, but multiple times, because previous attempts were wiped out by cosmic catastrophes!
Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, however, there are those who continue to believe in evolution, and are therefore forced to accept and defend some form of spontaneous generation. The reason for this dogmatic adherence to spontaneous generation is eloquently pointed out by George Wald: "When it comes to the origin of life there are only two possibilities: Creation or spontaneous generation. There is no third way. Spontaneous generation was disproved one hundred years ago, but that leads us to only one other conclusion, that of supernatural creation. We cannot accept that on philosophical grounds; therefore, we choose to believe the impossible: That life arose spontaneously by chance!" According to Wald, its not about discovering the truth through the finding of fact, its not a matter of evidence, not a matter of science its a matter of philosophy! Like George Wald, many people do not like the alternative: that all life on earth was created by God. So, as Wald said, they are willing to "believe the impossible."
Since the impossibility of spontaneous generation is a conclusion that leads to a supernatural creative act by God, it is a conclusion that many choose not to accept. It carries with it what are felt to be, in the present politically correct climate, undesirable philosophic and religious implications. It is for that unfortunate and illogical reason most scientists continue to cling to the unscientific, disproved theory that life arose from non-life through spontaneous generation.