Can Evolution Account for the Origin of Life? A Response to Scientific American: Part 4

This is a continuation of my blog series responding to the Scientific American Article: 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense. Today I will talk about three arguments that John Rennie, the editor in chief of Scientific American, states creationists use against evolution.

The first creationist argument I will talk about is: 7. Evolution cannot explain how life first appeared on earth. Rennie responds by saying, “The origin of life remains very much a mystery, but biochemists have learned about how primitive nucleic acids, amino acids and other building blocks of life could have formed and organized themselves into self-replicating, self-sustaining units, laying the foundation for cellular biochemistry.”

This is a weak answer at best. However, I will give Rennie some credit for admitting that the evolutionary origin of life is still a mystery. Rennie defends himself by pointing out that scientists have learned about how basic life structures could have formed. The problem with that response is that these biochemists’ research has not led to any positive evidence for evolution. One of the most famous experiments in this area was conducted by Stanley Miller in 1953. Miller claimed to have found a possible natural process that could have created complex organic compounds early in earth’s evolutionary history. But his experiment had one flaw: the same chemicals and processes that created the complex organic compounds also tore them back apart after creating them1 (this is quite common in this type of experiment). In short, the chemical reactions that have been presented as creating those basic building blocks of life also destroy them.

Dr. Kevin Anderson, who has a Ph.D. in microbiology, put it this way, “Despite decades of speculation, creative imagination, and untold millions of dollars spent on research, the spontaneous origin of life from natural processes seems just as impossible as ever.”1 Even if evolutionists could explain how the basic building blocks of life might form naturally, it is preposterous to think that these chemicals could organize themselves into self-replicating, self-sustaining units. That is a huge leap in logic and, in doing so, commits the “slippery slope” logical fallacy. This topic can get complicated and, frankly, I could talk about it for a long time. Here are some articles for those of you who would like to study this further: Origin of life by Dr. Don Batton, Ph.D.; The origin of life: a critique of current scientific models by Dr. Aw Swee-Eng, Ph.D.; A Few Reasons an Evolutionary Origin of Life Is Impossible by Dr. Duane Gish, Ph.D.

So, how does Rennie account for the issue of the origin of life? Two words: Outer Space. Many evolutionists say that life must have originated elsewhere in the universe since they cannot provide evidence for it here on earth. Some even go as far as to say that aliens seeded the first life on earth. The belief that life on earth originated in outer space is called “directed panspermia” or just simply “panspermia”. This is essentially saying that life must have come from some unknown part of outer space since it couldn’t have evolved here (I am NOT joking, this is an actual belief held by many evolutionary scientists). Panspermia points back to the religious belief that evolutionists have: since they cannot explain the origin of life on earth, life must have come from somewhere else because evolution must be true. You can learn more about panspermia and why it is not true here: Panspermia, Answers in Genesis.

Rennie finishes by stating that even if it was shown that aliens seeded life on earth, “…evolution since then would be robustly confirmed by countless microevolutionary and macroevolutionary studies.” I have already shown that Rennie’s statement here is not true in my last blog post: Is belief in Evolution Scientific or Religious? A Response to Scien.... I hope you see once again just how much evolution is a religion and how much faith is required to believe it.

The next creationist argument I will talk about is: 8. Mathematically, it is inconceivable that anything as complex as a protein, let alone a living cell or a human, could spring up by chance. Rennie responds by saying that although chance does play a part in evolution, it is not the driving force. He says, “Quite the opposite: natural selection, the principal known mechanism of evolution, harnesses nonrandom change by preserving "desirable" (adaptive) features and eliminating "undesirable" (nonadaptive) ones. As long as the forces of selection stay constant, natural selection can push evolution in one direction and produce sophisticated structures in surprisingly short times.” I also showed how natural selection is not evolution in my last post: Is belief in Evolution Scientific or Religious? A Response to Scien....

This brings up the problem of probability arguments. Whenever a creationist uses a probability argument, like the one above, it leaves a chance that evolution might be true. A creationist could say that the chance of evolution occurring is 1,000,000,000 to 1, but an evolutionist would say that there is still a chance.

Rennie then continues by giving an example: “consider the 13-letter sequence ‘TOBEORNOTTOBE.’ Those hypothetical million monkeys, each pecking out one phrase a second, could take as long as 78,800 years to find it among the 2613 sequences of that length.” What Rennie is saying is: given enough time, any sequence is possible through chance. Even a monkey banging away at a typewriter could eventually produce a phrase such as ‘TOBEORNOTTOBE’. But those letters mean nothing if you don’t know English.

Instead of the probability argument, and as an answer to the monkey example, a better creationist argument would be: evolution cannot create the informational language necessary for all lifeforms to function. Scientists have studied information for a long time (this is called information science) and one scientific law about information proves to be fatal for evolution: Information must come from already existing information or from an intelligent source. A language system cannot arise on its own, it must be created. This creates a problem because DNA is an information carrier, so a language system must be in place that the DNA can use to carry information. Without a language system, you can’t have DNA; and without DNA, you cannot have life. Evolution is completely incapable of producing a language system, and that makes it impossible.

That was a very simplified version of the creationist “information argument”. Dr. Werner Gitt, an information specialist, explains the argument in great detail in Section 5 of his book Did God use evolution? You can read it here for free:

This is a much better version of the argument Rennie stated. Neither natural selection nor random chance can produce a language system, so both of Rennie’s arguments do not apply.

The last creationist argument I will talk about today is: 10. Mutations are essential to evolution theory, but mutations can only eliminate traits. They cannot produce new features. This is, once again, a skewed version of biblical creationism. The actual argument is that mutations do not create new information, they can only remove, or duplicate, information. Rennie brings up bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics as an example of a beneficial mutation. An antibiotic mixes with certain enzymes in a bacterium to kill it, but sometimes a mutant is born without the enzymes, which enables the bacterium to survive the antibiotic. The problem with this is that bacteria have to lose information to resist antibiotics, as in losing the ability to produce certain enzymes. This is actually an example of natural selection which I talked about in my last post: Is belief in Evolution Scientific or Religious? A Response to Scien.... As I showed in that post, natural selection always causes a loss of genetics (information), so mutations cannot cause a gain of information which is required for evolution. If you are not knowledgeable about biology and genetics, evolutionists, such as Rennie, might be able to convince you that mutations can lead to new information that converts one kind to another i.e. a dinosaur to a bird. But as seen in the bacteria, even though a mutation may be beneficial, it is still a loss of information. Without gaining information, a change in kinds is impossible.

Rennie then states that scientists have found a way for genetic change beyond point mutations: “Whole genes can be accidentally duplicated in an organism's DNA, and the duplicates are free to mutate into genes for new, complex features.” Once again, mutations cannot create new information. This makes it impossible for animals to move up the evolutionary ladder.

Thank you for reading this post talking about how evolution cannot create life. My next post will talk about transitional fossils.

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Until next time,

Kirk F.


1Three Puzzles Evolution Can’t Solve, Sub. Life from Nonlife, Dr. Keven Anderson, Answers Magazine, pg. 61-62, Vol. 10 No. 3, 2015, Answers in Genesis.

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