I recall as a kid hearing the news of Stanley Miller’s famous experiment where he tried to re-create the primordial soup that supposedly gave rise to life on earth. In Miller’s experiment in 1958 and subsequent experiments, he was successful in the formation of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins and life. His experiment was hailed for years as proof of how life could have arisen several billion years ago. It has appeared in textbooks for the past fifty years.
Stanley Miller died in 2007 and left all of his notes and over 200 vials of experimental results to one of his former students, Jeffrey Bada. Bada, a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California has begun to analyze the vials of materials produced by Miller’s experiments. From 1958 through 1972 analyzing the results from just one experiment would have taken Miller a week. With modern technology and equipment Bada is able to analyze each specimen in about 15 minutes and obtain more thorough and accurate results than Miller ever could have. And those results are getting Bada excited all over again.
Later in his experiments, Miller started adding hydrogen sulfide (H2S) to his atmospheric mixture based on the supposition of early volcanic activity spewing out tons of H2S into the early atmosphere. When adding the H2S to his mixture, Miller obtained even more amino acids and other organic compounds than his previous attempts.
Analyzing some of these results with the H2S added, Bada has been able to identify 23 amino acids, 4 amines and 7 organo-sulphur compounds from the experimental residues. Some have claimed that these results add more credibility to the concept that the early earth had a significant amount of volcanic activity which ejected large amounts of H2S into the atmosphere. Bada said that this experiment produced a greater diversity of amino acids than of Miller’s other experiments.
Bada and his team also compared the residue results with Murchison meteorite’s amino acid mixture and concluded that there were strong similarities between the two. This has led to further speculation that the Solar System and possibly beyond also contain key ingredients for the pre-biotic soup that eventually gave rise to life.
To start with, you have to realize that Miller’s experiments were in a closed system that collected the amino acids and other compounds and kept them away from where the reactions were taking place. In a real world environment, these products would have remained at the same location they were created. Consequently they would been readily broken down by the same processes that created them. This poses a serious problem for the accumulation of compounds necessary for the formation of life in a real world environment.
Secondly, you have the huge hurdle of chirality to get over. Chirality refers to the structural arrangement of the molecules, in this case the amino acids. This is commonly referred to as left-handed and right-handed versions of the same amino acid. In nature the ratio of right-handed and left-handed amino acids produced is around 50:50. However, the amino acids used to build proteins in living organisms are all left-handed. Proteins can range from a few hundred to thousands of amino acids and having just one right-handed amino acid would render the protein functionless.
Finally, being able to produce some of the basic ingredients for life such as amino acids does not provide any proof that life could have risen this way. All it proves is that under those specific conditions these amino acids and other compounds can form, nothing more. To extrapolate this to the formation of life is ludicrous and requires a blind faith above all others.
Even if you added all left-handed amino acids and all of the other basic components found in a single cell, into a mixture and shocked the dickens out of it, you will not be able to produce a viable living cell. It’s kind of like the old argument of the frog in a blender. No matter how you mixed up all of the organic ingredients for the frog, you’re not going to see one emerge once it’s been blended together.
Ever since 1859 when Louis Pasteur proved that there is no validity to the concept of spontaneous generation (life from non-life), biology has accepted this as a biologic premise or law. You cannot get life from non-life. However, the very foundation for biological evolution rest entirely on the concept of spontaneous generation. Isn’t it amazing how so many scientists can believe in something that they know and hold to be untrue?
If they really want to know from where life originated, all they have to do is turn to Genesis 1 and read God’s account of His Creation. It’s the only logical explanation for the existence of life.
Amos, Jonathan, Classic ‘Life Chemistry’ Experiment Still Excites, BBC News, March 22, 2011.