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What Caused Life to Come into Existence?

The earth at creation

It has become axiomatic that life naturally evolved out of nonliving materials billions of years ago. Given enough time and the chemical opportunity, living cells self-assemble.

However, the experts on the development of complex molecules from simpler ones, the synthetic chemists, do not know how this process actually occurs. There are no known pathways to create the components that make up a living cell from nonliving matter. They have no idea how amino acids (the building blocks of proteins and enzymes), nucleotides (the building blocks of DNA and RNA), saccharides (also called carbohydrates or sugars, the scaffolding for DNA and RNA, energy sources, and much more), and lipids (the main constituents of cell membranes) can be formed naturally on a prebiotic earth, especially before the formation of biological enzymes, to catalyze many of the requisite chemical reactions.

Life arising naturally out of nonliving materials not only cannot be proven, it contradicts synthetic chemistry’s practices, which comprise of very strict purity and environmental controls as well as experimental and sequential methodology—the exact opposite of what happens in nature—because contamination, water, sunlight, oxygen, heat, and impurities all degrade complex molecules or prevent them from forming.

So desperate are the abiogenesis proponents to avoid the fact that we have no idea how a living, self-replicating cell can spontaneously come into existence from a sterile chemical soup that they exaggerate any creation of the “precursors” of life as proof of abiogenesis, despite the fact that the precursors are more similar to a “rivet” whereas the simplest living cell is more comparable to an “airplane.”

A rivet is not the same as an airplane and anyone claiming or implying the production of a rivet is proof that an airplane can be created without intelligence is simply promoting propaganda.

When Craig Venter’s team created the first synthetic cell, they didn’t assemble a cell from scratch; they replaced a living cell’s DNA with a modified version. In other words, they replaced the molecular software of an already existing computer. The hardware already existed. While I greatly admire Venter’s efforts and consider it to be one of the most important and promising developments of this century, it is important to point out they did not create life from nonliving materials.

Synthetic chemists may be able to draw a cell’s component target out on paper, but they can't retrosynthesize it. And yet atheists presume life just forms naturally, as if the billions and trillions of dead end pathways between nonliving matter and a living cell don’t exist, and there are no blind alleys at the end of dozens of sequenced reactions.

It very well may be that life can come from nonlife, but the real experts in the field have no idea how it can be done.

To visualize the difficulty synthetic chemists face when developing their target molecules, imagine one needs to get through a massive three-dimensional maze to reach the target. But this maze doesn’t have just one entrance, it has six, eight, or a dozen isolated passageways, depending on the isomers or chemical structure of the target molecule. Each time a sequence reaction is needed, the path splits into the same number of permutations of the reaction. If a reaction has ten possible outcomes, then the passageway splits into ten paths. If it has fifty, then the passageway splits into fifty paths. This then results in potentially millions of potential paths after just a handful of sequential reaction steps, where only a small number of paths, perhaps just one, can be taken to create the target molecule.

Chart showing the nonliving-living maze

The synthetic chemist documents the reaction and tests the different possible paths. Impurities are removed and any path that shows degradation or unwanted changes to the molecule is recorded, the process is backtracked to the last known desired location, and a new path is tested. This trial-and-error method is time-consuming but is the only known way to get from the starting position to the target molecule.

Finally, with perseverance, intuition, brilliance, and luck the scientist creates the target molecule and the path from start to finish is documented. The pathway is then repeated hundreds and thousands of times, with minor adjustments to determine the optimal pathway. When it is identified, and mass production in the required purity can be achieved, the information is shared with the world, and the molecule can be monetized.

This process is why synthetic chemists can’t conceive of how life can form out of nonlife on a prebiotic earth by random chance. Success in creating the complex molecular components of a living cell, to say nothing of a living cell itself, is not a matter of quantity and time. Some sequence reactions for complex molecules require completely different environments and pure materials (e.g., nitrogen followed by hydrogen or 52°C followed by -2°C) that do not and never have existed outside a state of the art lab.

It is not an exaggeration to say there are trillions of nonviable paths after less than a dozen sequence steps between nonliving matter and a living cell. And this does not even take into consideration the problem of maintaining viability before achieving self-sustenance as a living cell.

And since not one in a million of us have the specialized knowledge of the synthetic organic chemists, the abiogenesis hypothesis is treated as scientific fact. It isn’t. Creating rivets is not the same as creating an airplane.

How can life come into existence? What were the precise pathways? What were the catalysts? What were the environmental conditions that prevented degradation and contamination? What was the sequence for each component prior to fusion into a living cell?

By avoiding unintelligible language and reckless general claims, and insisting on detailed answers, it becomes obvious no one currently knows how life can be created out of nonlife without the involvement of an intelligence.

Anyone who knows how life can be created out of nonliving materials will become the richest person who ever lived – because he or she would’ve created the foundation for feeding the planet using industrial means, without the need for farming or raising food.

What then is the likely cause of life? We don’t have a clue. The non-experts on the subject (biologists and others) claim a process that the experts on the subject (the synthetic chemists) know cannot work.

Biologists will need to develop a new abiogenesis theory that incorporates the reality of synthetic chemistry, or synthetic chemists will need to develop a process that produces complex molecules comparable to the environment of the prebiotic earth before we can even pretend to know how life can come from nonlife.

The only real answer an honest atheist of today can give to how life arose from nonliving materials is, “I don’t know” whereas people of faith can point to God as the most likely cause.

Given what we actually know for sure about the likelihood that life can emerge out of nonlife it appears God as the cause is much more probable than any alternative.

Note: This article is derived from this author’s upcoming book, Is Jesus 'God'?