In spite of its hold over the minds of many, Darwinian evolution has never explained the origin of life. Sure, lots of high school and college textbooks will tell you that evolution provides an explanation for the origin of life, but it’s all false. No scientist has ever been able to demonstrate how life arose from the elements, chemicals and compounds available on our planet.
The reality is that the generation of life through mindless, undirected processes is impossible. A respected synthetic chemist, well suited to critique origin-of-life research, informs us more about this, as we’ll see. What, then, can explain the rise of life?
We may soon be entering an age when a different hypothesis will be recognized as a much better explanation for origin of life—not Darwinian evolution but God. Intelligent design is fast becoming recognized (once again, as it was in past ages) as the best explanation for the origin of life.
First, let’s look at the complicated realm that is “life.” We will quickly come to see that the most intelligent among us cannot replicate it.
Origin of life is prebiotic—meaning it happened before any biological operation or development entered the picture. How did unthinking inanimate chemicals produce the first life? Brilliant scientists today cannot even build a simple bacterium.
The first step in constructing such a bacterium, which contains 256 protein-coding genes, is to have the four classes of molecules that are needed. Yet even if scientists were handed the molecules, they don’t know how to assemble them.
Dr. James Tour, a renowned synthetic organic chemist specializing in nanotechnology, has been labeled one of the most influential scientists in the world today. In a Discovery Institute video interview with him titled “James Tour: The Origin of Life Has Not Been Explained” (available on YouTube), he categorically states: “We can make technologies but we can’t even make the simplest bacterium. Anybody who would say something contrary does not know what they are talking about. Show me the demonstration. Nobody has ever done it. And it’s not because of lack of effort; it’s not because of lack of will” (July 5, 2019).
Dr. Tour further remarks of those who would attempt to replicate life: “But even if we gave them the DNA in the structure that they wanted, they wouldn’t know how to put all the components together because of the sophistication within a cell. The interactomes, the interacting connectivity between the molecules ... all of these have to be in the right place and in the right order for a cell to function. We don’t even know how to define life, let alone knowing how to spark it to begin!”
We will summarize and quote more of Tour’s comments as we go.
If you look at a typical college or high school textbook, it will tell you that life began in a prehistoric pond with chemicals forming molecules that came together to form a simple cell, which sparked into life from a bolt of lightning or something similar, with a creature eventually slithering out of the pond onto dry land.
But this is totally fallacious! Scientists, after being given all the elements and chemicals we find in a simple living cell, don’t know how to make the molecules required for assembly or how to assemble them.
Dr. Tour puts it this way: “Not only do we not know how to make the basic components, we do not know how to build the structure—even if we were given the basic components ... Even if I gave you all the components, even if I gave you all the amino acids, all the protein, all the protein structures from those amino acids that you wanted, all the lipids in the purity that you wanted, the DNA, the RNA, in even in the sequence that you wanted (so I’m even giving you the code) ... Can you now assemble a cell here in your individual labs? ... Not in a prebiotic cesspool but in your nice laboratory? And the answer is a resounding no! And if anybody claims otherwise they do not know this area.”
There is a huge misunderstanding even among science and biology professors that humanity understands how to build life once given all the structures, acids and lipids needed. Yet none of these has ever been assembled to make so much as a single cell or anything close to it!
As Dr. Tour points out, magazine articles will proudly announce that scientists know how to build life, and then the average person reads it and believes that scientists know how to do it. Even some scientists believe that other scientists know how to do it, but they don’t—nobody does! The general public is being led wildly astray!
Have you ever owned an automobile that was issued a safety recall? Perhaps the seatbelts were not up to standard, or the airbags could go off prematurely, or the brakes would not hold up to tough conditions. So you receive a notice to take your vehicle in to be serviced and have upgraded parts installed. It’s for your own safety.
The auto manufacturer’s reputation is on the line. If it doesn’t correct the safety problem and get you back on the road, it will lose customers and its sales may plummet.
The academic world should take the same approach. The fact is, for many years our high school and university textbooks have been making claims about the origin of life that are totally false. It’s time for those textbooks to be recalled! It’s time for scientists to be honest about what they actually know and don’t know about building life. It’s time for our students to understand that even when given all of the required building blocks of life in a perfect, sterile laboratory environment (let alone having the building blocks themselves handed over on a silver platter, without having to create them), the greatest minds of our time, the smartest organic chemists, cannot explain the origin of life or create even the simplest cell.
You may have been told that given enough time, given millions or billions of years, that there is a chance, a probability, that life could begin on its own. Once again, this is not true. Time is an enemy of organic synthesis, not a friend.
Many of the chemicals needed for life are kinetic products, meaning they’re not thermodynamically stable. For example, carbohydrates—a main class of compounds that link together DNA—are kinetic products that decompose over a very short period. So if over billions of years a carbohydrate were to form by chance, it would decompose very quickly—long before all the other necessary building blocks were available to generate life.
Did molecules really mysteriously form on their own and sit there waiting for millions of years for other molecules to arrive? No! Organic chemistry doesn’t work that way.
Dr. Tour notes that any university student setting up reactions to produce carbohydrates, who goes home for the weekend without stopping the reaction at a precise moment and putting it in a sterile bottle under inert conditions in a freezer, will come back to find a caramelized carbohydrate that is now useless. And to think that some scientists believe this would all somehow work in a primordial pond with no laboratory conditions or controls!
Again, time is actually an enemy in this process!
The chemicals needed for life are more than just carbon and water. You also need amino acids. These then have to link together to form proteins—and it’s not easy to get amino acids to link together.
Then you need enzymes. But in a prebiotic world enzymes do not exist, as the enzymes themselves are made out of amino acids and proteins.
After this you must have carbohydrates and a way to link them together. This is extremely complex. Consider the example Dr. Tour gives of just the simple carbohydrate D-mannose (a sugar related to glucose). If you make six units of D-mannose it can be linked together in more than a trillion different combinations, and only one works. How do you get that by chance?
Next you need lipids. The lipids have to have two molecular tails—not one. Having just one would destabilize the membrane layers they need to form. How is that done in a prebiotic system? No scientist knows!
After that you must have nucleic acids. These have to somehow link very cleanly to a carbohydrate that had to be made independently without becoming caramelized.
Next is the nucleotide that has to hook together with a phosphate group—but that’s only done by enzymes. Synthetic organic chemists don’t know how to do that cleanly before enzymes existed.
Science doesn’t know how to even make all these pieces—let alone connect them together! Yes, we have spaceflight, rovers on Mars, silicon chips, computers and Wi-Fi connectivity (none of these being alive with life)—but humankind cannot build life even when given all of these building blocks pulled from our environment. (And we cannot actually make the building blocks ourselves to begin with!) Why should we believe that blind forces with no intelligence could do this?
“Deep time” is typically invoked to improve the odds of life arising by chance. The underlying assumption is that, given enough time, eventually anything and everything becomes possible—including life arising completely by chance. Therefore vast amounts of time must be factored in to mitigate the extremely remote probabilities involved. But the fact is, the numbers are simply far too great to overcome. There is not enough time (an estimated 14 billion years since the formation of our universe) for a random combination of factors to come together to generate even a simple protein, much less a living organism.
The odds against such an occurrence are much greater than the total number of atoms in existence in the universe! Even if the universe were many times older, that would still not be anywhere close to enough.
To illustrate, Dr. Tour notes that the possible combinations of protein interactions in a single yeast cell are 10 to the 79 billionth power! That’s a 1 followed not by just 79 zeros, but a 1 with 79 billion zeros after it! This is just the number of molecular interactions (the interactome) in just one protein. It’s impossible to even comprehend. By comparison, the estimated number of elemental particles in the entire universe is only 10 to the 90th power!
Dr. Tour further states: “Then in addition to just those 3,000 proteins that are there in that single yeast cell, you still need all the DNA, all the RNA. You need to have all the carbohydrates. Remember, the carbohydrates have all their own definition order by the way they’re hooked up ... You can put more information in the carbohydrates that are on a cell surface than you store in DNA and RNA combined. And that information has to come from an original DNA template, plus a series of other enzyme cascades. All of this is in that [single] cell in addition to those interactomes. It’s very complex. Origin of life is a complex problem, and it’s hard to throw this at the feet of just large numbers.”
(Besides the interview with him, another Discovery Institute video at YouTube featuring Dr. Tour is well worth watching: “James Tour: The Mystery of the Origin of Life” from the January 2019 Dallas Conference on Science & Faith.)
Time, probability, science and the greatest of human minds (how did such minds come to be anyway?) cannot explain the origin of life. So what can?
We are approaching a time when society may come to reject Darwinism and experience something of a religious revival. More than 200 years after the birth of Charles Darwin, growing numbers are returning to a belief in the Creator God (or Intelligent Design) as the best explanation for the origin of life. Evolutionists have had 160 years since the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species to explain the origin of life and the complexity of creation. They have failed abysmally.
It’s time to return to the understanding held by most of Western society before Darwin—the belief in God as the Creator of all things!
Dr. Stephen Meyer is a former geophysicist and college professor who received his Ph.D. in the history and philosophy of science from Cambridge University. A leader in the intelligent design movement, he now directs Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Meyer has authored most recently the New York Times bestseller Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (2013) as well as Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (2009).
Meyer is now completing his latest book The Return of the God Hypothesis: Compelling Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God, which is slated for release in April 2020. He is developing a fundamental argument for intelligent design, showing that there is a third fundamental factor needed for life alongside matter and energy—information.
Where does the information encoded in the cell come from? It’s not material, just as the article you’re reading is not the medium it’s written on but the message it communicates. The information embedded in nature all the way down to the tiniest levels requires an intelligent, thinking, planning mind behind all of creation. And that mind is the mind of God.
That is the answer to our existence, to the origin of life—God.
God does exist, and His work as Creator is the only reasonable explanation for the origin of life. As Dr. Tour so eloquently explains, from the point of view of a synthetic organic chemist, it is impossible for life to have begun by chance over long periods of time. It simply could not have happened that way! (For more proof of God’s existence, download or request our free study guide Life’s Ultimate Question: Does God Exist? .)
The online resource Conservapedia includes the following in its lengthy entry on evolution. Although the following quotes are from a decade or more ago, they show a larger trend of scientists moving away from Darwinism:
“A 2005 poll by the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Social and Religious Research found that 60% of American medical doctors reject Darwinism, stating that they do not believe humans evolved through natural processes alone. The study also reported that 1/3 of all medical doctors favor the theory of intelligent design over evolution.
“The prestigious journal Science reported the following in 2006 concerning the United States: ‘The percentage of people in the country who accept the idea of evolution has declined from 45 in 1985 to 40 in 2005. Meanwhile the fraction of Americans unsure about evolution has soared from 7 per cent in 1985 to 21 per cent last year.’
“In January 2006, the BBC reported concerning Britain: ‘Just under half of Britons accept the theory of evolution as the best description for the development of life, according to an opinion poll. Furthermore, more than 40% of those questioned believe that creationism or intelligent design (ID) should be taught in school science lessons.’”
Here are reports from other sources about growing doubt about the validity of Darwinism and evolution: “Darwin’s strongest critics were scientists, and the theologians who criticized him objected mainly to his philosophical insistence on natural causes and his denial of design—which Princeton’s Charles Hodge regarded as ‘tantamount to atheism.’ Even today, many critics of Darwinism are not religious fundamentalists, and a growing number of critics are credentialed scientists” (Jonathan Wells, “The Problem of Evidence,” Forbes, Feb. 5, 2009).
“A growing number of respectable scientists are defecting from the evolutionist camp ... Moreover, for the most part these ‘experts’ have abandoned Darwinism, not on the basis of religious faith or biblical persuasions, but on strictly scientific grounds, and in some instances, regretfully” (Wolfgang Smith, quoted by Paul Taylor, Origins Answer Book, 1995, p. 107).
“Scientists at the forefront of inquiry have put the knife to classical Darwinism. They have not gone public with this news, but have kept it in their technical papers and inner counsels. Many second-rank evolutionists, on the other hand, continue to repeat that minor miracles ... were accomplished by natural selection working in a step-by-step manner; but the steps are never shown. They do this largely because they are compelled to say something—anything is better than admitting ignorance—and they don’t know what else to say” (William Fix, The Bone Peddlers: Selling Evolution, 1984, pp. 179-180).
As we look into the facts clearly pointing to a divine Creator, keep in mind that a revitalized belief in religion will seem to be very good at first in the global community. But as has happened so often in human history, the Bible shows that other forces will play into the story, and what should be a good thing will be used for something evil. Religious belief will be hijacked by a powerful church-state alliance centered in Europe and be steered horribly wrong.
Scripture emphatically shows us that a religious “return to God” will envelop our planet during the end time. Belief in atheistic evolution may no longer be as mainstream as it is now. A giant geopolitical machine will be given power by a global religion.
The book of Revelation refers to the principal partners in this coming power bloc as the Beast and the False Prophet. The events described in the second half of the book of Revelation are directly related to the past and future of two groups represented symbolically by two women who are diametric opposites.
The first, described in Revelation 12, represents those who have been God’s covenant people—the Church of God—both Old Testament and New Testament servants of Jesus Christ.
The second woman, also representing a church, is presented in Revelation 17 as a harlot. “And on her forehead a name was written: mystery, babylon the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth ... [She is] drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Revelation 17:5-6).
In the end time, this church’s influential relationships will reach into the highest political and social circles. As we’re told in Revelation 18: “The kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury ... Her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities” (Revelation 18:3, Revelation 18:5).
God calls this woman, this church—with her corrupt practices and entanglements in international affairs—Babylon the Great. She will set the cultural and religious standards for the end-time political-religious empire of the Beast.
And so, yes, there will be a religious revival and return to some kind of belief in God, but the religious and political system instituted and forced on the nations will use this understanding to advance their own positions and oppress the masses as in times past.
At the time of the end many ungodly and unbiblical concepts will be embraced broadly through the influence of Satan the devil. Rome, spiritual heir of ancient Babylon’s idolatrous traditions, will again emerge as the chief city over a greatly expanded revival of the ancient Roman Empire.
Citizens of many countries will embrace her approach toward personal and spiritual relationships. They will welcome her influence and power over them. She will boast, “I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow” (Revelation 18:7). God, however, labels her the mother of harlots and a city full of abominations.
Again, a revitalized belief in religion will seem to be very good at first, but it will become a tool for this powerful political and religious union (akin to Babylon), leading nations into horrible wrong.
To understand more about this revived religious system that will overtake society, download or request our free study guide The Book of Revelation Unveiled.
What does all this mean? And what is the ultimate solution to this coming mayhem? In the end, God truly will be back, and in the right way. It won’t be a return to a false religious system, but the return of Jesus Christ as King over all the earth. God will institute 1,000 years of peace and happiness, a period often referred to as the Millennium.
This is the ultimate return of God, when all will at last come to know the truth about life’s origins and even the astounding purpose behind it all!