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Even the simplest life is incredibly complex (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Even the simplest life is incredibly complex (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CB010.1:

Even the simplest, most primitive forms of life -- bacteria -- are incredibly complex, much too complex to have arisen by chance.


  • Sherwin, Frank. 2001. Just how simple are bacteria? Back to Genesis 146 (Feb.).

CreationWiki response:

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. There is no reason to think that the life around today is comparable in complexity to the earliest life.

Except for the fact that such simple life has never been observed. Science is based on observation, so such a claim is not scientific but 100% speculation. The fact remains that, on the basis of scientific observation, the claim is 100% correct.

Furthermore this simplest known form of life (Mycoplasma) can only survive as a parasite of more complex organisms. The implication is that it is unlikely that an organism simple enough to arise by chance or natural processes could survive without more complex organisms to feed off.

It follows that believing that life can be simple enough to have arisen by chance or natural processes amounts to faith in baseless speculation.

All of the simplest life would almost certainly be extinct by now, outcompeted by more complex forms.

This is nothing but an excuse for the lack of any evidence to support their baseless speculation. Since there are organisms that seem to remain unchanged for the greater part of the alleged evolutionary history, it seems unreasonable to claim that no examples of yet earlier organisms would have survived.

The burden of proof is on those who would have us believe that life can arise by natural processes; and the fact is that they have no evidence whatsoever, only baseless speculation and excuses.

2. Self-replicators can be incredibly simple, as simple as a strand of six DNA nucleotides. This is simple enough to form via prebiotic chemistry. (Sievers and von Kiedrowski 1994)

While this paper shows that a DNA strand of only six nucleotides can replicate, the fact is that it occurred under controlled laboratory conditions set up by intelligent scientists. Under natural conditions such a lone DNA strand would be very unlikely to be able to replicate before it disintegrated, even if it could have come into being in the first place.

Self-replication sets the stage for evolution to begin, whether or not you call the molecules "life."

This is a gross oversimplification. Life is more than strands of DNA. Even the simplest living cell has a vast array of complicated biochemical machinery without which DNA cannot even exist, let alone do anything. Getting DNA to replicate outside a cell only produces more DNA. So no matter how much Talk Origins’ hypothetical six-nucleotide DNA strand mutates, without that vast array of complicated biochemical machinery the DNA cannot do anything — including making the necesary vast array of complicated biochemical machinery.

3. Nobody claims the first life arose by chance.

However, in a naturalistic model, it does come down to chance — the chance the Big Bang produced the right type of universe, the chance of sufficient raw material being on a planet in the right orbit, the chance of getting the right molecules in sufficient concentrations for a sufficient number of trials, and so on.

Then there is the random nature of molecular motion, which means that there is chance involved in getting specific molecules together to form the next step before they break down.

The only way to eliminate chance is for life to have originated by means of an intelligent agent (God), which is the exact opposite of a naturalistic origin.

So whether acknowledged or not, a naturalistic origin of life ultimately requires chance, and the only real question is: Are the odds high enough for it to be statistically possible?

To jump from the fact that the origin is unknown to the conclusion that it could not have happened naturally is the argument from incredulity.

Creationists do not make such a jump. The conclusion that a naturalistic origin of life is not possible is based on scientific observation, not an argument from incredulity.

  1. Life has never been observed to come from non-life. Every known beginning of a new life has come from a living thing, therefore there is no observational evidence of abiogenesis.
  2. Thermodynamics shows what events can and cannot occur spontaneously. For example, when examined statistically, the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics shows things tend to increased disorder and not increased complexity. When considered objectively, Thermodynamics shows that life could not start from natural causes.
  3. Complex organized systems have only been observed to originate from intelligent agents. For example, natural forces cannot produce such relatively simple and disorganized (when compared to living cells) things as automobiles and space shuttles. As a result it is reasonable to conclude that life can only have originated by a Creator infinitely more intelligent then we are.

Far from being an argument from incredulity, the conclusion that life could not have originated by natural processes is based on sound scientific observation.