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First cells couldn't come together by chance (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (First cells couldn't come together by chance (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 CB010.2:

The most primitive cells are too complex to have come together by chance. (See also Probability of abiogenesis.)


  • Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. 1985. Life--How Did It Get Here? Brooklyn, NY, pg. 44.
  • Morris, Henry M. 1985. Scientific Creationism. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, pp. 59-69.

CreationWiki response:

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. Biochemistry is not chance. It inevitably produces complex products. Amino acids and other complex molecules are even known to form in space.

While this is true, life is more than biochemistry. A living cell is a complex and organized arrangement of the most complex organic compounds known. Cells consist of many complex biochemical machines. The level of organization and complexity in a living cell is many orders of magnitude above that of organic compounds found in space.

In addition, living cells contain more than the information needed to reproduce the entire cell, or in multi-cellular creatures, the entire organism. They also contain the information to produce proteins, enzymes, and other compounds. Information theory shows that this information could not have originated by chance, since randomness destroys information. Neither can this information be simply a result of chemistry, or other natural laws, since DNA sequences can form any combination of nucleotides. This by itself shows abiogenesis to be impossible, proving that life is a result of an highly intelligent agent. Such an intelligent agent would, by definition, be God.

Furthermore those organic compounds found in interstellar space are relatively simple, consisting of sugars, ethanol, and only the simplest of amino acids. (Glycine - CH2NH2COOH)

More complex amino acids have been found in meteorites, but it is likely that these amino acids originally came from Earth. Bacteria are carried into space all the time on dust particles and according to at least one Flood model, most if not all meteors originated from the earth. That theory actually predicts such finds.

2. Nobody knows what the most primitive cells looked like. All the cells around today are the product of billions of years of evolution.

The point is that there is no evidence for such primitive cells. The fact that the simplest of living cells can only survive as parasites strongly argues against their having ever existed.

While Evolution theory does allow consideration of cells simpler than those alive today, that does not change the fact that there is no evidence for any such cells. As a result Talk Origins is engaging in baseless speculation.

The earliest self-replicator was likely very much simpler than anything alive today; self-replicating molecules need not be all that complex (Lee et al. 1996,

Life is more than self-replicating molecules. Living cells consist of an organized, complex arrangement of organized, complex biochemical machines. Without these biochemical machines, all the self-replicating molecules in the universe are dead end.

and protein-building systems can also be simple.

Some proteins can have simple building systems but not all of the proteins used by a cell do. Besides, protein synthesis is only part of the process. A cell detects what proteins it needs and then synthesises and folds them as needed. Furthermore the cell is able to transport proteins to where they are needed. This requires cellular machinery, whose organization and complexity go well beyond self-replicating molecules and basic protein synthesis.

This claim is an example of the argument from incredulity. Nobody denies that the origin of life is an extremely difficult problem. That it has not been solved, though, does not mean it is impossible.

Creationists do not claim that abiogenesis is impossible because the problem is unsolved, though the fact that it is unsolved is consistent with and supportive of the conclusion that it is impossible. What Creationists do claim is that abiogenesis is impossible because it runs contrary to both observation and established scientific laws such as those of Thermodynamics. Despite Talk Origins’ baseless claims, there is absolutely no evidence that organized complexity such as is found in living cells can arise by chance or natural processes, but plenty of evidence that it will break down and eventually disintegrate.

This repeated claim of an argument from incredulity is actually an example Straw Man, since it is based on a misrepresentation of what creationists say.

In fact, there has been much work in this area, leading to several possible origins for life on earth:

The fact that someone can invent a plausible sounding story does not make the event possible, nor does it negate the total lack of evidence for abiogenesis.

In fact one of the signs of a talented Science Fiction writer is the ability to make totally impossible events sound plausible.

  • Panspermia, which says life came from someplace other than earth. This theory, however, still does not answer how the first life arose.

As Talk Origins just admitted, this is not even a theory of abiogenesis. It only postulates that life got started somewhere else and got transplanted here. One could even postulate that life was created by God somewhere else and transplanted to Earth by Him. Panspermia theory really does not care if life’s origin is natural or supernatural. As a result, it only provides Evolutionists with an excuse for the total lack of evidence for abiogenesis.

  • Proteinoid microspheres : This theory gives a plausible account of how some replicating structures, which might well be called alive, could have arisen. Its main difficulty is explaining how modern cells arose from the microspheres.

Life is more than self replication. Without being able to explain the origin of what we all agree are living cells, this idea totally fails as a theory of abiogenesis. After all, explaining the origin of living cells is the entire point of abiogenesis theories.

  • Clay crystals: This says that the first replicators were crystals in clay. Though they do not have a metabolism or respond to the environment, these crystals carry information and reproduce. Again, there is no known mechanism for moving from clay to DNA.

Life is more than self replication. Since it has no way of getting clay to DNA, it cannot explain the origin of living cells; as a result this idea totally fails as a theory of abiogenesis. After all, explaining the origin of living cells is the entire point of abiogenesis theories.

Emerging hypercycles: This proposes a gradual origin of the first life, roughly in the following stages:

This model is indeed a vast improvement over the others; it at least tries to provide a process. Rather than the one gigantic chasm of the others, it has several smaller chasms. It shows at least an effort to bridge the gap.

That said, it still has many of the same problems as others including the sill impassable chasm to the simplest known living cells.

(1) a primordial soup of simple organic compounds. This seems to be almost inevitable;

Almost inevitable? That may be true once you actually have a planet with the right conditions, but based on known planetary systems, that’s hardly inevitable. However given the fact that the Earth does exist, this part is scientifically reasonable and probably would occur naturally on a planet with basically Earth-like conditions.

(2) nucleoproteins, somewhat like modern tRNA (de Duve 1995a) or peptide nucleic acid, and semicatalytic;

At this point they are still within the realm of possibility, but barely. These types of molecules are hard to form in the lab, which suggests that it is highly improbable that this step would occur.

(3) hypercycles, or pockets of primitive biochemical pathways that include some approximate self-replication;
(4) cellular hypercycles, in which more complex hypercycles are enclosed in a primitive membrane;

Hypercycles is a purely and rather simple mathematical model that seems to be lacking any detail. It seems to be entirely speculative, with no apparent real world basis.

(5) first simple cell.

Given the vagueness of steps 3 & 4 there is no real way to show they could lead to a living cell. Once again the burden of proof is on the side of those who claim that life can arise from natural causes, but the best they have are stories.

Complexity theory suggests that the self-organization is not improbable.

While there are situations where self-organization can occur they are always based on preexisting patterns. For example the degree of organization seen in molecules is based on the patterns of atomic bonding; however, even with carbon there are limits to the levels of self-organization outside living organisms. Furthermore, the larger and more complex molecules become the more unstable, and the structures of living cells are well beyond the degree of organization that can be explained by chemistry. Such levels of organized complexity are thus more than can come from natural causes.

This view of abiogenesis is the current front-runner.

Not much of an accomplishment given the poor quality of its naturalistic competition.

  • The iron-sulfur world: It has been found that all the steps for the conversion of carbon monoxide into peptides can occur at high temperature and pressure, catalyzed by iron and nickel sulfides. Such conditions exist around submarine hydrothermal vents. Iron sulfide precipitates could have served as precursors of cell walls as well as catalysts. A peptide cycle, from peptides to amino acids and back, is a prerequisite to metabolism, and such a cycle could have arisen in the iron-sulfur world.

This is still a long way from a living cell, and like all others it provides no origin for cellular machinery. All it does is provide a non-biological mechanism for one aspect of metabolism. It makes no effort to connect it with any other part of a living cell.

  • Polymerization on sheltered organophilic surfaces: The first self-replicating molecules may have formed within tiny indentations of silica-rich surfaces so that the surrounding rock was its first cell wall.

Life is more than self replication. Without being able to explain the origin of what we all agree are living cells, this idea totally fails as a theory of abiogenesis. After all, explaining the origin of living cells is the entire point of abiogenesis theories.

  • Something that no one has thought of yet.

Now here is the ultimate Evolutionist fall back position. This is less than nothing. What Talk Origins is saying here is that we must have faith that they will find the answer someday.