Experiments demonstrating de novo origins?

Hello! I am a new poster who is grappling with theistic evolution vs. ID. One of the main claims of ID is that the de novo emergence of novel entities is not possible through evolution alone.

Calling on the wisdom of the scientists here: are there any scientific papers demonstrating the in vitro emergence of a new structure or type of information through purely random processes and environmental selection that is not guided by the researcher?

I’ve found many papers like this (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4448608/) but I am hoping to find something that demonstrates the unguided creation of a functional nuclei acid sequence out of nucleotide and sugar building blocks, for example, rather than the gradual accumulation of mutations in an existing piece of genetic material. In other words, I am interested in origins rather than downstream evolutionary changes of an already-created class of molecules or structures.

I do not have a background in evolutionary biology, so I would very much appreciate anyone directing me to the seminal papers on this topic (or directing me to the appropriate resource) so I can avoid the confusion of trying to compare the countless individual studies I’m finding. Thanks very much for your help!


Sure… but what does that have to do with evolution. It is not a purely random process. Natural selection is not random, and with natural selection what this most resembles is an AI algorithm searching for a solution to a specified challenge (which uses random number generators as part of the process). We have certainly demonstrated that AI algorithms can generate super-human results (let alone “new structures and information”) teaching us new things we never thought of before. In the case of evolution the specified challenge is survival and thus it is more than reasonable that it finds new solutions to that challenge.

That purely random processes can generate anything is a mathematical fact, the problem is probability. But when you add a filter and make it a search algorithm which constantly zeroes in on improvements then the probabilities improve to near certainty.

For the rest of your questions, we shall see what the biologists here have to say.


What criteria will you be using to evaluate whether this goal has been achieved?

1 Like

By far, the greater part of evolution consists of changes within existing classes of molecules. Thus, novel traits can result from continuous selection of mutation and expression.

For instance, flight feathers are often presented as an example of novelty by ID, and qualify as new structures, but these do not require any new class of bio-molecule. When you look at an eagle’s beak, talons, and feathers, reptile scales, a supermodel’s complexion and hair, a horse’s hooves, and a whale’s baleen, these would appear to have nothing in common, but they are all largely composed of keratin. There is a tremendous range of morphological novelty that can be accommodated by variation in an existing class of molecule.

Radiation and Functional Diversification of Alpha Keratins during Early Vertebrate Evolution

G protein-coupled receptors are another example, which find applications throughout biology in roles from vision, smell, neural function, and cellular ion exchange.

Unconventional roles of opsins

The Origin of GPCRs: Identification of Mammalian like Rhodopsin, Adhesion, Glutamate and Frizzled GPCRs in Fungi

Evolution of opsins and phototransduction

Microbial rhodopsins are major contributors to the solar energy captured in the sea

While such molecular families can be useful in constructing phylogenies, their ultimate origins may go so far back into the primordial as to be unavoidably speculative, but positive conclusions cannot be drawn from the unknown.


But aren’t AI algorithms written by humans, even the unsupervised ones? So they require an intelligent input at the very start regardless.

I am in agreement with you that evolution clearly finds solutions to the challenge of survival for an existing organism. How did it result in the creation of the first cell, or the first nucleic acid? That’s what I’m trying to get at, though perhaps not with the perfect syntax!


Achieving the goal of creation? Or unguided creation? Creation of X will be determined by the researcher; whatever they are trying to make de novo. “Unguided” is a hazy word, but I am hoping that through reading a few key papers I will get a better idea of what this means (i.e. is it “unguided” if the researcher pre-selects necessary elements and conditions for a cocktail from which an RNA might emerge, and so on)

1 Like

Thank you very much for these resources! I will read them and reply with any further questions.

Well sure. I have no problem with that argument since I am a theist, an evolutionary creationist. So yeah I certainly think God set up the universe to give rise to life. I doubt if that argument will convince any atheists but I am the choir you are preaching to on that one.

The Miller-Urey experiment produced nucleic acids, so that is no problem. As for cells, I agree with those who think they are the product of prebiotic evolution and metabolism first theories.

Obviously there cannot be any direct evidence for that pre-biotic evolution – no fossils obviously. The best we can do is figure out how it could have happened. But let’s remember that is a completely separate question from evolution – that of abiogenesis. I think abiogenesis is correct, but evolution doesn’t depend on this at all.

I think the point is that the watchmaker god of Deism is wrong, because the science of the eighteenth century wasn’t quite accurate. And we have more than enough reason to go with the understanding of God in the Bible as a shepherd, whose involvement in events is more one of correction than design. Frankly I think that the only thing a designer can create is machines. Since I wasn’t raised Christian, the plain fact of the matter is that I only find Christianity believable BECAUSE of evolution. Without it I think the problem of evil and suffering make a belief in God unsupportable. The harsh reality of life in evolution is in total agreement with the harsh behavior of God in the Bible. Otherwise you have this bizarre hypocrisy of creationists and atheists each complaining that the other’s understanding of God or life is too cruel to be true.


I’ve read about some problem-solving robots where the initial algorithm was practically non-existent. It sounds like they’d be really fun to work with because they have been described as bumbling around like babies as they learn how to grasp objects, push them, carry them, working their way up to lining them up and even stacking them. As they discover new things they can do, they store these operations in their own code, not anything given to them. The fun part then is teaching them language with the goal being that they can connect the functions they devised with what humans call them.

I think the “algorithm” in that case is just an instruction to try out the various things the robot can do and see what it can achieve in/with its environment. I remember a video where one of these robots had only had box-shaped blocks and then the researchers introduced a sphere; watching the robot learn that while it’s possible to set a sphere on top of a block the reverse doesn’t work as well.

First nucleic isn’t hard, first cell is 'a whole ‘nother ball game’!


Would you mind expanding on this with a link to a research paper? I’d like to learn more about it; whether there is an experiment that can show the generation of such a cell or whether it’s just a theory. As it’s been explained to me, prebiotic evolution is just a theory positing the gradual development of a cell from its material components, but would it be correct to say there is not experimental data to back this up (whether it is thought “feasible” to obtain this or not)?

I cobbled together our exchange so far for ease of future reference.

You called on the wisdom of scientists here for papers that demonstrate the in vitro emergence of a new structure or type of information through purely random processes…

I seek to close a loophole is all.

Before folks go to a lot of effort to seek to satisfy your request, I am asking you to lay out what will satisfy your request.

If you have no actual criteria laid out that will satisfy your request, then it’s a moving target, which appears here often.

If your request is simply an attempt to “stump the chumps” then it requires an entirely different approach from information gathering.

Form and function: the algorithm built into the universe is the forms of the elements themselves. That is such a supremely elegant way to do things it blows me away – it seems more powerful than the way that mathematics seems to fit everything that happens or can happen.

Ah, but they can be elegant machines! The basic particles of the universe are in essence machines that function according to their form, which results in more complex machines which in turn produce yet more complex machines. A star is a very simple machine which – if it’s the right sort – ends its life in producing more basic components that can build yet more complex machines – elements – which eventually result in the machines we call “life”. And at the bottom of life are the same machines as in stars: electrons, neutrons, protons.

Carbon is the most critical machine when it comes to life, and it is amazingly critical; if the forces and operations that result in the production of carbon in stars were different by as little as one part in something like ten million, carbon wouldn’t form – and no carbon, no life.

The way the universe works strikes me as the opposite of those machines that people build which when started up proceed to destroy themselves; the machines we call atomic particles are machines that when “started up” proceed to build ever more complex machines.

John Polkinghorne makes that point rather eloquently.

As I explained above, I think the most you can hope for is showing a possible process by which things could happen. The only evidence would be to show that movement from one step of the process to the next can happen. This is where work of science on abiogenesis is at the moment, working out the details of how these developments. For example, one hot topic I have seen recently is cell membranes and how these could have played a role in holding and harnessing energy in the earliest organisms.

You should show us where and how. Do you have a reference or a quote on this?

This opens a can of worms…will be interesting to see where this leads.

I do not offer anything more than an alternative theological view on this topic. I do that because if you are here and not in some other secular forum, then clearly the idea of God being the ultimate answer to the epistomological questions we all face (where did i come from? being point and example) is important.

I am going to simply put foward a theological position…one that its unlikely anyone else will even entertain mentioning on this forum (because its anti evolutionary…particularly in this regard).

Genesis 1: 26 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

Genesis 2: 7 Then the Lord God formed a man[c] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Moses record of the answer to the epistomological question of “where did we come from” tells of a creator who personally formed us and bent down close, physcially breathing the breath of life into the first humans nostrils. It is only after this act that Adam became a living soul. Prior to that, he was nothing more than a corpse (albeit at the beginning of life instead of after the end of life)

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born,
** to us a son is given,**
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
** Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,**
** Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace**.

A prophecy fulfiled by the angel talking with Joseph as he was planning on divorcing Mary because she was pregnant outside of marriage…

Matthew 1:21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[a] because he will save his people from their sins.”

Then consider Acts 1:10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

The focus of Christians should not be proving our existence, the bible already has the answers to that question. We have thousands of years of recorded history contained within its pages…one will never find God through scientific experimentation. I think of the experience of the prophet Elijah at this point (when he ran frfom Jezabel to the mountains and eventually travelling a further 40 days and nights to Mount Sinai and spending a night in a cave. Whilst in the cave God came to him and its really interesting what happens:

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.

After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.

12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

The point is, Elijah goes out to the mouth of the cave as soon as he hears the still small voice. It is not the granduer of the roaring of the elements where we find God, sure these are a demonstration of His power, but that is not the person who wishes to engage with us. God is the being that bent down close to Adam and physically breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, the being who came and lived among his creation as a man and then died for our sins, the being who will bear the scars of dying for us for all enternity, the being who is recorded historically in ALL the pages of the bible.

It is really unfortunate that individuals go looking for God (a spiritual being we cannot see) via scientific experiements. You will not find God in the argument Intelligent Design vs secular naturalism. What i bet you will get in answer to your question here, is an earbashing about how ID proponents such as Dr Stephen Myer and Micahel Behee are pseudo scientists, or that they are leading people away from Christianity. The Gallop Poll survey results i have recently posted prove that Christians do not lose their faith because of a conflict between science and the bible…its because of unbelief in the gospel:

that a magical appearance of a child without a human father, can die on a cross, and save us from sin, then return again in the clouds of heaven, raise the dead who are saved from the grave and along with the living, all return to heaven.

The above is why people lose their faith…its a pigs fly belief of being raised from the deade by an historical indvidual who died 2 thousand years ago coming in the clouds of heaven, of that there is little doubt. We must have faith to believe the above against all evidences to the contrary.

Sorry that my first response isnt scientific…im not here to promote science as that can be done on other forums where God isnt the focus of the forum founders.

the reason why you face that dilemma is because you refuse to accept the fact that death and suffering are a direct result of sin!!!

This is exactly where the heresy starts…essentially there is no devil/satan, there was not real temptation, Adam and Eve probably did not really exist, Moses and the exodus are not provable scientifically as there is almost zero evidence for it…your bible story is nothing more than an alternative Socratean statement of morality.

Given the above problems you face with the old testament, id love to know how you scientifically prove Christ and the gospel? Even I, as a YEC, tend to agree with the claim by Christopher Hitchins that we do not need God for an explanation of morality…wihtin the bounds of the alternative Socratean Statement of Moraility, its quite possible we evolved this too just via trial and error according to the tendency in nature towards balance!

oh just in case anyone wonders…

Socrates …considered the destruction of beliefs that could not stand up to criticism as a necessary preliminary to the search for true knowledge

In the usual sense of ‘evolution’ in biology, it didn’t. Those developments precede the process of evolution, which is about genetic changes in populations of living organisms. Are you interested only in the origin of life or in the origin of novelty within evolution?


I’d like to see that too… did you see this one from Polkinghorne… very curious to see how it fits with Noble’s view of biological relativism, which touches unexpectedly on a flat earth :wink:

With one exception that genuinely is not significant for the present discussion, the fundamental laws of physics are reversible. To see what this means, suppose, contrary to Heisenberg, that one could make a film of two electrons interacting. That film would make equal sense if it were run forwards or backwards. In other words, in the microworld, there is no intrinsic arrow of time, distinguishing the future from the past.

1 Like

Yeah, I knew that when I posted, but Know wanted out . . . . gotta keep the pup happy!
BTW, he’s 26 months old as of yesterday.

Actually I think he made this point in the video of him in one of our current threads.

And I just spent fifteen minutes trying to find it with no luck.


1 Like

No it doesn’t – it has hundreds of pages of theology that uses references to things historical, mythologized historical, and various literary genres that vanished somewhere between the building of the second Temple and the conquests of Alexander the Great.

That was a silly statement the first time I saw you make it on here and it remains a silly statement. It’s the sort of thing that no one is saying yet you throw it out like it means something.

An that version of it is just as silly, along with being deceptive since the only one here who ever makes such statements is you. The only people I’ve ever met who said any such thing were atheists.

Keep believing that if it makes you happy, but in the thread where you presented that the claim was refuted. As someone else noted recently, YECers have a habit of responding to refutations of their material by stopping a moment then saying the very same things.

Oh – and you just repeated the pointless statement that unbelief causes unbelief. Besides being an unhelpful tautology, it is a great way to ignore the fact that people don’t just suddenly stop believing, there are reasons they do so.

Never happened, unless you think that perhaps the Beast of John’s Apocalypse is around already. Magic is a practice of rituals and ceremonies that compel deities and demons to do the bidding of the (foolish) mortal performing the ceremonies or rituals.


Every time you use a YEC argument you’re promoting science: it’s the YEC idea that the Bible teaches science that mixes science and religion; the people here who actually know science find the idea silly.