How does life arise from dead materials with no intelligent help?



Please explain how life on earth can arise from dead materials all by itself with no outside intelligent help?

I’d be very interested in your answer since I’ve scoured the Biologos website and have not been able to find a definitive answer to this question.
Yes, it’s a bit off-topic but since you’re also brining in all kinds of other stuff I thought I might as well join in.

Light Matters: Does the Big Bang Have a Big Problem?
Light Matters: Does the Big Bang Have a Big Problem?
(James McKay) #2

Hi Prode,

Personally, I don’t actually believe that life on earth arose all by itself with no outside intelligent help. Abiogenesis is not a solved problem, and I do believe that God was involved one way or another. But that doesn’t take us back to six thousand years.

I’d suggest that if you want to discuss abiogenesis any further, it would be better to do so in a separate thread, as it is getting off-topic.

I’m well aware that YECs claim that omphalos has long been discarded in theory. However, the fact remains that many of their hypotheses (accelerated nuclear decay, hyper-evolution, catastrophic plate tectonics, everything to do with distant starlight) are directly equivalent to omphalos in practice. Basically, what that means is:

  1. The most obvious, simplest interpretation of the evidence indicates that the earth is far, far older than six thousand years. (Occam’s Razor)
  2. The proposed hypotheses attempt to provide a basis on which the evidence could be reinterpreted to fit it into six thousand years.
  3. Said proposed hypotheses are far, far more complex than the most obvious, simple explanation offered by mainstream scientists. They typically involve radical new laws of physics for which the only evidence provided is extremely slender at best, and which raise even more problems (e.g. the heat problem from accelerated nuclear decay) which then require additional layers of radical new physics to solve the problem, which then introduce other problems of their own, until eventually their proponents just throw their hands up in the air and say that God must have done it miraculously.
  4. Most importantly: the only practical end result of the proposed miracles is to make the earth look older than it really is.

When I read about miracles in the Bible, they all have a very specific purpose: communication – God attempting to get people’s attention. Generally, the more spectacular the miracle, the more important the message. In fact, the Bible refers to them as “signs.” For God to be going to extreme lengths to make the earth look older than it really is – the complete antithesis of the concept of “signs” – sounds a bit out of character to me.

(Phil) #3

What interested me about your post is that I have been reading N. T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope, and he discusses the resurrection at length, which of course is central to Christianity, and is life from dead materials. It is, in a way, a new creation foreshadowed by the first creation.

(James McKay) #5

It seems these articles are arguing for a mature creation for functional reasons. I could live with that. My complaint isn’t against a young earth per se, but with claims that it’s supported by scientific evidence when it isn’t. That is lying, after all.

Having said that, however, a lot of evidence for a mature creation is most definitely non-functional. For example, you wouldn’t expect a mature but functional creation to give you consistent indications of the earth’s age or the timing of events in it. The fact that radiometric evidence places tight constraints (within 1% or better) on the ages of many events simply doesn’t make sense in that model.


Well one should note the difference between the claims made by evolutionists and the resurrection:
The evolutionists claim that life arose from dead stuff all by itself [presumably over a lonnnnngggg period of time] with no outside help whatsoever, i.e. via only random chemical and physical natural processes.
The resurrection will occur instantly from dead materials but WITH GODs COMMAND, i.e. direct intelligent and powerful outside interference.
This is why I asked the question.


I have asked you this before but have not been able to review your answer so I’ll ask it again:

The RATE research measured parent and daughter product remnants that indicates an equivalent of billions of years radioactive decay had occurred.
Also within the same measurement set it was found that only enough helium atoms had escaped from the zircon crystals equivalent to roughly 6000 years worth of leakage. The rest of the helium remained in the crystals.

Now the question arises - given that the measurements are consistent [ AND confirmed by a completely independent set of measurements by evolutionists involving argon atoms ] - what meaning/explanation do YOU offer for the results?

I’d like to hear YOUR interpretation of those measurements instead of your consistent hammering of their interpretation. What do YOU make of it?


Perhaps one should review the claims made by evolutionary “theory”:
If the organism was not created mature how did replication arise all by itself?
Or put it another way - how would it have been possible to have procreation of the human species if there wasn’t a mature and fully functional set of sex organs and womb [and requisite supplementary equipment] available?
If it was inherited from some previous ancestor, just where in the line of ancestors did this fully complementary set of systems arise - all by itself with no outside design and error correction and repair built in? AND how did the species survive without replication before that?
To put that into perspective - replication is one of the most complex operations ANY manufacturing system could ever attain to. So far human efforts at creating such an autonomous self-replicating factory either does not exist ( I certainly am not aware of any ) or else is dismally insufficient. What this means is that such incredible complexity would have had to exist within the first life form or else it would not survive. Where did this knowledge/information [an abstract entity] come from given a purely materialistic origin?

Unless one can demonstrate how such a miraculous self-creating complex entity could have arisen by itself, one is forced to conclude that the maturely created life-forms (for functional reasons as you say) is the ONLY viable option.

You as a software engineer [please correct me if I’m mistaken] should know this.

(Jon) #9

About that RATE thing.

(Casper Hesp) #10

Hi Prode,
I think you’re shifting the burden of proof here. If we would reject all things that can’t be explicitly demonstrated, not much would remain of human knowledge and life in general. To appreciate the strength of evolutionary theory, we don’t need to show that the emergence of life from dead materials is probable. See what I wrote in my article on the Big Bang:

[Evolutionary theory] is a powerful explanatory tool for understanding how present-day species emerged from past populations. It already integrates the findings of diverse fields such as paleontology and genetics in an elegant manner. The scientific merit of evolutionary theory is derived from its ability to do exactly that. It does not hinge on theories concerning the development of the first life-form (abiogenesis), which is still largely beyond the reach of empirical research.

Hope that cleared up some things. However, people are curious so we still want to know more about the possibility of abiogenesis. Suppose one would be able to demonstrate exactly that, that a complex self-replicating system can arise by itself. Would that take away from God’s glory in any way, in your opinion? I myself don’t believe so, because God provides the circumstances under which the system can arise. He is still the one who deserves all the praise.

Fun fact. A team of chemists at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands has actually achieved something like that! They have produced circumstances in their laboratory under which self-replicating molecules can arise. These molecules provide an interesting model for understanding the evolution of life from “dead materials”. See this abstract: “Diversification of self-replicating molecules.” Once you have the replication in order, the system can, in principle, grow towards higher levels of complexity.

Finally, a side question. What do you think about common descent? Would you be content with a picture in which the first self-replicating cell was produced miraculously in an instant and then gave rise to all other life forms through evolution? I think this picture wouldn’t fare well with you either, so I’m curious to hear your thoughts.


(James McKay) #11

Hi Prode,

I don’t know if you realise this, but “consistent hammering of their interpretation” is standard practice in science for any novel hypothesis, especially one that introduces radical new physics. It was true for cold nuclear fusion; it was true for superluminal neutrinos; it was true for quantum mechanics; it was true for special and general relativity; it’s true for string theory and the Higgs boson. It serves a very important purpose of eliminating mistakes that would invalidate the conclusions being drawn. Do you have any reason why accelerated nuclear decay – a proposal that would qualify for a Nobel Prize if it were to be shown to have any merit – should be exempt from this vital aspect of the scientific method?

The RATE team’s study of helium diffusion in zircons has been scrutinised in depth by Gary Loechelt and Kevin Henke, who have catalogued numerous errors, some of them elementary. It confuses two dimensions with three dimensions. It confuses natural logarithms with base 10 logarithms. It uses an unrealistic diffusion model. It makes assumptions about the thermal history of the samples that are demonstrably incorrect. It misidentifies the rock samples and reports that they were processed in ways that seriously compromised the integrity of the results (crushing rather than cutting).

There have actually been a whole lot of other studies of helium diffusion in zircons by other scientists over the past decade or so, and unfortunately they don’t confirm the RATE team’s findings. For example, RATE treated the diffusion as isotropic, making a hand-waving and unsubstantiated claim that the anisotropic nature of zircons would only make a difference of “a factor of two or so.” By contrast, Reich et al (2007) have shown that the diffusion rates can vary by as much as five orders of magnitude between the different dimensions, and made this recommendation:

Furthermore, care should be taken when making geologic interpretations (e.g., exhumation rates, timing of cooling, etc.) from this thermochronometer until the effects of anisotropic diffusion on bulk ages and closure temperature estimates are better quantified.

In short, the observations are neither consistent nor confirmed by “evolutionists” as you claim. The most favourable thing I can say about RATE’s study of helium diffusion in zircons is that it falls far, far short of making a case for accelerated nuclear decay or otherwise calling into question the integrity of conventional radiometric dating. As I said elsewhere, you do not overturn well established and extensively tested laws of physics on the basis of demonstrably flawed studies of poorly understood subjects by a single team working with a predefined agenda.

(Christy Hemphill) #12

Sexual reproduction evolved very far back in the history of evolution, with a common ancestor of animals and plants.


Instead of asking “How does life arise from dead materials?” it would be better to ask “How did life arise from non-life?”

(James McKay) #14

I’m sorry, Prode, but that is a non-sequitur.

First of all, uncertainty about how something happens does not imply uncertainty whether something happens. We don’t know everything about how tornadoes form, for example, but nobody denies that they do.

Secondly, abiogenesis, common descent, and the age of the earth, are all separate issues. Disproving abiogenesis does not disprove common descent, and disproving common descent does not disprove an ancient earth.

The idea that there are only two options – an atheistic, undirected abiogenesis or a recent, 6/24 creation 6,000 years ago – is a false dichotomy and complete nonsense. I think you’ll find that the majority of us on this forum do not adhere to either position for starters.

You can call me that if you like, though for various reasons I personally prefer the term software developer. My university degree is actually in physics.


Right, I get you. You are basically dismissing the research and therefore it doesn’t count in the big scheme of things.
Your choice.


Perhaps, but surely the meaning is the same? That which is dead does not have life in it, yes?
What distinction do you see between your words and mine?


Actually if it can be shown that certain sub-elements or events cannot happen then we can be very certain that there is no way for the super thing to occur either. This eliminates your uncertainty either way.

You say that abiogenesis and common descent are separate issues. I do not see it that way. Firstly in order for you to have common descent you first need to have a living entity. The evolutionist is painted into a corner here.
If you do not know in what shape or form the first life arrived, you cannot make the undisputed claim that life then proceeded to multiply according to the descending scheme. But, be that as it may, if you assume a first life then it necessarily has to have replication built in. But more importantly you now are left with the requirement that new functionality has to be constructed, tested and integrated into an existing life form in order to advance to the next step.
Again, here you have to assume certain abilities or limitations in the genetic make up of that first life - and you just do not know. How scientific is that?

So my point regarding the separation of abiogenesis and darwinian evolution is this - they are both reliant on random physical processes that have to generate information or knowledge which is an abstract entity. How is that going to happen? I therefore make this statement - Darwinian evolution is true if and only if abiogenesis is true.

One can visualize the requirements placed on these supposed random processes by simply viewing the rather splendid videos of un-imploding a building here and here

Basically this is what people are requiring from those random processes - the equivalent of buildings arising from the storm of dust and debris into fully functional units - all by themselves. Just think about what the end result represents - think of all the conceptualization, planning, aquisition of materials, building ( where does the knowledge and means of the arrangement of physical elements come from) and finally commisioning of the systems within and outside of those buildings. That last bit also includes the integration of the infrastructure with the surrounding environment, plus the start of and continuation of the management of the building.
Now that lone building would represent the equivalent of new Darwinian functionality for an organism.

For the equivalent representation of abiogenesis, one would have to envision the whole town or city arising from a huge dust storm and debris all on its own because that is just how complex even the most simple self-reliant single cellular organism is. There cannot be anything simpler or else it will be a dependent parasite or just dead.

I’ve used these videos and those buildings as the analogies for what people are really asking of Darwinian evolution and abiogenesis because it can be quite difficult to see the bigger picture if you’re buried under a whole lot of red herring details.

Those videos should also spell out the absurdity of what is required - clearly buildings cannot arise from a random physical storm and heaps of rubble into a fully functional unit all by itself, yet this is precisely what evolutionist want people to believe!

I know that there’ll be all kinds of reasoned and logical sounding responses to this posting. The fact will remain though that whoever believes in abiogenesis and Darwinian evolution wants the world to believe that buildings and cities can arise out of tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and other random physical processes all by themselves, i.e. purely random physical /chemical processes can create, store, retrieve, decode, use and maintain information - which is an abstract entity - all by itself.

To spell it out for clarity sake - the information regarding the materials and their composition that are required e.g. cement, water, gravel, steel, how much, what quality, what sizes, what strength, what shape, what durability, the timing of the arrival of that material, when it’s to be inserted and how and with what tools and for how long etc. The information regarding the use of that functional unit - how does it get integrated with existing items, how is it activated and the functionality utilized for the benefit of the existing infrastructure. How is it decommissioned if need be. Etc.Etc.

It should be clear that what happens in the cell and the body far exceeds the simplistic organisations humans have put together - and those took a great deal of conceptualization and planning to achieve. So it is simply a task to far to ask of random processes to create what goes on in the cell and body. If you disagree - well then the building and city builds itself out of the dust storm. Your choice.


No, if something is dead it was once alive.

(James McKay) #19


When a research paper–any research paper–“corrects typos” in another researcher’s data, without providing strong evidence that such corrections are warranted, “basically dismissing the research” is the only appropriate response.

When it fails to distinguish between natural and base 10 logarithms correctly, again, “basically dismissing the research” is the only appropriate response.

When it disregards pressure or anisotropy, blindly assuming that these effects will be small, and when other research exists clearly showing that they will not, “basically dismissing the research” is, again, the only appropriate response.

When it refers to the biotite shells as spherical on page 46 and as “disk-like (not spherical)” on page 48, “basically dismissing the research” is, again, the only appropriate response.

And I could go on.

It’s as simple as this. The scientific method has rules, and one of these rules is Thou Shalt Not Take Shortcuts. If the RATE team aren’t prepared to play by the rules of science, they have no basis on which to claim the support of science. They need to go through all the objections systematically, and for each and every one of them, either (a) fix the problem, (b) re-do any experiments whose results are ambiguous or unclear or whose original lab notes are unavailable, or © provide a rigorous mathematical justification as to why they should be considered inconsequential.

“Your choice” doesn’t enter into it.


So you are saying that the gravel or tiles or pavement you walk on was once alive?
But I get what you are trying to say even if it is obscured by the meaning you are attaching to it.


Dear Christy,
This statement is basically fact-free. There is no supporting evidence that this happened in the past. The only indication that such an evolutionary development occurred is on cladograms and wishful thinking because it’s simply impossible.
Furthermore, it contradicts what Jesus himself said regarding the genders. In Mark 10:6 “However, from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.”
This of course follows on from Genesis 1:27 “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
And Genesis 5:2 “He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created”.
So the bible clearly disagrees with the evolutionary paradigm with regards to the origin of gender.
“In the beginning” can surely not be millions or billions of years after the creation of the heavens and the earth – that just wouldn’t compute from how we understand “beginning”.
Of course, one might say that Jesus was uninformed and didn’t know what he was talking about, hence one might excuse his ignorance. Except that Jesus is the Word and in the beginning He was with God and in fact is also God. So the question is who are you going to believe? The scientists who are making fact-free statements thousands of years after the fact or Jesus who was right there at the beginning of time?