what’s with random origins of life?

Last updated on March 11th, 2024

Intro

Random origins refers to the concept that there really was no design in the formation of the world around us, no design in nature etc. In other words, imagine if everything we see, hear, feel, smell, touch, even ourself is the product of some random randomness in the cosmos. I guess the real issue is a question. Can you believe life on earth has some spontaneous random origins, without any intelligent design?

Take a moment to ponder that …..

Observe nature around you, the plants (from the tiniest fern to the largest tree). How many shades of green? How many incredibly beautiful flowers – colours, perfumes, pollen for honey? Consider the animals from the tiniest flea or even the ladybug in flight to the largest elephant. What about the human body? So much simple diversity yet so much intricate construction & functioning. Design or random origins?

fern - not from random origins
tree - from intelligent design
pink flowers - not from random origins
blue flowers - from intelligent design
ladybug - from intelligent design
elephant - not from random origins
baby - from intelligent design
adult - there must be intelligent design

Now consider the differences. Consider the abilities – Massive! And as for the human body, it is truly awesome – in its complexity, its intricacy, its capabilities. No intelligent design, just fully random outcomes from totally random origins? Really??

The Official Science – random origins

The official word from scientists who believe (have faith) in random origins says ….

On Earth life began at least 4 billion years ago and it has been evolving every year. In the beginning all living things on earth were single celled organism, after several years multicellular organism evolved and after that, diversity in life on earth increased day by day.”
(National Library of Medicine 2016)

Life on Earth arose about 4 billion years ago when the first cells formed within a primordial soup of complex, carbon-rich chemical compounds.
(SciTech Daily, Washington University 2019)

So then, living history is the story of a single cell, one day deciding to replicate itself by dividing into two identical cells (mitosis). Then, ‘after several years’, a few of these single cells decided to unite to form a multi-cell organism.

During the next few billion years of continued mitosis and unions of cells, some decided they would not split into identical replicates but rather reproduce by halving themselves and uniting two half cells (‘children’ cells) from different ‘parent’ cells (meiosis). Thus, gender just wondrously appeared. Eventually, it is proposed, after the plants, fish, reptiles, and birds formed, some 20,000 years ago, a human body formed.
DNA had amazingly appeared in cells. Whilst not knowing from where it came, scientists have observed and documented that …

Its duplicate copies have coded information coiled up in almost all of the 100,000,000,000,000 (one hundred trillion) cells in your body. In human DNA has 46 segments; 23 segments received from father and 23 from mother. Each DNA contains exclusive information that determines what you look like, your personality and how your body cell is to function throughout your life.
(National Library of Medicine 2016)

But wait! What is the origin of the single cell? From where did the single cell come?

Random Origins – Incredible

Even more challenging to the enquiring mind, we are expected to accept that a single cell randomly formed in a pool of inanimate atoms and molecules. Then it randomly ‘decided’ to replicate itself. Subsequent random events like cells joining together, some splitting in halves and two different halves amalgamating and more joining together. Voila! We have a human and a plethora of magnificent varieties of other forms of life. Almost too many to count. Moreover, the trillions of cells that unbelievably, randomly organised themselves into a human body, actually organised themselves into around 200 major groups of same types of cell which work together to perform a specialised task

For instance, red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. White blood cells kill germ invaders. Intestinal cells release molecules that help digest food. Nerve cells send chemical and electrical messages that produce thoughts and movement. And heart cells contract in unison to pump blood.”
(National Institute of General Medical Sciences 2020)

Even more ‘fanciful’, …..

Amidst the reports of current observations of cells, their structure, their grouping function, their replication/reproduction etc, I was amazed to read this step in the scientific explanation of life from random origins ……

Because cells originated in a sea of organic molecules, they were able to obtain food and energy directly from their environment
(National Library of Medicine 2000)

Although this almost “throw-away comment” may be true, it caused me to stop and reflect on my chemistry lessons at school and a year of chemistry in university. Of all the many weird and wonderful compounds and substances I observed and/or concocted, not one could conceivably become hungry, let alone launch a quest for food and energy!!! The thought of playing with any number of chemicals and ending up with life, a living organism, of any size … even a single cell, is …. well … simply preposterous. In fact, the scientific record states …..

How life originated and how the first cell came into being are matters of speculation, since these events cannot be reproduced in the laboratory” 
(National Library of Medicine 2000) [emphasis mine]

Speaking of  “speculation”, that reminds me, there is a rigorous process to the development of a scientific theory …..

Scientific Method – proof of random origins?

In the process of determining an answer to a question in the world of science there is a well formed protocol of five steps:-

  1. defining a question to investigate, usually inspired by observation of a phenomenon;
  2. making predictions of the answer based on their hypothesis (thought of a possible answer);
  3. gathering data as evidence to test the prediction;
  4. analyse the data looking for connections between important variables;
  5. draw conclusions based on whether or not their prediction came true

So, the second step is … 

Based on their research and observations, scientists will often come up with a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a possible answer to a question. It is based on: their own observations, existing theories, and information they gather from other sources. Scientists use their hypothesis to make a prediction, a testable statement that describes what they think the outcome of an investigation will be.
(American Museum of Natural History)

Thus a hypothesis is somewhat similar to a speculation, a thought of a possible answer to the question. However, this step of making a prediction from any hypothesis of the origin of life is problematic. It can’t be tested because life has already had its origins before our time. Moreover, life cannot be initiated – have an origin – be ‘created’ – in a laboratory to confirm or contradict any hypothesis/prediction

Hence, science can tell us about life, now – what living organisms are made of (cells), provide details of cells’ – variety in size, shape, function, etc. But regarding their origin? The scientific notion of random origins of life on Earth, can only be speculation….

The Formation of Cells

Even though cells cannot be made in a laboratory, organic molecules, major building blocks of the cell, have been manufactured in the chemistry laboratory. But, it is crucial to remember that being called organic molecules does not mean that they are living material. Science has retrofitted the label “organic” simply because the molecules can be observed inside organic (living) matter

It is proposed that once organic molecules were around, the next step in the preparation for life was the formation of macromolecules (called polymers). Individual molecules (called monomers) randomly decided to combine chemically (bond) to produce very large chainlike or network molecules (macromolecules).

Usually at least 100 monomer molecules must be combined to make a product that has certain unique physical properties—such as elasticity, tensile strength, or the ability to form fibres etc. These macromolecules are supposed to have led to the eventual formation of muscle tissue, tendons etc. But again I note, it is expected that one simply accepts these complex steps have totally random origins, that there is no intelligent design. Further, science declares …

But the critical characteristic of the macromolecule from which life evolved must have been the ability to replicate itself. Only a macromolecule capable of directing the synthesis of new copies of itself would have been capable of reproduction and further evolution
(National Library of Medicine 2000)

A Problem with Random Origins

Therefore, facing the problems of not believing there was/is intelligent design in the origins of life, science makes statements like this …..

To fully understand the processes occurring in present-day living cells, we need to consider how they arose in evolution. The most fundamental of all such problems is the expression of hereditary information, which today requires extraordinarily complex machinery …..

How did this machinery arise? One view is that an RNA world existed on Earth before modern cells arose. According to this hypothesis, RNA stored both genetic information and catalyzed the chemical reactions in primitive cells. Only later in evolutionary time did DNA take over as the genetic material and proteins become the major catalyst and structural component of cells. If this idea is correct, then the transition out of the RNA world was never complete; ….. RNA still catalyzes several fundamental reactions in modern-day cells, …..
(National Library of Medicine 2002)

Chemistry Becomes Biology??

Foremost, the fundamental problem is, how on Earth did these chemical substances start living?! How did chemistry become biology? Interestingly, the proposed random but essential life-injecting changes in the chemistry are smoothly rendered over. RNA came out of nowhere. After some immeasurable amount of time DNA appeared amongst the chemicals and replaced RNA as the genetic material. But only partially ‘took over’ from RNA as the catalyst of reactions in cells

By the way, much effort trying to devise an acceptable proposal for random origins of life – to explain the transition from chemistry to biology, resulted in the construction of a new term. From the Greek language [I suppose to make it sound official and impressively scientific] …..

abiogenesis (using “a” – ‘not’ + “bios” – ‘life’ + “genesis” – ‘origin’) and its meaning is: life has originated from non-living matter. However, already, due to results from a Louis Pasteur experiment (and surely due to some common sense), the online etymology dictionary records ..

now, the idea [of abiogenesis] is superseded by biogenesis, which asserts that living things can only be produced by another living thing, and not by a non-living thing. The modern hypothesis of abiogenesis is now restricted to the presumption that the relatively simpler, earliest forms of life arose from nonliving matter, such as organic compounds, and the process that eventually led to this transition was gradual, not a single event, and estimated to have taken place for over millions of years

Although this appears to be progress towards a solution it really just tries to disguise the problem of random origins of life as an (unknown) gradual event behind a veil of “millions of years”

The First Cell

The presumption is that the first cell appeared on the planet when a membrane composed of fatty acids and phosphate enclosed a self-replicating RNA molecule. It also ‘coerced’ various proteins “and associated molecules” to join the RNA molecule. This membrane also ‘kindly enveloped’ a semi-fluid substance of water, dissolved salts and ions to provide a suitable environment for the RNA, protein and the other molecules

What prompted such action? Why did a membrane form let alone wrap around a specific set of organic compounds to form a cell? Science journals ignore the ‘why’ and ‘how’. Ignore, in the sense of do not mention either. Not even a hypothesis.

In an article entitled, “First cells on ancient Earth may have emerged because building blocks of proteins stabilized membranes” [emphasis mine], observations from Washington University experiments reveal that …..

“….. certain amino acids bind to membranes and stabilize them. Some amino acids even triggered large structural changes in membranes, such as forming concentric spheres of membranes — much like layers of an onion
(University of Washington News, August 12, 2019)

So there are practical benefits from the formation of a membrane providing a barrier around the mix of compounds to form a cell but from where did it appear? And what prompted it to do so?

The ‘scientific’ explanation of life without design is deafeningly silent on those critical steps. A select group of chemicals “in a sea of molecules” gathered together and somehow ended up inside a closed environment of fluid enclosed by a membrane. Most amazingly, that inanimate form, a single cell, “took breath”, experienced hunger, required food/energy. “It’s alive!!!!”

But …..

Why did it have a need for food and energy?
How did a chemical product become alive at all?
How did chemical compounds, animals, obtain instincts, personalities?
From where did the capacity of thought and memory come? What about memory and creativity?
From where in the swamp of atoms and molecules did human emotions, conscience and sense of justice develop?

Reflection

Science has made outstanding progress in observing the micro detail of living organisms, their cellular structures, functioning etc. Consequently, understanding of how even the human body works, ails, heals etc has dramatically increased. So have advancements in so many areas of medicine – preventative and restorative

However, because all that we can observe is the reproduction or descendant of the original, “How life originated and how the first cell came into being are matters of speculation”. A schematic of the speculation – belief system compiled to explain random origins of life – looks like:

origin of life stages

Origin of life stages by Chiswick Chap, span the well-understood, habitable Earth to the prebiotic synthesis of simple molecules, to the formation of macromolecules (polymers) to the largely unknown, like the formation of cells and then of course, the derivation of the “last universal common ancestor” (LUCA) from which all life in all of its current diversity developed


Conclusion

So there is no actual theory of the origin of life. It’s a choice between two alternatives. Which do you personally find easier to believe? Did chemistry just do stuff on its own to create organic molecules, then polymers, then cells and then become biology? OR does life originate with awesome intelligent design – by a Creator God? Some might say both ideas are crazy. But one has to be true because here we are. Which one is easier to accept?

Having heard many somewhat pompous scientists scoff at the notion of intelligent design one can’t help but think ‘why is that such a stupid idea?’ After all everything in nature is undeniably awesome. Some authors have suggested that some scientists may just not want to admit that there is a higher being supremely more capable than they. They speak with such an air of authority as if it is obvious that everyone should adhere to their belief/speculation

The head of Physics at the university I attended comes to mind. He was less pompous and definitely a little eccentric. Anyhow, toward the close of a unit in astrophysics –the out there in the cosmos, the professor spoke about the ‘elephant in the room’ as he called it. He knew we all recognised the seemingly infinite amount of order and precision in the universe (the point of the study) so he said, “No one in their right mind could think that it all just happened”. Using a few expletives he said he didn’t think he knew who, what or how but he was sure that not even the cosmos had random origins, let alone life on Earth

Paul, in his letter to the church in Rome declared ….

“… the wickedness of humanity deliberately smothers the truth and keeps people from acknowledging the truth about God. In reality, the truth of God is known instinctively, for God has embedded this knowledge inside every human heart. Opposition to truth cannot be excused on the basis of ignorance, because from the creation of the world, the invisible qualities of God’s nature have been made visible, such as his eternal power and transcendence. He has made his wonderful attributes easily perceived, for seeing the visible makes us understand the invisible. So then, this leaves everyone without excuse.

Throughout human history the fingerprints of God were upon them, yet they refused to honour him as God or even be thankful for his kindness. Instead, they entertained corrupt and foolish thoughts about what God was like. This left them with nothing but misguided hearts, steeped in moral darkness. Although claiming to be wise, they were in fact shallow fools. …….. because they traded the truth of God for a lie. They worshiped and served the things God made rather than the God who made all things ….. (Romans 1:18b-25 TPT)

The NIV says that God has made it all plain for us to see. How? We only need step outside and observe:- the imposing mountains; the waves relentlessly breaking on the beach; the busy bees pollinating the plants; the spring flowers; a baby calf being born. Any of a myriad examples of life show us, without even looking to the Bible, or reasoning intellectually, that there is indeed a God who magnificently created life and the world we live in. 

Whatever you think of the origins of life, there certainly are so very many different facets to life and the amazing capacities of every living specimen. Including the non-physical like friendships, enjoyment, ……. So much for which we can all be thankful. See separate article on being thankful

… just sayin’

References

  • National Library of Medicine. (2016). Biology and evolution of life science. (PMCID: PMC4705322)
    (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4705322/)
  • SciTech Daily, James Urton, Washington University August 12, 2019
    (https://scitechdaily.com/researchers-solve-puzzle-of-origin-of-life-on-earth/)
  • National Institute of General Medical Sciences. (2020). Fact Sheet: Studying Cells
    (https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/fact-sheets/Pages/studying-cells.aspx)
  • National Library of Medicine. (2002). Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, et al. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 4th edition. New York: Garland Science; 2002. The RNA World and the Origins of Life. Available from:
    (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26876/)
  • University of Washington News, August 12, 2019
    (https://www.washington.edu/news/2019/08/12/protein-building-blocks-stabilize-membranes/)
  • American Museum of Natural History
    (https://www.amnh.org/explore/videos/the-scientific-process)
  • the online etymology dictionary: https://www.etymonline.com/word/abiogenesis
  • Image: ‘Origin of Life Stages’, By Chiswick Chap – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=117557658
  • TPT – The Passion Translation® is a registered trademark of Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc. Copyright © 2020 Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc.
  • Images: fern – Photo by Diana Parkhouse on Unsplash
                 trees – Photo by Studio Dekorasyon on Unsplash
                 pink flowers – Photo by Mariette Vibes on Unsplash
                 blue flowers – Photo by Ryunosuke Kikuno on Unsplash
                 ladybug – Photo by Sue Thomas on Unsplash
                 elephant – Photo by Zoë Reeve on Unsplash
                 baby – Photo by hessam nabavi on Unsplash
                 skater – Photo by Kitera Dent on Unsplash

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