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  Origin of Life Studies


Christian Response

Pioneering evangelical John Wesley (1704-1791) called the Count De Buffon's advocacy of spontaneous generation "utterly inconsistent with reason and scripture" in a review of Buffon's Natural History (1782). Few of his spiritual descendents would disagree. However, Buffon's collaborator the Rev. John Needham, an English cleric had carried out the "definitive experiment" (1745) which demonstrated spontaneous generation.

Later, Methodist clergyman/microbiologist William H. Dallinger raised a few eyebrows when he endorsed T. H. Huxley's famous line from his 1870 BAAS Presidential Address:

If it were given to me to look beyond the abyss of geological recorded time to the still more remote period when the earth was passing physical and chemical conditions which it can no more see again...I should see the evolution of living protoplasm from not living matter.

The general demise of the case for spontaneous generation in the last decades of the 19th century left a vacuum in any "real world" evolutionary scheme until the era of the classical experiment of Stanley Miller and the burst of interest in the field in the 1960s and 70s - now in the 00s. To that point there was no need for opponents of evolution to include the origin of life in their battle cry. 

In recent years there has been much opposition to a naturalistic origin to life from Christian sources.  At one level science pundits renounce, out of hand, such considerations as creationist nonsense. Others such as Stuart Kauffman respect their "moral anguish" and talk of "reinvent(ing) the sacred in our secular world." There is some willingness to deal with some of the objections raised by Christian especially when the issue concerns science. The www, listserves, and news groups  provide a never ending volume of discourse - some polished, some polemical, some passionate, some demeaning, some humorous, some accurate, and some distortions of fact. Sorting out the wheat from the chaff is difficult for anyone. However, a willingness to look on both sides of a disputed point is the start to learning. 


Over the past five decades, the pages of the ASA Journal contain little on the origin of life in contrast to the flood of discussion on evolution. David Wilcox's Of  Messages and Molecules (1989) argues "that the more completely we understand biochemistry, the more unlikely it seems that such chemistry represents the 'essence' of life." Jerry Albert's earlier (1977) A Biochemical View of Life" stresses  unity and continuity in a biochemical view of life.

Negative response

Increasing interest and publicity related to Origin of Life research has resulted in many negative Christian responses in print form and on the web.  We offer links to several web sites

Debated Issues

   1. The probability argument. Impossibly low state some.   Not so say their opponents.

    2. The Thermodynamic argument. Ken Stuckus offers a challenge to those who would use entropy as a debating weapon.   



It is safe to say that the origin of life discussion will continue without pause on both the experimental and metaphysical side. Fueled by NASA and other funding, research groups will continue to pursue a diversity of approaches. A variety of Evangelical 'think tanks' counter their speculations on scientific and philosophical, as well as Biblical grounds..