How God Reveals Himself Through Science: Chemical Evolution Did Not Create Life

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This feels futuristic, but it is a deeply old-fashioned idea. Still, after scientists had legitimate reasons to look for a deity-free explanation for how the first life formed. But they did not. It seems like an obvious subject to explore, but in fact the mystery of life's origin was ignored for decades. Perhaps everyone was still too emotionally attached to vitalism to take the next step. View image of Charles Darwin showed that all life has evolved from a simple common ancestor.

Instead, the big biological breakthrough of the 19th Century was the theory of evolution , as developed by Charles Darwin and others. Darwin's theory, set out in On the Origin of Species in , explained how the vast diversity of life could all have arisen from a single common ancestor. Instead of each of the different species being created individually by God, they were all descended from a primordial organism that lived millions of years ago: This idea proved immensely controversial, again because it contradicted the Bible.

Darwin and his ideas came under ferocious attack, particularly from outraged Christians. View image of Darwin wondered if life began in a "warm little pond" Credit: Darwin knew that it was a profound question, but — perhaps wary of starting yet another fight with the Church — he only seems to have discussed the issue in a letter written in His excitable language reveals that he knew the deep significance of the question:. In other words, what if there was once a small body of water, filled with simple organic compounds and bathed in sunlight.

Some of those compounds might combine to form a life-like substance such as a protein, which could then start evolving and becoming more complex. This idea emerged from an unexpected place. You might think that this daring piece of free thinking would have been developed in a democratic country with a tradition of free speech: But in fact the first hypothesis for the origin of life was invented in a savagely totalitarian country, where free thinking was stamped out: In Stalin's Russia, everything was under the control of the state.

That included people's ideas, even on subjects — like biology — that seem unrelated to Communist politics. Most famously, Stalin effectively banned scientists from studying conventional genetics. Instead he imposed the ideas of a farm worker named Trofim Lysenko , which he thought were more in line with Communist ideology. Scientists working on genetics were forced to publicly support Lysenko's ideas, or risk ending up in a labour camp. It was in this repressive environment that Alexander Oparin carried out his research into biochemistry.

He was able to keep working because he was a loyal Communist: In , Oparin published his book The Origin of Life. In it he set out a vision for the birth of life that was startlingly similar to Darwin's warm little pond. View image of Oceans formed once Earth had cooled down Credit: Oparin imagined what Earth was like when it was newly formed. The surface was searingly hot, as rocks from space plunged down onto it and impacted. It was a mess of semi-molten rocks, containing a huge range of chemicals — including many based on carbon. Eventually the Earth cooled enough for water vapour to condense into liquid water, and the first rain fell.

Before long Earth had oceans, which were hot and rich in carbon-based chemicals. Now two things could happen. First, the various chemicals could react with each other to form lots of new compounds, some of which would be more complex. Oparin supposed that the molecules central to life, like sugars and amino acids, could all have formed in Earth's waters. Second, some of the chemicals began to form microscopic structures. Many organic chemicals do not dissolve in water: But when some of these chemicals contact water they form spherical globules called "coacervates", which can be up to 0.

If you watch coacervates under a microscope, they behave unnervingly like living cells.

They grow and change shape, and sometimes divide into two. They can also take in chemicals from the surrounding water, so life-like chemicals can become concentrated inside them. Oparin proposed that coacervates were the ancestors of modern cells. The idea that living organisms formed by purely chemical means, without a god or even a "life force", was radical. Five years later in , the English biologist J. Haldane independently proposed some very similar ideas in a short article published in the Rationalist Annual.

Haldane had already made enormous contributions to evolutionary theory, helping to integrate Darwin's ideas with the emerging science of genetics. He was also a larger-than-life character. On one occasion, he suffered a perforated eardrum thanks to some experiments with decompression chambers, but later wrote that: Just like Oparin, Haldane outlined how organic chemicals could build up in water, "[until] the primitive oceans reached the consistency of hot dilute soup". This set the stage for "the first living or half-living things" to form, and for each one to become enclosed in "an oily film".

View image of The English geneticist J. It is telling that of all the biologists in the world, it was Oparin and Haldane who proposed this. Like Darwin's theory of evolution before it, it flew in the face of Christianity. That suited the USSR just fine. The Soviet regime was officially atheist, and its leaders were eager to support materialistic explanations for profound phenomena like life.

Haldane was also an atheist, and a devoted communist to boot. In the western world, if you look for people who were thinking in this direction, they all were lefties, communists and so on. The idea that life formed in a primordial soup of organic chemicals became known as the Oparin-Haldane hypothesis. It was neat and compelling, but there was one problem.

There was no experimental evidence to back it up. This would not arrive for almost a quarter of a century. View image of Credit: By the time Harold Urey became interested in the origin of life, he had already won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and helped to build the atomic bomb. During World War Two Urey worked on the Manhattan Project, collecting the unstable uranium needed for the bomb's core.

1. Introduction

After the war he fought to keep nuclear technology in civilian control. He also became interested in the chemistry of outer space, particularly what went on when the Solar System was first forming. One day he gave a lecture and pointed out that there was probably no oxygen in Earth's atmosphere when it first formed. This would have offered the ideal conditions for Oparin and Haldane's primordial soup to form: A doctoral student named Stanley Miller was in the audience, and later approached Urey with a proposal: Urey was sceptical, but Miller talked him into it.

View image of The Miller-Urey experiment Credit: The set-up was simple. Miller connected a series of glass flasks and circulated four chemicals that he suspected were present on the early Earth: He subjected the gases to repeated electric shocks, to simulate the lightning strikes that would have been a common occurrence on Earth so long ago. Miller found that "the water in the flask became noticeably pink after the first day, and by the end of the week the solution was deep red and turbid".

Clearly, a mix of chemicals had formed. When Miller analysed the mixture he found that it contained two amino acids: Amino acids are often described as the building blocks of life. They are used to form the proteins that control most biochemical processes in our bodies. Miller had made two of life's most important components, from scratch. The results were published in the prestigious journal Science in Urey, in a selfless act unusual among senior scientists, had his name taken off the paper, giving Miller sole credit.

Despite this, the study is often known as the " Miller-Urey experiment ".

The Origin of the Universe, Earth, and Life - Science and Creationism - NCBI Bookshelf

View image of Stanley Miller in his lab Credit: The details turned out to be wrong, since later studies showed that the early Earth's atmosphere had a different mix of gases. But that is almost beside the point. In the wake of Miller's experiment, other scientists began finding ways to make simple biological molecules from scratch.

A solution to the mystery of the origin of life seemed close. But then it became clear that life was more complicated than anyone had thought. Living cells, it turned out, were not just bags of chemicals: Suddenly, making one from scratch began to look like a much bigger challenge than scientists had anticipated. View image of The machinery inside cells is unbelievably intricate Credit: By the early s, scientists had moved away from the long-standing assumption that life was a gift from the gods.

They had instead begun to explore the possibility that life formed spontaneously and naturally on the early Earth — and thanks to Stanley Miller's iconic experiment, they even had some practical support for the idea. While Miller was trying to make the stuff of life from scratch, other scientists were figuring out what genes were made of. By this time, many biological molecules were known. These included sugars, fats, proteins — and nucleic acids such as "deoxyribonucleic acid", or DNA for short.

Today we take it for granted that DNA carries our genes, but this actually came as a shock to s biologists. Proteins are more complex, so scientists thought they were the genes. They studied simple viruses that only contain DNA and protein, and which have to infect bacteria in order to reproduce.

They found that it was the viral DNA that entered the bacteria: Clearly, DNA was the genetic material. Hershey and Chase's findings triggered a frantic race to figure out the structure of DNA, and thus how it worked. The following year, the problem was cracked by Francis Crick and James Watson of the University of Cambridge, UK — with a lot of under-acknowledged help from their colleague Rosalind Franklin.

Theirs was one of the greatest scientific discoveries of the 20th Century. It also reshaped the search for the origin of life, by revealing the incredible intricacy that is hidden inside living cells. Crick and Watson realised that DNA is a double helix, like a ladder that has been twisted into a spiral. The two "poles" of the ladder are each built from molecules called nucleotides.

This structure explained how cells copy their DNA. In other words, it revealed how parents make copies of their genes and pass them on to their children. The key point is that the double helix can be "unzipped". Each strand is then used as a template to recreate a copy of the other.

Using this mechanism, genes have been passed down from parent to child since the beginning of life. Your genes ultimately come from an ancestral bacterium — and at every step they were copied using the mechanism Crick and Watson discovered. This media cannot be played on your device. Crick and Watson set out their findings in a paper in Nature. Over the next few years, biochemists raced to figure out exactly what information DNA carries, and how that information is used in living cells.

The innermost secrets of life were being exposed for the first time. It turned out that DNA only has one job. Your DNA tells your cells how to make proteins: Without proteins you could not digest your food, your heart would stop and you could not breathe. But the process of using DNA to make proteins proved to be staggeringly intricate. That was a big problem for anyone trying to explain the origin of life, because it is hard to imagine how something so complex could ever have got started.

Each protein is essentially a long chain of amino acids, strung together in a specific order. The sequence of the amino acids determines the three-dimensional shape of the protein, and thus what it does. That information is encoded in the sequence of the DNA's bases. So when a cell needs to make a particular protein, it reads the relevant gene in the DNA to get the sequence of amino acids. But there is a twist. DNA is precious, so cells prefer to keep it bundled away safely. For this reason, they copy the information from DNA onto short molecules of another substance called RNA ribonucleic acid.

Finally, the process of converting the information in that RNA strand into a protein takes place in an enormously elaborate molecule called a "ribosome". This process is going on in every living cell, even the simplest bacteria. It is as essential to life as eating and breathing. Any explanation for the origin of life must show how this complex trinity — DNA, RNA and ribosome protein — came into existence and started working. View image of Cells can become enormously intricate Credit: Suddenly, Oparin and Haldane's ideas looked naively simple, while Miller's experiment, which only produced a few of the amino acids used to build proteins, looked amateurish.

Far from taking us most of the way to creating life, his seminal study was clearly just the first step on a long road. How are we going to find organic chemistry that will make all that in one go?

The first person to really tackle this head-on was a British chemist named Leslie Orgel. He was one of the first to see Crick and Watson's model of DNA, and would later help Nasa with their Viking programme, which sent robotic landers to Mars. Orgel set out to simplify the problem. Writing in , and supported by Crick , he suggested that the first life did not have proteins or DNA. Instead, it was made almost entirely of RNA. For this to work, these primordial RNA molecules must have been particularly versatile. For one thing, they must have been able to build copies of themselves, presumably using the same base-pairing mechanism as DNA.

The idea that life began with RNA would prove enormously influential. But it also triggered a scientific turf war that has lasted until the present day. View image of DNA is at the heart of almost every living thing Credit: By suggesting that life began with RNA and little else, Orgel was proposing that one crucial aspect of life — its ability to reproduce itself — appeared before all the others. In a sense, he was not just suggesting how life was first assembled: Many biologists would agree with Orgel's "replication first" idea.

In Darwin's theory of evolution, the ability to create offspring is absolutely central: But there are other features of life that seem equally essential. The most obvious is metabolism: For many biologists, metabolism must have been the original defining feature of life, with replication emerging later. Meanwhile, a third group maintained that the first thing to appear was a container for the key molecules, to keep them from floating off.

In other words, there needed to be a cell — as Oparin and Haldane had emphasised a few decades earlier — perhaps enclosed by a membrane of simple fats and lipids. All three ideas acquired adherents and have survived to the present day. Scientists have become passionately committed to their pet ideas, sometimes blindly so.

As a result, scientific meetings on the origin of life have often been fractious affairs, and journalists covering the subject are regularly told by a scientist in one camp that the ideas emerging from the other camps are stupid or worse. Thanks to Orgel, the idea that life began with RNA and genetics got off to an early head start. Then came the s, and a startling discovery that seemed to pretty much confirm it. View image of RNA could be the key to life's beginning Credit: After the s, the scientists on the quest to understand life's origins split into three groups.

Some were convinced that life began with the formation of primitive versions of biological cells. Others thought the key first step was a metabolic system, and yet others focused on the importance of genetics and replication. This last group began trying to figure out what that first replicator might have looked like — with a focus on the idea that it was made of RNA. It is a single-stranded molecule, so unlike stiff, double-stranded DNA it can fold itself into a range of different shapes. RNA's origami-like folding looked rather similar to the way proteins behave.

Proteins are also basically long strands — made of amino acids rather than nucleotides — and this allows them to construct elaborate structures. This is the key to proteins' most amazing ability. Some of them can speed up, or "catalyse", chemical reactions. These proteins are known as enzymes.

Many enzymes are found in your guts, where they break up the complex molecules from your food into simple ones like sugars that your cells can use. You could not live without enzymes. Leslie Orgel and Francis Crick had a suspicion. If RNA could fold like a protein, maybe it could form enzymes.

If that were true, RNA could have been the original — and highly versatile — living molecule, storing information as DNA does now and catalysing reactions as some proteins do.

Why Science Does Not Disprove God

View image of Thomas Cech in Credit: Lockard, CC by 3. Thomas Cech was born and raised in Iowa. As a child he was fascinated by rocks and minerals. By the time he was in junior high school he was visiting the local university and knocking on geologists' doors , asking to see models of mineral structures. In the early s, Cech and his colleagues at the University of Colorado Boulder were studying a single-celled organism called Tetrahymena thermophila. Part of its cellular machinery includes strands of RNA.

Cech found that one particular section of the RNA sometimes detached from the rest, as if something had cut it out with scissors. When the team removed all the enzymes and other molecules that might be acting as molecular scissors, the RNA kept doing it. They had discovered the first RNA enzyme: Cech published the results in The following year, another group found a second RNA enzyme — or "ribozyme", as it was dubbed.

Finding two RNA enzymes in quick succession suggested that there were plenty more out there. Now the notion that life began with RNA was looking promising. A physicist who had become fascinated by molecular biology, Gilbert would also be one of the early advocates of sequencing the human genome. The first stage of evolution, Gilbert argued, consisted of "RNA molecules performing the catalytic activities necessary to assemble themselves from a nucleotide soup". Eventually they found a way to make proteins and protein enzymes, which proved so useful that they largely supplanted the RNA versions and gave rise to life as we recognise it today.

The RNA World is an elegant way to make complex life from scratch. Instead of having to rely on the simultaneous formation of dozens of biological molecules from the primordial soup, one Jack-of-all-trades molecule could do the work of all of them. View image of The ribosome makes proteins Credit: Thomas Steitz had spent 30 years studying the structures of the molecules in living cells. In the s he took on his biggest challenge: Every living cell has a ribosome.

This huge molecule reads instructions from RNA and strings together amino acids to make proteins. The ribosomes in your cells built most of your body. The ribosome was known to contain RNA. But in Steitz's team produced a detailed image of the ribosome's structure , which showed that the RNA was the catalytic core of the ribosome.

This was critical, because the ribosome is so fundamental to life, and so ancient. But since then, doubts have crept back in. Right from the start, there were two problems with the RNA World idea. Could RNA really perform all the functions of life by itself? And could it have formed on the early Earth? It is 30 years since Gilbert set out the stall for the RNA World, and we still do not have hard evidence that RNA can do all the things the theory demands of it. It is a handy little molecule, but it may not be handy enough. One task stood out.

But no known RNA can self-replicate. So in the late s, a few biologists started a rather quixotic quest. They set out to make a self-replicating RNA for themselves. View image of Jack Szostak Credit: Jack Szostak of the Harvard Medical School was one of the first to get involved. As a child he was so fascinated with chemistry that he had a lab in his basement. With a splendid disregard for his own safety, he once set off an explosion that embedded a glass tube into the ceiling.

In the early s, Szostak helped to show how our genes protect themselves against the ageing process. This early research would eventually net him a share of a Nobel Prize. But he soon became fascinated by Cech's RNA enzymes. Szostak set out to improve on the discovery by evolving new RNA enzymes in the lab. His team created a pool of random sequences and tested them to see which ones showed catalytic activity. They then took those sequences, tweaked them, and tested again. After 10 rounds of this, Szostak had produced an RNA enzyme that made a reaction go seven million times faster than it naturally would.

They had showed that RNA enzymes could be truly powerful. But their enzyme could not copy itself, not even close. Szostak had hit a wall. View image of RNA may not be up to the job of starting life Credit: The next big advance came in from Szostak's former student David Bartel , of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. In other words, it was not just adding random nucleotides: This was still not a self-replicator, but it was edging towards it. R18 consisted of a string of nucleotides, and it could reliably add 11 nucleotides to a strand: The hope was that a few tweaks would allow it to make a strand nucleotides long — as long as itself.

His team created a modified R18 called tC19Z , which copies sequences up to 95 nucleotides long. In they created an RNA enzyme that replicates itself indirectly. Their enzyme joins together two short pieces of RNA to create a second enzyme. This then joins together another two RNA pieces to recreate the original enzyme. This simple cycle could be continued indefinitely, given the raw materials. But the enzymes only worked if they were given the correct RNA strands, which Joyce and Lincoln had to make. View image of How could the molecules of life form somewhere like this?

RNA does not seem to be up to the job of kick-starting life. The case has also been weakened by chemists' failure to make RNA from scratch. The problem is the sugar and the base that make up each nucleotide. It is possible to make each of them individually, but the two stubbornly refuse to link together. This problem was already clear by the early s. It left many biologists with a nagging suspicion that the RNA World hypothesis, while neat, could not be quite right.

Instead, maybe there was some other type of molecule on the early Earth: In , Peter Nielsen of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark came up with a candidate for the primordial replicator. It was essentially a heavily-modified version of DNA. He called the new molecule polyamide nucleic acid , or PNA. Confusingly, it has since become known as peptide nucleic acid. PNA has never been found in nature. But it behaves a lot like DNA.

A strand of PNA can even take the place of one of the strands in a DNA molecule, with the complementary bases pairing up as normal. Stanley Miller was intrigued. In he produced some hard evidence. By then he was 70 years old, and had just suffered the first in a series of debilitating strokes that would ultimately leave him confined to a nursing home, but he was not quite done.

He repeated his classic experiment, which we discussed in Chapter One, this time using methane, nitrogen, ammonia and water — and obtained the polyamide backbone of PNA. This is basically DNA, but with a different sugar in its backbone. What's more, TNA can fold up into complex shapes , and even bind to a protein. Similarly, in Eric Meggers made glycol nucleic acid , which can form helical structures.

Each of these alternative nucleic acids has its supporters: But there is no trace of them in nature, so if the first life did use them, at some point it must have utterly abandoned them in favour of RNA and DNA. This might be true, but there is no evidence. On the one hand, RNA enzymes existed and they included one of the most important pieces of biological machinery, the ribosome. The alternative nucleic acids might solve the latter problem, but there was no evidence they ever existed in nature.

That was less good. Meanwhile, a rival theory had been steadily gathering steam since the s. Instead it began as a mechanism for harnessing energy. View image of Life needs energy to stay alive Credit: We saw in Chapter Two how scientists divided into three schools of thought about how life began.

One group was convinced that life began with a molecule of RNA, but they struggled to work out how RNA or similar molecules could have formed spontaneously on the early Earth and then made copies of themselves. Their efforts were exciting at first, but ultimately frustrating.

However, even while this research was progressing, there were other origin-of-life researchers who felt sure that life began in a completely different way. The RNA World theory relies on a simple idea: Many biologists would agree with this. From bacteria to blue whales, all living things strive to have offspring. However, many origin-of-life researchers do not believe reproduction is truly fundamental. Before an organism can reproduce, they say, it has to be self-sustaining.

It must keep itself alive. After all, you cannot have kids if you die first. We keep ourselves alive by eating food, while green plants do it by extracting energy from sunlight.

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You might not think that a person wolfing down a juicy steak looks much like a leafy oak tree, but when you get right down to it, both are taking in energy. This process is called metabolism. First, you must obtain energy; say, from energy-rich chemicals like sugars. Then you must use that energy to build useful things like cells. This process of harnessing energy is so utterly essential, many researchers believe it must have been the first thing life ever did. View image of Volcanic water is hot and rich in chemicals Credit: What might these metabolism-only organisms have looked like?

He was not a full-time scientist, but rather a patent lawyer with a background in chemistry.

2. Theory of evolution on Earth

They were not made of cells. All the other things that make up modern organisms — like DNA, cells and brains — came later. The water was rich in volcanic gases like ammonia, and held traces of minerals from the volcano's heart. Where the water flowed over the rocks, chemical reactions began to take place. In particular, metals from the water helped simple organic compounds to fuse into larger ones.

The turning point was the creation of the first metabolic cycle. This is a process in which one chemical is converted into a series of other chemicals, until eventually the original chemical is recreated. In the process, the entire system takes in energy, which can be used to restart the cycle — and to start doing other things.

All the other things that make up modern organisms — like DNA, cells and brains — came later, built on the back of these chemical cycles. These metabolic cycles do not sound much like life. Your cells are essentially microscopic chemical processing plants, constantly turning one chemical into another. Metabolic cycles may not seem life-like, but they are fundamental to life. He outlined which minerals made for the best surfaces and which chemical cycles might take place. His ideas began to attract supporters. But it was all still theoretical. Fortunately, it had already been made — a decade earlier.

View image of Vents in the Pacific Credit: The ridges, they knew, were volcanically active. Corliss found that the ridges were pockmarked with, essentially, hot springs. Hot, chemical-rich water was welling up from below the sea floor and pumping out through holes in the rocks.

Scientists identify the missing link in the chemical origins of life.

Astonishingly, these "hydrothermal vents" were densely populated by strange animals. There were huge clams, limpets, mussels, and tubeworms. The water was also thick with bacteria. All these organisms lived on the energy from the hydrothermal vents. The discovery of hydrothermal vents made Corliss's name. It also got him thinking. In he proposed that similar vents existed on Earth four billion years ago, and that they were the site of the origin of life. He would spend much of the rest of his career working on this idea.

View image of Hydrothermal vents support strange life Credit: Corliss proposed that hydrothermal vents could create cocktails of chemicals. Each vent, he said, was a kind of primordial soup dispenser. As hot water flowed up through the rocks, the heat and pressure caused simple organic compounds to fuse into more complex ones like amino acids, nucleotides and sugars. Closer to the boundary with the ocean, where the water was not quite as hot, they began linking into chains — forming carbohydrates, proteins, and nucleotides like DNA.

Then, as the water approached the ocean and cooled still further, these molecules assembled into simple cells. It was neat, and caught people's attention. But Stanley Miller, whose seminal origin-of-life experiment we discussed in Chapter One, was not convinced. Writing in , he argued the vents were too hot.

While extreme heat would trigger the formation of chemicals like amino acids, Miller's experiments suggested that it would also destroy them. Key compounds like sugars "would survive… for seconds at most". What's more, these simple molecules would be unlikely to link up into chains, because the surrounding water would break the chains almost immediately.

View image of Geologist and origin-of-life researcher Michael Russell Credit: At this point the geologist Mike Russell stepped into the fray. He thought that the vent theory could be made to work after all. This inspiration would lead him to create one of the most widely-accepted theories of the origin of life.

Russell had spent his early life variously making aspirin, scouting for valuable minerals and — in one remarkable incident in the s — coordinating the response to a possible volcanic eruption, despite having no training. But his real interest was in how Earth's surface has changed over the eons. This geological perspective has shaped his ideas on the origin of life. In the s he found fossil evidence of a less extreme kind of hydrothermal vent, where the temperatures were below C.

These milder temperatures, he argued, would allow the molecules of life to survive far longer than Miller had assumed they would. What's more, the fossil remains of these cooler vents held something strange. A mineral called pyrite, which is made of iron and sulphur, had formed into tubes about 1mm across. In his lab, Russell found that the pyrite could also form spherical blobs. He suggested that the first complex organic molecules formed inside these simple pyrite structures.

View image of A lump of iron pyrite Credit: James Petts, CC by 2. He had even proposed that pyrite was involved. So Russell put two and two together. If Russell was correct, life began at the bottom of the sea — and metabolism appeared first. Russell set all this out in a paper published in , 40 years after Miller's classic experiment. It did not get the same excited media coverage, but it was arguably more important. Just to make it even more impressive, Russell also offered an explanation for how the first organisms obtained their energy.

In other words, he figured out how their metabolism could have worked. His idea relied on the work of one of modern science's forgotten geniuses. In the s, the biochemist Peter Mitchell fell ill and was forced to resign from the University of Edinburgh. Instead, he set up a private lab in a remote manor house in Cornwall. Isolated from the scientific community, his work was partly funded by a herd of dairy cows. Many biochemists, including, initially, Leslie Orgel , whose work on RNA we discussed in Chapter Two, thought that his ideas were utterly ridiculous.

Less than two decades later, Mitchell achieved the ultimate victory: He has never been a household name, but his ideas are in every biology textbook. Mitchell spent his career figuring out what organisms do with the energy they get from food. In effect, he was asking how we all stay alive from moment to moment. He knew that all cells store their energy in the same molecule: The crucial bit is a chain of three phosphates, anchored to the adenosine.

Adding the third phosphate takes a lot of energy, which is then locked up in the ATP. When a cell needs energy — say, if a muscle needs to contract — it breaks the third phosphate off an ATP. This turns it into adenosine diphosphate ADP and releases the stored energy. Mitchell wanted to know how the cells made the ATP in the first place. How did they concentrate enough energy onto an ADP, so that the third phosphate would attach? Mitchell knew that the enzyme that makes ATP sits on a membrane.

So he suggested that the cell was pumping charged particles called protons across the membrane, so that there were lots of protons on one side and hardly any on the other. The protons would then try to flow back across the membrane to balance out the number of protons on each side — but the only place they could get through was the enzyme. The stream of protons passing through gave the enzyme the energy it needed to make ATP.

Mitchell first set out this idea in He spent the next 15 years defending it from all comers , until the evidence became irrefutable. We now know that the process Mitchell identified is used by every living thing on Earth. It is happening inside your cells right now. Like DNA, it is fundamental to life as we know it. The key point that Russell picked up on is Mitchell's proton gradient: All cells need a proton gradient to store energy. Modern cells create the gradients by pumping protons across a membrane, but this involves complex molecular machinery that cannot have just popped into existence.

So Russell made one more logical leap: By so doing, intelligent design proponents have attempted to succeed where creation science has failed in securing a place in public school science curricula. Carefully avoiding any reference to the identity of the intelligent designer as God in their public arguments, intelligent design proponents sought to reintroduce the creationist ideas into science classrooms while sidestepping the First Amendment's prohibition against religious infringement.

Dover Area School District , the judge in the case ruling "that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism. Today, creation science as an organized movement is primarily centered within the United States. Creation science organizations are also known in other countries, most notably Creation Ministries International which was founded under the name Creation Science Foundation in Australia.

Proponents are usually aligned with a Christian denomination, primarily with those characterized as evangelical, conservative, or fundamentalist. While creationist movements also exist in Islam and Judaism , these movements do not use the phrase creation science to describe their beliefs. Creation science has its roots in the work of young Earth creationist George McCready Price disputing modern science's account of natural history , focusing particularly on geology and its concept of uniformitarianism, and his efforts instead to furnish an alternative empirical explanation of observable phenomena which was compatible with strict Biblical literalism.

Morris, [55] who is now considered to be the father of creation science. The proponents of creation science often say that they are concerned with religious and moral questions as well as natural observations and predictive hypotheses. The overwhelming majority of scientists are in agreement that the claims of science are necessarily limited to those that develop from natural observations and experiments which can be replicated and substantiated by other scientists, and that claims made by creation science do not meet those criteria.

This is why we refer to creation as special creation. We cannot discover by scientific investigation anything about the creative processes used by the Creator. Creation science makes the a priori metaphysical assumption that there exists a creator of the life whose origin is being examined. Christian creation science holds that the description of creation is given in the Bible, that the Bible is inerrant in this description and elsewhere , and therefore empirical scientific evidence must correspond with that description.

Creationists also view the preclusion of all supernatural explanations within the sciences as a doctrinaire commitment to exclude the supreme being and miracles. They claim this to be the motivating factor in science's acceptance of Darwinism, a term used in creation science to refer to evolutionary biology which is also often used as a disparagement.

Critics argue that creation science is religious rather than scientific because it stems from faith in a religious text rather than by the application of the scientific method. To ignore that it occurred or to classify it as a form of dogma is to deprive the student of the most fundamental organizational concept in the biological sciences. No other biological concept has been more extensively tested and more thoroughly corroborated than the evolutionary history of organisms.

Although antievolutionists pay lip service to supposed scientific problems with evolution, what motivates them to battle its teaching is apprehension over the implications of evolution for religion. Creation science advocates argue that scientific theories of the origins of the Universe, Earth, and life are rooted in a priori presumptions of methodological naturalism and uniformitarianism, each of which is disputed. In some areas of science such as chemistry , meteorology or medicine, creation science proponents do not challenge the application of naturalistic or uniformitarian assumptions.

Traditionally, creation science advocates have singled out those scientific theories judged to be in conflict with held religious beliefs, and it is against those theories that they concentrate their efforts. Many mainstream Christian churches [60] [61] criticize creation science on theological grounds, asserting either that religious faith alone should be a sufficient basis for belief in the truth of creation, or that efforts to prove the Genesis account of creation on scientific grounds are inherently futile because reason is subordinate to faith and cannot thus be used to prove it.

Many Christian theologies , including Liberal Christianity, consider the Genesis creation narrative to be a poetic and allegorical work rather than a literal history, and many Christian churches—including the Eastern Orthodox Church , the Roman Catholic , [63] Anglican and the more liberal denominations of the Lutheran , Methodist , Congregationalist and Presbyterian faiths—have either rejected creation science outright or are ambivalent to it.

Belief in non-literal interpretations of Genesis is often cited as going back to Saint Augustine. Theistic evolution and evolutionary creationism are theologies that reconcile belief in a creator with biological evolution. Each holds the view that there is a creator but that this creator has employed the natural force of evolution to unfold a divine plan. The National Academy of Sciences states that "the claims of creation science lack empirical support and cannot be meaningfully tested" and that "creation science is in fact not science and should not be presented as such in science classes.

Scientists have considered the hypotheses proposed by creation science and have rejected them because of a lack of evidence. Furthermore, the claims of creation science do not refer to natural causes and cannot be subject to meaningful tests, so they do not qualify as scientific hypotheses. In , the United States Supreme Court ruled that creationism is religion, not science, and cannot be advocated in public school classrooms. By invoking claims of "abrupt appearance" of species as a miraculous act, creation science is unsuited for the tools and methods demanded by science, and it cannot be considered scientific in the way that the term "science" is currently defined.

Historically, the debate of whether creationism is compatible with science can be traced back to , the year science historian John William Draper published his History of the Conflict between Religion and Science. In it Draper portrayed the entire history of scientific development as a war against religion. This presentation of history was propagated further by followers such as Andrew Dickson White in his two-volume A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom Their conclusions have been disputed.

In the United States, the principal focus of creation science advocates is on the government-supported public school systems, which are prohibited by the Establishment Clause from promoting specific religions. Historical communities have argued that Biblical translations contain many translation errors and errata , and therefore that the use of biblical literalism in creation science is self-contradictory.

Creationist biology centers on an idea derived from Genesis that states that life was created by God, in a finite number of "created kinds," rather than through biological evolution from a common ancestor. Creationists consider that any observable speciation descends from these distinctly created kinds through inbreeding, deleterious mutations and other genetic mechanisms.

Popular arguments against evolution have changed since the publishing of Henry M. Morris' first book on the subject, Scientific Creationism , but some consistent themes remain: The origin of the human species is particularly hotly contested; the fossil remains of purported hominid ancestors are not considered by advocates of creation biology to be evidence for a speciation event involving Homo sapiens.

Richard Dawkins has explained evolution as "a theory of gradual, incremental change over millions of years, which starts with something very simple and works up along slow, gradual gradients to greater complexity," and described the existing fossil record as entirely consistent with that process. Biologists emphasize that transitional gaps between those fossils recovered are to be expected, that the existence of any such gaps cannot be invoked to disprove evolution, and that instead the fossil evidence that could be used to disprove the theory would be those fossils which are found and which are entirely inconsistent with what can be predicted or anticipated by the evolutionary model.

One example given by Dawkins was, "If there were a single hippo or rabbit in the Precambrian , that would completely blow evolution out of the water. None have ever been found. Flood geology is a concept based on the belief that most of Earth's geological record was formed by the Great Flood described in the story of Noah's Ark.

Fossils and fossil fuels are believed to have formed from animal and plant matter which was buried rapidly during this flood, while submarine canyons are explained as having formed during a rapid runoff from the continents at the end of the flood. Sedimentary strata are also claimed to have been predominantly laid down during or after Noah's flood [85] and orogeny. For example, the Creation Research Society argues that "uniformitarianism is wishful thinking. Geologists conclude that no evidence for such a flood is observed in the preserved rock layers [3] and moreover that such a flood is physically impossible, given the current layout of land masses.

For instance, since Mount Everest currently is approximately 8. Measurements of the amount of precipitable water vapor in the atmosphere have yielded results indicating that condensing all water vapor in a column of atmosphere would produce liquid water with a depth ranging between zero and approximately 70mm, depending on the date and the location of the column.

Creationists point to experiments they have performed, which they claim demonstrate that 1. The scientific community points to numerous flaws in the creationists' experiments, to the fact that their results have not been accepted for publication by any peer-reviewed scientific journal, and to the fact that the creationist scientists conducting them were untrained in experimental geochronology.

The constancy of the decay rates of isotopes is well supported in science. Evidence for this constancy includes the correspondences of date estimates taken from different radioactive isotopes as well as correspondences with non-radiometric dating techniques such as dendrochronology , ice core dating, and historical records. Although scientists have noted slight increases in the decay rate for isotopes subject to extreme pressures, those differences were too small to significantly impact date estimates.

The constancy of the decay rates is also governed by first principles in quantum mechanics , wherein any deviation in the rate would require a change in the fundamental constants. According to these principles, a change in the fundamental constants could not influence different elements uniformly, and a comparison between each of the elements' resulting unique chronological timescales would then give inconsistent time estimates.

In refutation of young Earth claims of inconstant decay rates affecting the reliability of radiometric dating, Roger C. Wiens, a physicist specializing in isotope dating states:. There are only three quite technical instances where a half-life changes, and these do not affect the dating methods: In the s, young Earth creationist Robert V. Gentry proposed that radiohaloes in certain granites represented evidence for the Earth being created instantaneously rather than gradually.

This idea has been criticized by physicists and geologists on many grounds including that the rocks Gentry studied were not primordial and that the radionuclides in question need not have been in the rocks initially. Baillieul, a geologist and retired senior environmental scientist with the United States Department of Energy , disputed Gentry's claims in an article entitled, "'Polonium Haloes' Refuted: Additionally, he noted that Gentry relied on research from the beginning of the 20th century, long before radioisotopes were thoroughly understood; that his assumption that a polonium isotope caused the rings was speculative; and that Gentry falsely argued that the half-life of radioactive elements varies with time.

Gentry claimed that Baillieul could not publish his criticisms in a reputable scientific journal, [98] although some of Baillieul's criticisms rested on work previously published in reputable scientific journals. Several attempts have been made by creationists to construct a cosmology consistent with a young Universe rather than the standard cosmological age of the universe , based on the belief that Genesis describes the creation of the Universe as well as the Earth.

The primary challenge for young-universe cosmologies is that the accepted distances in the Universe require millions or billions of years for light to travel to Earth the " starlight problem ". An older creationist idea, proposed by creationist astronomer Barry Setterfield, is that the speed of light has decayed in the history of the Universe.

Various claims are made by creationists concerning alleged evidence that the age of the Solar System is of the order of thousands of years, in contrast to the scientifically accepted age of 4. Creationist astronomers express scepticism about the existence of the Kuiper belt and Oort cloud. In response to increasing evidence suggesting that Mars once possessed a wetter climate, some creationists have proposed that the global flood affected not only the Earth but also Mars and other planets. People who support this claim include creationist astronomer Wayne Spencer and Russell Humphreys. An ongoing problem for creationists is the presence of impact craters on nearly all Solar System objects, which is consistent with scientific explanations of solar system origins but creates insuperable problems for young Earth claims.

Notable creationist museums in the United States:. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Not to be confused with Christian Science. Old Earth Day-age Gap Progressive. Book of Genesis Creation narrative Framework interpretation As an allegory. Created kind Flood geology Creationist cosmologies Intelligent design. History Creation myth Public education "Teach the Controversy". Objections to evolution and List of scientific bodies explicitly rejecting intelligent design. The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood.

The Logic of Creation Science," p. Creation Scientists, by contrast, strive to use legitimate scientific means both to disprove evolutionary theory and to prove the creation account as described in Scripture. Cult Archaeology and Creationism. In Neil Asher Silberman. The Oxford Companion to Archaeology. The Evidence against the New Creationism. The TalkOrigins Foundation, Inc. Which arguments and evidence counter pseudoscience? The Quarterly Review of Biology. Aguillard , U. Case cited by Numbers , p. A New Challenge in Turkey".

Reports of the National Center for Science Education.


  1. Creationist Views of the Origin of the Universe, Earth, and Life.
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  5. Why Science Does Not Disprove God | Time!

National Center for Science Education. Annual Review of Anthropology. District Court, Southern District of Texas". Archived from the original on By one count there are some scientists with respectable academic credentials out of a total of , U. Geological Society of America. Arkansas Board of Education". Breaking the Modernist Monopoly on Science". A Journal of Mere Christianity. This is not to say that the biblical issues are unimportant; the point is rather that the time to address them will be after we have separated materialist prejudice from scientific fact.

Dover Area School District , 04 cv M. American Association for the Advancement of Science. Creationists have repeatedly stated that neither creation nor evolution is a scientific theory and each is equally religious. The Systems View of Life: Message to Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on December 22, Bad Science or Immoral Pseudoscience? But science and religion occupy two separate realms of human experience. Demanding that they be combined detracts from the glory of each.

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