Skip to main content

See also:

The "Software" of Life Argument for an Intelligent Designer, part two

Another excerpt from my new book What Your Atheist Professor Doesn't Know (But Should):

Animal Cell Structure
Animal Cell StructureWikimedia Commons

As mind-boggling as this seems so far, it gets even better. The instructions for creating DNA are encoded into proteins! This raises the question, “which came first; the DNA or the proteins?!” We have seen clear evidence in the last chapter that neither proteins nor DNA could be expected to arise spontaneously, but here we see that problem multiplied exponentially.
If life arose by random chance, among other things, we would have to have:

1) amino acids assembling spontaneously, in the correct order -- following a specific, very complex language convention -- to effect the assembly of proteins, with the correct chirality (all “left-handed” molecules),

2) proteins assembling spontaneously in the correct order -- following a specific, very complex language convention -- to regulate the construction and assembly of DNA, and

3) nucleic acids assembling spontaneously to create DNA simultaneously with the arisal of proteins, and with the correct chirality (“right-handedness”), in the correct order, and following the same, very specific complex language convention in order to orchestrate the assembly of proteins!

One is tempted to ask the question “what came first, the chicken (proteins) or the egg (DNA)?”, but in this case, both phenomena would have to arise simultaneously and following the same language convention, or they would both be completely useless.

As Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Jacques Monod put it:

The major problem is the origin of the genetic code and of its translation mechanism. Indeed, instead of a problem it ought rather to be called a riddle. The code is meaningless unless translated. The modern cell's translating machinery consists of at least fifty macromolecular components which are themselves coded in DNA: the code cannot be translated otherwise than by products of translation. It is the modern expression of omne vivum ex ovo [everything that lives, (comes) from an egg]. When and how did this circle become closed? It is exceedingly difficult to imagine. (2)

Monod is not the only Nobel-Prize winning scientist to cast doubt on a naturalistic explanation for life. Consider the words of Ilya Prigogine, a Chemist-Physicist and recipient of two Nobel Prizes in chemistry:

The statistical probability that organic structures and the most precisely harmonized reactions that typify living organisms would be generated by accident, is zero. (3)

Now keep in mind that the conditions mentioned above are necessary, but are not sufficient for the creation of life. There are many, many more necessary components for DNA-based life. There are more challenges for the theory of spontaneous generation of life than we have room to discuss here, and this can be quickly confirmed by a survey of current theories, which encompass a huge array of approaches having one thing in common: none provide a plausible, detailed theory.

1) Sagan, Carl, "Life" in Encyclopedia Britannica: Macropaedia (1974 ed.), pp. 893-894.

2) Monod, Jacques, “Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology", (1971), Transl. Wainhouse A., Penguin Books: London, 1997, reprint, pp.142-143. Emphasis in original.

3) I. Prigogine, N. Gregair, A. Babbyabtz, Physics Today 25, pp. 23-28