Abiogenesis - Can Life Be Initiated Without a Creator?

Dr. Zvi Shkedi (January 2009)

The minimum quantity of organic matter needed to randomly initiate life in nature is 10^49 times the volume of planet earth and 10^9 times the total volume of the Milky Way galaxy. It proves that random initiation of life in nature is absolutely impossible. The existence of life proves the existence of a Creator.

See also:
Evolution - Facts, Theories, and Fiction

A note for those who are not mathematically oriented: In this article we show large numbers using "to the power of " notation. 10^2 means 10 to the power of 2 which is 100. 10^3=1000. 10^9=1,000,000,000 etc. 10^-3 means 1 divided by 10^3 which is 0.001 ; 10^-6=0.000001 etc.
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The first, most primitive, RNA or DNA sequence had to be encoded correctly with the ability to absorb food from its lifeless surroundings, metabolize it, and repeatedly reproduce itself, or else, it would not survive. Such a complicated initial encoding is not something that can happen by chance. It can also not develop and improve itself to gain this ability over time because, prior to gaining this ability, it would be nothing but lifeless organic matter.

Every experiment that sought to prove that life could be generated by chance, failed. Cells which supposedly emerged by chance under primitive and uncontrolled natural conditions, could not be synthesized by even the most sophisticated laboratories - not by chance and not with an investment of human intelligence. Self-replicating molecules may be able to replicate themselves through chemical reactions. Such lifeless molecules, however, do not contain the information necessary to support and reproduce life. Such molecules have been synthesized through an investment of energy and intelligence by people in the lab. They did not make themselves. No such molecules were ever found in nature.

To understand the probability of encoding survivable DNA by chance, let's look at the following example. We will not ask how long it will take a monkey with a typewriter to produce all the writings of Shakespeare. Instead, we will ask how long will it take a monkey to randomly type the first 12 letters of the ABC in the correct order. At a typing rate of one letter per second without external guidance, the probability is once in 3 billion years! And, if we want to produce all the 26 letters of the ABC in the correct order, how many monkeys will it take, and how long will it take them? Without external guidance, the probability is that 400 trillion monkeys might do it once in 400 trillion years! The orderliness in RNA and DNA is much higher than the 26 letters of the ABC. It takes hundreds or thousands of genes to encode survivable DNA. The rate of biological changes in large quantities of matter is much slower than one per second. So, the probability of getting it right, without external guidance, is many orders of magnitude lower. The wildest most imaginative theories cannot explain such a high degree of orderliness without external guidance.

Some imaginative theories propose that life was not initiated on earth. The first DNA was carried to earth on a meteorite from outer space. How exactly would such living organisms survive the glowing-white temperatures experienced by meteorites during their travel through the atmosphere?

In the 1920's and 1930's, Oparin and Haldane proposed another theory as if life in nature started in a Primordial Soup pond. According to this theory, lifeless chemicals in this pond turned into living organisms by lightning strikes or some other source of energy. This theory has been presented to students, academics, and the general public as if it were an irrefutable scientific fact. Let's calculate what is the minimum possible quantity of materials necessary to initiate a living organism in such a pond. Then, we will compare this quantity to the size of planet earth. This thought experiment is about an attempt to initiate the very first independently survivable DNA, before any other life processes have a chance to begin. It is not about an attempt to change or improve an existing form of life.

All DNA is encoded with four nucleotide bases which serve as the coding building blocks. In the following analysis we will ignore the resources required to complete the biochemical reactions necessary to compose and duplicate the nucleotide base molecules. We will also ignore the mechanisms by which nucleotide bases join other molecules in a survivable sequence to form the DNA structure. The following analysis will focus only on the probability and quantity of organic materials necessary to initiate the information contents carried by the DNA in the first living organism.

Each gene coding location contains one of the four possible bases. Each gene is composed of hundreds or thousands of such bases. The number of genes in most living organisms is between about 1000 and 40,000. Therefore, the probability of randomly composing a survivable DNA is much less than 10^-1000 (less than 1 chance out of 10^1000 possibilities). Now let's imagine an attempt to create the minimal possible variations of genetic codes with the hope of discovering and initiating the very first one which is capable of absorbing food, metabolizing it, repeatedly reproducing itself, and surviving.

The cell-size of most independently survivable living organisms is between 1 micron and a few hundred microns. (Viruses are smaller, however they are symbiotic organisms - unable to survive on their own without a host. In the absence of live hosts, symbiotic organisms could not have been the first ones to appear. Organisms which depend on food produced by other organisms could also not have been the first ones to appear.) Let's attempt to create the smallest imaginable non-symbiotic organism at a size of 0.1 microns. This size is less than any known non-symbiotic organism in nature and less than the smallest theoretically possible size of 0.2 microns. Using this size in the calculation, will give us a lower limit of the total volume of materials necessary to find at least one survivable organism.

We can minimize the number of experimental cells by requiring only 200 nucleotide bases in the entire DNA of each cell. There are no known living organisms and there are no theories which predict the possibility of living organisms with such a small number of bases. Such a short genetic code cannot support even the most primitive form of a living organism. It is not known how many additional bases will be required before at least one of the permutations will produce a survivable living organism. This number is probably in the thousands. However, using only 200 bases in the calculation will give us a lower limit of the total number of experimental cells necessary to find at least one independently survivable organism.

Every complex system has a certain irreducible minimum. Any attempt to reduce the system beyond this minimum will result in a defective design. For example: there are many ways to design a bridge, but, there is a certain irreducible minimum of materials, beyond which the bridge will not hold. A random pile of steel and concrete will not make a bridge either, even if all the necessary materials are there.

The same is true in genetics. Every species has many individuals with slightly different genetic codes. But, there is a certain irreducible minimum of code information necessary for survivability. This irreducible minimum of genetic information contents, in the simplest non-symbiotic organisms, is of the order of a few thousand base locations in a correct (survivable) genetic sequence. Therefore, using 200 base locations as the lower limit of the information contents necessary for survivability is well below the irreducible minimum. If we prove that 200 base locations in the correct sequence are impossible to initiate by chance, than more than 200 are certainly impossible. A random sequence will not make a living organism, just like a random pile of steel and concrete will not make a bridge.

200 base locations will yield 4^200 possible permutations which is 10^120. Multiplying 4^200 by the volume of a 0.1 micron cell yields a volume of 10^99 cubic meters as the lower-limit volume of materials in this over-simplified experiment. The volume of planet earth is 10^21 cubic meters. Therefore, the lower-limit volume of materials necessary to randomly produce a living organism is 10^78 times the volume of planet earth.

This analysis shows that even if such a short genetic code could somehow create a living organism, and even if this organism could be as small as 0.1 microns, getting it randomly initiated in nature would still need a volume of organic matter which is 78 orders of magnitude larger than the total volume of planet earth.

This experiment and all possible DNA permutations do not need to be constructed all at once. Let's investigate a hypothesis as if the attempt to randomly initiate life on planet earth lasted a period of 3 billion years, as some theories propose. If we allocate one day for each step in the experiment, and divide the lower-limit volume of necessary experimental organisms (10^99 cubic meters) by the number of days in 3 billion years, we obtain a necessary daily volume of 10^66 times the volume of planet earth for each step in the experiment. If we allocate just one second for each step, the volume of organisms during each such step still needs to be more than 10^61 times the volume of planet earth. Some chemical reactions can occur as fast as one picosecond. If we allocate one picosecond for each step in the experiment, the lower-limit volume of experimental organisms during each such step would still be more than 10^49 times the volume of planet earth. The volume of space taken up by the Milky Way galaxy is of the order of 10^61 cubic meters. Therefore, the minimum necessary volume of experimental organisms during each one-picosecond step is larger than 10^9 times the total volume of the Milky Way galaxy.

In summary, the lower-limit quantity of organic matter needed to randomly initiate the smallest and most primitive form of life in nature, compared to the size of planet earth, demonstrates how futile such an attempt would be. It proves that random initiation of life in nature is absolutely impossible. Therefore, the Primordial Soup theory proposed by Oparin and Haldane and all other similar theories are nothing but speculations and human imagination. DNA as the carrier of genetic codes was not yet discovered at their times. Had they known about the complex structure of DNA, they would not have proposed such a theory.

Darwin's theory of evolution is often used as an anti-religious political weapon, to refute the account of creation in the Bible. Learning evolution, in many schools, is connected with denial of creation by God. The following citation from Darwin's book ("On The Origin of Species", 6th edition, p.429, the closing paragraph of the Conclusion) sheds interesting light on this controversy:
"There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one."

Darwin himself knew that life on earth was initiated by "the Creator". Everything else is minor details. As it says in the Bible: "...and He (God) breathed into him a breath of life." (Genesis, ch.2, v.7)

Richard Dawkins, one of the most aggressive anti-creation evolution biologists, admits that life appears abruptly in the fossil record. He says:
“We find many of them already in an advanced state of evolution, the very first time they appear. It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history”. ("The Blind Watchmaker", 1986, p. 229).

The English Professor Anthony Flew was, for half a century, the world's leading authority on atheism. When he learned, in 2004, about the breaking of the genetic code in DNA, he changed his mind and announced that he believes in God as a first cause. The structure of DNA, he explained, was so awesomely complex that it could not have just evolved. It must have been designed and created by God.

Copyright 2009, Zvi Shkedi

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