Saturday, June 9, 2007

Stanley Miller

I recently learned that scientist Stanley Miller passed away last month. Does the name sound familiar? In the early 1950's, it was Miller--and his graduate advisor Harold Urey--who caused euphoria among naturalistic scientists by demonstrating that amino acids (critical building blocks of living things) could be produced in the lab from the sorts of molecules that were believed to have existed on the early Earth. This success launched Miller to instant notoriety and guaranteed him a place of some prominence in the history of science. Indeed, even today many biology textbooks present the Miller-Urey experiments as evidence for a naturalistic origin of life on Earth.

Miller was a very good scientist, and one whose innovative research did a great deal to advance our understanding of life and its origin. But 50 years after those initial experiments, just what is that understanding? Is Miller's lasting legacy the providing of the first steps in a completely naturalistic scenario for how life came to exist?

Well, actually, no. Origins-of-life researchers are unanimous in recognizing that the hypothesized early Earth conditions that the experiments simulated were incorrect, and thus that the results are irrelevant to the origins problem. Open-minded scientists will also acknowledge that every step of the experiments required intelligent input (from the researchers themselves) to prevent contamination by unwanted molecules and to stop the reactions as soon as the desired amino acids were produced (knowing that they would immediately dissolve back into inorganic molecules otherwise). Indeed, Miller's ultimate legacy may well be that he initiated the research that led to the conclusion that the origin of life through strictly natural processes is an intractable problem. According to Hubert Yockey (information theorist/molecular biologist), the consistent failure of all attempts to solve the origin-of-life problem arises from the fact that "there is no solution."

Miller operated--as have most subsequent origin-of-life researchers--within a naturalistic paradigm. And it is this artificial constraint--this arbitrary limiting of the possible answers--that has doomed such research to failure.

Cell biologist Fazale Rana and astronomer Hugh Ross--in their book Origins of Life--contrast the predictions shared by naturalistic models and those of their biblical model. In each case, the evidence available to us today supports the biblical model and refutes predictions made by naturalists. Naturalistic models predict that life arose once, late in Earth's history, gradually, over a long period of time, and that the simplest life was just that--simple. But the evidence, in agreement with the biblical model, is that life's minimum complexity is far above what used to be believed, and that life arose suddenly, early, and numerous times. Again, whereas all naturalistic models (except those that include panspermia, the idea that life arose elsewhere and was subsequently seeded to Earth) involve a prebiotic soup (a rich terrestrial, aquatic, or atmospheric concentration of the proper elements for building life molecules), the evidence indicates that such a soup never existed.

Of course, Miller's research will continue to be taught uncritically as an important piece of the puzzle. This is because metaphysical naturalists still have a stranglehold on how science is taught. But when and where evidence again becomes admissible in such scientific questions, Miller's important research will be rightly recognized as contributing to the conclusion that life did not and could not arise through strictly natural processes.

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