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Apologetics Press :: Sensible Science

“Artificial Bacteria"—Have Scientists Created Life?
by Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

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Not once have scientists ever observed it happening—but almost all of them hold fast to the concept that nonliving material gave rise to living material. If their cherished evolutionary theory is correct, then spontaneous generation must have occurred at some point in the distant past. George Wald, Nobel Laureate of Harvard University, once stated: “Most modern biologists, having reviewed with satisfaction the downfall of the spontaneous generation hypothesis, yet unwilling to accept the alternative belief in special creation, are left with nothing. I think a scientist has no choice but to approach the origin of life through a hypothesis of spontaneous generation” (see Bowen, 1979, pp. 287-306, emp. added). As such, our classrooms and textbooks still contain the false idea that scientists have created life.

The most famous example is the 1953 experiment carried out by Stanley L. Miller and Harold C. Urey. Using a system of glass flasks, Miller and Urey attempted to simulate “early atmospheric conditions.” They passed an electrical spark through a mixture of water, ammonia, methane, and hydrogen. However, their experiment was carried out in the absence of oxygen (something evolutionists now admit does not reflect the early Earth’s atmosphere), because they knew that oxygen quickly would oxidize any amino acids that were formed. At the bottom of the apparatus was a trap to capture any molecules produced by the reaction. This trap prevented the newly formed chemicals from being destroyed by the next electrical discharge. On the first attempt, after a week of electrical discharges in the reaction chamber the sides of the chamber turned black and the liquid mixture turned a cloudy red. The predominant product was a sticky, black substance made up of countless carbon atoms strung together in what was essentially tar (a common nuisance in organic reactions). Miller was able to produce a mixture containing two simple amino acids—the building blocks of proteins. Yet the highly praised Miller-Urey experiment did not produce any of the fundamental building blocks of life itself. It produced 85% tar, 13% carbolic acid, 1.05% glycine, 0.85% alanine, and trace amounts of other chemicals.

One article on this subject in the respected Encyclopaedia Britannica affirmed that modern findings “pose grave difficulties” for spontaneous generation theories once supported by the Miller-Urey experiment. The article went on to state: “…due to a rapid and efficient photochemical consumption of CH4 and NH3, a methane-ammonia atmosphere would have a maximum lifetime of about 1,000,000 years. This finding is of interest because it has been suggested that life originated from mixtures of organic compounds synthesized by non-biological reactions starting from methane and ammonia. Recognition of the short atmospheric lifetimes of these materials poses grave difficulties for such a theory” (see Encyclopaedia Britannica). Many scientists now believe that the Earth’s early atmosphere would have made the synthesis of organic molecules virtually impossible under conditions simulated in the Miller-Urey experiment. For example, NASA has reported that a “reducing atmosphere” never has existed, although the experiment assume one (Levine, 1983). Scientists also now realize that the ultraviolet radiation from sunlight is destructive to any developing life. Regarding the products of the Miller-Urey experiment, evolutionist Robert Shapiro stated: “Let us sum up. The experiment performed by Miller yielded tar as its most abundant product. There are about fifty small organic compounds that are called ‘building blocks.’ Only two of these fifty occurred among the preferential Miller-Urey products” (1986, p. 105).

However, more recent discoveries once again have evolutionists clamoring that life has been “created.” In the June 16, 2000 issue of Science, Gerard Wong and colleagues reported a mechanism by which chemicals can spontaneously self-assemble themselves into ribbon-like tubules that resemble bacterial cell walls (288: 2035). This discovery has led some to suggest that “artificial bacteria” were created—when, in fact, they were not! The researchers simply mixed actin with special liposomes to make actin-membrane capsules, which is a gargantuan step from “creating life.” Actin is a protein that provides the structural framework for cells. The actin molecule does not possess DNA, it does not actively metabolize, and it does not reproduce. It is therefore a far cry from being “living.” Spontaneous organization does not equal spontaneous generation. So while this composite membrane is indeed similar to the plasma membrane that surrounds most cells—due to the fact that it can organize itself into three different layers, including a middle lipid layer—it has none of the qualities scientists use to identify life.

In a similar study, Jeffrey Hartgerink and colleagues reported that they had made self-assembling synthetic bone (2001). Using pH-induced self-assembly, these scientists have been able to form a composite that may one day be able to replace diseased bone tissue. These synthetic molecules assemble into fibers that “coax” minerals into growing on top of them—bringing us closer to better prosthetic devices. News services were quick to describe this discovery as “man-made bone.” However, even if scientists were able to manufacture bone tissue, that in and of itself is not “life.” A bone lying on a stainless steel table is of little use in the quest to form living material from nonliving material. Artificial bone is not able to reproduce itself, and without a blood supply it quickly dies. A close inspection of the report reveals that the bonds within this fibrous matrix can be reversed (by reducing the disulfides back into thiols). Does this sound like any living tissue with which you are familiar? The fact is, life always comes from life—a fact that nails the lid shut on the coffin in which evolutionary theory rests.


Bowen, M.E., and J.A. Mazzeo (1979), Writing About Science (New York: Oxford).

Encyclopaedia Britannica “Atmosphere: Photochemical Reactions” [On-line] URL:

Hartgerink, Jeffrey D., Elia Beniash, and Samuel I. Stupp (2001), “Self-Assembly and Mineralization of Peptide-Amphiphile Nanofibers,” Science, 294:1684-1688, November 23.

Levine, J. (1983), “New Ideas About the Early Atmosphere,” NASA Special Report, No. 225, Langley Research Center, August 11.

Shapiro, Robert (1986), Origins—A Skeptics Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth (New York: Summit).

Wong, Gerard C.L., Jay Tang, Alison Lin, Youli Li, Paul Janmey, and Cyrus Safinya (2000), “Hierarchical Self-assembly of F-Actin and Cationic Lipid Complexes: Stacked, Three-Layer Tubule Networks,” Science, 288:2035-2039, June 16.

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