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The problem of 
the origin of life.


Miller-Urey Experiment

In 1953 Miller and Urey did an experiment in an effort to try to create Amino Acids in the lab. Amino Acids are the basic building blocks for life. The experimental apparatus consisted of a vacuum line, high voltage spark electrodes, a condenser, with circulating cool water, a trap to prevent back flow and a flask of boiling water. The sealed tube was later broken to remove reaction products.

They had problem however, the Earth' has an oxidizing atmosphere. It consists of Nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. The problem for Miller and Urey is that amino acids will not form in an oxygen atmosphere. Their solution was to assume that the Earth originally had a reducing atmosphere. That means, it had no oxygen, but was composed of methane, ammonia, hydrogen, and water vapor.

They did succeed in producing a small amount Amino Acids. They produced mostly tar, which is poisonous to life. In addition the products had to be removed form circulation so that the spark would not destroy the Amino Acids. If that is not bad enough, with out oxygen there is no ozone layer to block UV rays and UV rays destroy Amino Acids. The final problem is the Earth's "earliest" rocks show evidence of  oxygen.

These problems did not stop Miller, he trying again in 1983. They used a neutral atmosphere. It too has no oxygen. It consisted of water vapor, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen. This experiment still had the same problems, but produced fewer results.


The “simple” cell

The term "simple" cell is actually a misnomer from the late 19th century. Under an optical microscope a cell looks fairly simple. In reality living cells have millions of interdependent proteins. They are incredibly complex systems. Because of this there is no real theory explaining how a living cell could arise from non living mater and life from non life has never been observed. In fact the more is learned about the internal workings of a  cell, the more the term "simple cell" becomes a contradiction of terms.

A big problem for a naturalistic origin for life is that with out an organizing mechanism, such a process would violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Adding energy will not help with out an organizing mechanism and no organizing mechanism exists for getting life from non life, with one exception: "And God said..."

Actually if some one did produce life in a lab, it would only prove the need for intelligence. So what would the claim that "producing life in a lab proves no need for intelligence" say more about the intelligence of scientists that did it?


Entropy and the Origin of life

Living cells are highly organized complex systems that consist of numerous molecular machines that perform any number of functions. These molecular machines are indispensable to cellular function and maintenance. There are three main types of cells each type has their unique qualities. Some of them have components the others lack but they all have some components in common.

Statistical Entropy is the application of probability theory to the thermodynamic principle of entropy.  It shows that entropy is a measure of the amount of disorder in a system. In the formula relating entropy to disorder the number of equivalent microstates or the number of possible ways for a given condition to occur is denoted as W, the entropy is denoted as S and  k is the Boltzmann Constant.

 k= 1.38 X 10-23 JL-1

S = k ln W

This shows that entropy is a measure of the disorder of a system. Disordered systems have more equivalent microstates (W) than ordered systems. As a result the larger W is the more disordered the system and the smaller W is the more ordered the system is. Furthermore the larger a system’s entropy the more disordered it is and the smaller a system’s entropy the more ordered it is.

Reducing entropy and producing order from disorder requires more than just applying energy to a system but depends on how the energy is applied. When energy is applied to a system in a manner more ordered than that system’s degree of order it increases the system’s order. By contrast when energy is applied to a system in a manner more disordered than that system’s degree of disorder it increases the system’s disorder.  The Mathematical relationship is shown by:

Number of equivalent microstates of the applied energy is We
Number of initial equivalent microstates of the system is W
The maximum change in entropy is denoted as DSmax.
k is the Boltzmann Constant = 1.38 X 10-23 JL-1

This shows the general direction that applying energy to a system will move the entropy of that system. The value DSmax denotes the change in entropy that occurs if the energy is applied to the entire system with 100% efficiency. The actual change in entropy results from the amount of energy actually applied to the system but the direction of the change (increase or decrease) is the same.

Is Abiogenesis Possible?

We have examined every way that energy could be applied to non living mater and even a hypothetical overly simplified cell. They are heat, radiation, electricity (lighting) solar energy and chemistry. Heat, radiation, electrical energy and solar energy all proved to be more random than any potential pre biotic soup. As such they would increase the entropy of the pre biotic soup and not the enormous decrease that is needed for abiogenesis. While chemistry has a degree of order to it because of the geometry of chemical bonds and can decrease the entropy of a pre biotic soup, it still falls short of the degree of ordered complexity of the simplest living cell.  

Abiogenesis' last hope of Natural Selection also falls short. Natural Selection can not lead to the origin of life since it only works on life. Proposing simpler cells without cellular machinery does not solve the problem.  This is because cells would be killed by rapidly increasing entropy without cellular machinery and Natural Selection is not an organized process that can decrease entropy.

Conclusion abiogenesis is a thermodynamic impossibility.



 
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Life from life...or not?

Quantum leap of faith

The Miller/Urey Experiment

Journey Into the Living Cell

Origin of Life: the Living Cell