Life from Dead Matter–Part 1
Miracle #2 – Living Organisms from Dead Matter
Part I—Spontaneous Generation
In the prior article we examined the atheist’s claim for the origin of the universe. His “reasoned,” “rational” approach logically led to the conclusion that existence comes from non-existence, that is, the universe came into being by natural processes, from nothing. Not only is this impossible, it is ridiculous!
This is the second of four “miracles” of atheism. They were identified a few years ago by Clayton Kraby on his blog “Reasonable Theology.” These miracles are impossible, illogical assumptions. They are required or atheism does not work as a belief system. Thus, atheism is founded on four illogical assumptions. They are:
- Existence from Non-existence
- Living Organisms from Dead Matter
- Order from Chaos
- The Immaterial (Transcendent Categories) from Materialism
This essay discusses living organisms from dead matter.
Life is amazing! Think about it. We live in a universe that contains vast, dark, empty spaces. The material parts of our universe are composed mostly of dead, inorganic matter, such as stardust, rocks, and gas. And yet, in spite of appearances, life happens! Things are born. They grow. They reproduce. Eventually, they die.
From where does all this life come? For the most part life comes from life through the wonders of reproduction. New life is born from older life. The chain goes on and on. One generation imparts life to the next and the next generation to the next and the next generation to the next and so on.
But this cannot go on forever. There must be first life. The important question is this: how did life begin? In Isaiah 42: 5, the Bible describes God as the Creator and Giver of life.
Thus says God the LORD,
Who created the heavens and stretched them out,
Who spread out the earth and its offspring,
Who gives breath to the people on it
And spirit to those who walk in it. (NAS)
How did life begin? According to the Bible, Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (NAS) All plants and animals, man, and anything else that has life were created and given life by God.
There is another question we need to ask: What is life? This is a fundamental question for a basic concept of reality. What is life? How can we define it?
What Is Life?
Let’s start with a definition. We use the word “life” in a lot of different ways. Webster’s Dictionary provides twenty different definitions for the English word “life.” Life can describe various parts of our daily experience, such as home life, personal/public life, or working life. Life also can mean the duration of an item’s usefulness or duration as in the life of a flashlight battery. But these meanings for the word “life” don’t apply to our investigation.
What is Webster’s primary definition for “life?” Life is:
a. the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body
b. a principle or force that is considered to underlie the distinctive quality of animate beings
c. an organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction
So it seems that our search may center on a kind of force—a life-force. This life-force gives things life and the ability to grow, reproduce, metabolize food, and to experience life. From a physical point of view, this force is transmitted from generation to generation through reproduction.
It is a mysterious force. Atheism denies that this force exists. Modern science knows little about this source. They cannot produce the force; nor can they replicate it. Science does not know from where life comes. Nor can science comment on where life goes when it departs. Science, being science, searches for answers.
Science Searches for the Cause of Life
At one time scientists wondered if life could be produced by electricity. Electricity was a new and mysterious force with many unknown properties.
In the 1780s an Italian scientist named Luigi Galvani discovered the effect of electricity on dead tissue. Once, when he touched the body of dead frog with an electric current, the muscles on the frog’s leg began to twitch. In 1803 his nephew, Giovanni Aldini, conducted similar experiments on the body of a dead criminal. According to The Newgate [Prison] Calendar entry of January 18, 1803,
On the first application of the process to the face, the jaws of the deceased criminal began to quiver, and the adjoining muscles were horribly contorted, and one eye was actually opened. In the subsequent part of the process the right hand was raised and clenched, and the legs and thighs were set in motion.
Was electricity the source of life? No, but it animated the plot for some classic horror stories.
A few years later young Mary Shelley was traveling in Switzerland with friends. They were studying the occult and the recently discovered effects of electricity on dead tissue. One day the friends challenged each other to see who could write the best horror story. Mary continued to wonder about the re-animation of a dead body. Years later she told of her continuing fascination with the reanimation of life.
Perhaps a corpse would be re-animated; galvanism had given token of such things; perhaps the component parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and endued with vital warmth.
A few days after the challenge, Mary dreamt about a scientist who created life in his lab. Her nightmarish dream soon became a book. The scientist in the book prepared a dead body for reanimation. He used a secret formula, the product of his scientific research. When the creature came to life, the scientist was horrified. This scientist, Viktor Frankenstein, related the moment of the creature’s awakening:
It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. . . . my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.
Although there is no mention of the use of electricity in the book, galvanism was on Mary’s mind. As scientists learned more about electricity they abandoned reanimation experiments. Electricity is not the source of life.
Atheists and Life
Atheists have no clue regarding life. They have no idea where or how or why or even what life is. That’s because, to an atheist, life does not exist. They dare not believe that any special or mysterious force might animate us. True atheists are materialists through and through.
But rather than looking stupid, atheists make metaphysical assumptions regarding life. How can they do this? Their world is limited to materialism. They explain mental and metaphysical processes, such as consciousness, life, or thought, as mechanical processes—like the output of some great machine. In other words, for an atheist, when all the conditions for life are present, life “just happens!” Life appears as the result of spontaneous generation.
Actually, spontaneous generation really is only a superstition. Atheists accuse religious believers of superstition but don’t even go there. The Bible is quite clear about the source of life. There is nothing in the Bible that supports spontaneous generation. According to the Bible, the source of life is God and Jesus Christ. Consider the following:
Genesis 2: 7 – “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (NAS)
Acts 17: 24-25 – “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things.” (NAS)
John 5: 26 – [Jesus said] “For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself.” (NAS)
John 11: 25-26 – Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (NAS)
Wait a minute! If Christians don’t believe in spontaneous generation, who does? Atheists, that’s who! That’s right! When a real superstition comes to light, guess who believes it. Those “scientific,” superstitious atheists! Spontaneous generation—how did this idea ever get started?
The most obvious answer is “flies.” Yes, really. People in pre-scientific ages noticed flies coming from decaying meat, animal waste, and other garbage. How did the flies get there? You start with a piece of garbage. You leave it out for a couple of days. Maggots appear in the meat. Where did they come from? The maggots turn into flies. How did that happen? An atheist explains, “The meat caused flies to come to life. Living flies spontaneously generated from the dead meat!”
The advance of science slowly proved spontaneous generation to be superstition. Russell Levine and Christ Evers wrote the following in their essay “The Slow Death of Spontaneous Generation (1668-1859).”
From the time of the ancient Romans, through the Middle Ages, and until the late nineteenth century, it was generally accepted that some life forms arose spontaneously from non-living matter. Such “spontaneous generation” appeared to occur primarily in decaying matter. For example, a seventeenth century recipe for the spontaneous production of mice required placing sweaty underwear and husks of wheat in an open-mouthed jar, then waiting for about 21 days, during which time it was alleged that the sweat from the underwear would penetrate the husks of wheat, changing them into mice.
But the first person who used science to challenge this belief was Italian physician Francesco Redi. He also is known as the “founder of experimental biology” and as the “father of modern parasitology.” In 1668 Redi designed an experiment to test the “flies from meat” theory. According to Levine and Evers,
Redi believed that maggots developed from eggs laid by flies. To test his hypothesis, he set out meat in a variety of flasks, some open to the air, some sealed completely, and others covered with gauze. As he had expected, maggots appeared only in the open flasks in which the flies could reach the meat and lay their eggs.
When the microscope became available to scientists (around A.D. 1590), two scientists were proficient in its use. The first was a Frenchman, Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707-1788). Buffon was a leading scientist during his time. He suggested a common ancestry for man and apes. He also believed animals changed over time through a process similar to evolution. But he was unable to propose a mechanism to explain such change.
Buffon theorized that spontaneous generation depended on the existence of a life-generating force. He believed this force was an intrinsic part of inorganic matter. It caused living microbes to create themselves if given sufficient time. Due to Buffon’s influence, scientists soon started looking for this elusive life-generating force.
The second scientist to make wide use of the microscope was John Needham in England. By this time, scientists proved that boiling water kills microorganisms. But can these microorganisms spontaneously reappear after boiling? In 1745, Needham proposed a test for this theory.
Needham briefly boiled some chicken broth in a flask. He cooled the broth down to room temperature in an open container, exposed to air. Then he sealed the flasks. A few days later microbes were seen growing in the sealed flasks. Needham claimed proof of a life-generating force. This force gave life to dead matter through spontaneous generation.
Did Needham really prove the existence of a life-generating force? Did he show this force’s ability to produce spontaneous life from dead matter? Today we know his experiment failed for at least two reasons: (1) the boiling time was insufficient to kill all of the microbes and (2) cooling the broth in an open container probably led to re-contamination by airborne microbes. His experiment was contaminated from the start.
An Italian priest, Lazzaro Spallanzani, also researched the theory of the spontaneous generation of microbes. In 1768, he conducted an experiment. Chicken broth was boiled in a flask for an hour. The flasks were sealed. No air was let in. The microbes did not re-appear as long as the broth remained in the sealed flask. However, those who believed in spontaneous generation argued that air was the source of the life-generating force. Spontaneous generation could not happen without air.
Science Finds the Truth
The theory of spontaneous generation was finally defeated in 1859 by Louis Pasteur. According to Evers and Levine:
The French Academy of Sciences sponsored a contest for the best experiment either proving or disproving spontaneous generation. Pasteur . . . boiled meat broth in a flask, heated the neck of the flask in a flame until it became pliable, and bent it into the shape of an S. Air could enter the flask, but airborne microorganisms could not – they would settle by gravity in the neck. As Pasteur had expected, no microorganisms grew. When Pasteur tilted the flask so that the broth reached the lowest point in the neck, where any airborne particles would have settled, the broth rapidly became cloudy with life. Pasteur had both refuted the theory of spontaneous generation and convincingly demonstrated that microorganisms are everywhere – even in the air.
Atheists Restore an Old Superstition
As Pasteur laid spontaneous generation to rest, another scientist was giving it new life. In 1859, a British naturalist named Charles Darwin published a book called Origin of the Species. Darwin provided the mechanism for evolution, completing the theories of Buffon.
Darwin’s theory of evolution was an overnight success. But as scientists travel to the beginning of the evolutionary trail, the organisms get smaller and smaller. These earlier organisms also become less complex. Eventually we are left with a single cell that “evolved” from dead matter.
How did this cell become alive? How do atheists explain it? You are correct if you said, “spontaneous generation.” The old superstition was revived by atheists under a new form.
But in another way atheists have succeeded in turning things around. They are masters of doing “backflips” with words. They also are masters when it comes to taking advantage of our lack of knowledge. Now atheists accuse Christians of believing in spontaneous generation. However, people who understand the facts know better. Spontaneous generation is alive and well in the house of atheism. Atheists have no other way to explain the origin of life.
What wrong with atheists? Their world is too small; it’s dark and dead and empty. Their belief does nothing to dispel the gloom of their lifeless void.
God created this world as a place for life. The Christian God is life and light and love and so much more. He wants us to share in His life. Jesus said in John 10: 10, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (NAS)
But it’s your choice. It’s your life. God makes you an offer but He will not force you to submit. It’s your choice. Which will it be? God and life or atheism and death?
*This essay is adopted from http://reasonabletheology.org/four-miracles-athiesm/ by Clayton Kraby, “a believer with a desire to help other Christ-followers understand and build their faith.”