Deciphering truth from assertion – Is the assumed evolutionary origin of life a fact?

By Phil Robinson

Published 4th April 2016

“Evolution is a fact”[1] – It is hard to miss this very carefully worded statement in large letters when walking around the Ulster Museum’s ‘Nature Zone’ exhibit. On this display board the Ulster Museum is very clear on what it means by evolution, stating, “Evolution explains how and why all life today shares so many similarities, originating in a distant common ancestor; and how immense complexity and huge diversity have arisen from tiny and simple beginnings more than three billion years ago”.[2] The distant common ancestor being referred to is the evolutionary origin of life, a supposed 3.6 billion years ago – the first single cell – which every living thing on the planet today is supposed to have originated from.

There are many people who would prefer that the origin of life were not linked to the theory of evolution. However, any honest evolutionist fully admits that the origin of life is a key component of the theory of evolution, as there had to be a beginning to life before any more complex life forms could evolve. The Ulster Museum exhibit has honestly included it in their story of evolution, as do a number of others who have proposed definitions of evolution:

“What is life, and how can we make it? NASA’s Exobiology Program uses the working definition of life as “a self-sustaining chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution”.[3]

“All present-day living organisms are the descendants of self-replicating molecules that were formed by purely chemical means, more than 3.5 billion years ago”.[4]

“4 Billion years before the present: the surface of a newly formed planet around a medium-sized star is beginning to cool down…. Almost as soon as water begins to form pools and oceans on its surface, something extraordinary happens. A molecule, or perhaps a set of molecules, capable of replicating itself arises. This was the dawn of evolution. Once the first self-replicating entities appeared, natural selection kicked in, favouring any offspring with variations that made them better at replicating themselves. Soon the first simple cells appeared. The rest is prehistory. Billions of years later, some of the descendants of those first cells evolved into organisms intelligent enough to wonder what their very earliest ancestors was like. What was the molecule that started it all?”[5]

Even in an article by Scientific American[6] trying to answer, “Creationist Nonsense”, the origin is life is included within the scope of the theory of evolution. As evolutionist Gordy Slack, science writer and author, put it;

I think it is disingenuous to argue that the origin of life is irrelevant to evolution…. Evolution should be able to explain, in theory at least, all the way back to the very first organism that could replicate itself through biological or chemical processes. And to understand that organism fully, we would simply have to know what came before it. And right now we are nowhere close”.[7]

Why is it important to establish the links between the origin of life and evolution?

What is not included on the same, “Evolution is a fact”, information board in the Ulster Museum, is any reference to how the origin of life, that first single cell, came into being all by itself. To find more information about the origin of life you need to go to the other side of the museum, where in a significantly smaller font size readers will find a much less authoritative statement – “Scientists still do not know how life itself began”.[8] There seems to be a very clear disparity between the two statements made by the Ulster Museum on evolution. How can evolution be an established fact, when the origin of life, the very starting point, is still an enigma? Even the Scientific American[9] article that tried to answer, “Creationist Nonsense”, admitted so, stating, “The origin of life remains very much a mystery”.[10]

No-one in the evolutionary scientific community claims to know how life started. This is why there are many people who would like to try and separate the two ideas (evolution and the origin of life), because there is no naturalistic solution to the origin of life. This leaves a gaping hole right at the very start of what evolution is trying to explain. While the Ulster Museum has continually stated that its displays simply convey the current, “scientific consensus”,[11] they are in fact promoting a naturalistic, materialistic and atheistic faith position; that life arose all by itself by purely chemical means. This is something which has never been demonstrated in the fossil record, observed, or even shown to be within the realms of probability. So why do they do this?

The outworking of naturalistic presuppositions

Evolution is a theory born out of the philosophical presupposition of ‘naturalism’; the idea that the universe and everything in it came is the result of natural processes and that there is nothing outside of the natural, i.e. there is no supernatural. The Ulster Museum believe evolution to be true, not because science has shown it to be so, but because such a belief is the result of it the Museum’s presupposition (starting point). As such, the belief in evolution is equivalent to a religious conviction. As the atheistic philosopher Michael Ruse so clearly explained, “It [evolution] arrived on the scene as a rival to Christian questions about origins….It was not a science-versus-religion conflict but a religion-versus-religion conflict – always the bitterest kind”.[12] If the Ulster Museum wishes to promote a philosophical presupposition and religious idea on how they think life evolved naturalistically then they should be honest in doing so, and not try to hide the religious nature of its conviction under the guise of, “scientific consensus”.

There are only two alternatives as to how life began. Either that life arose naturalistically, out of the void and is the result of random, undirected events, unaided by any intelligent being. Or life is the result of a supernatural creative act of God. There is no third alternative. Everything that we know about the complexity of life screams at us that it could not have arisen naturalistically. That leaves us with the only possible conclusion that life arose as a supernatural creative act of an omnipotent and omniscient God. This makes so much sense when we see the incredible design and complexity in a whole structure that works together like the human body, down to the smallest of living cells. So why do people choose to believe what they know to be scientifically impossible; why do they believe that life came from non-life, rather than believing in a creative act of God?

Simply put, people who try to explain the origin of life without any input from a creator God are happy with a godless universe because they don’t want the implications that a creator brings; someone to whom they are responsible for their actions. People don’t want to acknowledge their sinfulness (rebellion against God). They don’t want to consider the consequences of their sin and they don’t want God in their life. They choose to believe the impossible so that they can live whatever way they choose, they can die whatever way they choose, and they can hope to go wherever they choose, or nowhere, whenever they die. They do these things in vain, in an attempt to escape God’s rightful ownership of their lives.[13] Evolution facilitates the denial of the existence of the creator, and eases the path to the lifestyle choices that people want to make.

Questions that evolutionary scientists have not answered

Things have changed considerably since Darwin’s was formulation of the theory of evolution. With the development of branches of science such as molecular biology, techniques such as X-ray crystallography and technologies such as the electron microscope, we are now been able to see into the inner depths of the cell, including the awesome double-helix structure of DNA.[14] The more that the inner workings of cells are studied: their machinery and pathways; how DNA functions inside them; and cells they maintain their integrity, e.g. DNA repair mechanisms,[15] the more we realise how complex cells are. Evolutionists are baffled as to how to explain the complexity that they observe. Furthermore we also know that structure of cells in life are irreducibly complex,[16] that they require multiple components and machinery there at the same time in order to operate, and that to try and construct it without these components and machinery there at the same time will not work. How can these processes happen by random chance events? As Physical Chemist and creationist Dr Jonathan Sarfati explains:

“In every known self-reproducing organism on earth today, DNA stores biological information, but that information can’t be read without decoding machinery. The instructions to build this decoding machinery are themselves stored on the DNA. Is it impossible to solve this vicious chicken-and-egg problem? Furthermore, most of these processes use energy, supplied by ATP, produced by the nano-motor ATP synthase [which is present in all living things]. But the ATP synthase motor can’t be produced without the instructions in the DNA, read by decoding machinery using ATP – a three-way circle…. Is there a solution to this perplexing conundrum, or does it signal to us that the origin of life as we know it is impossible?”[17]

These are only a couple of the major hurdles that have no plausible answers in the naturalistic story of life. DNA also provides information allowing enzymes, which are mostly proteins, to be built within the cell. Enzymes, which are very task specific, are needed inside the cells as catalysts to speed up reactions that otherwise would be far too slow for life to exist. Enzymes and other essential proteins within the cell are made up of long strands of amino acids (referred to as the building blocks of life). These strands of amino acids are then folded into precise 3 dimensional shapes forming the protein, which then has to be guided to where it can be useful. Amino acids come in ‘right handed’ and ‘left handed forms’ and are naturally found in a racemic mixture, i.e. the amount of ‘left handed’ and ‘right handed’ amino acids is 50:50. Only ‘left handed’ amino acids are used to form proteins; [18] the insertion of one ‘right handed’ amino acid will break the amino chain and the protein will not form properly. This is referred to as the problem of homochirality (same handedness), and is similar to trying to put a glove on the wrong hand. How in a naturalistic environment where amino acids are found in a 50:50 (racemic) mixture could these long chains of only ‘left handed’ amino acids line up and fold themselves into 3 dimension shapes? This question is currently well beyond the reach of a naturalistic explanation.

Even with the most unlikely of circumstances, with all the correct ‘left handed’ amino acids were in the right place at the right time, evolutionist Professor Paul Davies points out that obtaining these building blocks would not explain their arrangement;

“[J]ust as bricks alone don’t make a house, so it takes more than a random collection of amino acids to make life. Like house bricks, the building blocks of life have to be assembled in a very specific and exceedingly elaborate way before they have the desired function”.[19]

Just as building a house requires an architect’s plans, and a builder to put the materials together, so cellular machinery, proteins and DNA speak of a specified complexity that required plans and builder to put them together in the right way, at the right time, in order for them to function properly in a living cell. It is only by deliberately putting your head in the proverbial sand that this conclusion can be ignored.

A ridiculous side-step and the reality of a naturalistic origin of life

Evolutionists have been stumbling around in the dark trying to explain how non-living chemicals could become something so complex, that comparing it with New York City only scratches the surface of how complex cells are! It has become so ridiculous that some evolutionists, such as Francis Crick (co-discoverer of DNA), have turned instead to the idea of ‘panspermia’, the notion that life was planted (either directed or undirected) on earth from outer space, rather than accepting the far more rational idea of a creator God! This of course does not answer the question of how life arose, but merely attempts to side-step it, moving the answer off-planet, so they can comfortably keep believing in evolution. Evolutionist and atheist, Richard Dawkins, who does not believe in panspermia, but who does believe that other life forms have arisen in the universe through Darwinian evolution, recently stated in an interview for the Daily Mail Online:

‘It would seem to be rash to predict we’re the only life form in the entire universe.”

“On the other hand if there was only one planet that has life then it has to be this one, because here we are,” he said. “The alternative is to say yes, we are alone. If you want to believe that then the origin of life on this planet has to be a quite staggeringly improbable event”

“So we’re left with the rather paradoxical result that people who are trying to work out how life originated on this planet are totally wasting their time, because the theory we’re seeking is not a plausible theory, it’s an exceedingly implausible theory.”[20]

As life has never been observed on any other planets we are left in the words of Richard Dawkins with an ‘exceedingly implausible theory’ on how life began on earth.

For those who are happy enough to hold on to an ‘exceedingly implausible theory’ on the origin of life, with the naive assumption that it may be worked out in the future, it is worth further pointing out that the evolution of life from a single cell onwards is no less difficult, and no more proven. University of Zurich evolutionary biologist Andreas Wagner recently summarized the evidence for how large scale evolutionary changes in life are currently understood to have occurred:

“[C]omplex macroscopic innovations, such as the evolution of new body parts, may involve changes in the regulation of multiple molecules, and the evolution of new molecules. Known macroscopic innovations are so complex that we do not yet understand all the required changes for any of them”.[21]

Just as the naturalistic origin of life is not understood, evolution from that single celled organism into all the massive amount of diversity we see on the planet in life today, is also not understood, but is a tenant of the evolutionist’s faith.

Deciphering truth from biased assertion

Back in 1977 evolutionist, Dr Hubert Yockey, wrote, “One must conclude, that contrary to the established and current wisdom a scenario describing the genesis of life on earth by chance and natural selection which can be accepted on the basis of fact and not faith has not yet been written”.[22]

This is still very much the case today.

Having considered the faith position and biased assertions taken by the Ulster Museum on the origin of life, which is at odds with both their statement, ‘Evolution is a fact’, and their attempt to promote ‘scientific consensus’, it defies logic that they would not present the case for a Creator instead. Of course the reason they have not done so is not a logical one or even fact-based one, but a spiritual one. Acknowledging the enormous complexity of even a single cell can lead us to no other conclusion than there is a Creator God. The Bible goes on to tell us that Jesus is the author of Life.[23] (To find out more about Jesus as the giver of eternal life please click here).

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).


References and Notes:

[1] Text on the wall of the ‘Nature Zone’ exhibit.

[2] Text on the wall of the ‘Nature Zone’ exhibit.

[3] Saha, R., & Chen, I., Origin of Life: Protocells Red in Tooth and Claw, Current Biology, Vol. 25, Issue 24, pages 1175 – 1177, 21 December 2015. – accessed 27/02/2016

[4] Charlesworth, B., & Charlesworth, D., Evolution: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford, England, Oxford University Press, 2003, page 1.

[5] Marshall, M., Dawn of the living, New Scientist, No 2825, 13 August 2011, page 33.

[6] Rennie, J., 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense, 1 July 2002. – accessed 27/02/2016

[7] Slack, G., What neo-creationists get right: An evolutionist shares lessons he’s learned from the Intelligent Design camp, The Scientist, 20 June 2008. – accessed 27/02/2016

[8] Text on the wall of the ‘Origin of Life’ exhibit.

[9] Rennie, J., 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense, 1 July 2002. – accessed 27/02/2016

[10] Ref 9.

[11] NMNI, Peer Review of Interpretation, 2009

[12] Ruse, M., The Evolution-Creation Struggle, London: Harvard University Press, 2005, page 10

[13] Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein”.

[14] Gentile, F., et al, Direct Imaging of DNA Fibers: The Visage of Double Helix, Nano Letters, 12(12), pages 6453 – 6458, 22 November 2012.

[15] Fischman, J., Chemistry Nobel Prize for 2015 Goes to Discovery of DNA Repair, 7 October 2015. – accessed 27/02/2016.

[16] For further reading on the irreducible complexity of the cell se:

[17] Sarfati, J., The Origin of Life, Chapter 3, Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels, Editor: Carter, R., Powder Springs, USA, Creation Book Publishers, 2014, page 80. This wonderful resource can be purchased at

[18] The problem of homochirality also raises it head in relation to DNA which is composed of only ‘right handed’ bases. For more information see

[19] Davies, P., Life force, New Scientist 163(2204):27–30, 1999; page 28.

[20] Richard Dawkins speaking at the Starmus Festival, Tenerife, 2014, reported by, O’Callaghan, J., Do ALIENS hold the key to why we have sex? Richard Dawkins says ET could reveal why animals use it to reproduce – and even the origins of life. Daily Mail online, 23 September 2014. – accessed 27/02/2016.

[21] Wagner, A., The Origins of Evolutionary Innovations: A Theory of Transformative Changes in Living Systems, Oxford University Press, 2011, page 14.

[22] Yockey, H.P., A Calculation of the probability of spontaneous biogenesis by information theory, J. Theor. Biol. 67:377 – 398, 1977.

[23] Acts 3:15