Intelligent Design Origin Of Life

What the Miller-Urey experiment got wrong

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Miller and Urey produced simple amino acids but then nothing happened. Apparently, the containers you use to try to make life in a test tube matter:

In the years following the original work, several limitations curbed excitement over its result. The simple amino acids did not combine to form more complex proteins or anything resembling primitive life. Further, the exact composition of the young Earth did not match Miller’s conditions. And small details of the setup appear to have affected the results. A new study published last month in Scientific Reports investigates one of those nagging details. It finds that the precise composition of the apparatus housing the experiment is crucial to amino acid formation.

The highly alkaline chemical broth dissolves a small amount of the borosilicate glass reactor vessel used in the original and subsequent experiments. Dissolved bits of silica permeate the liquid, likely creating and catalyzing reactions. The eroded walls of the glass may also boost catalysis of various reactions. This increases total amino acid production and allows the formation of some chemicals which are not created when the experiment is repeated in an apparatus made of Teflon. But, running the experiment in a Teflon apparatus deliberately contaminated with borosilicate recovered some of the lost amino acid production.

Tom Hartsfield, “What the famous Miller-Urey experiment got wrong” at BigThink (November 21, 2021)

When life got started, they always used Teflon.

You may wish to read: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips – origin of life What we do and don’t know about the origin of life.

14 Replies to “What the Miller-Urey experiment got wrong

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Well written article, but it still misses the issue of selection. A controlled experiment is meant to answer a question posed by human minds, and the results are published or tossed according to the orthodoxy of the answer. In a young planet with a billion reactions happening, who wrote the hypothesis and tossed the [billion – 1] null answers, leaving only the 1 valid answer? Who was the thesis adviser? Why did the borosilicate reactions survive through billions of further reactions with other reagents?

  2. 2
    jerry says:

    I pointed to a much, much better experiment to see if life can occur naturally. Take dead cells, of various types and mix them in whatever environment one wishes. Old earth, new earth, ocean vents, etc.

    Everything needed for life is present, amino acids, nucleotides, proteins, lipids, RNA, DNA, other molecules used in cellular activity including ribosomes. . If something happens it would be an amazing discovery. But if nothing happens, then life requires more than just building blocks.

    What is it?

  3. 3
    chuckdarwin says:

    This is one thing that is really wrong with ID proponents; they obsess over dead horses. Miller-Urey did their experiment 60 years ago.
    Give it a rest, already…..

  4. 4
    jerry says:

    they obsess over dead horses

    Actually, dead horses might work fine. Thanks for suggesting.

  5. 5
    Laszlo says:

    ID proponents might be more inclined to give Miller-Urey a rest if the biological community would do likewise. Unfortunately, this tired old experiment is still being trotted out in biology textbooks and magazine articles to show how easily life might have started from non life. The references always gloss over the profound difficulties that the experiment ignored. Somebody has to point these out.

  6. 6
    martin_r says:

    Laszlo

    Few years ago i visited Natural history museum in Vienna … a huge exposition … very nice …
    I also came across the origin-of-life department, and, how else, the Miller-Urrey experiment was there as the possible explanation of OOL …

    So, Chuck, WE should give it a rest ?

  7. 7
    martin_r says:

    Jerry @2

    Good point, but such an experiment with dead/living cells was suggested many times before,
    E.g. by Jonathan Wells, in this very short video, all Darwinists should see it and start using their heads…

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Qm1Uy2N0MzA

  8. 8
    martin_r says:

    What rational educated person with some knowledge of molecular biology can possibly think, that mixing some chemicals together, heating it up, cooling it down, shaking it a little, will make millions of molecules working together in concert for a purpose like we see inside the cell ??? Are these scientists insane ?

  9. 9
    jerry says:

    Jonathan Wells, in this very short video

    Thank You!

    I was not aware of this video or him talking about it. This should be part of every discussion of OOL.

  10. 10
    Belfast says:

    @Chuck @3
    Reflect on what Miller himself said, “It must be admitted from the beginning that we do not know how life began. It is generally believed that a variety of processes led to the formation of simple organic compounds in the primitive earth. These compounds combined to give more and more complex structures until one was formed that could be called living.
    No one should be satisfied with an explanation as general as this.”

  11. 11
    martin_r says:

    Belfast

    …These compounds combined to give more and more complex structures until one was formed that could be called living.
    No one should be satisfied with an explanation as general as this

    Thanks for posting this… Obviously, Miller was a rational person…. and of course, at that time (1952), he had a very limited knowledge of what exactly is going on inside a living cell …

    Unfortunately, lots of people are very satisfied with an explanation as general as this … an explanation as absurd as convenient … But Darwinists have to offer something to their religious brothers like Seversky, JVL or Chuckdarwin …

    Today, scientists know very well what is going inside a cell (more or less), and still misleading lay people that life emerging from some chemical soup is a rational explanation …

  12. 12
    Lieutenant Commander Data says:

    Martin_r
    What rational educated person with some knowledge of molecular biology can possibly think, that mixing some chemicals together, heating it up, cooling it down, shaking it a little, will make millions of molecules working together in concert for a purpose like we see inside the cell ??? Are these scientists insane?

    Yes.

    PS: 🙂 What’s next? If an sane person stays on the fence of an hospital of mental disorders and screams for years and years : “You are crazy…” there is no difference between that person from the fence and those persons from hospital because crazy people stay crazy and sane person( with a disturbed state of mind )will eventually became crazy .

  13. 13
    Querius says:

    Jerry @2,
    Yes, and to the organic smoothie, add enough ionizing radiation to simulate millions and millions of years of “evolution” but not too intense, otherwise you’ll only get a crepe.

    If fact, skip the smoothie. Just irradiate pond water containing millions of bacteria, algae, and various “cavorting beasties.”

    Particularly with the rapid reproduction and high LD 50/30 of the bacteria, you should come up with all kinds of protozoans in the muck in very little time, and slightly more advanced forms such as planaria and politicians, comb jellies and journalists, and barnacles and medical bureaucrats in a matter of months!

    -Q

  14. 14
    chiralkid says:

    One big problem with the Miller-Urey experiment is that all the chiral compounds that were made (which includes all the amino acids except for glycine) would have been formed as racemic mixtures. What good is that? A strong chemical argument for intelligent design is that all the biochemistry of all living things is based on single enantiomers. Racemic mixtures are never used. It just wouldn’t work. Using simple achiral compounds such as were used in the Miller-Urey experiment as your starting point will never give you optical activity. Maybe just maybe there’s some way to get a slight excess of one enantiomer but there’s absolutely no way of getting single enantiomers only all the time. You can’t just zap something and come up with D-ribose or deoxyribose. You’d get all the other pentoses too.

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