More Miller-Urey-esque Irony

More Miller-Urey-esque Irony
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Anybody else see the irony of some brilliant scientists spending years in labs trying to prove that life arose spontaneously without the aid of intelligence?

What’s more ironic is that Harold Urey himself said:

All of us who study the origin of life find that the more we look into it, the more we feel it is too complex to have evolved anywhere. We all believe as an article of faith that life evolved from dead matter on this planet. It is just that its complexity is so great, it is hard for us to imagine that it did.”

source: Bird, W. R. The Origin of Species Revisited. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991. 325. Print.

Note to cartoonists: This composition is also an experiment that breaks all the comfortable cartooning rules. There. :)


8 thoughts on “More Miller-Urey-esque Irony

  1. Ironic? Umm… how about inaccurate?

    From Wiki:

    Considered to be the classic experiment on the origin of life, it was conducted in 1952[3] and published in 1953.

    “Within a day, the mixture had turned pink in colour,[9] and at the end of one week of continuous operation, Miller and Urey observed that as much as 10–15% of the carbon within the system was now in the form of organic compounds. Two percent of the carbon had formed amino acids that are used to make proteins in living cells, with glycine as the most abundant. Sugars and lipids were also formed[citation needed]. Nucleic acids were not formed within the reaction. But the common 20 amino acids were formed, in various concentrations.”

    Miller notes: “Just turning on the spark in a basic pre-biotic experiment will yield 11 out of 20 amino acids.”


    1. Let’s do a quick fact check of the significance of this experiment: Iris Fry, in her noted book “The Emergence of Life on Earth” points out that the Miller/Urey experiment relies upon a reducing atmosphere (79-80) which is itself a contentious claim (cf. John Oro’s article in “Life’s Origin: The Beginnings of Biological Evolution” but especially Schwartz and Chang’s article in the same work, where they state “the proposed existence of a highly reduced methane-rich primordial atmosphere was a controversial issue, and it remains so today…” [67] and their discussion on varied views of the early atmosphere over the following pages).

      Further, the difficulties of translating a controlled lab experiment to the “real world” are abundant, and a simple survey of the literature on the origins of life reveals this. See in particular the work of James Shapiro, who remains skeptical of a number of OOL scenarios.

      The part NAA seems to be stressing is that the fact remains that it is lab work that yields these amino acids, not some undesigned, non-laboratory conditions. And it seems accurate to say that months were spent setting up the Urey/Miller test, if not years of study. I don’t know NAA’s intent with the specific quote, but it isn’t obviously wrong if one allows for the time leading up to planning out the experiment, etc.

      The debate over how the origin of life came about is still extremely contentious. Again, see the works already cited or even Paul Davies’ work “The 5th Miracle.”


      1. The quote was tossed in to just show that one of the people involved in the experiment hailed as showing spontaneous generation life from non-life years ago points out that belief in life from non-life is “an article of faith”.

        I’d just like to add that in the documentary “A Question of Origins“, Dr. Gary Parker points out that in a public debate at San Diego University between Dr. Dwayne Gish, another creationist, and an evolutionist (whose name I’ve forgotten) in which they critiqued the Miller/Urey experiment, Dr. Stanley Miller was in the audience and asked if he’d like to respond to his critics. He said “no” adding that he knew all the problems and hadn’t believed in it for decades. Dr. Gary Parker also adds his critique of the experiment; that the entire experiment had just 3 basic problems:

        1) wrong starting materials;
        2) wrong conditions;
        3) got the wrong results.

        Otherwise, he says, it was a brilliant experiment. (Tar, the bulk of what the Miller/Urey experiment produced, is deadly, not lively.)

        So, the point of the cartoon and its relationship to recent news of continued experimentation in labs is that the more and more we see really, really smart people working long periods of time to create life in a lab, the more it shows the necessity of intelligence. Personally speaking, I think that money and lab equipment could be better spent.



      2. A 31 years buildup?

        The point (and importance) of the experiment was and remains that amino acids do ‘spontaneously form’ from non living material… that is, (to reiterate for those who might miss the connection to the cartoon) that no intervening intelligence is necessary to create these building blocks of life.


  2. are you accusing Miller and Urey of not being intelligent enough to fit the bill of intervening intelligence? :)


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