#2 Spontaneous Generation?

Historically nobody was much troubled by the origin of life.  The origin of life – where life came from – did not in the past really formulate itself as a question.  Quite apart from believing that the world has always been the way it is, and that God made it that way, it was commonly held that small forms of life simply came into existence spontaneously under certain conditions.

Spontaneous Generation is the belief that some living creatures arise suddenly by chance from matter independently of any parents.  Spontaneous Generation was accepted without dissent since ancient times until the second half of the 19th century.  It was thought that rotten meat turned into maggots, household dirt took on the form of Silverfish, while mould and bacterial colonies arise from damp corners.  Life simply appeared everywhere, all the time.  Nobody thought that the origin of life was a problem; it was only its persistent manifestation that was a problem.

The man who changed this situation was Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), French scientist and devout Roman Catholic.  He discovered that disease is caused by unseen germs and that the fermentation of wine and beer is caused by yeast.  His discoveries had many practical applications for improved public health, but he also applied himself to the investigation of Spontaneous Generation.  During the 1860s his experiments showed that spores of living organisms are carried on dust in the air, thus the organisms found growing on broth do not come from nowhere and will not grow in the absence of dust.  The French Academy of Sciences awarded him a prize for this discovery in 1862.

During the course of the 20th century science has revealed to a greater and greater extent the complexity of even the simplest life, and the difficulty in explaining its origin.  The simplest living organism, a unicellular bacterium, is immensely complex.  As the resolving power of microscopes has advanced, the living cell has revealed itself as a microcosm replete with cell organelles performing the tasks of living with astonishing precision and orderliness.

#1 Origin of Life – Chance, Unknown Law or Design?

The Steps of Creation Part I Chapter 9 – a series of posts taken from the book on the theme of evolution: what it can achieve and what it cannot achieve.


The investigation into the origin of life is one of the most speculative areas of science, but it is of the utmost importance to NeoDarwinism.  The NeoDarwinist project does not exist without the proposition that life arose by natural means.  As we will see, there are enormous difficulties in explaining and demonstrating how this could have been.  As scientists enter deeper and deeper into the secrets of life, the gulf between the simplest forms of life and no life manifests itself with greater and greater clarity. Attempts to find a natural explanation for the origin of life have gone on for over half a century now.  Some believe that there will be a break-through, and others believe that the problems are insurmountable.  And there we have it: it is a question of belief.  There is no known law for life to emerge from non-life.

“Was the start of life an accident, or the inevitable outcome of natural laws, or perhaps the deliberate act of a powerful supernatural being?”  (Shapiro 1986, page 30).

Did life evolve by chance as a happy one-off accident on a planet called Earth in an immense universe?  Is the evolution of life inevitable on inhabitable planets due to some unknown law that causes a rise in the complexity and interconnection of organic molecules?  Did God use natural processes to cause life to emerge from matter in the universe?  Did God create life by carefully designing its organic components such that they perform functions of amazing intricacy?  It is all a matter of belief. 

Podcast: Word and Information

This is a podcast of a talk I gave to the Discussion Group in May 2022.

Creation occurred through the embodiment of information.