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Index to Creationist Claims,  edited by Mark Isaak,    Copyright © 2005
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Claim CB010.2:

The most primitive cells are too complex to have come together by chance. (See also Probability of abiogenesis.)


Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. 1985. Life--How Did It Get Here? Brooklyn, NY, pg. 44.
Morris, Henry M. 1985. Scientific Creationism. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, pp. 59-69.


  1. Biochemistry is not chance. It inevitably produces complex products. Amino acids and other complex molecules are even known to form in space.

  2. Nobody knows what the most primitive cells looked like. All the cells around today are the product of billions of years of evolution. The earliest self-replicator was likely very much simpler than anything alive today; self-replicating molecules need not be all that complex (Lee et al. 1996), and protein-building systems can also be simple (Ball 2001; Tamura and Schimmel 2001).

  3. This claim is an example of the argument from incredulity. Nobody denies that the origin of life is an extremely difficult problem. That it has not been solved, though, does not mean it is impossible. In fact, there has been much work in this area, leading to several possible origins for life on earth:


Robinson, Richard. 2005. Jump-starting a cellular world: Investigating the origin of life, from soup to networks. PLoS Biology 3(11): e396.


  1. Ball, Philip. 2001. Missing links made simple. Nature Science Update (15 Mar.).
  2. Cairn-Smith, A. G. 1985. Seven Clues to the Origin of Life, Cambridge University Press.
  3. de Duve, Christian. 1995a. The beginnings of life on earth. American Scientist 83: 428-437.
  4. Fox, S. W. 1960. How did life begin? Science 132: 200-208.
  5. Fox, S. W. 1984. Creationism and evolutionary protobiogenesis. In: Science and Creationism, ed. A. Montagu, Oxford University Press, pp. 194-239.
  6. Fox, S. W. and K. Dose. 1977. Molecular Evolution and the Origin of Life, Revised ed. New York: Marcel Dekker.
  7. Fox, S. W. et al. 1995. Experimental retracement of the origins of a protocell: It was also a protoneuron. In Ponnamperuma, C. and J. Chela-Flores, pp. 17-36.
  8. Huber, Claudia, Wolfgang Eisenreich, Stefan Hecht and Günter Wächtershäuser. 2003. A possible primordial peptide cycle. Science 301: 938-940.
  9. Lee, D. H. et al. 1996. A self-replicating peptide. Nature 382: 525-528.
  10. Martin, W. and M. J. Russell. 2003. (see below)
  11. Nelson, Kevin E., M. Levy and S. L. Miller. 2000. Peptide nucleic acids rather than RNA may have been the first genetic molecule. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 97: 3868-3871.
  12. Ponnamperuma, C. and J. Chela-Flores (eds.). 1995. Chemical Evolution: Structure and Model of the First Cell. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  13. Pappelis, A. and S. W. Fox. 1995. Domain protolife: Protocells and metaprotocells within thermal protein matrices. In Ponnamperuma, C. and Chela-Flores, pp. 129-132.
  14. Russell, M. J. and A. J. Hall. 1997. The emergence of life from iron monosulphide bubbles at a submarine hydrothermal redox and pH front. Journal of the Geological Society of London 154: 377-402.
  15. Smith, J. V., F. P. Arnold Jr., I. Parsons, and M. R. Lee. 1999. Biochemical evolution III: Polymerization on organophilic silica-rich surfaces, crystal-chemical modeling, formation of first cells, and geological clues. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 96(7): 3479-3485.
  16. Tamura, K. and P. Schimmel. 2001. Oligonucleotide-directed peptide synthesis in a ribosome- and ribozyme-free system. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 98: 1393-1397.
  17. Wächtershäuser, Günter. 2000. Life as we don't know it. Science 289: 1307-1308.

Further Reading:

Fry, Iris. 2000. The Emergence of Life on Earth: A Historical and Scientific Overview. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Cohen, Phil. 1996. Let there be life. New Scientist 151 (6 July): 22-27.

de Duve, Christian. 1995a. (see above)
de Duve, Christian. 1995b. Vital Dust: Life as a cosmic imperative. New York: Basic Books.

Fox, S. 1988. The Emergence of Life: Darwinian Evolution from the Inside. New York: Basic Books.

Lacey, J. C., N. S. Wickramasinghe, and G. W. Cook. 1992. Experimental studies on the origin of the genetic code and the process of protein synthesis: A review update. Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere 22(5): 243-275. (technical)

Lewis, Ricki. 1997. Scientists debate RNA's role at beginning of life on earth. The Scientist 11(7) (31 Mar.): 11. (registration required), or

Martin, W. and M. J. Russell. 2003. On the origins of cells: A hypothesis for the evolutionary transitions from abiotic geochemistry to chemoautotrophic prokaryotes, and from prokaryotes to nucleated cells. Philosophical Transactions, Biological Sciences 358: 59-85. (technical)

McClendon, John H. 1999. The origin of life. Earth-Science Reviews 47: 71-93. (technical)

Orgel, L. E. 1994. The origin of life on the earth. Scientific American 271(4) (Oct): 76-83.

Pigliucci, Massimo. 1999. Where do we come from? a humbling look at the biology of life's origin. Skeptical Inquirer 23(5): 21-27.

Russell, Michael. 2003. Evolution: Five big questions: 1. How did life begin? New Scientist 178(2399) (14 June): 33-34.

Willis, Peter. 1997. Turning a corner in the search for the origin of life. Santa Fe Institute Bulletin 12(2).
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created 2001-3-31, modified 2005-12-14