- Second Law of Thermodynamics shows that a spontaneous process cannot also revert spontaneously. This is because spontaneous processes always increase the system’s entropy. A uniform gas in a chamber will accumulate in a corner only with external intervention and spontaneous chemical reactions can only revert if external work energy is applied. Current models of entropy assume the gas particles in a chamber to be independent (sometimes represented as pebbles on a Go board) and explains their never observed convergence on one side of the chamber as only due to that particular microstate having a very low probability(*). However, gas particles always interact with each other (Brownian motion) while pebbles do not. Thus, a reliable way to know that entropy of a system increases is if work energy could be obtained when transitioning from the low to the high entropy state while energy is always required for the reverse process.
- Total entropy of an isolated system can never decrease. Entropy is currently assumed just a statistical law. Thus, if N molecules are in an isolated system (box), the number of microstates associated with j of them being in one half while N-j being in the other half is Ω = N! / (j!*(N-j)!). If N is small, fluctuations seem possible, but before N increases to anything measurable, the probability of fluctuations rapidly decreases to nil. Furthermore, even these theoretical fluctuations, as improbable as they are, might be impossible since the statistical view does not account for molecular interaction observed as Brownian motion and as gas resistance to compression and expansion. Better fundamentals or statistics, either way entropy will never decrease spontaneously in an observable system (Fig 1.a).
- Decreasing entropy is not the reverse process of entropy increasing. That is why a broken egg coming together is easily identified as unreal and a reversed movie of its real shattering. The known laws of physics are the same forward and backward (time-reversal invariance), therefore the reverse shattering process of an egg would not violate any law, but only because these laws are always idealized. Supposedly, if just the right forces are applied to the broken pieces, the egg will come together. In reality this is impossible, and not because the unbroken egg is a highly unlikely microstate, but because entropy increase is not directly reversible even in non-isolated systems. This irreversibility holds for all heterogeneous systems, including life which is perhaps the most heterogeneous system of all. Entropy increase is directly reversible only for homogeneous systems and only if in a defined space. For instance, an expanding gas in an ideal piston creates a force that, when reversed, compresses the gas back into its original state. However, a solid cube of ice can be easily melted by increasing the temperature, but the original ice cube will not reconstitute by lowering the temperature, hence this process too is irreversible despite the cube of ice being homogeneous (Fig 1.b). As far as heterogeneous systems, even separating two mixed gases is way different than the original mixing process, hence mixing is irreversible (Fig 1.c). Entropy decrease is not only different, but also much more complex than entropy increase which is usually spontaneous. Abiogenesis is the entropy-lowering reverse of the biologic decay process, and therefore – if at all feasible – much more complex than adding chemicals and energies.
- Once in equilibrium, a “primordial soup” does not change spontaneously. Life is metastable – it requires certain forms of energy to sustain and spontaneously decays when it no longer receives that energy as well as after the end of the normal lifespan of the organism. It was hypothesized that random fluctuations can spontaneously create compounds and structures given enough time. Abiogenesis, as a reverse-decay process, cannot simply be an outcome of Brownian motion of the chemicals mix because a perpetual motion machine powered by decay and abiogenesis cycles would violate the ‘conservation of energy’ principle. Experimentally, one can confirm that chemical blends in static equilibrium never transition spontaneously into a different equilibrium state (this includes oscillating reactions after the settlement period).
- A “primordial soup” cannot generate life even if energy is applied. It was hypothesized that abiogenesis can be a product of tidal pools, deep sea hydrothermal vents, and the undersurface of ice caps where persistent and abundant energy is available in the form of thermal and electrochemical gradients. Indeed, energy can throw systems off balance and create all kind of chemical compounds and physical structures. However, as the energy applied increases, a complexity limit and hence a dynamic equilibrium is reached where molecule destruction offsets their creation and, if even more energy is applied, molecule destruction dominates, eventually leaving the experimenter with gunk and none of the desired molecules. Miller–Urey and subsequent experiments were not ended because they reached their goal – life – nor because they ran out of energy and materials, but because they reached this dynamic equilibrium, and by adding more of anything would have left them with fewer of the targeted compounds. The amino acids obtained were not the end product but the intermediate between the original molecules and the useless gunk that was the product of the Maillard reaction caused by the energy applied to the system. More complex molecules (and maybe life itself one day) can be created by intelligent designers adding targeted compounds and energies. Then “why can’t natural processes somewhere somehow just mimic the intelligent designer in this vast and almost timeless universe?” The better question is: “why insist on natural processes when the model to be mimicked is that of the intelligent designer?”
- If natural processes were capable of generating life, the environment would be full of intermediate bio-compounds. Life is so complex that laboratories have no hope of replicating it in the foreseeable future. However, if abiogenesis were an outcome of natural processes, the cell structure would be produced only from subsystems and complex biomolecules that in turn would depend on simpler molecules down to H-C-O-N, the atoms of life. A “primordial soup” capable of generating life, thus must contain all intermediate compounds from the atoms of life to the most complex biomolecules and subsystems in an ever-decreasing ratio as complexity increases. Not knowing anything about how this process would work (or even if possible), the most reasonable assumption is a normal distribution of outcomes with life being an n-sigma event (with n unknown) while the availability of the atoms of life being a 1-sigma event and anything else falling in between (Fig 2). Many x-sigma events would be required for each (x+1)-sigma event, with a good first approximation given by the normal density function. Thus, the 2-sigma event could be the basic molecules of life (water, methane, etc.), and we would expect only one of these events for every seven of the 1-sigma events. This approximation would further yield (in one scenario) 1/7 fewer molecules of life than atoms of life, 1/17 fewer simple lipids and carbohydrates molecules (3-sigma) than of molecules of life, 1/43 fewer complex lipids and carbohydrates (4-sigma) than 3-sigma events, 1/110 fewer amino acids (5-sigma) than 4-sigma, 1/291 fewer simple proteins (6-sigma) than 5-sigma, 1/771 fewer complex proteins (7-sigma) than 6-sigma and then – rule of thumb – 1/1600 (8-sigma), 1/3800 (9), 1/9100 (10), 1/22k (11), 1/52k (12), 1/126k (13), etc. fewer of each additional sigma event than previous event where 8+sigma being (this scenario) nucleic acids, short chains, long chains, organelle subsystems, organelles, other critical cell components and finally the fully functional biologic cell – the n-sigma event which is not quite life but good enough for this analysis. Then how can we test this?
- Apart from life itself, the complex molecules of life are nowhere to be found in the universe. To test the ‘natural processes’ hypothesis of abiogenesis, one must observe the intermediate components of life in nature and in the ratios estimated above (or from another reasonable estimate). In addition, one must observe the spontaneous transitions (aided by energy) from simple to complex even if not all transitions are observed at once. Earth is “polluted” with life down to the deepest ocean trenches, therefore the first focus is the extraterrestrial space where, too bad, the largest confirmed interstellar molecules have a maximum of 13 atoms (apart from C60/C70 fullerene). Back on earth we see all intermediate components, but only within life itself. Outside of the cells, aside from the simplest biomolecules, we only see products of decomposition that are never in the ratios associated with abiogenesis, meaning we never see increasing molecule complexity in decreasing ratios resembling anything reasonably expected. Abiogenesis is not happening due to the irreversibility of the entropy increase and for the same reason egg breaking, butter melting, gas mixing, etc. are not reversible processes. Humans can only create a few of the complex molecules, although most always aided by life itself, and even then the power of synthetic biology is severely restricted. The more complex, the harder these molecules are to obtain and the faster they decay instead of spontaneously combining with one another to form even more complex compounds and ultimately life.
- Miller–Urey style abiogenesis experiments are ill conceived, hence doomed from the beginning. To be more specific, they are only good for PR (public relations) given the irrelevant “organic compounds” created that raise the hopes of the believers. Trying to obtain an automobile from scratch by mixing chemicals and energy, qualifies the person attempting as delusional and the one selling such vision as charlatan. So why would those attempting the same with life – which is infinitely more complex than an automobile – not also be labeled charlatans and delusional? Abiogenesis experiments belong to the Reverse Engineering category of processes and, when done right, they are very different than Miller–Urey. Their starting point is never some “primordial soup”, but the most advanced compounds available, preferably already organized in working subsystems. Swapping organelles or parts within organelles, exposing organisms to various environments, attempting to revive dead organisms, substituting engineered subsystems and so on are part of the hard work with long tradition and already being done in medicine and many industries for other purposes than to prove abiogenesis. If and when someone will be able to reverse the decaying and dying processes, we will know that abiogenesis is possible as an act of Intelligent Design creation. To confirm abiogenesis as an “unguided process” we would have to observe reverse-decay and reverse-dying processes happening in nature, not in a lab. Yet 2nd law proves this impossible.
- Is abiogenesis not feasible because it was a unique event? If true, abiogenesis would be a “materialistic miracle” and furthermore not just one, but a long series of “materialistic miracles” since a long series of – so far unknown – events are needed to get from atoms to the simplest organism. Yet one of the tenets of materialism is “no miracles” showing the inconsistency of the materialistic “unique event” assertion. And of course, physics and chemistry transformations are never unique. And even if entropy allowed for abiogenesis, the laws of life do not follow from any priors (physics, chemistry, mathematics). Life has a drive to survive and leave off-springs which entails harm avoidance, immune system, metabolism, food seeking, homeostasis, growth, reproduction, and body structure. Without these, any cell would start decaying the instant it was formed as in fact it does as soon as it no longer is alive. Despite having lasted almost since the formation of The Earth, life is metastable – one knock and it dies and then decays. This is unlike other negative entropy machines that can be restored (rebuilding proportional with the damage).
- Other considerations.
- “Dissipation-driven adaptation of matter” (J. England, MIT) claims that life is inevitable because life “absorbs and dissipates more energy from external sources” leading to faster entropy increase. However, there is no law that entropy has to increase faster. In addition, most of the entropy in the universe is captured by black holes with life having a nil contribution to that entropy.
- Some claim they have obtained “protocells” that seem to mimic real cells at least in part. However, “protocells” are to biological cells as fool’s gold is to real gold.
- “Kolmogorov complexity is lowest at low and high entropy and high in the middle hence life is supposedly inevitable (S. Carroll)”. However, life is not complexity. Life is much more than snowflakes, vortices and chemical reactions (candle burning). And most certainly, life is not the complex swirls of cream mixing into coffee on a journey from low entropy to high entropy (both having low complexity). In addition, unless very specific external action continues to be applied to maintain those patterns, they soon disappear like in sand dunes exposed to shifting winds. The patterns therefore do no “arise”, but are created by an external force.
- “Gradients of energy in deep vents are responsible for abiogenesis”. But all organisms from these exotic places are very similar to any other ones found elsewhere, hence all likely have the same origin. In addition, no free floating organic compounds (aside from decay byproducts) have been found there to suggest ongoing abiogenesis. And, aside from the simplest molecules, no spontaneous transitions from x-sigma to (x+1)-sigma bio complexity has ever been observed around these deep vents either.
- Of course life does not violate 2nd Organisms do conform to 2nd law when they decay as soon as they die. In addition, as observed by Erwin Schrödinger, “the increase in entropy from turning our low-entropy food into our high-entropy waste is greater than the local decrease in entropy from making the well-ordered structures within our bodies”. Nothing special so far – a refrigerator does the same: creates a zone of low-entropy while the entropy of the whole system increases and for as long as it’s fed energy.
- Randomness can theoretically account for any bizarre occurrences including Paley’s watch and F. Hoyle’s 747 in baby steps if enough time is given. But no such event was ever observed. In addition, breaking down the unattainable complex system into a combination of simpler components, each with higher probability of occurrence makes it no easier as the probabilities of all subsystem have to be multiplied to get back to the complex final assembly.
- Some claim that life itself prevents abiogenesis by ingesting all intermediate molecules spontaneously formed, but this can be easily prevented in sterile labs. In addition, all complex intermediate molecules observed outside of cells are due to decomposition, not abiogenesis.
- “Evolution” corollary number 1. If abiogenesis is impossible as an undirected, natural process, then whoever is responsible for abiogenesis is also responsible for the biologic landscape past and present, therefore “evolution” is also impossible as an undirected, natural process.
- “Evolution” corollary number 2. It is easy to verify that nothing ever “evolves” in the nonliving nature. Life is said to be “just chemistry”. These two combine to: nothing “evolves” in the living either. Solar systems, geographical features, fluid eddies, chemistry, snow flakes, etc. all go through their life cycles, and all are different from each other, but the life cycles of the newer entities are no more “evolved” than the life cycles of the ancient ones.
- “Evolution” corollary number 3. Presumably, “evolution” has not ended. And if ongoing, then one must see the normal distribution of the different transitioning organisms (the intermediary), just as we would see if abiogenesis were true. If humans evolved from monkeys and “evolution” is ongoing, then humans must still be in transition especially since the human population is one of the largest of all mammals and, the more individuals, the more “evolving” opportunities. The older Darwinists replied with a hierarchy of races. But that reply is not only fashionably repugnant, but also false and, amazingly, contrary to [at least] the Abrahamic religions that have always known better.
- In conclusion, abiogenesis is nothing more than the decay process running backwards, therefore easily visualized, yet impossible according to the second law of thermodynamics. In other words, “evolution” is nothing more than imagination run wild. Expecting abiogenesis to be within reach if only the proper forces and chemical compounds were added is as wrong as expecting the broken egg to come back together if only the proper sequence of forces were applied to the broken pieces.
- A spontaneous process cannot revert spontaneously.
- Mixtures will never ever spontaneously separate per second law.
- Decreasing entropy is not the reverse process of entropy increasing and also much more complex.
- Once in equilibrium, a “primordial soup” does not change spontaneously.
- A “primordial soup” cannot generate life even if energy is applied due to dynamic equilibrium.
- If natural processes were capable of generating life, the environment would be full of intermediate bio-compounds.
- Apart from life itself, the complex molecules of life are nowhere to be found in the universe.
- Abiogenesis experiments belong to the Reverse Engineering category of processes.
- Miller–Urey style abiogenesis experiments are ill conceived, hence doomed from the beginning.
- Abiogenesis unique event conflicts with the “no miracles” clause of materialism.
- Even if entropy allowed abiogenesis, the laws of life do not follow from any priors (physics, chemistry, mathematics).
- “Evolution” corollary number 1 – no abiogenesis, no “evolution”.
- “Evolution” corollary number 2 – no “evolution” in the inert and “life just chemistry”, then no “evolution” in the living.
- “Evolution” corollary number 3 – no intermediate “evolving” entities, no “evolution”.
- Being a decay process running backwards, abiogenesis is as impossible as a broken egg being reconstituted by the “proper sequence of forces”. “Evolution” is also nothing more than imagination run wild.
(*)R. Penrose “The Emperor’s new mind”; PBS SpaceTime “The Misunderstood Nature of Entropy”; Sean Carroll “From Eternity to Here”, etc.
Abiogenesis: The Faith and the Facts
James Tour: The Mystery of the Origin of Life