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Quotes, Past and Present, on the Spontaneous Beginning of Life

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It was 70 years ago that J. W. N. Sullivan, in his book The Limitations of Science, noted the hypothesis that life developed spontaneously from inorganic matter was still an article of faith. It remains so today* since the alleged processes have been unfruitful in the laboratory.
Furthermore, the ongoing study of cellular activity poses ever-increasing hurdles to the creation of life even with the intelligent input of genetic engineers and microbiologists. Thus, the attempts to change the philosophical faith regarding the origin of life into scientific belief become even more hopeless with each passing day.

Thomas H. Huxley, Darwin’s Bulldog, was fully aware of these two categories of human knowledge and summed up the situation very well in the following quote.

Looking back through the prodigious vista of the past, I find no record of the commencement of life, and therefore I am devoid of any means of forming a definite conclusion as to the conditions of its appearance. Belief, in the scientific sense of the word, is a serious matter, and needs strong foundations. To say, therefore, in the admitted absence of evidence, that I have any belief as to the mode in which existing forms of life have originated, would be using words in a wrong sense.

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But expectation is permissible where belief is not; and if it were given to me to look beyond the abyss of geologically recorded time to the still more remote period when the earth was passing through physical and chemical conditions, which it can no more see again than a man can recall his infancy, I should expect to be a witness of the evolution of living protoplasm from not living matter.  I should expect to see it appear under forms of great simplicity, endowed, like existing fungi, with the power of determining the formation of new protoplasm from such matters as ammonium carbonates, oxalates and tartrates, alkaline and earthly phosphates, and water, without the aid of light.  That is the expectation to which analogical reasoning leads me; but I beg you once more to recollect that I have no right to call my opinion anything but an act of philosophical faith.” [Emphasis added.]

It would resolve much of the disagreement about the Creation/Evolution controversy if modern scientists recognized this distinction made by Tom Huxley. Most of the claims of evolutionists fall into the category of philosophical faith not scientific belief. Once this is acknowledged a realistic discussion can follow.

*[Editor’s addition]

This situation is indeed unchanged in the 70 years since Huxley’s quote was published. Despite what you will hear to the contrary in popular level journalism, etc. this is what one leading professor of chemistry and nano-engineering has to say about the possibility of life arising from non-life:

Those who think scientists understand the issues of prebiotic chemistry are wholly misinformed. Nobody understands them. Maybe one day we will. But that day is far from today. It would be far more helpful (and hopeful) to expose students to the massive gaps in our understanding. They may find a firmer—and possibly a radically different—scientific theory. The basis upon which we as scientists are relying is so shaky that we must openly state the situation for what it is: it is a mystery. ~James Tour

Footnote:

Huxley quote accessed 5/7/19 on Thomas Henry Huxley; A Sketch Of His Life And Work Part 10

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Written by Walter Sivertsen

Walt is the President of Midwest Creation Fellowship, and has avidly studied the creation/evolution controversy for several decades. His career in chemistry and his certification in quality engineering make him particularly knowledgeable about how science operates, and when it is not literally the scientific method that is operating. Since junior high school, he has been an amateur astronomer. For entertainment, he studies astronomy, calculus, thermodynamics, and all things related to the creation/evolution issue.

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