A few weeks ago, the family and I had an opportunity to visit the original ICR creation museum in Santee, California. Since ICR moved their school to Texas, the old facilities in Santee have been purchased and taken over by Scantibodies, a bio-tech lab founded and led by Tom Cantor.
Tom is a biblical creationist, and since taking over the old creation museum, he has worked to expand the exhibits beyond the earth science emphasis. A newer exhibit is a large section dedicated to the intricacies of the human body.
There is a booklet made available to attendees that highlights Tom’s conversion to Christ and his subsequent commitment to biblical creationism. I was particularly delighted to read his retelling of his interaction with Dr. Stanley Miller, the Nobel Prize winning second half of the famous Miller-Urey experiment, that I thought I would share that selection:
In that same year I entered the newly formed, research-oriented, University of California at San Diego (UCSD). I had attended another University and I immediately noticed the difference at UCSD. At the former University I was taught science by professors who taught from books about what other researchers had found. But at UCSD, I was impressed with how many of my professors taught on research that they had performed or were currently investigating and the excitement over research was contagious.
While at UCSD, it became very clear to me that my professors did not agree with how God explained origins. My professors said that there was a big bang when nothing exploded. I was perplexed by the statement that nothing exploded. To say that nothing exploded sounded to me like The Emperor’s New Clothes. Though physics was not my main study, I knew that the “nothing exploded” explanation was in conflict with the Bible’s “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” explanation.
Even more perplexing to me was the explanation that was promoted on campus that life came from non-living chemicals. I was being taught that over a long period of time (more than six days) through random, chance processes alone, life originated. I was a student of life sciences and that explanation did not make any sense to me. To say life came from time, chance and random processes also seemed like another version of The Emperor’s New Clothes.
And, the more it was promoted, the more it created internal conflicts. My professors were actively teaching an explanation for origins that squarely conflicted with what the Bible was teaching about Creation. I felt that this conflict had to be resolved. Were my science professors right and the Bible wrong? Or was the Bible right and my professors wrong in their promotion of this other explanation of origins?
During this time I was wondering about prebiotic synthesis of chemicals found in life. How could the proteins found in life have come about before there was life?
There are 20 amino acids found in the proteins of living organisms. When these amino acids are produced in a laboratory, they are produced in an equal proportion of structures starting and ending with the terminus of Amino-Acid and Acid-Amino (which are mirror images of each other) called right handed or D (for dextro=right) isomers and left handed or L (for levro=left) isomers. But in living organisms, only the left handed (L) or levro isomers of the 20 amino acids are found. There are no right handed (D) or dextro isomers of the 20 amino acids found in life.
I attended my first class in physical chemistry and the professor introduced himself as Dr. Stanley Miller, who had received the Nobel Prize for proving that the building blocks for proteins (amino acids) found in life came from non living chemicals. In the 1960’s, Professor Harold Urey, the chair of our physics department, had recruited his former Ph.D. student, Dr. Miller, from the University of Chicago. While in Chicago, Dr. Miller had constructed his famous “sparking chamber” in which under highly controlled conditions (with boiling water, sparking electrodes, a trap and the influx of methane, ammonia and hydrogen) he was able to demonstrate the generation of 11 out of the 20 amino acids found in life.
Now I was a student of Professor Miller. How perfect, I thought, for me to be able to go to the person who received the Nobel Prize for prebiotic synthesis and ask him my questions about the prebiotic synthesis of proteins. So, I made an appointment to meet Professor Miller in his office.
Professor Miller was a very nice person and very approachable. I entered his office and said, “Professor Miller, I have been thinking about prebiotic synthesis and your work that earned you the Nobel Prize. I have three questions:”
“My first question has to do with your Miller-Urey experiment in which you demonstrated the generation of 11 of the 20 amino acids found in life. What is your explanation for the generation of the remaining 9 amino acids?”
“My second question focuses on the fact that your Miller-Urey experiment generated an equal proportion of both the D and L isometric forms of amino acids, as would be the case if they were produced by standard organic synthesis. But in life, only the L isomer is found. What is your explanation for how the amino acids found in life are only L isomers with not one D isomer?
My third question dealt with complex proteins. Hemoglobin is made up of 574 amino acids with a specific sequence. Each of the 574 positions must be made up of exactly the specific amino acid. For example, in position six of normal hemoglobin is the amino acid “glutamic acid.” When there is a person with the illness of sickle cell anemia, position six has the amino acid of valine (instead of glutamic acid), while all other 573 positions in sickle cell anemia hemoglobin have the same amino acids as normal hemoglobin.
Then I looked at Professor Miller for his response to those three questions. Professor Miller began to smoke heavily on a cigarette (at that time it was permissible to smoke in an office in California). As his office began to fill with smoke I thought, “I hope he answers those questions quickly or else I am going to get lung cancer.”
Professor Miller started with several explanations that each ended in him explaining the problems with each explanation. Finally, he looked at me and just said, “I do not know. Actually, I am still searching for how life began.”
I thanked him for his time and left his office. Outside of his office I thought to myself, “If the man who got the Nobel Prize for supposedly demonstrating prebiotic synthesis admits that he does not know how life began, then I am convinced that there is no scientific basis for life beginning without God.”
Professor Miller has not been alone in his search for how life could have begun without God. Explaining how life began without God has become a dilemma for any scientists. Professor Francis Crick received the Nobel Prize for the double helix structure and function of DNA and later became President of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla. Professor Crick explained what he called “directed panspermia” stating that life did not begin on earth but came from microorganisms that were planted on earth by an unknown advanced alien civilization in outer space.
However, I had respect for my instructors and the researchers on campus and I continued to wonder why most of them held to a position that could not be supported scientifically. One day I was discussing Creation versus life beginning without God with one of my teaching assistants in his office. He was becoming more adamant in favor of life originating without God and our voices were becoming louder. Not wanting anyone to overhear us he got up to shut his office door. When he shut the door of his office I saw that he had a pinup of a naked woman on the back of his door. I paused and thought about that and then I pointed to the pinup and said to him, “I’ve got it! You don’t have a scientific problem; you have a moral problem.” From that point on, the words of Professor Goodman that he could not accept the alternative lined up together with the experience with the teaching assistant, and I understood why so many of those whom I respected academically held to the non-scientific explanation that life began without God. [How a Jew Became a Scientific Creationist]