Strobel’s search began with an examination of evidence that challenged materialistic theories of life’s origin. He discovered that this negative evidence contradicted the textbook explanations that had once convinced him the blind forces of evolution could account for the creation and diversity of life on earth. 

A good example of negative evidence is the 1953 origin of life experiment by Stanley Miller, the one that helped lead me into atheism in the first place. As biologist Jonathan Wells explained to me, Miller’s experiment has now been thoroughly discredited. Stanley Miller put together a glass apparatus and in that apparatus he put a mixture of gases that people at the time thought reflected the atmosphere of the early Earth. Those gases were methane, ammonia, hydrogen and water vapor. But then, the professional opinion of what was there on the early Earth changed in the 60s. Geochemists revised their hypothesis and decided that the hydrogen, being very light, would have escaped into outer space (the Earth’s gravity isn’t strong enough to hold it). Probably the early Earth’s atmosphere then consisted of what we now see coming out of volcanoes today, namely carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water vapor. 

If the early Earth’s atmosphere consisted of those gases, then Stanley Miller’s experiment would not work. In fact, he himself tried it with those gases and he found that he couldn’t produce any amino acids at all. The experiment falls apart once you use a more realistic mixture of gases in the apparatus. Miller’s test has been repeated many times using the correct atmospheric components and the results are always the same. The amino acids that generated so much enthusiasm in 1953 do not appear. 

Even if Miller’s experiment were valid, you’re still light years away from making life. It comes down to this: No matter how many molecules you can produce with early earth plausible conditions, you’re still nowhere near producing a living cell and here’s how I know. If I take a sterile test-tube and I put in a little bit of fluid with just the right salts, just the right balance of acidity and alkalinity, just the right temperature, the perfect solution for a living cell and I put in it one living cell. This cell is alive, it has everything it needs for life. Now I take a sterile needle and I poke that cell and all its stuff leaks out into this test tube. You have this nice little test tube with all the molecules you need for a living cell, not just the pieces of the molecules but the molecules themselves. You cannot make a living cell out of them. You can’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again. What makes you think that a few amino acids dissolved in the ocean are going to give you a living cell? It’s totally unrealistic. 

Stanley Miller’s experiment was not the only unsuccessful attempt to explain how life originated. Beginning with Russian chemist Alexander Oparin’s work in the 1920s theorists, have also proposed chance, chemical attraction and biological seeding from outer space as possible answers. Each has failed to account for how non-living chemicals could have arranged themselves into the most basic components of the first living cell. Strobel’s research ultimately led him to conclude that materialistic explanations for the origin of life were deeply flawed and his examination of negative evidence did not end with the question of first life. He also learned of weaknesses in the most celebrated icon of Darwinian evolution.