Old view
Origin of life (colloquial view)
Modern view
Elective affinities problem
Top: the "old" colloquial view of evolution, according to which "life" originated 3.85 billion years ago in the form of some type of cell or bacteria. Bottom: the "new" hmolscience view of the chemical synthesis of humans from hydrogen atom precursors, according to which—in the defunct theory of life view of things—humans are 26-element molecules that have been synthesized over time, in a transformation process that began once the the sun ignited some 4.5 billion years ago (see: elective affinities problem).
In science, origin of life was a sort of puzzle, aka "origin of life problem" or "great problem of natural philosophy", grappled with regarding the conditions, time-frames, physics, and chemistry involved in the supposed transition from non-life to life, or when life started in the metamorphosis from hydrogen to human in the great chain of being or coupled mechanism of chemical reaction synthesis and analysis.

The following overview by American physicist John Gribben summarizes the way most modern people think about the question of the origin of life:

“That all living organism share the same four letter alphabet and common DNA language, is convincing evidence that we are all descendant from one uniquely successful ancestor, whether that ancestor first appeared inside a comet [spore life] or in Haldane’s primeval soup [light/heat-made life] or in Darwin’s warm little pond [lightning-made life].”

which summarizes the three main origin of life theories.

Theory | Histories
In 1933, German chemist Edmund Lippmann, in his Spontaneous Generation and Life Force: the History of these Problem from the Earliest Times up to the Beginning of the 20th Century, according to Alexander Oparin (1936), gave a fairly complete survey of all the theories of the origin of life, from ancient times to the early 20th century. [22]

Perpetual motion
The majority of all origin of life theories, in large part, amount to perpetual motion of the living kind theories (e.g. self-motion); the following is an apt illustration of this:

Life (perpetual motion)

(add discussion)

The following are the main historical "origin of life" theories listed chronologically:

Creation / Creationism
Clay creation origin of life
Creation by breath
Gunpowder theory of life
Spark of life theory
Meteoroid origin of life theory
Lightning origin of life theory
Half-living thing
Warm pond model
Laboratory produced life
Clay substrate theory
Hydrothermal vent origin of life theory
Autocatalytic closure
No origin of life theory

Among this list, the "meteoroid theory" is somewhat recent, and adhered to by some at present. In 1834, Jacob Berzelius obtained samples of the Alais meteorite (a meteorite that had fell near the town of Alais in France in 1802) and subjected them to chemical analysis, and found the presence of carbon compounds, which to Berzelius meant life. [16] This seems to have been the start of the so-called "comet origin of life theory".

French chemist Marcellin Berthelot isolated “coallike” material from the 1864 Orgueil meteorite and under the microscope, tiny spherical grains were revealed, coated in carbonaceous material, which reminded Berthelot of fossilized bacterial cells. [16] Other similar theories were put forward by those including: William Thomson (1871), Hermann Helmholtz (1879), and Svante Arrhenius (1903).

In 2015, Martha Grover, et al, in their “A Chemical Engineering Perspective on the Origins of Life”, gave the following conceptual diagram (left), indicative of the ideology most modern scientists have in mind in respect to the origin of life question, which shows a pre-biotic or primordial soup earth reducing atmosphere model overlaid with the Miller-Urey experiment; about which they ruminate on, as quoted below (right): [21]

Origin of life (2014)
“How did these simple chemicals react to form the small-molecule building blocks of life?—amino acids, nucleobases, sugars, and lipids. While the exact pathways may never be known, many pathways can certainly be excluded based on prebiotic constraints, leaving a smaller number of plausibly prebiotic candidates. The scientific question is thus “How could life have emerged?” To answer this question, the chemicals and the environment must be considered together as a system, which may also include a periodically varying environment that drives the chemical reactions. The kinetics of these reactions must be understood, as well as the long-term thermodynamic behavior.”

(add discussion)

Solar life cycle
System (earth surface)A timeline depiction of the formation and transformation of the sun, according to which, humans, as animated molecules, having over time become attached to the surface of the earthwhich rotates on its axis and revolves about the sunare viewed as animated atomic aggregates (human molecules) that have come into bound state existence, following some 4.5 billion years of thermodynamically-governed cyclical heat-driven chemical reaction synthesis and transformation (see: nebular hypothesis). [18]
Recent estimates indicates of polled Americans, yield the following opinions on the question of the origin of life: [14]

● 42 percent of Americans believe that life has existed in its present form since the beginning of the world.
● 21 percent believe that while life may have evolved, its evolution has been guided by the hand of God.
● 26 percent believe in evolution through natural section.

In other words, about 42% of Americans believe in the Bible, that humans were created, in their present form, some recent time in the past, i.e. circa 6,000-years ago, 21% believe in god-directed evolution, and 26% believe in one or another variations of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution from a warm pond.

The question became an issue in the years to follow the 1859 publication of English naturalist Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. The subject is often approached using the universal science of thermodynamics, being that its laws apply equally to both realms. [1]

The modern, post 2008 view, as outlined below, is that the concept of life, or of the supposed existence of living things, is defunct. It is scientifically incorrect to say that either subatomic or superatomic entities are "alive". The correct view is to say that what, in the past, were considered as "biological", e.g. a moving bacteria or a breathing human, are merely carbon-centric reactive "animate molecules". A human, for instance, is a 26-element human molecule that has been synthesized, by the operation of universe, over the course of the last 13.7 billion years.

The concept of life, in its most probable origin, is a vestigial theory of olden days religion, derived primarily from the Egyptian Ra-based theological theory a divine "breath of life" imparted to a living thing to give it life, in conjunction with a morality-based theory of afterlife/resurrection/reincarnation or of universal continuity, as this passed into the Abrahamic/Brahamic religions of the world, the basis of over 80 percent of the world's religious thinking, as regarding the concept of life.

Early | Life principle/mechanism theories
The following table outlines some of the famous materialistic origin of life theories:


1784Goethe 75 (age 38)Johann Goethe (1749-1832) Discovered the human intermaxillary bone connecting humans and lower animals in 1784; in his 1790 treatise on the metamorphosis of plants, he had worked out the evolution or transformation of parts (morphogenesis); by 1795, following more studies in osteology, he had become convinced of the universality of his “newly discovered principle”, and was able to define the idea in his Sketch of a General Introduction to Comparative Anatomy, wherein he laid down with the utmost confidence and precision, that “all differences in the structure of animals must be looked upon as variations of a single primitive type, induced by the coalescence, the alteration, the increase, the diminution, or event the complete removal of singe parts of the structure”; in 1796, in is Third Lecture on Anatomy, he interjected into evolution all the way down to the chemical level: hence the birth of his human chemical theory and with the publication of his 1809 physical chemistry based novella Elective Affinities, the start of the science of human chemistry.
1794Erasmus Darwin 75Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802)
English physician

In his Zoonomia, explained: “would it be too bold to imagine, that in the great length of time, since the earth began to exist, perhaps millions of ages before the commencement of the history of mankind, would it be too bold to imagine, that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which the great first cause endued with animality, with the power of acquiring new parts, attended with new propensities, directed by irritations, sensations, volitions, and associations; and thus possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and of delivering down those improvements by generation to its posterity, world without end!” [5]
1833Etienne Saint-Hilaire 75 Etienne Saint-Hilaire
Sometime in the 1830s, he states, in what seems to be a very telling view: [19]

“It is quite certain that there was a moment when life did not exist on our planet, and another moment when it appeared. It is the passage between these two states that forms the great problem of natural philosophy today.”

In later 13 Jul 1838 letter to Georg Sand he explains his reasoned position on this: “God created materials predisposed for organization, by endowing them with all the virtual conditions to pass through all possible transformations according to the prescriptions of unceasingly variable ambient media. Animal forms are thus unceasingly variable.”
1871Darwin 75Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
English naturalist
In his 1871 "Letter to Joseph Hooker", after publishing his famous evolution theory in 1859, wherein he cites Saint-Hilaire, Erasmus, and Goethe as precursors to evolution theory, he comments: [6]

“The original spark of life may have begun in a warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, lights, heat, electricity, etc. present, so that a protein compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes.”
1921James Johnstone 75James Johnstone (1870-1932)
English biologist
In his The Mechanism of Life, states: “life probably itself has existed on earth for 1,000 million years [and] in living processes the increase of entropy is retarded—this is our ‘vital’ concept.”
1924Alexander Oparin  75Alexander Oparin (1894-1980)
Russian biochemist
Coacervate transformationIn his The Origin of Life (1924), argued that compounds of nitrogen, carbon, hydrocarbons, and other oxygen-containing organic molecules fell from the cooling clouds, filling the oceans, and from these a complex aggregate called colloids formed, and eventually transformed into an organic body. [20] In 1936, argued, based on the 1931 ‘coazervate’ theory of Budenberg de Jong, that inorganic molecules, in an oxygenless atmosphere, could react via the action of sunlight, to produce a ‘primeval soup’ of organic molecules; which in turn could combine to create a ‘coacervate droplet’; which, in turn, would grow by fusion with other droplets, and reproduce through fission into daughter droplets, gaining a primitive metabolism in which those factors that promoted cell integrity survived, whereas those that didn’t became extinct. [7]
1925Edwin Slosson 75Edwin Slosson
American chemist-theologian
In his Sermons of a Chemist, stated that “it has been surmised that in the early ages certain colloidal particles composed of compounds of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen, perhaps in contact with a catalyst such as iron oxide, and under the influence of the ultraviolet rays of sunshine, might have acquired the power of feeding and fission, and so become the progenitors of all future living beings.”
1929John Haldane 75John Haldane (1982-1964)
English biochemist
In a 1929 article, published in Rationalist Annual, argued that the atmosphere of the early earth was mostly carbon dioxide, ammonia, and water vapor, containing little oxygen; without oxygen no ozone would be present, hence: [20]

“When ultra-violet light acts on a mixture of water, carbon dioxide, and ammonia, a vast variety of organic substances are made, including sugars and apparently [Edward Baly, 1920s] some of the materials from which proteins are built up. The first living or half-living things were probably large molecules synthesized under the influence of the sun’s radiation, and only capable of reproduction in the particularly favorable medium in which they originated.”

More-alive less-alive theoryHere, to note, in Haldane’s supposition of a ‘half-living thing’, we recall American electrochemical engineer Libb Thims’ 2007 ridicule (Human Chemistry), depicted adjacent, of the more-alive/less-alive theory associated with the RNA life theory (see: defunct theory of life).

In his 1932 The Causes of Evolution, Halden postulated that, some two billion years ago, something of microscopic size separated from the ‘hot thin soup’.

1952Harold Urey 75 Harold Urey (1893-1981)
American planetary chemist

In his The Planets: Their Origin and Development, speculated that the early terrestrial atmosphere was probably composed of ammonia, methane, and hydrogen; was a student of American physical chemist Gilbert Lewis and mentor to Stanley Miller (below).
Urey-Miller experiment
1952Stanley Miller 75Stanley Miller (1930-2007)
American biochemist
Showed, as pictured adjacent (in retrospect), that if Harold Urey’s atmospheric mixture is exposed to electric sparks and to water it can interact to produce about half of the need amino acids, commonly called the "building blocks of life", precursors to proteins (see: Miller-Urey experiment).
1971Manfred Eigen 75Manfred Eigen
In his "Molecular Self-Organization and Evolution" proposed that living systems might have emerged from some non-living autocatalytic chemical reactions (see also: Stuart Kauffman and his 199s auto-catalytic closure theory).
1983Anthonie Muller 75Anthonie Muller (1951-)
Dutch biophysicist
Posited a "thermosynthesis" origin of life model, arguing that the first form of life was some type of pre-respiratory, pre-photosynthesis, version of a molecular heat engine. Motto “from negative entropy—by evolution—to intelligence”.
1993Stuart Kauffman 75Stuart Kauffman (1939-)
American biochemist
Autocatalytic closurePosited an "auto-catalytic closure" origin of life theory, in which "dead" individual molecular species A, B, and C, become "alive" once catalytic closure among them is achieved and they are able to complete one thermodynamic cycle.
1999Paul Davies 75Paul Davies (1964-)
English physicist and astrobiologist
Developed the panspermia theory of the origin of life, i.e. that life on earth originated from a frozen extraterrestrial bacteria on an asteroid that impacted on earth.

(add discussion)

Modern | Defunct view
See main: Defunct theory of life; Life does not exist; Life terminology upgrades
The following table outlines the defunct view of life and the search for the origin of life:

2008Michael Brooks 75Michael Brooks (c.1975-)
American quantum physicist
Outlined the view that "life" is one of the big 13 things of science that doesn't make sense. Notes that attempting to differentiate “between living [matter] and nonliving matter and come up with the definition of life” [is] widely admitted to be a dead end.” [10]
2009Thims 75Libb Thims
American chemical engineer
Arrived at the view that life is a "defunct theory", similar to vitalism and caloric theory, in that moving structures, such as a walking breathing human (or walking molecule) or single celled bacteria (or bacteria molecule), are "animate molecules", pure and simple, and hard science does not consider atoms nor molecules to be alive, nor will it ever. [11] This conclusion came into view, following prolonged calculations of molecular formulas for every step, i.e. each supposed "living entity", in molecular evolution tables and in the evolution timeline.
2010Alfred Rogers 75Alfred Rogers
American philosopher
View: “Life does not exist in the sense that life is not absolutely different from non-life.
2013Ferris Jabr 75Ferris Jabr
Science writer
View: “Life is a property [that] does not exist. Life is a concept that we invented. On the most fundamental level, all matter that exists is an arrangement of atoms and their constituent particles. These arrangements fall onto an immense spectrum of complexity, from a single hydrogen atom to something as intricate as a brain. In trying to define life, we have drawn a line at an arbitrary level of complexity and declared that everything above that border is alive and everything below it is not. In truth, this division does not exist outside the mind. There is no threshold at which a collection of atoms suddenly becomes alive, no categorical distinction between the living and inanimate, no Frankensteinian spark. We have failed to define life because there was never anything to define in the first place.”

McLean v. Arkansas
See main: Religious thermodynamics
In 1982, in the famous case of McLean vs. Arkansas Board of Education, on the debate of whether creation science should be taught in public schools, American biophysicist Harold Morowitz was designated an expert in biophysics and biochemistry and was tasked with demonstrating that the origins of life did not violate the laws of thermodynamics. [2]

Difficulties on theory
Crude estimates, based on carbon-dating of fossilized bacteria, indicate that life originated on earth circa 3.85 billion years ago. [3] The difficulty here is that a single bacterium is a single molecule, i.e. a “bacteria molecule”. The question immediately becomes: at what point can a molecule be considered to be alive? In making attempts to answer this question, one runs into insurmountable difficulties. [4]
Recipe for lifeLife (mud puddle)
Left: Humorous clipping from the 2006 evolution and pre-history displays at the Denver Museum of Natural Science. [12]Right: Clip from the 2008 film Expelled, summarizing the scientific view (Darwin, 1871) of the origin of life.

1. Oster, G.F., Silver, I.L., and Tobias, C.A. (1974). Irreversible Thermodynamics and the Origin of Life. Gordon and Breach Science Publishers.
2. (a) Banks, Rey C. (2006). “Mason Students Have Access to one of the World’s Foremost Researchers on the Origins of Life: Harold Morowitz”, The Mason Gazette, 14 Aug.
(b) McLean v. Arkansas – Wikipedia.
3. Margulis, Lynn and Sagan, Dorion. (1995). What is Life? (pg. 66). University of California Press.
4. Thims, Libb. (2009). “Life: a Defunct Scientific Theory? (Letter)”, Journal of Human Thermodynamics, Vol. 5, pgs. 20-21. March.
5. (a) Darwin, Erasmus. (1794). Zoonomia (XXXIX: On Generation, pgs. 373-442). Publisher.
(b) Darwin, Erasmus in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
6. (a) Darwin, Charles. (1871). “Letter to Joseph Hooker”, in: The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Including an Autobiographical Chapter, Vol 3. (pg. 18). John Murray.
(b) Morgulis, Sergious. (1952). “Introduction” (Quote, pg. x; letter uncovered by G. Hardin), in: Origin of Life (vi-xxii) by Alexander Oparin, 1953, 2nd, ed. Dover.
7. (a) Oparin, Alexander I. (1953). Origin of Life (pg. 152). Dover.
(b) Jong, de Budenberg. (1932). “Protoplasm”, 15, 110; (1931). 235, 174; (1932). 248, 131, 335.
(c) Budenberg de Jong, H. (1936). "The Coacervation." Hermann, Paris.
8. (a) Kauffman, Stuart. (1993). The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution (Chapter 7). Oxford University Press.
Origin of life (cartoon)Origin of life (Skeptic 2011)
Left: A BestBibleScience.org origin of life cartoon, subtitled: the biggest weakness of evolutionary theory is that “there is no adequate explanation for the origin of life from dead chemicals.” [17] The highlighted use of the terms: dead matter or dead atoms are common in the works of thinkers, e.g. Christian de Quincey, who like to attack the unbridgeable gap or life/non-life divide issue. Right: Cover story “How did Life Begin?” on the question of the origin of life by Paul Deisler, Skeptic magazine (2011), depicting the commonly-held view by many scientists that the riddle of life's origin can be solved by synthesizing or formulating the proper chemical reactions in a laboratory said to mimic the formation of the first form of life, 3.9 billion years ago. [13]
9. (a) Darwin, Erasmus. (1804). Temple of Nature: or the Origin of Society, a Poem with Philosophical Notes. John W. Butler, and Bonsal & Niles.
(b) Humes, Edward. (2007). Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America’s Soul (pgs. 116-17). Harper Perennial.
10. Brooks, Michael. (2008). 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense: the Most Baffling Mysteries of Our Time (ch. 5: Life, pgs. 69-82). DoubleDay.
11. Thims, Libb. (2009). “Letter: Life a Defunct Scientific Theory”, Journal of Human Thermodynamics, Vol. 5:20-21.
12. Evolution (DMNS.org) – pictures by Roger J. Wendell.
13. Deisler, Paul F. (2011). “How did Life Begin? (cover story), Skeptic, 16:2.
14. (a) PewForum.org (Doc ID: 215).
(b) Harris, Sam. (2010). The Moral Landscape: How Science can Determine Moral Values (pg. 149). Free Press.
15. Ward, Peter. (2007). Life as We Do Not Know it (pg. #). Penguin.
16. Davies, Paul. (2000). The Fifth Miracle: the Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life (pgs. 225-26). Simon and Schuster.
17. Origin of life (cartoon) – BestBibleScience.org.
18. Solar System (formation and evolution) – Wikipedia.
19. Guyader, Herve Le. (2004). Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire: a Visionary Naturalist (Note 13: to page 281). University of Chicago Press.
20. Ball, Philip. (2011). Unnatural: the Heretical Idea of Making People (pgs. 135-36). Vintage Books.
21. (a) Parker, E.T., Zhou, M.S., Burton, A.S., Glavin, D.P., Dworkin, J.P., Krishnamurthy, R., Fernandez, F.M., and Bada, J.L. (2014). “A Plausible Simultaneous Synthesis of Amino Acids and Simple Peptides on the Primordial Earth”, Angew. Chem.-Int. Ed, 53:8132-36.
(b) Grover, Martha A., He, Christine Y., Hsieh, Ming-Chien, and Yu, Sheng-Sheng. (2015). “A Chemical Engineering Perspective on the Origins of Life” (abs), Processes, 3(2):309-38.
22. (a) Lippmann, Edmund. (1933). Spontaneous Generation and Life Force: the History of these Problem from the Earliest Times up to the Beginning of the 20th Century (Urzeugung und Lebenskraft : zur Geschichte dieser Probleme von altesten Zeiten An bis zu Anfangen des 20. Jahrhunderts). Springer.
(b) Oparin, Alexander. (1936). The Origin of Life (introduction and translation: Serguis Morgulis) (three phases, pgs. 1-2). Dover, 1965.
23. Katchalsky, Aharon. (1971). “Thermodynamics of Flow and Biological Organization” (abs)(Ѻ) (clay substrate, pgs. 119-20), Zygon, 6(2):99-125.

Further reading
● Bradley, Walter L. (1988). “Thermodynamics and the Origin of Life.” (URL) Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith, 40(2): 72-73.
● Meyer, Stephen C. (1996). “The Origin of Life and the Death of Materialism”, The Intercollegiate Review, 31(2). Spring.
Morowitz, Harold J. (1993). Beginnings of Cellular Life: Metabolism Recapitulated Biogenesis (ch. 6: "The Buttom-up Approach", pg. 69-84). Yale University Press.
● Bradley, Walter L. (2004). “Information, Entropy, and the Origin of Life” (pgs. 331-51), ch. 18, in Debating Design by William A. Dembski and Michael Ruse. Cambridge University Press.
● Trevors, J.T. (2011). “Origin of Microbial Life: Nano- and Molecular Events Controlled by Thermodynamics/Entropy, Quantum Mechanics, and Genetic Instructions” (abs), Journal of Microbiological Methods, Jan.

External links
Abiogenesis – Wikipedia.

TDics icon ns