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Creation's Tiny Mystery
Chapter 8: ACLU Strategy Revealed at Little Rock

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The ACLU and the Origin of Life: A Narrow Escape

Morowitz's bold claim about getting close to knowing how life formed provided State Attorney Callis Childs with a unique opportunity to probe the weaknesses in the ACLU position on the origin of life. As the following exchanges show, Attorney Childs' incisive cross-examination of Morowitz came within inches of exposing the flaw in the ACLU strategy on this matter.

Q       Are you familiar with the work of a fellow named Miller?
A Stanley Miller?
Q I believe so, yes, sir.
A There are a lot of people named Miller.
Q Are there any Millers other than Stanley Miller that would be working in your particular area of endeavor?
A Not that I'm aware of.
Q Did Mr. Miller, or let's say Doctor Miller, did Doctor Miller come up with anything unusual in the 1950's in his research?
A Yes.
Q What did he come up with?
A In Miller's experiments, he took a system of methane, ammonia and water, and in a closed system he provided energy through an electrical, high frequency electrical spark discharge, and he demonstrated the synthesis of amino acids, carbocyclic [sic, carboxylic] acids, and other prebiotic intermediates.
Q Who was the previous historian, excuse me, the previous scientist in history who dealt with that same subject matter on a significant basis?
A The origin of life?
Q Yes.
A Prior to the Miller experiment, I would say that the leading name in that field was A. I. O'Parin [sic, Oparin].
Q And prior to that?
A Prior to that, in a sense, the field didn't really exist.
Q Why was that?
A Because people believed through the 1800's that life arose spontaneously all the time; that maggots arose and became meat [sic], and mice old piles of rags [sic], and so forth and so on. And as long as people [p. 103] believed that, there was no need to have a theory of the origin of life.
Q Who put that theory to rest?
A Louis Pasteur.
Q And what were Doctor Pasteur's experiments?
A Basically his final experiments that were most persuasive in this field consisted of flasks of sterile medium to which no organisms were admitted, and these flasks remained sterile for long periods of time.
Q So?
A Meaning no growth of living organisms occurred in them.
Q What work has been done since Stanley Miller's work in the area of generating life in the laboratory?
A Well, there have been some several thousand experiments on the, of the type done by Miller, follow-up experiments, where various energy sources have been flowed [sic, have flowed]; there have been the flow of various kinds of energy through systems of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen, and there has been a study of the kinds of molecules that are produced in such energy flow systems. These experiments universally show that the flow of energy through a system orders it in a molecular sense.
Q Has anybody created life by the flow of energy?
A Have any of those experiments resulted in the synthesis of a living cell? Is that the question?
Q Yes, sir.
A No. Not to my knowledge, anyway.
Q Would you say that this area has received intensive scientific scrutiny in the scientific community?
A Yes.
Q Do you have any explanation of why you have not been able to synthesize life in the laboratory?
A It's an extremely difficult problem.
Q What is the difficult—
A I would point out to you that we have put far more money into trying to cure cancer, and that is still an unsolved problem, also. We have put far more time, money, effort and human endeavor into that problem, and that is also an unsolved problem because it is a very difficult problem.
Q What is the information you need to accomplish that?
A To accomplish the synthesis of a living cell?
Q Yes, sir.
A Two kinds of information. One is the detailed understanding of the chemical structure of the small molecules, micro molecules, organelles and other structures that make up a living cell. And secondly, one has [p. 104] to know the kinetic processes by which those structures came about in prebiotic systems.
Q In perusing some of the literature that you've written last night, I came up with an article which would seem to indicate that [you] sincerely believe that given enough time and research, that you or scientists like you can ultimately go back to the ultimate combinations of atoms which led to the formation of molecules.
A That is not a question.
Q Do you recall an article to that effect?
A Well, you said "we can go back to that" and then there should be an 'and' clause, 'and do some things'.
Q Do you believe that you can go back and ultimately understand how atoms combined to form molecules?
A That is a branch of chemistry. That is rather well understood.
Q Well, I'm talking about the first molecules on the surface of the earth. Do you understand my question?
A No, I don't.
    MR. CHILDS: May I approach the witness, your Honor?
    THE COURT: Yes.
Q The article that I have is Biology as a Cosmeological [sic, Cosmological] Science, reprinted from Main Currents and Modern Thought, volume 28, number 5, May through June, 1972.
    Page 50 to, well, the page number I have on this is 615186. The first column is in brackets. I'd like you to read that paragraph, please.
A "If we are able to obtain the kind of theory of self-order, this kind of theory of self-ordering should challenge us to apply the most profound insights we can muster to link biology to non-equilibrium physical chemistry."
    "The job seems very formidable indeed, but the rewards could be very great; the ability to seek out our origins in terms of a law that would promulgate our action. This is truly a new frontier, and one that challenges the maximum intellectual effort of which we are all capable."
Q Do I understand this paragraph to mean that you believe that you and scientists from the scientific community can explain the origins of man in terms of the laws of atomic interaction?
A I believe that the origin of life can be explained in terms of the laws of atomic interactions. [Smith 1982a, p. 585, l. 25, to p. 590, l. 25]
Q Is your theory that—Let me start over. Do you know how life formed on the surface of the earth?
A I have a theory of how life formed on the surface of the earth.
Q Have you been able to take that theory and create life in the laboratory?
A No. [Smith 1982a, p. 600, l. 20, to p. 601, l. 1]

[p. 105]

It is most revealing to compare Morowitz's responses in his direct testimony with those given under cross-examination. Note that when ACLU Attorney Novik asked, "Do you know how life was formed, precisely?" Morowitz testified optimistically, "Not in precise detail . . ." but "that we are getting close." However, during Attorney Childs' relentless probing of this matter, a different picture emerges. When Childs asked if Morowitz knew how life had formed on the earth's surface, he responded only that he had a theory. And when asked whether he had been able to use that theory and create life in the laboratory, Morowitz was forced to answer, "No." (Remember that Childs had earlier gotten Morowitz to admit that thousands of experiments designed to produce life had failed.)

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