which is devastating against all scientific materialist origin of life theories which by definition rely solely on unintelligent natural processes, because they are all effectively "sponaneous generation" as Wald made clear near the beginning of his article-see `tagline' quote at foot of this post).
To his credit, Wald candidly stated the problem for his fellow scientific materialists, "We must still reckon, however, with another destructive force which is disposed of less easily. This can be called spontaneous dissolution-the counterpart of spontaneous generation. ... The trouble is that the processes which synthesize an organic substance are reversible: any chemical reaction which an enzyme may catalyze will go backward as well as forward. ... spontaneous dissolution is much more probable, and hence proceeds much more rapidly, than spontaneous synthesis. .... I believe this to be the most stubborn problem that confronts us-the weakest link at present in our argument" (my emphasis):
Forces of Dissolution In the early history of our planet, when there were no organisms or any free oxygen, organic compounds should have been stable over very long periods. This is the crucial difference between the period before life existed and our own. If one were to specify a single reason why the spontaneous generation of living organisms was possible once and is so no longer, this is the reason. We must still reckon, however, with another destructive force which is disposed of less easily. This can be called spontaneous dissolution-the counterpart of spontaneous generation. We have noted that any process catalyzed by an enzyme can occur in time without the enzyme. The trouble is that the processes which synthesize an organic substance are reversible: any chemical reaction which an enzyme may catalyze will go backward as well as forward. We have spoken as though one has only to wait to achieve syntheses of all kinds; it is truer to say that what one achieves by waiting is equilibria of all kinds-equilibria in which the synthesis and dissolution of substances come into balance. In the vast majority of the processes in which we are interested the point of equilibrium lies far over toward the side of dissolution. That is to say, spontaneous dissolution is much more probable, and hence proceeds much more rapidly, than spontaneous synthesis. For example, the spontaneous union, step by step, of amino acid units to form a protein has a certain small probability, and hence might occur over a long stretch of time. But the dissolution of the protein or of an intermediate product into its component amino acids is much more probable, and hence will go ever so much more rapidly. The situation we must face is that of patient Penelope waiting for Odysseus, yet much worse: each night she undid the weaving of the preceding day, but here a night could readily undo the work of a year or a century. How do present-day organisms manage to synthesize organic compounds against the forces of dissolution? They do so by a continuous expenditure of energy. Indeed, living organisms commonly do better than oppose the forces of dissolution; they grow in spite of them. They do so, however, only at enormous expense to their surroundings. They need a constant supply of material and energy merely to maintain themselves, and much more of both to grow and reproduce. A living organism is an intricate machine for performing exactly this function. When, for want of fuel or through some internal failure in its mechanism, an organism stops actively synthesizing itself in opposition to the processes which continuously decompose it, it dies and rapidly disintegrates. What we ask here is to synthesize organic molecules without such a machine. I believe this to be the most stubborn problem that confronts us-the weakest link at present in our argument. I do not think it by any means disastrous, but it calls for phenomena and forces some of which are as yet only partly understood and some probably still to be discovered." (Wald, G., "The Origin of Life," Scientific American, Vol. 191, No. 2, August 1954, pp.44-53, p.49. Emphasis original).
Of course scientific materialists will no doubt, like a drowning man clutching at a straw, seize on Wald's, "I do not think it by any means disastrous." But of course Wald, being a scientific materialist, would have to believe that, or he would not be a scientific materialist (i.e. it is yet another case of, "Well, he would [say that], wouldn't he?")! It is in fact a good example of how, at the last resort, scientific materialism can always be saved from falsification by "promissory materialism"," i.e. positing future discoveries of as yet unknown (or even unknowable) materialistic "phenomena and forces"!
Note that what is needed to prevent spontaneous dissolution proceeding "much more rapidly, than spontaneous synthesis"is "an intricate machine" which "actively synthesiz[es] ... organic molecules" "in opposition to the processes which continuously decompose" them, and "What we [scientific materialists] ask here is to synthesize organic molecules without such a machine" (my emphasis)!
They are just deluding themselves, as Wald almost admits with his analogy of it being "much worse" than "patient Penelope waiting for Odysseus ...each night she undid the weaving of the preceding day, but here a night could readily undo the work of a year or a century" (my emphasis). Waiting for non-living chemicals, which are continually spontaneously decomposing into simpler components to spontaneously assemble themselves into an "intricate machine" that could then prevent "spontaneous dissolution" by "actively synthesizing ... organic molecules" is asking for a miracle, which indeed it would be indistinguishable from. Ironically, Wald effectively admits this is the same article where he says that a physicist would never accept a report that a highly improbable event, like a "table ... suddenly and spontaneously r[o]se into the air" had actually happened:
"Every physicist knows that there is a very small probability, which is easily computed, that the table upon which I am writing will suddenly and spontaneously rise into the air. The event requires no more than that the molecules of which the table is composed, ordinarily in random motion in all directions, should happen by chance to move in the same direction. Every physicist concedes this possibility; but try telling one that you have seen it happen. Recently I asked a friend, a Nobel laureate in physics, what he would say if I told him that. He laughed and said that he would regard it as more probable that I was mistaken than that the event had actually occurred." (Wald, Ibid, p.47)
So, rather than the analogy being like "that of patient Penelope waiting for Odysseus, yet much worse, a better one would be another story from the same Homer's Odyssey, that of Odysseus' reputed father "Sisyphus [who] was compelled to roll a huge rock up a steep hill, but before he reached the top of the hill, the rock always escaped him and he had to begin again" ("Sisyphus," Wikipedia. My emphasis)!
The irony is that scientific materialists are just as "compelled" by their god (i.e. their lack of God) to endlessly propose materialist explanations for the origin of life that are just as hopelessly impossible as Sisyphus endlessly rolling a rock up the top of a hill only to see it always escape and roll back down again!
Indeed, as Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias, in a chapter titled "Sisyphus on a Roll" in one of his books against atheism, although he was not specifically dealing with the origin of life, highlights that the problem for the materialistic (i.e. atheistic) origin of life is far worse than Sisyphus' endless rolling of one rock up a hill. The scientific materialists' problem is in fact the need to roll many different rocks up the hill simultaneously, i.e. "If he rolled up a different stone each time [sic], a beautiful building could be built":
"One of the most popular stories from Greek mythology is the myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus was condemned by the gods for having betrayed the celestial ranks by revealing divine secrets to mortals. They sentenced him to roll a massive stone to the top of a hill, watch it roll down again, and repeat the exercise endlessly. His hell was in having to execute a pointless act from which nothing ever came, except a vain repetition compounding the emptiness. Not by one step, nor by a thousand, nor by ten thousand, was he able to expiate the sin against the gods that brought on this cursed fate. He, could do nothing to rescue himself from futility. ... Poor Sisyphus couldn't even reverse it for a temporary relief. All kinds of intriguing suggestions have been made, ranging from changing his internal outlook ('If only Sisyphus could have changed on the inside so that he enjoyed rolling stones') to altering his external viewpoint ('If he rolled up a different stone each time, a beautiful building could be built'). Most of humanity understands Sisyphus's plight and has felt his struggle." (Zacharias, R.K., "A Shattered Visage: The Real Face of Atheism," , Baker: Grand Rapids MI, Third Printing, 1994, pp.74-75).Note that "each time" above is not good enough, since "each time" a rock was rolled up the hill, it would immediately roll down again. What a materialistic origin of life requires is the entire "building" (i.e. a fully functioning "intricate machine" that would stop the individual stones from rolling down the hill) to arrive as individual components and then assemble themselves (arrival and assembly are not the same thing) simultaneously!
I have another quote, from Nature (1960), not by Wald but which makes the same point, which I will post in my next Quote of the Day.
Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"It is no easy matter to deal with so deeply ingrained and common-sense a belief as that in spontaneous generation. One can ask for nothing better in such a pass than a noisy and stubborn opponent, and this Pasteur had in the naturalist Felix Pouchet, whose arguments before the French Academy of Sciences drove Pasteur to more and more rigorous experiments. When he had finished, nothing remained of the belief in spontaneous generation. We tell this story to beginning students of biology as though it represents a triumph of reason over mysticism. In fact it is very nearly the opposite. The reasonable view was to believe in spontaneous generation; the only alternative, to believe in a single, primary act of supernatural creation. There is no third position. For this reason many scientists a century ago chose to regard the belief in spontaneous generation as a `philosophical necessity.' It is a symptom of the philosophical poverty of our time that this necessity is no longer appreciated. Most modern biologists, having reviewed with satisfaction the downfall of the spontaneous generation hypothesis, yet unwilling to accept the alternative belief in special creation, are left with nothing." (Wald, G., "The Origin of Life," Scientific American, Vol. 191, No. 2, August 1954, pp.44-53, pp.45-46)