The Miller-Urey Experiment Revisited

Almost six decades ago, when Stanley Miller was just a 22-year-old PhD student, he and his professor Harold Urey did an experiment that became legendary in science: Miller mixed basic chemicals that were present in primordial earth and added electric sparks to stimulate a thunderstorm. The result? Miller found traces of amino acids - the building blocks of proteins.

After Miller died last year, his former student found a (scientific) treasure trove: the vials containing dried samples from his groundbreaking 1950s experiment. And when they tested the samples using today's more sophisticated equipments, they found a lot more stuff:

"We found not only did these make more of certain amino acids than in the classic experiment, but they made a greater diversity of amino acids."

Miller, using the old methods, had found five amino acids; Jeffrey Bada and his teams tracked down 22. What is more, the overall chemical yields were often higher than in the first set of experiments - the mixture appeared to be more fertile.

Professor Bada points out that today, almost all volcanic eruptions are accompanied by violent electric storms. The same could have been true on the young Earth. "What we suggest is that volcanoes belched out gases just like the ones Stanley had used, and were immediately subjected to intense volcanic lightning.

"And so each one of those volcanoes could have been a little, local prebiotic factory. And so all of that went into making the material that we refer to as the prebiotic soup."


Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

Miller Urey experiment ignored many conditions in the atmosphere that would breakdown the chemical synthesis they did achieve e.g. cytosine - has no chemical pathway during earth's primordial past, the gases Miller relies upon - consume the chemicals that create this necessary component of nucleic acids. Ribose, phosphate compounds also create problems in Miller's scenario.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
deep sea hyrdothermal vents would actually inhibit life formation. Experiments show that amino acids could form in these vents but only have a a half life of a few minutes - some sugars last only a few seconds. No RNA/DNA, peptide formation - and, worse, ammonia can not exist in levels necessary for life in these vents. What characteristics of these vents that would allow life - also destroys life. Schoonen, Xu - Astrobiology 1, (2001) pg 122-123.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
The creationist claim that an oxygen rich atmosphere invalidates Miller's evidence for abiogenesis is based on a ( likely intentional ) misreading of a 2004 paper titled " U-rich Archaean sea-floor sediments from Greenland - indications of >3700 Ma oxygenic photosynthesis. "

The paper discusses the transportation of uranium through oxygen rich water 3.7 billion years ago, indicating that photosynthetic organisms existed some 200 million years earlier than previously believed. Instead of invalidating the experiment, the paper only pushes the origin of life back a little, geologically speaking.

Lacking valid peer reviewed alternatives, the creationist community simply relied on one of their usual tactics, misrepresentation, to create yet another straw man in their unflagging efforts to discredit the truth of evolution.

Back to the drawing board for the creationists.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
While a fascinating experiment, it has since been proven that the primordial Earth's atmosphere was CO2 and repetition of the Miller-Urey experiment under these conditions yielded no results. :(

back to the drawing board....
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"The Miller-Urey Experiment Revisited"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More