The Bible and the Laws of Science: The Law of Biogenesis | 26Ago2011 17:10:08


In the field of biology, one of the most commonly accepted and widely used laws of science is the law of biogenesis. This law was set forth many years ago to dictate what both theory and experimental evidence showed to be true among living organisms—that life comes only from preceding life, and perpetuates itself by reproducing only its own kind or type. As David Kirk correctly stated: “By the end of the nineteenth century there was general agreement that life cannot arise from the nonliving under conditions that now exist upon our planet. The dictum ‘All life from preexisting life’ became the dogma of modern biology, from which no reasonable man could be expected to dissent” (1975, p. 7). The experiments that formed the ultimate basis of this law were first carried out by such men as Francesco Redi (1688) and Lazarro Spallanzani (1799) in Italy, Louis Pasteur (1860) in France, and Rudolph Virchow (1858) in Germany. It was Virchow who documented that cells do not arise from amorphous matter, but instead come only from preexisting cells. The Encyclopaedia Britannica states concerning Virchow that “His aphorism ‘omnis cellula e cellula’ (every cell arises from a preexisting cell) ranks with Pasteur’s ‘omne vivum e vivo’ (every living thing arises from a preexisting living thing) among the most revolutionary generalizations of biology” (1973, p. 35).

Down through the years, countless thousands of scientists in various disciplines have established the law of biogenesis as just that—a scientific law stating that life comes only from preexisting life and that of its kind. Interestingly, the law of biogenesis was firmly established in science long before the contrivance of modern evolutionary theories. Also of considerable interest is the fact that students are consistently taught in high school and college biology classes the tremendous impact of, for example, Pasteur’s work on the false concept of spontaneous generation (the idea that life arises on its own from nonliving antecedents). Students are given, in great detail, the historical scenario of how Pasteur triumphed over “mythology” and provided science “its finest hour” as he discredited the then-popular concept of spontaneous generation. Then, with almost the next breath, students are informed by the professor of how evolution started via spontaneous generations. Nobel laureate George Wald has commented on this discrepancy as follows:

    As for spontaneous generation, it continued to find acceptance until finally disposed of by the work of Louis Pasteur—it is a curious thing that until quite recently professors of biology habitually told this story as part of their introductions of students to biology. They would finish this account glowing with the conviction that they had given a telling demonstration of the overthrow of mystical notion by clean, scientific experimentation. Their students were usually so bemused as to forget to ask the professor how he accounted for the origin of life. This would have been an embarrassing question, because there are only two possibilities: either life arose by spontaneous generation, which the professor had just refuted; or it arose by supernatural creation, which he probably regarded as anti-scientific (1972, p. 187).

Indeed, Dr. Wald is correct. Students do forget to ask the professor how, if spontaneous generation has been discredited, evolution could ever have gotten started in the first place. This point may have escaped some students, but it has not been lost on evolutionary scholars, who confess to having some difficulty with the problem posed by the law of biogenesis. Simpson and Beck, in their biology textbook, Life: An Introduction to Biology, state that “there is no serious doubt that biogenesis is the rule, that life comes only from other life, that a cell, the unit of life, is always and exclusively the product or offspring of another cell” (1965, p. 144, emp. added). Martin A. Moe, writing in the December 1981 issue of Science Digest, put it in these difficult-to-misunderstand words:

    A century of sensational discoveries in the biological sciences has taught us that life arises only from life, that the nucleus governs the cell through the molecular mechanisms of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and that the amount of DNA and its structure determine not only the nature of the species but also the characteristics of individuals (p. 36, emp. added).

In recent years, however, some evolutionists have suggested that what is commonly referred to as the “law” of biogenesis is not a “law” at all, but only a “principle” or “theory” or “dictum.” This new nomenclature is being suggested by evolutionists because they have come to the stark realization of the implications of the law of biogenesis—not because contradictions or exceptions to the law have been discovered. It is of interest to note that in nineteenth-century science texts, biogenesis was spoken of as a law. But, of late, that term has been replaced by new terms that are intended to “soften” the force of biogenesis upon evolutionary concepts. A rose, however, by any other name is still a rose, as the adage goes. And there can be no doubt that biogenesis most certainly reflects (to use Dr. Hull’s own words) “an actual regularity in nature,” since there never has been even a single documented case of spontaneous generation! Still, some modern-day evolutionists prefer to use a different term when speaking of biogenesis. One well-known biology dictionary says under the heading of “Biogenesis, Principle of ”—“The biological rule that a living thing can originate only from a parent or parents on the whole similar to itself. It denies spontaneous generation...” (Abercrombie, et al., 1961, p. 33). Others have followed suit. Simpson and Beck, in their text quoted above, stated: “We take biogenesis as a fundamental principle of reproduction from the experimental evidence and also from theoretical considerations” (1965, p. 144, emp. added).

R.L. Wysong, in his classic work, The Creation-Evolution Controversy, commented:

    The creationist is quick to remind evolutionists that biopoiesis and evolution describe events that stand in stark naked contradiction to an established law. The law of biogenesis says life arises only from preexisting life, biopoiesis says life sprang from dead chemicals; evolution states that life forms give rise to new, improved and different life forms, the law of biogenesis says that kinds only reproduce their own kinds. Evolutionists are not oblivious to this law. They simply question it. They say that spontaneous generation was disproved under the conditions of the experimental models of Pasteur, Redi, and Spallanzani. This, they contend, does not preclude the spontaneous formation of life under different conditions. To this, the creationist replies that even given the artificial conditions and intelligent maneuverings of biopoiesis experiments, life has still not “spontaneously generated.” ...Until such a time as life is observed to spontaneously generate, the creationist insists the law of biogenesis stands!... How can biogenesis be termed any less than a law? (1976, pp. 182-185).

Moore and Slusher, in their text, Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity, wrote: “Historically the point of view that life comes only from life has been so well established through the facts revealed by experiment that it is called the Law of Biogenesis.” In a footnote, the authors stated further: “Some philosophers call this a principle instead of a law, but this is a matter of definition, and definitions are arbitrary. Some scientists call this a superlaw, or a law about laws. Regardless of terminology, biogenesis has the highest rank in these levels of generalization” (1974, p. 74, emp. in orig.).


Abercrombie, M., C. Hickman, and M. Johnson (1961), A Dictionary of Biology (Baltimore, MD: Penguin).

Ackerknect, E.H. (1973), “Rudolph Virchow,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 23:35.

Balcom, Margaret (1967), The Christian Century, May 3.

Hull, David (1974), Philosophy of Biological Science (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall).

Kirk, David (1975), Biology Today (New York: Random House).

McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms (1978), ed. D.N. Lapedes (New York: McGraw-Hill).

Moe, Martin A. (1981), “Genes on Ice,” Science Digest, 89[11]:36,95, December.

Moore, John N. and H.S. Slusher (1974), Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).

Rall, Harris (1936), Faith For Today (Nashville, TN: Abingdon).

Simpson, G.G. and W.S. Beck (1965), Life: An Introduction to Biology (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World), second edition.

Sullivan, J.W.N. (1933), The Limitations of Science (New York: Viking).

Wald, George (1972), Frontiers of Modern Biology in Theories of Origin of Life (New York: Houghton-Mifflin).

Wysong, R.L. (1976), The Creation-Evolution Controversy (East Lansing, MI: Inquiry Press).

by      Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


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