Other Religions Atheism and Agnosticism Abiogenesis and Evolution Share Flipboard Email Print American Images Inc/Getty Images Other Religions Belief Systems Atheism and Agnosticism Logic Ethics Key Figures in Atheism Evolution Atheism Myths and Misconceptions By Austin Cline Atheism Expert M.A., Princeton University B.A., University of Pennsylvania Austin Cline, a former regional director for the Council for Secular Humanism, writes and lectures extensively about atheism and agnosticism. our editorial process Austin Cline Updated June 25, 2019 Evolution and evolutionary theory are already confusing enough. Yet, it becomes more complicated when creationists promulgate the mistaken idea that evolution is the same as abiogenesis. Abiogenesis is the theory that life stems from inorganic or inanimate matter — forms that do not have life. This argument that it is identical to evolution is one way that creationism is touted as being a superior theory to evolution. Origin of Life Isn't in Evolution The origin of life is certainly an interesting topic, but it is not a part of evolutionary theory. The study of the naturalistic origins of life is called abiogenesis. While scientists have not developed a clear explanation of how life might have developed from non-living material, that has no impact on evolution. Even if life did not begin naturally but was started due to the intervention of some divine power, evolution would still stand on the evidence as our best explanation so far as to how that life developed. Biological evolution and molecular evolution are the basis for naturalistic explanations of abiogenesis. It is true that these do have some relation and overlap in the sense that molecular change (in genes) drives biological evolution. So, it is not necessarily invalid to join the two, especially when you consider that it is hard to draw a definitive line between life and non-life. The important thing to remember is that evolutionary theory is a scientific theory about how life evolved. It begins with the premise that life already exists. Yet, it makes no claims as to how that life got here. In evolutionary theory, life could have developed naturally through abiogenesis. It could have been started by divine power. It could have been started by aliens. Whatever the cause, evolutionary explanations begin to apply once life appears and begins to reproduce. The Origins of the Universe Another related error made by some creationists is the idea that evolutionary theory cannot explain the origin of the universe while creationism does. Once again, this is used to explain how evolution is inferior to creationism. However, the origins of the universe are even further removed from evolutionary theory than is the origin of life. There is some connection in that scientists seek naturalistic explanations for both. That is simply due to the fact that they are both scientific pursuits. It is not because of any inherent relationship such that problems with one will undermine the other. Why the Evolution and Abiogenesis Connection Myth? In both instances described above, creationists spreading this misunderstanding are doing so for one of two reasons. The first possibility is that they simply do not understand the nature of evolutionary theory. In not having a clear idea about what evolution is, they mistakenly include ideas which do not belong. This failure to understand the topic sheds some interesting light on attempts to critique it. The second possibility is that they do understand evolution and that neither the origin of life nor the universe is really relevant to the validity of evolutionary theory. In such cases, those who spread this falsehood are being consciously and deliberately dishonest with their audience. Perhaps they imagine that by confusing people as to the true nature of evolution, they will be able to gain more support for their own position which is, according to them, more in accordance with the will of God and Christian doctrines.