How about a fellow frenchman Louis Pasteur. A French microbiologist and chemist. His experiments confirmed the germ theory of disease, and he created the first vaccine for rabies. He is best known to the general public for showing how to stop milk and wine from going sour - this process came to be called pasteurization. He is regarded as one of the three main founders of bacteriology, among Ferdinand Cohn and Robert Koch. He also made many discoveries in the field of chemistry, most notably the asymmetry of crystals.
The debate on the spontaneous generation of life, in which Pasteur was involved and in which he came off victorious, was not just a scientific quibble. It was more than an interesting point for a few scientists or intellectuals to discuss among themselves. It had much greater significance—it involved evidence that had to do with the existence of God.
François Dagognet, a French philosopher specializing in the sciences, observes that Pasteur’s “adversaries, both materialists and atheists, believed that they could prove that a unicellular organism could result from decomposing molecules. This allowed them to take God out of creation. However, as far as Pasteur was concerned, there was no possible passage from death to life.”
To this day all the evidence from experimentation, history, biology, archaeology, and anthropology continues to show what Pasteur demonstrated—that life can come only from preexisting life, not from inanimate matter. And the evidence also clearly shows that life reproduces “according to its kind,” as the Bible’s account in Genesis states. The offspring are always the same “kind,” or type, as the parents.—Genesis 1:11, 12, 20-25.
Life Comes From Life
From antiquity, the most fanciful ideas had been proposed to explain the appearance of insects, worms, or other creatures in decomposing matter. For instance, in the 17th century, a Belgian chemist boasted that he had made mice appear by stuffing a dirty blouse into a jar of wheat!
During Pasteur’s time the debate in the scientific community was heated. To confront the proponents of spontaneous generation was a real challenge. But as a result of what he had learned in his research on fermentation, Pasteur was confident. So he undertook experiments intended to put an end to the idea of spontaneous generation once and for all.
His experiment using swan-necked flasks is one of his most famous. A liquid nutrient left in the open air in an open-topped flask is quickly contaminated by germs. However, when stored in a flask that terminates in a shape like a swan’s neck, the same liquid nutrient remains uncontaminated. Why is this the case?
Pasteur’s explanation was simple: On passing through the swan-neck, the bacteria in the air are deposited on the surface of the glass, so that the air is sterile by the time it reaches the liquid. The germs that develop in an open flask are not produced spontaneously by the liquid nutrient but are transported in the air.
To show the importance of air as a transporter of microbes, Pasteur went to the Mer de Glace, a glacier in the French Alps. At an altitude of 6,000 feet, he opened his sealed flasks and exposed them to the air. Out of 20 flasks, only one became contaminated. He then went to the foot of the Jura Mountains and repeated the same experiment. Here, at the much lower altitude, eight flasks became contaminated. He thus proved that because of the purer air at higher altitudes, there was less risk of contamination.
Through such experiments Pasteur demonstrated convincingly that life comes only from previously existing life. It never comes into existence spontaneously, that is, by itself.
· 1 decade ago