What is Abiogenesis?

Definition of Abiogenesis

Abiogenesis or spontaneous generation theory is a branch of study in biology , where it hypothesizes the origin of life from non-living raw materials.

This theory was considered the first explanation for the emergence of living beings. She claims that there was a kind of ” vital force ” in certain types of organic matter that gave rise to living things.

This vital force, in fact, would be explained by the chemical origin of life, formed by reactions of organic compounds of abiotic origin.

According to her, living beings could arise in various ways from a lifeless matter, as we can see in the following examples:

Examples of Abiogenesis

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  • The swans sprouted from the leaves of the trees that fell into the lakes
  • Dirty, sweaty shirts could breed mice
  • Frogs emerged from the mud in aquatic environments
  • The worms spontaneously originate in the intestines


Also called Spontaneous Generation Theory , abiogenesis assumed that the most complex organisms originated not only from their parents but from any inanimate being.

The theory of abiogenesis was accepted by great and important philosophers and thinkers. Leading proponents of abiogenesis include names like Aristotle, Jean Baptiste Van Helmot, Willian Harvey, René Descartes, Isaac Newton, and John Needhan.

Oparin abiogenesis

The founder of abiogenesis was the Russian scientist Aleksander Ivanovich Oparin (1894-1980). Abiogenesis focuses on rebuilding the natural processes that created life .

Oparin has done a lot of research trying to piece together how early life forms arose . For this, he started from an initial hypothesis: that the original atmosphere was formed from four elements (ammonia, water, methane and hydrogen).

Spontaneous Generation: Experiment

In his laboratory he carried out a series of simulations with these substances. After combining them properly, he was able to see that different organic amino acids formed spontaneously from these four inorganic elements.

According to Oparin, there were several factors that triggered the appearance of the first amino acids.
In this sense, the high temperatures of the planet, the action of the sun’s ultraviolet rays and the action of the rays of the atmosphere were the three factors that caused chemical reactions in ammonia, water, methane and hydrogen.


With the formation of amino acids came proteins, that is, the main components of amino acids and other organic molecules.
Over time, the planet’s temperatures dropped and the steam generated turned into rain. Along with the rain, new molecules were created in the oceans.

The modalities of the molecules multiplied and after a process of evolution, enzymes and yeasts appeared that facilitated new chemical reactions.
These rudimentary life forms eventually became cells, and with them came the first living things.

Experiments against Abiogenesis

Redi’s experiment

The abiogenesis theory , however, was not accepted by everyone, and some researchers decided to do studies to refute this misconception. The first of these was Francesco Redi , who carried out an experiment in which pieces of meat were placed in closed glass jars and others were opened for a certain period of time.

At the end of Redi’s experiment , he observed that the larvae appeared only on the uncovered glass that the flies had visited. She then concluded that it was impossible for life to arise from non-living material, since the covered meat had no larvae and that they probably came from eggs laid by flies. From this conclusion, the theory of abiogenesis was refuted .

Despite Redi’s research , abiogenesis was completely disproved by Louis Pasteur’s experiments in 1860. This researcher performed a very careful experiment that avoided potential questions.

Pasteur’s experiment

Initially, Pasteur placed culture broths inside glass bottles with a long neck.
The researcher then bent the bottlenecks so that no airborne particles came into contact with the broth. After that time, he boiled the broth to kill any microorganisms present there.

After a few days, nothing appeared inside the vials, proving that life cannot arise from inanimate matter.

Although the theory of abiogenesis is incorrect , it was essential for the study of the development of life forms, since it allowed the creation of new hypotheses. Science is constantly changing and new studies are critical for breakthroughs to occur and misconceptions to be reversed and correct ideas to be confirmed.

Abiogenesis and Biogenesis

The meaning of abiogenesis becomes ambiguous compared to the process of biogenesis, as many researchers refer to the process using the term ” biogenesis “.

However, biogenesis is the theory that states the opposite of abiogenesis . It admits that all living beings originate from other pre-existing living beings.

Louis Pasteur was responsible for introducing the idea of ​​opposition to abiogenesis , who conducted an experiment that showed that boiling nutrient broths did not destroy the ” life force ” and that microorganisms appeared whenever the broth came into contact with air, giving rise to new beings. live

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