A NEW theory could answer the question of how life began - and throw out the need for God.
A writer on the website of atheist Richard Dawkins' foundation says that the theory has put God "on the ropes" and has "terrified" Christians.
It proposes that life did not emerge by accident or luck from a primordial soup and a bolt of lightning. Instead, life itself came about by necessity - it follows from the laws of nature and is as inevitable as rocks rolling downhill.
The problem for scientists attempting to understand how life began is understanding how living beings - which tend to be far better at taking energy from the environment and dissipating it as heat - could come about from non-living ones.
But a new theory, proposed by a researcher at MIT and first reported in Quanta Magazine, proposes that when a group of atoms is exposed for a long time to a source of energy, it will restructure itself to dissipate more energy.
The emergence of life might not be the luck of atoms arranging themselves in the right way, it says, but an inevitable event if the conditions are correct.
"You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant," England said.
Paul Rosenberg, writing this week on Richard Dawkins' site, said that the theory could make things "a whole lot worse for creationists".
As Rosenberg notes, the idea that life could have evolved from non-living things is one that has been held for some time, and was described by the pre-Socratic philosophers.
But England's theory marks the first time that has been convincingly proposed since Darwin, and is backed by mathematical research and a proposal that can be put to the test.
Do you believe scientists have disproved God?
This poll ended on 04 March 2015.
Yes. I put more faith in the science
No. They haven't proven how life started yet
I really don't know
I really don't care
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.