January 9, 2004 | David F. Coppedge

Did Borax Evolve Into 20-Mule Teams?

You’re dating yourself if you remember the old TV western Death Valley Days, and its commercials about 20-Mule Team Borax.  (Mule teams actually did pull loads of borax from Death Valley to Mojave, quite a feat in those days, but that’s another story.)  In modern times, though, borax has made science news as a possible ingredient in the chemical evolution of life, according to a paper in the Jan. 9 issue of Science1 (see also summary on EurekAlert, “UF study suggests life on Earth sprang from borax minerals”).
    Chemical evolutionists have faced many problems, one serious one being the origin of sugars needed for RNA and DNA.  According to the most popular “RNA World” hypothesis for the origin of life (see 07/11/2002 headline), RNA was a molecule that, as the story goes, possessed both primitive coding and enzymatic functions, and was able to evolve by natural selection.  But the ‘R’ in RNA is ribose, a sugar that is doggedly hard to explain by natural processes.  It is unstable and tends to degrade quickly into sticky, tarry substances.  EurekAlert reminds us that Stanley Miller, of spark-discharge experiment fame, gave up on this problem in 1995, lamenting that “The first genetic material could not have contained ribose or other sugars because of their instability.”
    Scientists at the University of Florida found that some of the minerals in borax can stabilize ribose, at least for awhile.  So they speculate that borax was an ingredient in the chemical evolution of life.  Steven Benner, one of the scientists on the team, a member of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, is cautiously optimistic:

“We are not claiming that this is how life started,” Benner stressed.  “We are saying that we have demonstrated a recipe to make a key part of life without any biochemical machinery.  The more recipes of this type that can be found, the more clues we have about how life could have actually gotten started on the primitive Earth.” (EurekAlert, emphasis added)

So presumably once life got going, natural selection developed it all the way to humans, who could hitch mules to carry loads of the stuff that helped them get where they are today.


1Ricardo, Carrigan, Olcott and Benner, “Borate Minerals Stabilize Ribose,” Science 09 January 2004, 10.1126/science.1092464.

Need we remind anyone that recipes are written by intelligent design?  These scientists did not use chance and mutations in their experiments.  They applied mind to make matter do what it would not do naturally.
    If I told you a tall tale, that was so implausibly funny it would make you laugh yourself sick at the campfire, would you believe my story if I added one little observation that might make it slightly more plausible?  Let’s say I told you the story of why fire engines are red:

A fire engine has eight wheels and four crew.  Four plus eight is twelve.  Twelve inches make a foot.  Most rulers are a foot long.  Peter the Great was a ruler.  He was also Russian.  Red is the symbolic color of Russia.  Therefore fire engines are red, because they’re always rushin’ all around.

Now suppose that one flaw of my story was that the color red had not been clearly identified as a national color in pre-Soviet Russia, but I found an old painting of Peter the Great that showed a prominent red ruby in his crown.  Are you now convinced of my story?  If not, would you at least acknowledge that I am making progress?
    This is why chemical evolution tall tales are so lame.  Evolutionists are already convinced life arose from chemicals in some unknown way, without any intelligent guidance, and they feel no need to prove their case.  This is, of course, circular reasoning, or assuming what needs to be proved.  But since NASA is fond of giving away our tax money to storytellers who can explain away an intelligent Creator, there will always be volunteers.  Astrobiologists (a.k.a. Bio-alchemists) feel that they can justify their expense reports if they can add one tiny little experimental detail that might, just might, in some way, support the Darwin Party’s official Origins myth.
    Here is how Benner et al. clothe their naked materialism in scientific jargon: “Because neither borate minerals nor interstellar organics are excluded from the early Earth, we also cannot exclude the availability of ribose formed prebiotically at the time when life emerged on Earth” (italics added).  Well, we cannot exclude the possibility of the proverbial tornado in a junkyard causing the emergence of the proverbial 747 either, can we?  There’s that magic word “emerged” again.  It’s a stealthy propaganda trick.  It pulls the wool over unsuspecting readers’ eyes, by embedding within it the assumption that chemical evolution succeeded somehow, against astronomical odds.
    Our readers are encouraged to count the number of implausible elements in the “RNA World” scenario as reported in the 07/11/2002 entry.  If there are two dozen show-stoppers preventing the curtain from rising, dreaming up a possible way to remove one (temporarily, under special conditions) does not make the show go on, especially when there is not even a script or actors yet.

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Categories: Dumb Ideas, Origin of Life

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