May 5, 2004 | David F. Coppedge

Origin-of-Life Researcher Leslie Orgel Interviewed

The May 4 issue of Current Biology1 contains an interview with organic chemist Leslie Orgel of the Salk Institute, who in 1974 published the book The Origin of Life on Earth with Stanley Miller of spark-discharge fame (see 05/02/2003 and 10/31/2002 headlines).  He considers his biggest mistake not thinking of the RNA World scenario first (see 02/20/2004 headline)  His greatest ambition is “I would like to understand in chemical detail how RNA or some simpler polymer capable of evolution through natural selection established itself on the primitive Earth.”  Asked if he had a scientific hero, and why, he replied tersely: “Charles Darwin, for all the obvious reasons.”

1Q&A: Leslie Orgel, Current Biology Vol 14, R331-R332, 4 May 2004.

Isn’t this pathetic?  An intelligent individual wastes 40 years of his life trying to pay homage to Charlie by filling in the biggest blank (see 08/15/2003 headline) in his idol’s creation myth (see 02/15/2004 headline), and has nothing to show for it (compare 08/26/2003 headline).  As if the RNA World fiction is going to save his faith (see 07/11/2002 and 06/18/2002 headlines).  Is his career any different than that of a sorcerer’s apprentice seeking to please his wizard (see 02/13/2004 headline), or a promising lad deciding to become a priest of Marduk, devoting his life to figuring out what patterns in a liver lead to success on the battlefield?  Sad.  We’ll leave it as an exercise to determine what he meant by his genuflection, “Charles Darwin, for all the obvious reasons.”

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