November 9, 2013 | David F. Coppedge

Evolutionary Origin-of-Life Speculations Contradict Each Other

Good scientific approaches should converge on the truth.  In secular origin-of-life studies, theories run off in all directions, often crashing into one another.

Crystal powerNature News entertained an idea that RNA found ways to work in ice crystals.  Researchers at Cambridge created an RNA enzyme that worked at freezing temperatures.  ” Ice could have aided the emergence of self-replication in the prebiotic chemical world,” they said.  New Scientist rejoiced at the prospect: “If you thought life evolved in bubbling hot springs, think again.”  But Jack Szostak threw a snowball: the created molecule cannot replicate itself.  “I’m afraid we still have a long way to go to get a self-replicating ribozyme.”

Seed bombs, take 2PhysOrg re-introduced a formerly discredited idea: “A new look at the early solar system introduces an alternative to a long-taught, but largely discredited, theory that seeks to explain how biomolecules were once able to form inside of asteroids.”  Tweaking the parameters got it to work this time – but it only gets heat to the interior of the asteroid.  It doesn’t create biomolecules.  “We’re just at the beginning of this,” one of the researchers said. “It would be wrong to assert that we’ve solved this problem.”

Coacervates, take 2:  Remember Oparin’s old coacervates in the 1920s?  They were theoretical bubbles in which the magic of life happened.  Dutch researchers publishing in PNAS revisited coacervation as the creation of “artificial cell-like environment in which the rate of mRNA production is increased significantly” – provided they don’t have to explain the origin of the complex molecular machines DNA polymerase and RNA polymerase.

Bio-organizational predestination:  Against impossible odds, origin-of-life researchers in Rome got 83 molecular machines to self-assemble in fatbubbles, Live Science reported.  They don’t know how they did it.  “It may be that these particular molecules are suited to this kind of self-organisation because they are already highly evolved,” Andrew Bissette (U of Oxford) wrote, but it’s likely some investigator interference overruled nature.  “An important next step is to see if similar, but less complex, molecules are also capable of this feat.”  For now, though, they surmise that “self-assembly of molecular machines into simple cells may be an inevitable physical process.”  They didn’t say what the trapped machines did, or how they could ever get out, or how DNA arrived inside to code for these machines in a self-replicating system.

Solve the problem by creating a new word:  “Did autocells lead to life?” Astrobiology Magazine asked.  It depends.  What’s an autocell?  It’s a new word that means autogenesis.  What’s autogenesis?  It’s the spontaneous creation of order, got it?  “Terrence Deacon, of the University of California Berkeley, outlined in a recent talk how this step could have taken place.”  Deacon danced around the problems of entropy, the nature of catalysts to fall apart in water, and the tendency for catalysts to “spill out” of their autocells.  Surprisingly, he pointed to the discredited Martian meteorite photo of a worm-like structure as a possible autocell.

Crater bowls of primordial soup:  A paleontologist tosses out deep sea vents, RNA worlds, Mars and the other baggage as he “presents origin of life theory,” according to Science Daily.  Sankar Chatterjee  (Texas Tech) combines panspermia with crater pools, and finds his Eureka moment.  As asteroids pummeled the earth in the Late Heavy Bombardment, “the large craters left behind not only contained water and the basic chemical building blocks for life, but also became the perfect crucible to concentrate and cook these chemicals to create the first simple organisms.”  Sankar Chatterjee  (Texas Tech) is so proud of his model, he indulged in self-congratulation:

This is bigger than finding any dinosaur,” Chatterjee said. “This is what we’ve all searched for – the Holy Grail of science.

He’s got it all worked out, with asteroids delivering not only the RNA and proteins, but the lipids as well, then presto: cells.  “The emergence of the first cells on the early Earth was the culmination of a long history of prior chemical, geological and cosmic processes.”  Astrobiology Magazine entertained this hypothesis with a picture of Chatterjee standing by other dinosaurs.

Crater refugia:  Nearly simultaneously, Iain Gilmour from the UK proposed craters as “an abode for life.”  PhysOrg and Astrobiology Magazine entertained this idea without mentioning who got it first, Chatterjee or Gilmour.  But do pictures of crater lakes on the present lively earth really support the hypothesis?  It’s not really a hypothesis, either, but a suggestion: Gilmour proposed that “the heat generated from an asteroid impact could lead to a crater becoming a refuge for life, or even a potential birthplace for life’s origin.

Yer all wrong; it’s clay:  Start over.  Now Science Daily says, “Clay May Have Been Birthplace of Life On Earth, New Study Suggests.”  Cornell is behind this one.  “We propose that in early geological history clay hydrogel provided a confinement function for biomolecules and biochemical reactions,” their champion said in Science Daily.  Sounds familiar; isn’t this an old idea? (see Evolution News & Views).  It is indeed, and it flies in the face of their former Cornell colleague, Carl Sagan, who hypothesized that life began wet at deep sea vents.  This article is accompanied by a picture of cracked, dry clay in a dried-up lakebed.  Sagan didn’t explain how the lucky molecules got concentrated; clay can do it.  If you can concentrate the building blocks of life, living cells with molecular machines must not be far behind.  The London Daily Mail found Adam and Eve in this story somehow:

Was the Bible RIGHT about the origins of life? Scientists believe that we may have had our beginnings in CLAY.

  • The Bible, the Koran and even Greek mythology has suggested for thousands of years that life began as earth, dust or clay
  • New theory is that clay is a breeding ground for chemicals which it ‘absorbs like a sponge’ and eventually leads to proteins and DNA forming

One little problem remains: “How these biological machines evolved remains to be explained,” the Science Daily article points out.

RNA World not dead yet:  In Science Daily, researchers at the University of Chicago noted that RNA makes up a significant part of the spliceosome, a molecular machine that splices DNA fragments into messenger RNA transcripts.  Looking beyond this observation, they divined a distant echo of a long lost RNA World.

Isn’t it wonderful to see so many ideas percolating in the origin-of-life field?  Doesn’t this illustrate an active, progressing science?


These ideas are mutually exclusive and incompatible.  They essentially falsify each other.  The “building blocks of life” can’t be cold and hot at the same time.  They can’t be at deep sea vents and in asteroids at the same time.  They can’t be dry and wet at the same time.  The metabolism-first and genetics-first scenarios are mutually incompatible and impossible anyway.  Rather than illustrating a field converging on answers, these contradictions reveal a paradigm in crisis.  Out of desperation, evolutionists are tossing around silly notions that cannot possibly work, individually or in combination.  The ideas are not percolating; they are fermenting, putting the origin-of-life (OOL) Dar-winos into a drunken stupor.

What are we expected to believe?  That an asteroid dug out a lava-hot crater, which later filled with rainwater, while some delicate RNA molecules cooking at a deep sea vent launched into the crater by unknown lucky happenstance?  That the RNA became trapped with amino acids and lipids left over from the impact, emerging as molecular machines inside fatbubbles?  Whoops, we forgot that ribose can’t get wet, so it must have gotten launched from Martian deserts (9/07/13) into the crater when it was drying up into cracked flakes of clay. Uh-oh; the fatbubbles are death traps (9/03/04).  The molecules (even if they are all homochiral) will decay and perish inside.  They must have all self-organized so that they could work before entropy set in.

The improbabilities at each step quickly multiply into impossibilities when combined into any kind of sequence.  Unless one believes in some kind of mystical secular predestination, this is nuts.  It’s not going to happen in quintillions of universes of habitable planets.  But that’s only the beginning of their worries.

None of the above proposals answer the question: where did biological information come from?  Each OOL charlatan dodges that all-important question with misdirection, chanting “Abracadabra” with mythical “building blocks of life” as if Scrabble letters will self-organize into a dictionary.  Remember, even if “natural selection” could preserve progress (it cannot), they can’t use the Darwin magic wand until they have a highly accurate self-replicating system.  That’s not going to happen with a one-off lucky ribozyme in the best of RNA-world scenarios.  All the ingredients for a genetic code, and the machinery to read and translate it, encased in a cell with active transport, have to be present and working together from the beginning.

In 12 years of reporting this stuff, no progress has been made.  In fact, the OOL field is regressing.  Now, they are reaching back to revive old notions that were long ago debunked, trying to do CPR on mummies.  Desperate to leap ahead into Charlie’s world of tree-thinking, they have to get past this obstacle, but it is a hurdle too high on their secular track, light-years high, light-years wide, and light-years thick.  Even that is an understatement (see our online book).

We repeat our contention that that secular origin-of-life scenarios, with all their wish-fulfillment dreams and hopes, are the building blocks of lie – typo intended.

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  • Merlin says:

    What a waste of talent, energy, intelligence and our money. This field of research peaked in ’56 or whenever it was, with Urey and Miller.

    Thanks for all you do.

  • Isn’t it amazing that every evidence for evolution is always some sort of story based on nothing at all? And they never even talk about proving that it actually happened. They assume that if they can tell a story of how it might have happened, they have proven that it happened. Naturalism is not the default position. It is an outrageous claim.

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