More Attempts to Explain Chirality
Despite the hype in some reports, the highly-designed experiments only underscore the problem for origin of life theories.
50 years since James Coppedge focused on the problem in Evolution: Possible or Impossible?, the problem of homochirality still challenges naturalistic theories for the origin of life. Coppedge showed that the probability of getting a single-hand chain of peptides is vanishingly small. He also noted that natural selection cannot be invoked before a system existed capable of accurately reproducing all its parts (ch. 5). Since we last discussed this in October (10/02/14), a few more potential solutions have been offered, some with fanfare.
Discovery demystifies origin of life chirality phenomenon (PhysOrg). The article calls homochirality one of the more “fascinating” of the “unsolved puzzles” in the origin of life “mystery.” A team led by A. Schulman, U of Akron, publishing in Nature Communications, claims that “Mother Nature’s inner workings may not be as complex as we think.” The abstract of the paper, however, shows that the claimed “self-recognition” for the same hand was tested on very large molecular building blocks, like Fe28(μ3-O)8(Tart)16(HCOO)24]20−, where Tart is tartaric acid. The molecules, furthermore, were wheel-shaped, unlike amino acids. The abstract ends, “We believe that delicate long-range electrostatic interactions could be responsible for such high-level chiral recognition and selection.”
From Heat and Cold Comes Image and Mirror Image (U of Heidelberg). Researchers in Heidelberg, Germany intelligently designed a catalyst that can synthesize both hands of a compound depending on the temperature. This experiment has little to do with chance in a warm little pond, because it requires the specially-built catalyst, and the problem in origin-of-life theory is not getting the building blocks, but combining them in homochiral polypeptides. There’s only an off-handed remark at the end of the press release about this. “It could be a key principle in creating homochiral compounds through a temperature gradient such as observed in RNA polymerisation,” the article says. “Such mechanisms are significant in researching the origin of life.”
Chemists Crack the Chirality Code (PhysOrg). Despite the flashy headline, this article is also about intelligent design, not chance. The “code” that the scientists at Trinity College Dublin “cracked” is not the origin of life, but a method chemists can use to intelligently design one-handed products for drug development. The headline, then, is a false lead. The article has nothing to do with the origin of life.
It appears Coppedge’s contention stands: without design, the chance of getting an average sized protein out of all the proteins on earth, made of all left-handed amino acids, is one in 1071. That’s for one average-size protein. The simplest known living organism has 239 proteins. Coppedge puts that low probability in context:
Saying it another way, the odds are a hundred billion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion to one against that happening!
That isn’t all. Even if one did occur, 238 more all-left-handed ones would be needed to work with it, or all would be lost. Since all 239 would have to be together in space and time, the probability of each of the remaining 238 would be 1/10123. Those huge numbers would then have to be multiplied together and with the 1/1071 probability of the first one, according to the multiplication rule. This would give the probability of the needed group of 239 protein molecules being all left-handed.
The number is beyond all comprehension, namely 1 in 1029345.
Since believing that will happen is utterly ridiculous, origin of life research will never get off the ground without solving this mystery. Louis Pasteur said, when he first discovered the chirality phenomenon, “here are here mysteries which prepare immense labors for the future, and from this time invite the most serious meditations of science.” Incidentally, the sugars in DNA and RNA are also homochiral, but right-handed in those cases (left- and right- being artificial designations for the convenience of classification).
Get to work, secularists. We’re still waiting. Did you notice that intelligence can easily sort and select things of one hand and snap them together quickly? Long before the “intelligent design movement” started, Coppedge said, after stating that natural selection is completely inadequate as a solution, “We find that there is no lessening of confusion until one accepts the logic that “intelligent” systems could not arise without an intelligent Designer.”