March 20, 2018 | Sal Cordova

End of the RNA World?

Is The End of the RNA World Hypothesis Near Because Multiple Universes Are Needed for It?

by Salvador Cordova

A somewhat recent article in Quanta Magazine proclaimed the end of the RNA World Hypothesis. Charles Carter is a longtime critic of the RNA world. He was quoted as saying:

Recent papers published in Biosystems and Molecular Biology and Evolution delineated why the RNA world hypothesis does not provide a sufficient foundation for the evolutionary events that followed. Instead, said Charles Carter, a structural biologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who co-authored the papers, the model represents “an expedient proposal.” “There’s no way that a single polymer could carry out all of the necessary processes we now characterize as part of life,” he added.

So what is Carter’s alternative? Carter points out that it is necessary for some other things have to be there with the first life along with RNA such as “‘loading’ molecules called aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases.” Er, you mean sophisticated proteins!

Theoretical self-replication of RNA (Illustra Media)

The various origin-of-life theories were things like “RNA first” or “proteins first” or “metabolism first,”  etc. Few have entertained the idea of “everything first” since that looks too much like special creation. However, Carter unwittingly inches closer to the “everything first” model. How, for example, can one have a protein like an aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase arise without a means of making it and regulating it? In fact, there have to be several of them, not just one since there are 20 amino acids. The best way to make them is to have DNA with instructions to make them, but then where does the DNA come from without proteins, and where do proteins come from without DNA? DNA transcribes to RNA and RNA translates to proteins and proteins synthesize DNA, and the cycle continues. This is a classic chicken-and-egg paradox where one asks, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Under an “everything first” model, obviously the chicken.

Charles Carter has been a long-time critic of the RNA world. Though he believes the RNA World hypothesis is just about to expire, bad theories that are dead factually have a way of walking around like the living-dead. Jonathan Wells uses the term “zombie science” to describe such theories. I’m afraid the RNA world hypothesis might not end anytime soon because like other zombie ideas, they are enthralling fictions. [By the way, one of my biochemistry teacher’s favorite shows was The Walking Dead.]

Charles Carter has been ignored by most of the origin of life community. Why? He pointed out in an earlier paper in the Journal of Biological Chemistry:

Koonin estimates that assembling the replicative fidelity necessary for an RNA-only origin would require multiple universes.

But it should be worth mentioning that Koonin accepts the existence of life in our universe as good evidence there are multiple universes! He said so in Biology Direct, where he proclaims confidently that the existence of “many worlds” resolves the problem of the RNA world’s improbability. From that leap of faith, he proclaims:

A final comment on “irreducible complexity” and “intelligent design”. By showing that highly complex systems, actually, can emerge by chance and, moreover, are inevitable, if extremely rare, in the universe, the present model sidesteps the issue of irreducibility and leaves no room whatsoever for any form of intelligent design.

Koonin is stepping out in faith here, because science has no way of detecting many worlds. He’s basing so much of his anti-intelligent design views on pure speculation. There could just as well be an ultimate Designer, and it is also hypothetically possible there is a single Designer for all the many worlds.

I challenge those who reject the possibility of the Christian God and Creator with this thought, “Would you wager a thousand dollars in a casino based on the many-worlds hypothesis being true? If not, then why would you wager your soul?”


Salvador Cordova has appeared on National TV, radio shows, newspapers, books and magazines for his work in promoting Intelligent Design and Creation Science. He is a former scientist and engineer in the aerospace and defense industry and presently serves as a professor and researcher in the area of Christian apologetics at small Bible College. He has four science degrees and is working on a PhD. For his previous entries on CEH, see his Author Profile.

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