January 4, 2022 | Jerry Bergman

Will the new Space Telescope See the Origin of Life?

Spending Another $10 Billion to Prove Atheism:
Another Proposal to get Life from Non-life

 

by Jerry Bergman, PhD

Atheism might have had its defenders long before Darwin, but as Richard Dawkins has famously said, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”[1] Not quite. To be an intellectually fulfilled atheist, a viable theory of how life could have begun from non-life would be required. The importance of solving this problem can be seen by the amount of federal funding doled out on origin-of-life research (all of it assuming life emerged naturally without design). Finding that holy grail, they think, would really make it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

One of the mission goals of ten-billion-dollar James Webb Space Telescope, which launched Dec 25 and is now being deployed, concerns the origin of life. The JWST is seven times larger than Hubble (see figure 1). Weighing 6,200 kilograms with a mirror 6.5 meters wide (21 feet, almost three times larger than Hubble’s), the JWST gathers and processes information using four newly designed super-sensitive instruments.[2] As a result, the James Webb telescope is 100 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope.[3] The goal of the this multibillion dollar effort reduces to one overarching query: “essentially it comes down to the most fundamental of questions: Where do we come from?”[4]

Figure 1 James Webb Space Telescope Mirror Seen in Full Bloom. From Wiki Commons.

Other Earths with Life?

Materialistic scientists believe that if they can find life on other planets, it would be proof that, given the right conditions, life can arise anywhere by natural means without intelligent direction. Given the thousands of extrasolar planets discovered over the last decade by the Kepler Space Telescope and other instruments, JWST will seek to determine if any are in the proper ‘‘goldilocks” zone where liquid water could exist. Once these candidate planets are identified, researchers will examine “biomarkers” as proxies to see if life could be existing on them.

Note: The telescope does not image for visible light but rather infrared (IR) light, which will help researchers to detect evidence of life on distant planets. Virtually every cosmic object – stars and planets, and the gas and dust from which they allegedly form – emits infrared light, which is common heat radiation. The spectrum of the radiation can be informative about processes occurring on them.

The JWST is also attempting to gather evidence in support of the Big Bang, possibly to silence any remaining Big-Bang dissenters. They hope to do this by detecting the faintest objects at the greatest distances. By looking for objects that are almost 14 billion light-years away, glowing with invisible “heat” light detectable by JWST, evolutionists think they will see conditions that existed between the Big Bang and the first galaxies –  the Universe as it was very close to the Big Bang itself. Secular cosmologists have their own timeline of when atoms, stars and galaxies began to form after the Bang.

The creation prediction is, instead, that mature galaxies will be seen by the new, far more powerful telescope. This is what the Hubble telescope found. Astronomers were surprised and frustrated to see mature galaxies the farther out into space they looked. They explained this away by arguing  that they had not yet looked far enough into space. The new telescope will try to find fainter objects at greater distances that are visible only in the infrared.

If the evidence supports the creation prediction, past history shows what will undoubtedly occur: the true believers of cosmic evolution will just come up with another reason why the findings do not support their prediction.

As is the state of affairs in cosmic evolution, so it is in chemical evolution. So far, every attempt to come up with a plausible theory of life’s emergence from non-life is problematic. A new theory has been proposed in time for the JWST, which we will examine next: the Hydrogen Theory.

The Hydrogen Theory of Abiogenesis

A new “Hydrogen Theory” has entered the ring to explain how life might emerge by purely by natural means at hydrothermal events. It purports to answer the challenges of (1) how the first chemical reactions were started when life first developed, and (2) what the source of energy was to drive abiogenesis. The research team from Heinrich-Heine University Duesseldorf also wanted to figure out how and where life could have arisen on the early Earth.

Their approach involved experiments on reactions between hydrogen and carbon dioxide (CO2), using catalysts that they feel might have been present at hydrothermal vents. It must be noted that they studied chemical events going on today, not those they believe existed billions of years ago. They used computer programs to model reactions that might have yielded proteins, DNA, and the chemical reactions in modern cells.

Figure 2. From Jessica L. E. Wimmer, Joana C. Xavier, Andrey d. N. Vieira, Delfina P. H. Pereira, Jacqueline Leidner, Filipa L. Sousa, Karl Kleinermanns, Martina Preiner, William F. Martin. Energy at Origins: Favorable Thermodynamics of Biosynthetic Reactions in the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA). Frontiers in Microbiology, 13 December 2021; DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2021.793664.

To determine where the energy came from to drive the reactions forward, they listed the essential chemical reactions occurring in life today. They singled out 402 metabolic reactions that they assume were virtually unchanged since the origin of life, on the grounds that these reactions are common to all cells – both simple and complex cells. What this implies is that the basic chemistry of life is irreducibly complex. It could not have arisen piecemeal but had to be there all at once. This was an important finding they ignored because they were viewing the world through Darwinian glasses.

Ironically, instead of supporting their new theory of abiogenesis, their model supported intelligent design! But they ignored the implications. That is clear in the lead investigators’ conclusion: “We wanted to know where the energy came from that drove primordial metabolism forward.” They found it in the same sources where it comes from today, namely hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, phosphorus, and compounds such as ammonia, water, and hydrogen sulfide (H2S).

Their conclusion went opposite the facts. They postulated that

pure chemical energy is sufficient. We need no sunlight, no meteorites, no UV light: just H2 and CO2, plus some ammonia and salts. Because of the extremely conserved nature of the chemical reactions in our biosynthetic network, we can obtain some interesting insights into the reactions that gave rise to LUCA [the Last Universal Common Ancestor], even though it lived four billion years ago.[5]

Their diagram of the “biosynthetic core” shown in Figure 2 above effectively illustrates how complex life is. It is irreducibly complex! The top row in the figure shows the 20 required amino acids for protein synthesis, in the left column are the elements and compounds required so sustain life. On the right side are the basic organic compounds required for life processes. These include ATP (adenosine triphosphate, the main energy storage-currency for life) and GTP (guanosine triphosphate, a purine nucleoside triphosphate), one of the building blocks required for the RNA synthesis during the transcription process. On the bottom row are some of the additional complex organic compounds required for life, such as biotin (Vitamin B7). Rather than support how life could have formed naturally, this research effectively illustrates why life could never have been produced from inorganic and simple organic molecules! The chart implies that Last Universal Common Ancestor is far more complex then previously assumed.

Their conclusion was that LUCA’s metabolism required no external source of energy:

the energy needed for the reactions of metabolism to go forward stems from within metabolism itself. ….  because the 400 interconnected reactions of central metabolism, which seem so hopelessly complex upon first encounter, suddenly reveal a natural tendency to unfold all by themselves under the right conditions.[6]

That is an unwarranted and even absurd notion. This “natural tendency to unfold all by themselves” is built into life but only after it is properly designed and assembled. It’s the same conundrum origin-of-life researchers have faced ever since Stanley Miller’s research of the 1950s.

The team acknowledges that “there were no proteins or enzymes to catalyze reactions because they had not yet evolved” but they assume that metabolism would start simply from energy released by “reactions that could take place in the environment, perhaps with help from inorganic catalysts.”[7] What catalysts? What environment? What reactions? Where? The reactions would have to occur in sequence, in sustainable cycles within a purposeful network. The products of one essential reaction would have to feed into the next essential reaction, and the final end products would have to be available and reusable to begin the cycle again. None of this would happen without the proper assembly of thousands of complex molecules[8]. The molecules would have to be in their proper ratios at the right temperature and acidity, along with many other requirements.

With this in mind, materialistic evolutionists hope in vain that abiogenesis will happen naturally. But they hope the possibility will be supported by plan B: evidence from the James Webb Space Telescope. That instrument, however, can only measure temperature and spectra.

Those not wearing Darwin glasses believe something quite different will likely be illustrated: the reality that all life is the gift of our Creator.

Summary

Attempts to prove abiogenesis invariably prove the opposite. The study reviewed in this new paper on hydrogen is no exception. In their summary of their study, they made very simplistic assumptions:

almost all chemical steps used by primordial life to piece together the molecular building blocks of cells are energy releasing reactions. This identified the long-sought source of energy needed to drive these reactions forward …. The energy required to synthesize the building blocks of life comes from within metabolism itself….  [The] ingredient that releases the energy from within at life’s origin is the cleanest, greenest, newest and oldest of all energy carriers: Hydrogen gas, H2.[9]

But for this enormously complex metabolic system to work, all the required parts and their interactions had to be present together, as shown in the metabolic core diagram. My supposition is that the new James Webb Space Telescope will (as did the Hubble Space Telescope) find mature galaxies as far back as they look. This will contradict Big Bang predictions. It may rewrite the story of the Universe[10], but not in ways that would make atheists feel intellectually fulfilled.

References

[1] Dawkins, R. The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, NY, p. 6, 1986.

[2] Amos, J. James Webb: A $10bn machine in search of the end of darkness, BBC News, 14 December 2021.

[3] Back, G. NASA launching space telescope capable of seeing the ‘first galaxies that formed after the Big Bang’, Yahoo! Entertainment, 13 December 2021.

[4] Amos, J. James Webb

[5] Heinrich-Heine University Duesseldorf, Life arose on hydrogen energy, HHU News, 13 December 2021.

[6] Heinrich-Heine University. 2021.

[7] Heinrich-Heine University. 2021.

[8] Wimmer, J.L.E., et al. Energy at origins: Favorable thermodynamics of biosynthetic reactions in the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA). Frontiers in Microbiology, 13 December 2021, DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2021.793664.

[9] Heinrich-Heine University  2021.

[10] A New Eye on the Universe: How the world’s most powerful telescope is about to rewrite the story of the cosmos, New Scientist, 11-17 December 2012; Cover story by Stuart, C., How the James Webb telescope will rewrite the story of the universe, 8 December 2021, p. 5.

 


Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

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