James Tour on abiogenesis
I have written a long article on the origin of life:
It is clear, chemists and biologists are clueless. I wrote, “Those who think scientists understand the issues of prebiotic chemistry are wholly misinformed. Nobody understands them. Maybe one day we will. But that day is far from today. It would be far more helpful (and hopeful) to expose students to the massive gaps in our understanding. They may find a firmer—and possibly a radically different—scientific theory. The basis upon which we as scientists are relying is so shaky that we must openly state the situation for what it is: it is a mystery.” Note that since the time of my submission of that commentary cited above, articles continue to be published on prebiotic chemistry, so I will link to my short critiques of a few of those newer articles so that the interested reader can get an ongoing synthetic chemist’s assessment of the proposals:
The origin of life (often encompassing the terms prebiotic chemistry or abiogenesis) article that I cite above is long and I need not repeat it. But even in that article, I never addressed the issue of information. The information or coding within the DNA (or RNA) that corresponds to the sequence of the nucleic acids is primary to the entire discussion of life. Some would rightly argue that the information is even more fundamental than the matter upon which it is encoded. I merely showed that the requisite molecules (lipids, proteins, nucleic acids and carbohydrates) are so unlikely to have occurred in the states and quantities needed, that we could never have gotten to the point of figuring out the genesis of the requisite code or information. The code is analogous to the difference between the Library of Congress and a big box of alphabetic letters— the library has a huge amount of embedded information while the random box of letters has little. So origin of first life is the ‘nail holding the coffin closed’ on the emergence of biological evolution. Without that first life, or simple cell, which requires the four molecule types plus information, all proposals regarding biological evolution are without the base of life. And it is difficult to discuss biology without life.
But even if one were given all the molecules needed in complete stereochemical purity, and the information code, could a cell be constructed using the chemical and biochemical tools that we have today? I have written about such a hypothetic experiment, and how it would be impossible, using today’s expertise, to even construct the lipid bilayer, namely the exterior packaging that holds the cell’s nanomachinery in place. Just the lipid bilayer (which itself surrounds thousands of nanosystems) is beyond our ability to synthesize. The conclusion of that thought experiment is that “life based upon amino acids, nucleotides, saccharides and lipids is an anomaly. Life should not exist anywhere in our universe. Life should not even exist on the surface of the earth.” “Yet we are led to believe that 3.8 billion years ago the requisite compounds could be found in some cave, or undersea vent, and somehow or other they assembled themselves into the first cell.” If you have knowledge of chemical or biochemical synthesis, or nanosystem assembly, I encourage you to read that short article and judge for yourself. If I am wrong, then enlighten me on my error. If I am correct, then ponder how far afield we have gone in projecting to the public our knowledge of life’s origin.
Dr. Tour on the Origin of Life at Syracuse University Cru
WATCH JUST 43 MINUTES OF THE FOLLOWING LECTURE BY DR. JAMES TOUR AND THEN MAKE THE CLAIM THAT ABIOGENESIS IS POSSIBLE.
WATCH BETWEEN 20:08 TO 1:03:45
James Tour: The Mystery of the Origin of Life