In a popular lecture I once unflatteringly described the thinking of these scientists as a “junkyard mentality”. Since this reference became widely and not quite accurately quoted I will repeat it here. A junkyard contains all the bits and pieces of a Boeing 747, dismembered and in disarray. A whirlwind happens to blow through the yard. What is the chance that after its passage a fully assembled 747, ready to fly, will be found standing there? So small as to be negligible, even if a tornado were to blow through enough junkyards to fill the whole Universe.
How, for instance, would the enzyme clump distinguish an exceedingly infrequent useful enzyme from the overwhelming majority of useless chains of amino acids? The one potential enzyme would be so infrequent that the aggregate might have to encounter 50,000,000,000,000,000,000 useless chains before meeting a suitable one. In effect, talk of a primitive aggregate collecting up potential enzymes really implies the operation of intelligence, an intelligence which by distinguishing potential enzymes possesses powers of judgment. Since this conclusion is exactly what those who put forward this argument are anxious to avoid, their position is absurd. To press the matter further, if there were a basic principle of matter which somehow drove organic systems toward life, its existence should easily be demonstrable in the laboratory. One could, for instance, take a swimming bath to represent the primordial soup. Fill it with any chemicals of a non-biological nature you please. Pump any gases over it, or through it, you please, and shine any kind of radiation on it that takes your fancy. Let the experiment proceed for a year and see how many of those 2,000 enzymes have appeared in the hath. I will give the answer, and so save the time and trouble and expense of actually doing the experiment. You would find nothing at all, except possibly for a tarry sludge composed of amino acids and other simple organic chemicals. How can I be so confident in this statement? Well, if it were otherwise, the experiment would long since have been done and would be well-known and famous throughout the world. The cost of it would be trivial compared to the cost of landing a man on the Moon. I can imagine someone saying: “Wait a minute! The primordial soup in the early history of the Earth was much bigger than a swimming bath. Perhaps it was even as big as the ocean”. Very well, let us reduce the amount of chemical complexity to be accumulated in the swimming bath so as to allow for its smaller volume. The odds against producing the 2,000 enzymes are the number we have seen before, the number which occupies about forty pages with its zeros. Reducing this huge array of zeros pro-rata to allow for the smaller volume of the swimming bath does improve the odds, but only to the extent of removing about half the last line on the last of the forty pages. One might also try arguing that the process gathered momentum in the supposed primordial soup. A critic might say: “You have allowed only for a single year in your experiment. Because the process accelerates this is not long enough for anything to show up. You should allow a thousand million years”. In answer it is easy to prove that even the most enormous acceleration would not remove more than a fraction of the last of the forty pages, leaving more than thirty--nine pages of zeros, still an enormous number. If acceleration were so important, the swimming bath should be found to contain many proteins with amino acid sequences well on the way towards those which appear in biology. It should easily be recognizable as a new biological world—in as little as a minute or two it should have the obvious aspects of such a system, even if one did the experiment in a test tube instead of a swimming bath. In short, there is not a shred of objective evidence to support the hypothesis that life began in an organic soup here on the Earth. Indeed, Francis Crick, who shared a Nobel prize for the discovery of the structure of DNA, is one biophysicist who finds this theory unconvincing. So why do biologists indulge in unsubstantiated fantasies in order to deny what is so patently obvious, that the 200,000 amino acid chains, and hence life, did not appear by chance? The answer lies in a theory developed over a century ago, which sought to explain the development of life as an inevitable product of the purely local natural processes. Its author, Charles Darwin, hesitated to challenge the church’s doctrine on the creation, and publicly at least did not trace the implications of his ideas back to their bearing on the origin of life. However, he privately suggested that life itself may have been produced in “some warm little pond”, and to this day his followers have sought to explain the origin of terrestrial life in terms of a process of chemical evolution from the primordial soup. But, as we have seen, this simply does not fit the facts. In p re-Copernican days, the Earth was thought erroneously to be the geometrical and physical centre of the Universe. Nowadays, in seemingly respectable science the Earth is taken to be the biological centre of the Universe, an almost incredible repetition of the previous error.