He said it: Origin of life pioneer Leslie Orgel on challenge of OOL research
|November 20, 2007||Posted by O'Leary under The Design of Life|
Some sources treat the origin of life as if we had any idea how it really happened. But that is most certainly not the case. One key topic of The Design of Life is origin of life (OOL) – specifically the reasons why it is so difficult to figure out (Chapter 8).
In the context, it is worth remembering that recently deceased OOL pioneer Leslie Orgel of the Salk Institute for Biological studies (the “father” of RNA world – the idea that RNA molecules came first), had actually made the difficulties clear. For example, he said,
There is no agreement on the extent to which metabolism could develop independently of a genetic material. In my opinion, there is no basis in known chemistry for the belief that long sequences of reactions can organize spontaneously – and every reason to believe they cannot The problem of achieving sufficient specificity, whether in aqueous solution or on the surface of a mineral, is so severe that the chance of closing a cycle of reactions as complex as the reverse citric acid cycle, for example, is negligible.
(The Language of the Genes, Revised Edition, London, harper Collins, 2000, p. 35, quoted in John C. Lennox, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God (London: Lion 2007), pp. 134–35)
Even Orgel’s New York Times obit sort of hints around the problem:
Writing in the journal Nature in 2006, Dr. Orgel reflected on his quest to comprehend the 4.5 billion years of life on Earth, a history that he described as “chaotic intellectual territory.”
Beyond the rudimentary timeline, he said, “almost everything else about the origin of life remains obscure.”
He added that only further and more penetrating research could reveal “the detailed steps that led from unconstrained abiotic chemistry to the organized complexity of biochemistry.”
This is good to keep in mind when we hear people puffing “RNA world” as though it offered some kind of easy solution to the origin of life. Note: Here are some other sources on why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
What if some initial information was essential to get life started? In that case, the reason current research projects have gone nowhere is that the researchers are not permitted to entertain as a possibility an element that is required as a fact. Rather they are forced to try to answer the question in terms of: How could it have been done with no previous information or intelligence at all?
If that is the only question they are permitted to ask, and if intelligence was indeed required, well then they will never find an answer. Or they will pretend to find an answer and demand that everyone believe it – or else.