Science's Confusion concerning the Origin of Life

By Averick, Moshe | USA TODAY, March 2017 | Go to article overview

Science's Confusion concerning the Origin of Life


Averick, Moshe, USA TODAY


ALTHOUGH the general public disconcertingly is unaware, the simple scientific fact is that scientists do not have even the slightest clue how life could have begun through an unguided, natural process absent the intervention of a conscious creative force.

Here are just a few statements on the origin of life:

* James Tour, professor of chemistry at Rice University, 2016: "[There is] collective cluelessness. ... Those who say this is well worked out, they know nothing, nothing about chemical synthesis.... Those who think that scientists understand the details of life's origin are wholly uninformed. Nobody understands. ... When will the scientific community confess to the world that they are clueless on life's origin, that the emperor has no clothes?"

* Eugene Koonin, microbiologist, 2011: "The origin of life field is a failure."

* Lee Hartwell, Nobel Prize winner in Medicine, 2011: "With respect to the origin of life, I find the more we learn about cells the more complex they seem; they are just incredibly complex things, and to go from what we can see today and try to reason where it came from, I think is really impossible."

* Paul Davies, theoretical physicist at Arizona State University, 2010: "How [did life begin]? We haven't a clue."

* Franklin Harold, molecular biologist, at Colorado State University, 2001: "The origin of life appears to me as incomprehensible as ever, a matter for wonder but not for explication."

* Hubert Yockey, physicist and renowned information theorist, 1981: "Since science does not have the faintest idea how life on Earth originated ... it would only be honest to confess this to other scientists, to grantors, and to the public at large."

Suffice it to say that not only has science not progressed in this area since Charles Darwin published his famous 1859 treatise, "On the Origin of Species," but, on the contrary, it has slid backwards by many orders of magnitude.

What I mean by backwards becomes clear if we plot the origin of life dilemma on a standard X-Y graph; with the horizontal X axis representing the understanding of a naturalistic origin of life from 1859 until the present. It is a straight line starting at zero (understanding in 1859) and ending at zero (understanding in 2017). Let the Y axis represent the level of understanding since 1859 of the magnitude of the problem that needs to be solved. In 1859, it was thought to be a relatively trivial issue (i.e. close to zero); however, due to the astounding breakthroughs in genetics, biochemistry, and microbiology since then, the line of the Y axis is now off the graph.

As biochemist Klaus Dose wrote: "Experimentation on the origin of life ... has led to a better perception of the immensity of the problem of the origin of life on Earth rather than to its solution." Researchers Carl Woese and Gunter Wachtershauser concur: "While we do not have a solution, we now have an inkling of the magnitude of the problem."

Why are researchers having such difficulties discovering a naturalistic origin of life? "Certainly," says Koonin, "this is not due to a lack of experimental and theoretical effort, but to the extraordinary intrinsic difficulty and complexity of the problem. A succession of exceedingly unlikely steps is essential for the origin of life.... These make the final outcome seem almost like a miracle."

In other words, discovering how unguided naturalistic forces could assemble a living cell--a molecular machine that is more sophisticated and functionally complex than anything human technology ever has produced--is a problem of nightmarish proportions.

The LEGO set for a model of the Brooklyn Bridge contains 852 pieces; each piece has been designed specifically to construct the model of the bridge. Imagine you then are assigned the task of finding a pathway to a successful assembly of the model using only unguided, naturalistic forces (heat, lightning, sunlight, wind, radiation, etc. …

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