Talk:Origin of Life

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Grammatical error

There are numerous instances in this article where "creationist" (singular) should be "creationists" (plural).

"athiest" should be "atheist" —The preceding unsigned comment was added by NathanG (talk)
Fixed, thanks. Philip J. Rayment 21:49, 12 October 2008 (EDT)

Scientific Error

oxygen is O2, ozone is O3, scientists aren't referring to elemental oxygen when they say no oxygen in the air they are referring to breathable oxygen because ozone is toxic

Bootstrap problem

Why no mention thereof?

Scientific American

  • Scientific American isn't really a journal. Masterbratac 15:03, 19 August 2007 (EDT)


This does not meet our standards for an article, but is an essay. --şŷŝôρ-₮KṢρёаќǃ 20:46, 21 August 2007 (EDT)


Would anyone mind if I reformat the links in the references section? And not to involve myself in any controversy, but while the article is well-sourced, the anti-naturalistic origin quotes do seem a little densely packed at the moment... Feebasfactor 18:23, 17 September 2007 (EDT)

And while we're at it, the Mystery of Life Video Clips is an internal, not an external one

And while we're at it, the Mystery of Life Video Clips is an internal, not an external one, and therefore belongs in the See Also section. TheGySom 20:00, 25 March 2008 (EDT)

Fixed, but could you try and keep your headings shorter? Thanks. Philip J. Rayment 21:20, 25 March 2008 (EDT)
Thanks, I was trying to use a similar style to attract the attention of Conservative TheGySom 21:23, 25 March 2008 (EDT)
Heh. There are some people whose examples you should follow, and some you should not! :-) Philip J. Rayment 21:43, 25 March 2008 (EDT)

Rebuttals of problems

1. Chicken or the Egg problem regarding DNA and proteins: Numerous theories exist as to how either RNA or proteins could have first arisen, but more prosaically, the fact that we do not know exactly how this may have happened does not mean it did not happen. We don't know how gravity works either, but nobody's claiming it doesn't. Also, see #4

2. Complexity of the cell: The complexity of the cell has nothing to do with abiogenesis, as abiogenesis doesn't concern itself with the evolution of the cell, just the genesis of the most basic forms of life.

3. Catch 22 problem regarding oxygen and the early earth: Jason Dwarkin et al. discovered during experiments simulating conditions on early earth that surprising resulted in the formation of fluorescent bubbles capable of absorbing enough UV and converting it to visible light to protect organic molecules. [1]

4. Implausibility of the RNA World hypothesis. Altman and Cech won the Nobel Prize in 1989 for proving that RNA could act as a biocatalyst (like an enzyme) and sequence itself without proteins, proving the RNA world hypothesis plausible. [2]

5. Chirality problem: much like #1 there are a number of competing theories. Example: Toxvaerd [3]

6. Polymerization problem: like #1 again, numerous theories. example: Oro and Stephen-Sherwood [4]

Xyrophile 11:22, 5 June 2008 (EDT)

Your answers basically amount to faith that the naturalistic view will one day find evidence to support your point of view. Yes, the fact that we don't know how it happened doesn't mean that it didn't, but the article doesn't put it that way. It merely refers to them as "problems", not "impossibilities". And there's a difference between trying to explain the mechanism of something that's been observed (gravity) and something that has not been observed and which people do claim never happened. That scientists sometimes find some tiny piece of the puzzle (such as RNA acting like an enzyme in very limited ways) does not mean that the puzzle has been solved. Philip J. Rayment 09:02, 7 June 2008 (EDT)
No, my answers are to the effect that these particular examples are not considered problems by biologists at all, they're simply unresolved issues with a number of competing plausible theories that continue to be tested. As for the gravity example, well, we know that gravity exists because we observe its effects, and we know that life originated (and the rough timescale) through observation of its effects, mainly fossils and living creatures. The precise method by which the origin of terrestrial occured is scientifically better understood than the precise method by which gravity occurs. And yes, there are people who deny the existence of gravity. Xyrophile 16:53, 7 June 2008 (EDT)
Then your answers were wrong, because there are biologists who consider these to be problems. In any case, "unresolved issues with a number of competing plausible theories" is a euphemism for "unresolved problem".
Yes, we know gravity exists because we observe its effects, and we know life originated because it exists and could not always have existed, but we don't know that it originated naturalistically, because that was not observed nor is that logically deducible, unless you first start with the assumption of naturalism. Neither is even the rough timescale (the one you are referring to) known, for the same reason. No, the precise method by which terrestrial life occurred is not scientifically better understood, because scientists have nothing but explanations that don't fit what we do know. If you want to get pedantic about people claiming that gravity doesn't exist, then no, you have not shown that, because one person (singular) is not people (plural). If you don't want to be pedantic, then I'm not talking about the odd crackpot that rejects abiogenesis, but millions of people and thousands or tens of thousands of scientists.
Philip J. Rayment 09:01, 8 June 2008 (EDT)
The "chicken or egg" problem has been solved for some time now. The answer is neither: RNA. This was shown with the Spiegelman Monster. WilliamBeason 23:06, 29 December 2008 (EST)
Actually, it's never been a problem. It's been known for about 6,000 years now that God created chickens, not eggs. As for Spiegelman's monster, what does some intelligently-designed replication solve when the organism gradually fades away? Philip J. Rayment 06:24, 30 December 2008 (EST)
Yes, I realize that God created chickens 6,000 years ago. By putting "chicken or egg" in parentheses I was referencing where the article spoke of whether DNA or proteins came first. The current leading theory that naturalists (those who believe life began without God) have is RNA. The only problem I have with the article is that the stance that naturalists take is being misrepresented. Were their viewpoints to be represented, it would be much more effective when their arguments were taken down. WilliamBeason 09:08, 30 December 2008 (EST)
I realise that you were referring to that puzzle, but just as you were answering that it's "neither", I was also answering that, by obliquely pointing out that God created life fully-functioning, so there is no question as to which came first. The RNA hypothesis is really a case of grasping at straws, because of the implausibility of DNA or proteins, they go for the simpler RNA, but have the problem that RNA needs living things in order to reproduce, another so-called "chicken and egg" problem.
How does the article misrepresent the naturalistic viewpoint?
Philip J. Rayment 09:43, 30 December 2008 (EST)
In the modern day, RNA needs living things to reproduce, but in the naturalist 3.5 billion years ago earth, it was able to naturally. The Spiegleman Monster showed that RNA can reproduce on its own if placed in a RNA nucleotide solution without proteins or living organisms. As you pointed out, it did not actually solve anything as it never grows more complex.
On how the naturalist view is misrepresented, I should have said that it is not presented. The article mentions abiogenesis and panspermia, but does not explain them. The article jumps directly to disproving the hypotheses without showing what they are. It would be more effective to put down each of the origin of life theories and explain them separately. Abiogenesis, Panspermia, and Intelligent Design should have sections within the article.
Should we start this under a new header in the talk page? We have deviated somewhat from the original question.
WilliamBeason 10:17, 30 December 2008 (EST)
" the naturalist 3.5 billion years ago earth, it was able to [reproduce] naturally.": That's your faith talking; we don't have evidence of that (unless you forgot the word "view" after "naturalist" or something like that).
The Spiegleman Monster appears to have shown that RNA can reproduce without an existing living thing being involved, except that an existing living thing was involved: Spiegleman! You may think that to be a silly response, but my point is that Spiegleman provided special conditions that do not occur naturally, so it could not have occurred without him (or an equivalent) being involved, so cannot explain the origin of life.
As for not presenting the naturalistic view, you are correct, and that is a problem that many articles suffer from. Start another section if you want to discuss it further, or just directly edit the article. But please keep in mind that Conservapedia doesn't allow the naturalistic POV to be presented as fact (see my first comment in this post).
Philip J. Rayment 04:12, 31 December 2008 (EST)
By saying naturalist, I was implying (or, trying to imply) that I was making a hypothetical statement. Had I been supporting their view, I would have simply put in the 3.5 billion years ago earth. The word "view" would have made the sentence sound redundant to me.
You are correct in your rebuttal of the Spiegleman experiment. I am saying that we should include an explanation of such experiments (and reasoning) and their rebuttals. (continued further down)
WilliamBeason 10:28, 31 December 2008 (EST)

Superfluous link

It would probably be a good idea to remove the wikilink to "Origin of Life" in the final paragraph. It doesn't make much sense to link to an article from within the article:)--Thinker 16:24, 24 October 2008 (EDT)

Done, thanks, and in the previous section also. Philip J. Rayment 23:14, 24 October 2008 (EDT)

Naturalist Views

It would make sense to include a clear explanation of each of the naturalist theories. Separated from the explanations can be a section that rebuts them. If we present the theories in a calm unbiased manner and rebut them logically, the article will have a greater chance of having an effect on people. The article needs to be presented in such a way that any person with an open mind will easily be able to see the truth rather than a way that makes us look like uneducated mules who do not even understand what they are arguing against.

To do this, we need to make sure that we understand exactly what the naturalist views are. The more we know about their views, the easier it will be to find counter-evidence and counter-arguments. Also, the more clearly that we present the naturalist views, the easier it will be to show visitors to this site the fallacies and other problems with naturalist views. WilliamBeason 10:35, 31 December 2008 (EST)

I see no problem with that in principle. Philip J. Rayment 04:09, 14 January 2009 (EST)

Claims of "Self-Replicating" Chemicals

Evolutionists CLAIM to have used reverse engineered RNA sequences to create what they call "life 2.0"[1]

They've basically isolated some cell components, put them in a nutrient bath and claimed they're now self replicating. This bit of Frankenstein science is in reality little different than keeping an organ alive for a few months in a nutrient bath, but some people are claiming this proves spontaneous generation theories of life.[2]

I think Conservapedia can nip this in the bud the way it did with the claims of bacteria evolving. A good article addressing the flawed science behind the claims would be a great way to at the very least let people read some truth instead of the humanist drivel being spewed by the leftist media. I lack the science know how to do this myself.


—The preceding unsigned comment was added by AlexC (talk)

Well, Alex, I have the know how, however I can verify this is true. Self replicating molecules are quiet common; it is a basic chemical principle that relies on lowest energy states for a molecule. RNA is a self replicator due to RNA replicase, in fact many biochemical processes rely on going from a higher energy state to a lower more stable state (which are more order in the environment of the cell). The Spiegelman Monster is another great example of self replication at a higher level. A great experiment with lots of information can be found here. I am sorry but this topic has been around and tested quiet thoroughly, to the point that we know exactly what atom bonds where to allow for the replication. Chance of RNA replicase forming naturally from just nucleotides is 1 out of 7.9*10^29, seems like a lot but when you place it in perspective of time this is very feasible due to bonding rate of nucleotides being in nanoseconds. Now there have not been any successes with creating an artificial cell that replicates. The Spiegelman Monster was a virus, not a full cell. Perhaps that might be an area to look? Hope this helps.--Able806 14:13, 12 January 2009 (EST)
So it's not even remotely similar to life, it's more like a burning fire or rusting metal. How then can these people get away with running around claiming it's "life 2.0" when it's nothing more than a basic chemical reaction that continues as long as they feed it raw materials? --AlexC 10:30, 13 January 2009 (EST)
Neither is it the result of random processes, per evolution, but the result of intelligent design: "And now so can a set of custom-designed chemicals.". But the evolutionists somehow claim it to be a win for evolution! Philip J. Rayment 04:51, 14 January 2009 (EST)
I would not consider it evolution, just that it shows a possible way that life could have started. There are many different models of how life started, this is just one. I would not go as far as saying it is intelligent design Philip since everything used for a similar experiment occured naturaly. Consider what is the difference between glucose created in the lab and glcose created from the body? The physical properties are the same. In the case of a similar Spiegelman Monster experiment, the base RNA code mutated over several generations (due to a lack of replication control enzymes) showing that many types of sequences could be formed from one base sequence with RNA.--Able806 07:19, 14 January 2009 (EST)
Yes, in principle, if you are talking about a scientist simply replicating conditions that would have occurred "naturally" (I'll get back to that in a moment), then the fact that the scientist's intelligence was involved does not make an argument for intelligent design.
But we are talking here about the origin of life, so if the materials that he uses are ones that only occur as the result of living things, then they do not occur "naturally", in the sense of being in existence before life started. Glucose is the product of living things (which I would argue requires a designer). Similarly, I believe that both RNA and RNA replicase do not occur "naturally" (without the existence of living things). Is this correct?
Philip J. Rayment 18:01, 14 January 2009 (EST)

Glucose does require life to make it outside of the lab, that we know of. RNA does occur naturally as well as RNA replicase, both molecules are not and should not be considered life (some prions are nothing more than a small strand of RNA with replicase or reverse transcriptase contained in a glob of lipids, would not be considered a protocell). DNA does occur outside of the cell as well, if the conditions are right (very rare), and is much more stable than RNA. However, it is a huge leap from these molecules to life. The whole reason why self replication and self formation of these molecules is possible is that the sum has a more stable energy state than the parts. When the parts of these molecules are found in solution at a neutral pH they react (due to the zwitterionic forms of the bases). The chemistry involved for this is not difficult, if you would like I can go into further detail.--Able806 19:58, 14 January 2009 (EST)

I know that RNA (and RNA replicase) are not life; my point was that they require living things to make them. You say that they occur naturally—do you mean in the absence of living things or other RNA? If so, can you please provide evidence of that? Philip J. Rayment 20:45, 14 January 2009 (EST)
Yes, RNA and RNA replicase do occur in the absence of living things, they are just molecules. What kind of evidence would you like? How these molecules can form without a host cell? Evidence of these molecules in nature? I gave an example (prions) of RNA found in nature (some prions can catalyze the formation of RNA particles by just being in a solution with the bases and ribose). Prions are not alive, however they are organic. You can detect RNA everywhere but it would be almost impossible to tell if the fragment came from a living source or not, so you will find very little published information on that. The point is, RNA can form on its own (RNA is a lower energy state than its parts, this has been observed in the lab) and is the only known macromolecule that can both encode genetic information and also act as a biocatalyst (cellular ribosomes, where proteins are made, are mostly RNA), both points very important when talking of self replication. Here is a list of some resources if you would like to read more about it.
  • Eigen, M., Gardiner, W., Schuster, P. & Winkler-Oswatitsch, The origin of genetic information. R. Sci. Am. 244, 88 (1981).
  • Westheimer, F.H. Polyribonucleic acids as enzymes. Nature 319, 534 (1986).
  • Guerrier-Takada, C., Gardiner, K., Marsh, T., Pace, N. & Altman, S. The RNA moiety of ribonuclease P is the catalytic subunit of the enzyme. Cell 35, 849 (1983).
  • Guerrier-Takada, C. & Altman, S. Catalytic activity of an RNA molecule prepared by transcription in vitro. Science 223, 285 (1984).
  • Kruger, K. et al. Self-splicing RNA: autoexcision and autocyclization of the ribosomal RNA intervening sequence of Tetrahymena. Cell 31, 147 (1982).
  • Cech, T.R. Self-splicing RNA: implications for evolution. Int. Rev. Cytol. 93, 3 (1985).
  • Zaug, A.J. & Cech, T.R. The intervening sequence RNA of Tetrahymena is an enzyme. Science 231, 470 (1986).
  • Sharp, P.A. On the origin of RNA splicing and introns. Cell 42, 397 (1985).
  • White, H.B. III, Coenzymes as fossils of an earlier metabolic state. J. molec. Evol. 7, 101 (1976).
  • K. S. Huang, N. Carrasco, E. Pfund, and S. A. Strobel. Transition State Chirality and Role of the Vicinal Hydroxyl in the Ribosomal Peptidyl Transferase Reaction. Biochemistry 47, 8822-8827(2008)
  • S. A. Strobel. Ribonucleic general acid. Nature Chem. Biol. 1, 5-6 (2005)
  • J. Cochrane, R. Batey and S.A. Strobel. Quantitation of free energy profiles in RNA-ligand interactions by nucleotide analog interference mapping. RNA. 10, 1282-1289 (2003)
If you would like I can provide a energy state diagram showing the states for each part and then for the total and provide the mechanisms that the molecules go through to achieve the final formation, all of which are progressively lower in energy therefore allowing for the formation of RNA to be a highly favorable chemical reaction.--Able806 10:58, 15 January 2009 (EST)
I would like the evidence to be on-line, so that I can easily check it. Or perhaps you could just explain the evidence to me in more detail; that might be enought to convince me. For example, you ask if I want to see evidence of it in nature, but then say that evidence in nature is not conclusive because one can't determine if it came from a living thing or not. So what evidence does exist? Laboratory experiments? (In which case I would want to be convinced that they did replicate natural conditions and didn't rely on living things or intelligent input.) Observations of RNA occuring naturally? Calculations that show that it should be possible?
Also, could you restructure your post to simply have a list of sources at the end, without using the <ref> and <references/> tags? As you have it now, you have introduced a new top-level heading into the thread (with table of contents entry), and if anybody else puts references on this talk page they will end up in your references list.
Philip J. Rayment 18:03, 15 January 2009 (EST)

Good morning Philip. All of the references I gave are online. You may view the abstracts at pubmed but you have to go to the journals for the full paper. Consider though, they are old publications and you may find newer research than what I posted (I would suggest biochemistry sources for this topic, molecular bio sources will just lead you to signal transduction work). As for your questions we first have to discuss inference. There is no way to tell the absolute source of an RNA particle unless it encodes for something (that is even a stretch). It is common to find RNA particles consisting of 4 to 10 bases on most surfaces (which are too small to encode anything). Now here is the inference part, if you place the parts needed for forming RNA in a vessel and supplied the right environment, RNA will form on its own. Now why we can infer that RNA occurs naturally is that all the parts of RNA form under the same types of conditions common in nature, all of which occur without influence by living organisms. Now keep in mind I am not suggesting that anything can be done with the RNA that forms, just that it does form. I can give you calculations of the energy states and why it is possible for RNA to form naturally, it will take a little time since I would be doing it by hand (I do not believe there is an easy source online for it). To make sure it makes sense to you, I need to understand how much you know about physical chemistry? You will need to understand a little about free energy and chemical equilibrium of biological molecules (basic chemical thermodynamics) and acid-base equilibria for any of the work to make sense. I can email you the finished diagram (with the equations), since I do not have upload, and you can upload it here if you wish. I have to admit I was looking forward to you asking for calculations; I have not worked on stuff like this since grad school. I am sorry about that formatting and will not use the reference tag on talk pages.--Able806 11:25, 16 January 2009 (EST)

I should have said that I'd like the evidence to be readily available online, not requiring a payment or subscription. I did try looking for the first one, but although I found a reference, I didn't find an abstract. Perhaps I didn't look far enough.
I don't understand the physical chemistry enough for your explanation. But we don't need to go that far.
You didn't give a clear answer, but I still gather that you are saying that RNA found in nature does not constitute evidence of RNA occurring without the benefit of living things. So unless I gather incorrectly, let's drop that one.
Your latest answer seems to be saying that we know that RNA can form naturally without living things because it can be produced in a laboratory in an environment that would mimic the supposed pre-life Earth. Okay, if that is truly the case, then I will accept that. However, I still have some questions and concerns.
You appear to be saying that RNA could be created in a laboratory. Is this just theoretical, or has this actually been done?
You say that if you "place the parts needed for forming RNA in a vessel and supplied the right environment, RNA will form on its own". What are these "parts"? Are they themselves parts that are known to form without the benefit of living things? I want an assurance that these "parts" are not themselves partially-broken-down RNA, for example. Similarly, what is the "right environment"? Does that include molecules that are formed by living things? Or does it include only molecules that might be found, for example, on lifeless Mars?
Then there's the important question of coding, and the question of definitions. Perhaps the molecules you are talking about match the appearance of RNA, and perhaps they are therefore classified as RNA, but if RNA is supposed to be the first code of life, and these molecules don't code for anything, then they aren't really a code for life then, are they?
Philip J. Rayment 23:01, 16 January 2009 (EST)

One, held by creationists, is that life originated supernaturally.

"Divinely" would be a better word. LloydR 19:37, 19 April 2011 (EDT)

Thanks, I put "divinely/supernaturally". You feedback is certainly welcome. conservative 21:28, 19 April 2011 (EDT)


Perhaps the phrase "in recent times" should be removed from the introduction to this article. It is true that overall, the theory of abiogenesis has not fared well in popular opinion, but nowadays this theory is more popular than any time in history thanks to vocal secular scientists. Since this phrase is quite vague, an alternative can be to clarify this claim and cite a source that supports it. --AaronT 10:49, 10 December 2011 (EST)