The Abiogenesis Problem

I recently said that abiogenesis is part of the same ideology as the one which says life evolved from simple cells to very complex organisms, like us or other mammals or like birds and fish and reptiles and the rest and which also says that earth “evolved” from part of the gas cloud that “evolved” into the sun. As well as is orbitting around it each year and rotating around itself each day. As well as that the gas cloud behind the solar system came from Big Bang.

How does abiogenesis tie together with Evolution properly speaking and Evolutionist theory of how Earth came to be?

You can imagine biological life had always been there, but in that case it would be more natural to assume it had always been there in roughly the same kind of complexity as we see now. To imagine it had always – very literally always without any beginning at all – been there in the form of very simple cells but somehow started to develop to life as we know it only some billions of years ago is frankly not very credible.

So, Evolution theory has hardly any case without Abiogenesis being at least possible. At the best life could be going in circles and the start of manycelled life in Cambrian explosion or before would only have been the start of a new cycle.

And if you believe the cosmogony and cosmology of Big Bang, then you cannot have anything like eternal life as it is, nor even life going eternally in cycles. So, to this set of ideas, which do form a whole, abiogenesis is somewhat crucial.

This can be formulated as “Evolution is baseless without a good theory of abiogenesis, which it does not have.” This is listed as Creationist “Claim CB090“* in the Talkorigins list of refuted creationist claims. It gives for this particular formulation the source: Mastropaolo, J., 1998 (2 Nov.). Re: The evolutionist: liar, believer in miracles, king of criminals.*

I might have formulated it otherwise than Mastropaolo, like:

  • Evolution from a single cell presupposes a single cell did arise from non-living matter, and if that is impossible, evolution scenario cannot possibly be true.
  • And adding

  • Earth arising purely naturally from Big Bang (via gas clouds forming solar system etc) presupposes that life later arose from non-living matter, and if that is impossible, Earth cannot have arisen after non-being without a creator before that either.

However, the Talkorigins site gives us Mastropaolo’s formulation and pretends to refute it like this:

  • 1. The theory of evolution applies as long as life exists. How that life came to exist is not relevant to evolution. Claiming that evolution does not apply without a theory of abiogenesis makes as much sense as saying that umbrellas do not work without a theory of meteorology.
  • 2. Abiogenesis is a fact. Regardless of how you imagine it happened (note that creation is a theory of abiogenesis), it is a fact that there once was no life on earth and that now there is. Thus, even if evolution needs abiogenesis, it has it.

To which I answer:

  • 1. Umbrellas do not work without a theory of meteorology allowing for rain to exist. The theory need not be conscious, but a conscious theory that says “rain does not exist” or from which good logic could conclude “rain does not exist” is incompatible with umbrellas. The problem in the quip is that rain is observed and working umbrellas are observed, abiogenesis is not oberved and evolution from one celled mature organisms to life on a visible level is not observed “while it happens”.
  • 2. Abiogenesis does not usually refer to life arising through a creator creating it, but in any context outside this quip it refers to life arising from exclusively non-living matter without any conscious intervention behind itself. And that is not a fact. Evolutionists do not have that. They may think they can prove that indirectly through the subsequent story being true (but I have shown elsewhere on this blog they not only cannot prove that but the opposite can be proven. Or they may think they can prove that from modern cosmological theories of how earth arose, but they cannot prove those either. They have, as far as I am concerned not even proven Heliocentrism is either a fact or likely to work without divine intervention.

This leads to their claims that abiogenesis functions and to the claims on our side it doesn’t.

Complex organic molecules, such as the bases in RNA, are very fragile and unstable, except at low temperatures. They would not hold together long enough to serve as the first self-replicating proto-life.

Here I totally second the formulation given by Talkorigins (in Claim CB030) and extracted from Jerry Bergman and Harun Yahya.**

I will now give the four replies** with my replies to them:

I

Talkorigins

The source Bergman cites for the fragility of RNA bases (Levy and Miller 1998) disputes abiogenesis only at high temperatures, around 100 degrees Celsius. They also conclude, “At 0 degrees C, A, U, G, and T appear to be sufficiently stable (t1/2 greater than or equal to 106 yr) to be involved in a low-temperature origin of life.” They also say that cytosine is unstable enough at 0 degrees Celsius (half life of 17,000 years) that it may not have been involved in the first genetic material. The discovery of a ribozyme without C-G bases shows that genetic material without cytosine is plausible (Reader and Joyce 2002).

HGL

But what about the chemicals like ammonia and similar that would have destroyed them?

II

Talkorigins (a)

If synthesis of nucleo-bases is catalyzed and hydrolysis is not, we expect the nucleo-bases to accumulate. Formamide, which can form under prebiotic conditions, has been found to catalyze the formation of nucleo-bases (Saladino et al. 2001; Saladino et al. 2003).

HGL

But what about the chemicals like ammonia and similar that would have destroyed them?

Talkorigins (b)

RNA degrades quickly today because there are enzymes (RNAses) to chew it up.

HGL

We concede that RNA would not have degraded quickly because of these enzymes in a pre-biotic scenario. But what about the chemicals like ammonia and similar that would have destroyed them?

Talkorigins (c)

Those enzymes would not have evolved if RNA degraded quickly on its own. If complex organic molecules were so fragile, life itself would be impossible.

HGL

We reply that they are so fragile and that life is possible by creation only, or (disconsidering other factors) in a steady state universe, but not by abiogenesis plus evolution.

Talkorigins (d)

In fact, life exists even in boiling temperatures or at very high acidity.

HGL

But not exposing RNA directly to it without protection.

III

Talkorigins

Life need not have begun with highly stable molecules. Eigen and Schuster developed a notion of chemical hypercycles, in which many chemical components coexist; each component of the reaction leads to other components, which eventually reform the original one (Eigen and Schuster 1977). Chemicals involved in such a cycle need not persist longer than the duration of the hypercycle itself.

HGL

Their isolation from other chemicals which would have led elsewhere than to next part of cycle would however need to persist as long as any series of hypercycles lasts.

IV

Talkorigins

Organic molecules may have grown in association with stabilizing templates, such as clay templates (Ertem and Ferris 1996), or parts of the hypercycles mentioned above.

HGL

Clay templates would not have given sufficient complexity. Plus we still have the problem of how the organic molecules are protected while growing – if such a thing happened at all before life as an ongoing concern (in which the molecules are adequately protected in the cases they survive).

I heard one theory that such molecules were likely protected by vesicles of lipids or proteines. Proteine vesicles presuppose life has formed already, since proteines are synthesised in living organisms. Lipid vesicles give us that same problem, except my opponent claimed that it had been shown that lipids could form with rocks acting as catalysts. This I had not previously heard, and my immediate source gave no source for it. It was actually a few turns later in the dialogue that he gave the links to Talkorigins on Abiogenesis.

None of them adressed the problem of lipids for cell membranes, even in the form of very simple vesicles.

However, Don Batten on CMI does adress it:***

Lipids (‘fats’) are essential for the formation of a cell membrane that contains the cell contents, as well as for other cell functions. The cell membrane, comprised of several different complex lipids, is an essential part of a free-living cell that can reproduce itself.

Lipids have much higher energy density than sugars or amino acids, so their formation in any chemical soup is a problem for origin of life scenarios (high energy compounds are thermodynamically much less likely to form than lower energy compounds).

The fatty acids that are the primary component of all cell membranes have been very difficult to produce, even assuming the absence of oxygen (a ‘reducing’ atmosphere). Even if such molecules were produced, ions such as magnesium and calcium, which are themselves necessary for life and have two charges per atom (++, i.e. divalent), would combine with the fatty acids, and precipitate them, making them unavailable.9 This process likewise hinders soap (essentially a fatty acid salt) from being useful for washing in hard water—the same precipitation reaction forms the ‘scum’.

Some popularisers of abiogenesis like to draw diagrams showing a simple hollow sphere of lipid (a ‘vesicle’) that can form under certain conditions in a test-tube. However, such a ‘membrane’ could never lead to a living cell because the cell needs to get things through the cell membrane, in both directions. …

In the 1920s the idea that life began with soapy bubbles (fat globules) was popular (Oparin’s ‘coacervate’ hypothesis) but this pre-dated any knowledge of what life entailed in terms of DNA and protein synthesis, or what membranes have to do. The ideas were naïve in the extreme, but they still get an airing today in YouTube videos showing bubbles of lipid, even dividing, as if this were relevant to explaining the origin of life.

It irritates me that neither Niels Steigenga nor Don Batten have shown anything about a link as to under what conditions lipids form vesicles in test tubes. The little research I have been able to do on my own over wiki does not give any clue as to abiotic formation of lipids. So, since Don Batten links to a feedback article by J. Sarfati,° and since he links to a no longer existing article on NASA … well, finally it links to (reserving surprise for those curious enough to read the footnote).

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
Pope St Hilary
28-II-2014

* Claim CB090
http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB090.html

It refers to:

Mastropaolo, J., 1998 (2 Nov.). Re: The evolutionist: liar, believer in miracles, king of criminals.
http://www.asa3.org/archive/evolution/199811/0040.html

** Claim CB030
http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB030.html

It refers to:

Bergman, Jerry. 2000. Why abiogenesis is impossible. Creation Research Society Quarterly 36(4)
http://www.creationresearch.org/crsq/articles/36/36_4/abiogenesis.html

Yahya, Harun. 2003. The secrets of DNA
http://www.harunyahya.com/dna03.php

*** CMI, Origin of life
An explanation of what is needed for abiogenesis
by Don Batten
Published: 26 November 2013 (GMT+10)
First section after intro, Getting all the right ingredients, d. Lipids
http://creation.com/origin-of-life#lipids

Note 9 links to this reference:

Chadwick, A.V., Abiogenic Origin of Life: A Theory in Crisis, 2005;
origins.swau.edu/papers/life/chadwick/default.html

° CMI Feedback archive → Feedback 2001 Self-made cells? Of course not!
http://creation.com/self-made-cells-of-course-not

Sarfati cites in note 1) “The original paper is Dworkin, J., Deamer, D., Sandford, S., and Allamandola, L., Self-assembling amphiphilic molecules: Synthesis in simulated interstellar/precometary ices, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 98(3):815–819, 30 January 2001; see online overview.” But the link under online overview is no longer functional. I also found it on the following page (also in note 2 by Sarfati):

News Release: 01-06AR NASA Scientists Find Clues That Life Began in Deep Space
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/news/releases/2001/01_06AR.html

Here is what happens with the nonfunctional link (present not just on CMI but also on previous by NASA! “Further information about this research is available at”):

While trying to retrieve the URL: http://web99.arc.nasa.gov/~astrochm/vesicle.html

The following error was encountered:

Unable to determine IP address from host name for web99.arc.nasa.gov

The dnsserver returned:

Name Error: The domain name does not exist.

This means that:

The cache was not able to resolve the hostname presented in the URL.
Check if the address is correct.

Your cache administrator is webmaster.

The first substance mentioned on – as yet – functioning link by NASA is “Figure 1 and 2. Pyranene dye encapsulated in various sizes of vesicles made from a room temperature residue from the above described simulations.” But Pyranene may be a typo for also mentioned encapsulated pyranine. Which is used to make hair blonde, and which is irritating (Reizend, XI) … it is an organic compound, but if it were present in early atmosphere (no real knowledge as to how it forms) it would be likelier to destroy any budding proto-life than to be membranes for it. It is very clearly not a lipid.

Sarfati also linked to one other similarily non-existant page and to one which gave a 404 Error (“The page you’re looking for isn’t here”) on its site./HGL

SUCCESSFULLY CACHED

http://creavsevolu.blogspot.fr/2014/02/the-abiogenesis-problem.html

Please use the URL http://www.webcitation.org/6YqEdoqAX to access the cached copy of this page

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hglundahl

I might be attacking groups - if they see it as attacks. But not anonymously. My name is real, I was born in Vienna, I am Swedish. I did time, for resisting a policeman taking me to shrinks by taking his own gun for some moments (5-II-1998). I started blogging (2001) after release (in 2000).

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