In the summer of 2000, I conducted a 6-week seminar on intelligent design and self-organization at Calvin College (go here). Among the people who presented at the seminar were Steve Meyer, Paul Nelson, Jed Macosko, Howard Van Till, Del Ratzsch, Michael Ruse, and Harold Morowitz.
At the time, Morowitz was quite taken with the biochemical and metabolic pathways in the human body and was examining possible self-organizational scenarios for how they might have emerged (for the staggering complexity of what needs to be explained, go here — click on portions of this “map” to zoom in). I asked him if he had made any progress in creating any portions of these pathways without using biogenic materials. He immediately replied, “You mean without enzymes.” I said, “yes.” He said, “no.”
I take this NO to be a huge admission and concession. Brute chemistry, as in the Miller-Urey experiment, can produce certain primitive building blocks of life. But to get anywhere beyond that, biologists studying the emergence of biological complexity invariably require biomacromolecules extracted from preexisting living systems. There appears to be no direct route through brute chemistry to the functionally integrated molecular systems that make biological organisms interesting.