Intelligent Design Origin Of Life RNA

At Science: Did volcanic ‘glasses’ help spark early life?

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In an artificially engineered experiment, researchers formed long strands of nucleoside triphosphates (the “letters” of RNA). Producing the necessary conditions naturally would be another story. Producing a biologically relevant strand of RNA by non-engineered processes remains fictional, since nature doesn’t contain the required information-rich template.

When life emerged, it did so quickly. Fossils suggest microbes were present 3.7 billion years ago, just a few hundred million years after the 4.5-billion-year-old planet had cooled enough to support biochemistry, and many researchers think the hereditary material for these first organisms was RNA. Although not as complex as DNA, RNA would still be difficult to forge into the long strands needed to convey genetic information, raising the question of how it could have spontaneously formed.

Now, researchers may have an answer. In lab experiments, they show how rocks called basaltic glasses help individual RNA letters, known as nucleoside triphosphates, link into strands up to 200 letters long. The glasses would have been abundant in the fire and brimstone of early Earth; they are created when lava is quenched in air or water or when the melted rock created in asteroid strikes cools off rapidly.

The result has divided top origin-of-life researchers. “This seems to be a wonderful story that finally explains how the nucleoside triphosphates react with each other to give RNA strands,” says Thomas Carell, a chemist at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. But Jack Szostak, an RNA expert at Harvard University, says he won’t believe the result until the research team better characterizes the RNA strands.

Origin-of-life researchers are fond of a primordial “RNA world” because the molecule can carry out two distinct processes vital for life. Like DNA, it’s made up of four chemical letters that can carry genetic information. And like proteins, RNA can also catalyze chemical reactions needed for life.

A hot spring at sunset near the Blue lagoon hot spring in Iceland
Volcanic glass, like that found near Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, can help knit RNA letters into long strands. SURANGA WEERATUNA/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

But RNA also brings headaches. No one has found a set of plausible prebiotic conditions that would cause hundreds of RNA letters—each of them complex molecules—to link into strands long enough to support the complex chemistry needed to ignite evolution.

Stephen Mojzsis, a geologist at the Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, wondered whether basaltic glasses played a role. They are rich in metals such as magnesium and iron that promote many chemical reactions. And, he says, “Basaltic glass was everywhere on Earth at the time.”

He sent samples of five different basalt glasses to the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution. There, Elisa Biondi, a molecular biologist, and her colleagues ground each sample into a fine powder, sterilized it, and mixed it with a solution of nucleoside triphosphates. Without a glass powder present, the RNA letters failed to link up. But when mixed with the glass powders, the molecules joined into long strands, some hundreds of letters long, the researchers report this week in Astrobiology. No heat or light was needed. “All we had to do was wait,” Biondi says. Small RNA strands formed after just a day, but strands kept growing for months. “The beauty of this model is its simplicity,” says Jan Špaček, a molecular biologist at Firebird Biomolecular Sciences. “Mix the ingredients, wait for a few days, and detect the RNA.”

Still, the results raise many questions. One is how the nucleoside triphosphates could have arisen in the first place. Biondi’s colleague Steven Benner says recent research shows how the same basaltic glasses could have promoted the formation and stabilization of the individual RNA letters.

A bigger issue, Szostak says, is the shape of the long RNA strands. In modern cells, enzymes ensure most RNAs grow into long linear chains. But RNA letters can also bind in complex branching patterns. Szostak wants the researchers to report the type of RNA the basaltic glasses created. “I find it very frustrating that the authors have made an interesting initial finding but then decided to go with the hype rather than the science,” Szostak says.

Biondi admits her team’s experiment almost certainly produces a small amount of RNA branching. However, she notes that some branched RNAs exist in organisms today, and related structures may have been present at life’s dawn. She also says other tests the group performed confirm the presence of long strands with connections that most likely mean they are linear. “It’s a healthy debate,” says Dieter Braun, an origin-of-life chemist at Ludwig Maximilian. “It will trigger the next round of experiments.”

Science

27 Replies to “At Science: Did volcanic ‘glasses’ help spark early life?

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    There’s a lot of basalt on the surface in mountainous post-volcanic areas. If this catalytic process occurred naturally, the RNA-like strands should be found on the basalt right now. Has anyone looked?

  2. 2
    PaV says:

    It seems to me that ID theorists can simply concede that all the elements we find in life have natural origins. A computer is assembled from parts made from natural objects, such as silicon in semiconductors. But we are absolutely certain that they are designed. The odds of self-assembly are astronomically small. What moves the thinking person in the direction of intelligent design are the raw improbabilities involved in life emerging from natural elements in a process that does not involve intelligent intervention.

    For example, what are the odds that silicon—in abundance on seashores the world wide, forming through some act of nature, let’s say a bolt of lightning, a semiconductor chip? In computer chip factories they’re with is done in a dust free environment. What about a vacuum tube forming through a bolt of lightning among some beach? How does that happen exactly without human [intelligent] intervention.

    As I’ve written here before: all the ingredients (and equipment) for making a peach pie are present in most modern grocery stores. It’s all there. So how does the peach pie come about without human [intelligent] intervention. No intelligence, no peach pie. No intelligence, no life.

    The odds of self-assembly of a peach pie are infinitely small. Same with life.

    We concede the natural origins of the building blocks of life. However, without a builder, only insignificant nothingness will ensue.

    So , who is this [B]uilder?

  3. 3
    martin_r says:

    PaV

    No intelligence, no life.

    Let me add to yours, people don’t realize, that without an automatic maintenance/repair of the cell, there also would be no life. There are many processes that keep the cell healthy and intact, from cell membrane repair to DNA repair, also some clean up processes – when the cell gets rid of molecules which are no longer needed and so on. In my debates, i have challenged many Darwinists to show me at least 1 example, where a repair (of any kind) was not engineered/performed by a technician/engineer (not to mention an automatic repair).

  4. 4
    martin_r says:

    from that Science article

    I find it very frustrating that the authors have made an interesting initial finding but then decided to go with the hype rather than the science,” Szostak says.

    this is so funny :)))))

    Someone like Jack Szostak calls the results of this experiment “a hype”, the guy who is the father of many OOL-research hypes :)))) e.g. In 2014, Nobel price laureate Jack Szostak said, that he will create “life in lab in 3-5 years, more likely within 3 years”. He said that 10 years ago. What he got today? Nothing, but retracted papers …. If such a claim is not a hype, than i don’t know….

    https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1406/S00007/jack-szostak-life-in-lab-in-3-5-years.htm

    Retracted papers:
    https://retractionwatch.com/2017/12/05/definitely-embarrassing-nobel-laureate-retracts-non-reproducible-paper-nature-journal/

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    As to: “A bigger issue, Szostak says, is the shape of the long RNA strands. In modern cells, enzymes ensure most RNAs grow into long linear chains. But RNA letters can also bind in complex branching patterns. Szostak wants the researchers to report the type of RNA the basaltic glasses created. “I find it very frustrating that the authors have made an interesting initial finding but then decided to go with the hype rather than the science,” Szostak says.”

    Glad to see Szostak finally come around, to ‘repent’ as it were of his own hype, (see Martin at 4), and for Szostak to call on other scientists to reign in their own ‘hype’

    And Szostak is completely right, ‘linkage issues’ are not a minor problem for OOL researchers. As the following video illustrates, there are exponentially many more ways for things to go wrong, (i.e. link up in a wrong fashion), than there are for things to go right.

    The Basic Building Blocks & the Origin of Life (Long Story Short, Ep. 4) – Linkage issues: 6:18 minute mark
    https://youtu.be/Qxm3yVTcZ4E?t=378

    Further notes:

    “We have no idea how to put this structure (a simple cell) together.,, So, not only do we not know how to make the basic components, we do not know how to build the structure even if we were given the basic components. So the gedanken (thought) experiment is this. Even if I gave you all the components. Even if I gave you all the amino acids. All the protein structures from those amino acids that you wanted. All the lipids in the purity that you wanted. The DNA. The RNA. Even in the sequence you wanted. I’ve even given you the code. And all the nucleic acids. So now I say, “Can you now assemble a cell, not in a prebiotic cesspool but in your nice laboratory?”. And the answer is a resounding NO! And if anybody claims otherwise they do not know this area (of research).”
    – James Tour: The Origin of Life Has Not Been Explained – 4:20 minute mark (The more we know, the worse the problem gets for materialists)
    https://youtu.be/r4sP1E1Jd_Y?t=255

    Dr. James Tour – (Problems with) Abiogenesis Theory – (9 hour lecture series) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKLgQzWhO4Q
    0:00 Reasons for this Series
    26:39 Episode 1 – Introduction to Abiogenesis
    50:45 Epsode 2 – Primordial Soup
    1:03:53 Episode 3 – Hype
    1:53:25 Episode 4 – Homochirality
    2:19:51 Episode 5 – Carbohydrates
    3:05:17 Episode 6 – The Building Blocks of the Building Blocks
    3:22:20 Episode 7 – Peptides
    4:14:08 Episode 8 – Nucleotides, DNA, and RNA
    5:05:57 Episode 9 – Intermediate Summary
    5:15:37 Episode 10 – Lipids and the Cell Membrane
    6:01:00 Episode 11 – Chiral-induced Spin Selectivity
    6:33:12 Episode 12.1 – Cell Construction and the Assembly Problem
    7:46:54 Episode 12.2 – Cell Construction and the Assembly Problem
    8:34:55 Episode 13 – Summary & Projections

    Of note: Dr. Tour has been recognized as one of the top synthetic chemists in the world
    https://profiles.rice.edu/faculty/james-tour

  6. 6
    Belfast says:

    ‘ says Dieter Braun, an origin-of-life chemist at Ludwig Maximilian. “It will trigger the next round of experiments.”
    Yes, indeed.
    Experiments funded by the next round of grants.

  7. 7
    EvilSnack says:

    So a big strand of RNA can form, assuming that the nucleotides are present. It remains to be shown that the nucleotides were present.
    And without the huge assortment of other chemicals needed, the RNA is just going to sit there for a while before it degrades. The presence of those other chemicals needs to be proven.
    They have gotten as far along in their proof that abiogenesis is possible as Herman Melville had got in writing [i]Moby Dick[/i] when he had written the letter [i]C[/i].

  8. 8
    Fasteddious says:

    So the experiment used a mix of nucleoside triphosphates. Doubtless those were in more or less pure form, all the same chirality, and at high concentration. They might also have been passivated to avoid random linking before adding the glass particles. It would be interesting to see what reaction it was that linked the nucleosides, and whether the resulting chains were linked in the same way as normal RNA molecules. Moreover, there were probably either no other reactants (i.e. undesirable chemicals) in the pure mix, or else, specific purified reactants needed to promote the linkage. None of that bodes well for OOL in any realistic original environment of Earth, even without the information aspect.
    It does appear to be a step, however, one tiny step in (maybe) the right direction, as ES says @ 7.

  9. 9
    chuckdarwin says:

    PaV/2 asks: “So, who is this [B]uilder?”
    Come on, PaV, get with the program. On this blog, that question is taboo. ID does not deal with pedestrian questions such as who, what or how, it simply “infers” design. From that point, you are on your own….

  10. 10
    Querius says:

    Chuckdarwin @9,

    On this blog, that question is taboo. ID does not deal with pedestrian questions such as who, what or how, it simply “infers” design.

    Yes, that’s correct. From its origins, ID takes no position on the source of design. ID is the presumption of design, which has been far more successful in accelerating scientific research and discovery than the presumption of random change.

    As to the source of that design, science cannot provide an answer. Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the helical structure of DNA advocates panspermia. Others think earth was seeded by aliens (perhaps a class project), some quantum physicists and science promoters have concluded that we’re likely living in an “ancestor simulation,” and many others believe the source is a transcendent deity, myself included.

    -Q

  11. 11
    Silver Asiatic says:

    CD

    ID does not deal with pedestrian questions such as who, what or how, it simply “infers” design.

    It’s kind of flattering that you’d think that ID is an entire cosmos of insight its own, with its own science, religion, history and literature departments. But it’s just a single science project.
    All facial recognition software team does is match patterns. It doesn’t doesn’t question suspects. It gives you an inference on a match (looks like this) – after that, you’re on your own.
    With ID, if you accept the inference – you can certainly ask who or what is the builder, but you need resources other than ID to solve that.
    In the same way, if you only have a visual of the face, then fingerprint analysis won’t help. You don’t complain to the fingerprint team that they didn’t analyze fabric samples or bullet trajectories.
    Some scientific projects study the behavior of moths, others study development of viruses, others study volcanic eruptions.
    Again, ID cannot not become a religion even if one accepts the inference that there is intelligent design in nature.

  12. 12
    relatd says:

    SA at 11,

    What – exactly – are you defending? Fence building? Individual box creation? ID does not fit in the following boxes? Which means what? I work in a specific part of a crime lab, so I am totally unaware of what the rest of the crime lab does? Of course I have to be good at what I do but I have a real life outside of the lab.

  13. 13
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Relatd

    What – exactly – are you defending? Fence building?

    Good fences make good neighbors. We can see what a lack of a fence is doing at the US southern border and what a good fence does in Israel (and might have done in Ukraine). So, let’s not be an anti-fencer.

    Individual box creation?

    One box does not fit all. When there’s a need for an individual box, we shouldn’t look to a mass produced single-size option.

    ID does not fit in the following boxes? Which means what?

    ID is just one thing. It’s not everything.

    I work in a specific part of a crime lab, so I am totally unaware of what the rest of the crime lab does?

    I’m paying you for your specific part in the crime lab. If you’re good at it, you keep the job. What you’re aware of or not aware of in the accounting department or the cafeteria management any other area where you’re not assigned or expected to interfere is irrelevant.

    Of course I have to be good at what I do but I have a real life outside of the lab.

    Outside the lab you may know something about deep sea fishing. Or you may know about baseball card collections. Or you may know about neither. ID is one thing, it’s not everything.

  14. 14
    relatd says:

    SA at 13,

    No thanks for the vagueness.

  15. 15
    chuckdarwin says:

    I’ve learned two important things today. First, per SA, now, at the end of the day, ID is “just a single science project,” like building a paper mache volcano or twitching a frog’s leg with a battery. Quite a slide into the epistemological cellar after such an auspicious start at the Discovery Institute where its mission was conceived as nothing less than over-throwing materialistic naturalism.

    Second, I’ve learned from Querius that “ID is the presumption of design.” In other words, the default position of ID “scientists.” The burden is thus on mainstream scientists to rebut the ubiquitous presumption of design in everything that scientists study.

    Combining these two factors, all science projects presume design ab initio. Presumption is simply another word for confirmation bias. Such an approach guarantees that design is immanent in everything. This so-called method is petitio principii on steroids…..

  16. 16
    relatd says:

    CD at 15,

    ID is a science. Ignoring it, or mocking it, will not make it go away. It’s already overthrown naturalism. The “nothing made you” idea is false. The ‘everything just upgraded on its own’ idea is false. The ‘evolution has no direction except when it does’ idea is wrong.

    The idea that dead/inorganic chemicals can “somehow” turn into living things idea is also false.

  17. 17
    JHolo says:

    Relatd: ID is a science.

    I think you may be half correct. ID could be a science if it had the balls to take the next step. Which it doesn’t. The next step would be to do research on the methods and reasons used by the “designer” to take his design to production. But that is never going to happen because it will require the admission that the designer is “God”. And if they have the honesty to do that, they will be admitting that it has always been about theology, not science.

    Or, even worse, they may find out that the designer isn’t “their” God. Can you imagine what would happen if those here found out that ID was correct, but that the designer could care less about homosexuality, same sex marriage, transgendered, abortion, objective morality, self-evident truths, the right to bear arms, or premarital sex?

  18. 18
    relatd says:

    JH at 17,

    Nice try. Your bias is showing. This isn’t about “honesty.” It’s about fear. The fear that out of all the possible candidates for the ‘designer’ or ‘intelligence,’ you appear to be afraid that one could be God. The less frightening alternative is aliens.

    Aliens would be a comforting answer, or life was brought here by a meteor. Those things would be comforting.

    All of the back and forth here has been about one thing, and one thing only: Can this be used to convince people that God exists? And if so, what would be the result? A cascade of very bad, to some, things. Someone, not some thing, like a rock from space, made me. I can know this by seeing the actual design in the world around me. The flowers and the animals don’t just look designed, they are designed. They have a nature that is unique to each type, from dogs to horses to giraffes. And this nature is consistent from generation to generation.

  19. 19
    JHolo says:

    Relatd, my response isn’t about fear. I could care less whether the designer, if he exists, is the JC God, Odin, the turtle god, or aliens. But I guarantee that there are some here who will not accept any designer other than the JC God, regardless of the evidence provided.

    But I notice that you haven’t responded to the fact that ID refuses to take their research to the next level. And opposes anyone who suggests they should.

    Darwin proposed a theory and welcomed further research to flesh it out. ID proposes a theory and opposes any research to flesh it out.

  20. 20
    Silver Asiatic says:

    CD

    its mission was conceived as nothing less than over-throwing materialistic naturalism

    The mission of ID has been to demonstrate evidence of intelligent design in nature. You’re equating that with creating a paper mache volcano – but perhaps its findings and conclusions are that obvious and simple to grasp. That would say quite a lot about the anti-ID voices out there – they can’t admit something so well-supported by evidence.

  21. 21
    Silver Asiatic says:

    JH

    Darwin proposed a theory and welcomed further research to flesh it out.

    ID proposes a theory – that there is evidence of intelligent design in nature. ID welcomes any further research to confirm the theory. What you’d be asking for is to have Darwin explain origin of life.

  22. 22
    JHolo says:

    SA: ID proposes a theory – that there is evidence of intelligent design in nature. ID welcomes any further research to confirm the theory.

    That may be true. But the difference is that scientist have been researching Darwin’s theory for 150 years. What does ID have? Lyse a cell and it doesn’t come back to life?

  23. 23
    Silver Asiatic says:

    JH

    That may be true.

    If so, then the ID theory that there is evidence of intelligent design in nature is true and therefore the ID proposal is validated.

    What does ID have?

    ID is either true or false. If true, then mindless evolutionary Darwinism is false, and it would only illustrate how useless and wasteful those 150 years have been chasing an error.

  24. 24
    bornagain77 says:

    Origin of Life from Basalt Lava Glass? Sorry, No – Brian Miller – June 15, 2022
    Concluding paragraph: An honest evaluation of the two studies leads to the conclusion that the formation of RNA could not have occurred through any natural processes on the early earth. The complex and highly orchestrated experimental protocols with unnatural starting materials further demonstrate that intelligent agency is an essential ingredient to life’s origin.
    https://evolutionnews.org/2022/06/origin-of-life-from-basalt-lava-glass-sorry-no/

  25. 25
    relatd says:

    CD at 9,

    You have reduced yourself to being a heckler in the audience. Stop it. Just stop it.

  26. 26
    relatd says:

    JH at 19,

    ID refuses what? Who are you talking about? Fair warning: God will not be mocked. Galatians 6:7

    “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

  27. 27
    Querius says:

    Chuckdarwin @15,

    Second, I’ve learned from Querius that “ID is the presumption of design.” In other words, the default position of ID “scientists.” The burden is thus on mainstream scientists to rebut the ubiquitous presumption of design in everything that scientists study.

    Oops, you forgot the part about Darwinism being the presumption of random mutations, some of which actually does something, but most of it is junk, for example “junk” DNA or “vestigial” organs.

    The question is not the presumption or anticipation, the question of which presumption promotes the advancement of scientific advancement better.

    Darwinism has historically and spectacularly failed in this regard, which results in numerous announcements of how recent discoveries always seem to surprise Darwinists, who never predicted what was discovered.

    -Q

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