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Can life arise from basic molecules?

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“SAN DIEGO: Can life arise from nothing but a chaotic assortment of basic molecules? The answer is a lot closer following a series of ingenious experiments that have shown evolution at work in non-living molecules. For the first time, scientists have synthesized RNA enzymes – ribonucleic acid enzymes also known as ribozymes – that can replicate themselves without the help of any proteins or other cellular components. What’s more, these simple nucleic acids can act as catalysts and continue the process indefinitely. “There’s nothing in biology in this system: no proteins, no cells, no biological matter. We just provide them with the building blocks,” said molecular biologist Gerald Joyce of the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego.

The researchers began with ribozymes known to occur naturally, and put these in a growth medium, heated them and allowed the ribozymes to replicate.”

Dr. Robert Shapiro, a self-declared agnostic and opponent of ID theories, wrote the following in his book Planetary Dreams (page 102) in 1999 regarding the future engineering of self sustained RNA systems:

“When that event takes place, the media probably will announce it as the demonstration of a crucial step in the origin of life. I would agree with one modification. The concept that the scientists are illustrating is one of Intelligent Design. No better term can be applied to a quest in which chemists are attempting to prepare a living system in the laboratory, using all the ingenuity and technical resources at their disposal…the search for ribozymes invokes the same feeling of achievement and beauty in me that I get when I see a skilled golfer playing a difficult course at well under par.  To imagine that related events could take place on their own appears as likely as the idea that the golf ball could play its own way around the course without the golfer.”

On 1/26/2010, Dr. Shapiro posted the following comment to an article by Carl Zimmer on the SCIENCE Magazine website under the heading “Origins, a history of begnnings”.  “Despite the clarity of his prose, Carl Zimmer has fallen into a trap that has impeded progress in the origin of life field for the last half century. He has confused the process of total organic synthesis with the abiotic chemical reactions that may have taken place on the early Earth. Total synthesis involves the preparation by skilled chemists in laboratories of substances that we isolate from biology. The late Nobel Laureate Robert Burns Woodward was a master of this endeavor… On the early earth, however, there were neither chemists nor laboratories. No driving force has been demonstrated that would direct complex mixtures of organic chemicals of modest size to assemble themselves into a functional RNA.  According to Gerald Joyce and the late Leslie Orgel, such an event would constitute a near miracle…

Scientific American has a free access paper here

Comments
that can replicate themselves without the help of any proteins or other cellular components.
Nope- no self-replication. It took/ takes two to tango.Joseph
February 21, 2010
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Is it even theoretically possible for a scientist to perform an experiment that does not illustrate the concept of ID?hrun0815
February 21, 2010
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Mr Tribune7, If we define ToE as "what happens because of repeated cycles of variation, replication and selection in an environment of scarce resources", then it can be applied to some kinds of molecules, just as it can be applied to viruses or prions. This molecular evolution is an important bridge between the OOL stages of abiotic synthesis of building blocks and full-on cellular life. In the article the main form of selection discussed is crowding out, using up all the food first. But this basic selection mechanism can encourage different changes in the population - faster replication, less error in replication, more efficient use of resources, etc. Did you also notice Joyce's estimate of 30 bits of information? Is that CSI? FCSI? I wonder how he calculated that!Nakashima
February 21, 2010
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The answer is a lot closer following a series of ingenious experiments that have shown evolution at work in non-living molecules. So does or does not the ToE apply to ool?tribune7
February 21, 2010
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