Intelligent Design Origin Of Life RNA

How Could Life Evolve From Cyanide?

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How did life arise on Earth? Steven Strogatz speaks with the Nobel Prize-winning biologist Jack Szostak and Betül Kaçar, a paleogeneticist and astrobiologist, to explore our best understanding of how we all got here.

How did life begin on Earth? It’s one of the greatest and most ancient mysteries in all of science — and the clues to solving it are all around us. Biologists have sometimes imagined evolutionary history as a recorded “tape of life” that might turn out differently if it were replayed again and again. In this episode, Steven Strogatz speaks with two researchers inspecting different parts of the tape. First, hear from the Nobel Prize-winning biologist Jack Szostak, who explores how a boiling pool laced with cyanide could have given rise to essential life elements like RNA and DNA. Then hear from Betül Kaçar, a paleogeneticist and astrobiologist who resurrects ancient genes to learn how they helped evolve the processes essential to modern life.

Portions of a transcript of the recorded interview follow:

 Did life begin, as Charles Darwin once speculated, in a warm little pond somewhere? The kind of nurturing, supportive place where it’s easy to picture delicate biology taking shape? Or more counterintuitively, as some scientists have proposed, did life get started deep down in the ocean, near hydrothermal vents, a seemingly inhospitable place where the pressures are enormous, and the temperatures are scalding? And, wherever life began, what were the earliest building blocks of life? Were they the molecules that we hear so much about today — RNA and DNA, amino acids, lipids — or were there something much simpler? In the past few years, some important clues have turned up. The payoff to answering these kinds of questions would be huge, not just for understanding how life began on Earth, but also to help us look for life on other planets, and maybe to figure out if we are alone in the universe.

(01:17) Joining me to discuss all this is Jack Szostak. Jack is a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard University, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, and an investigator in the department of molecular biology at Mass General Hospital. He shared a Nobel Prize in 2009 for his work on the discovery of telomerase, an enzyme that protects chromosomes from degrading.

Strogatz (01:55): Let me start with a question about the origin of life. As I say, it’s one of the greatest mysteries in all of science and the attempt to solve it seems like one of the greatest detective stories of all time. What would be your best guess for how life began on Earth?

Szostak (02:09): Okay, so, so I think we have to think about some environment on the surface of the Earth, some kind of shallow lake or pond where the building blocks of RNA were made and accumulated, along with lipids and other molecules relevant to biology. And then they self-assembled into lipid vesicles encapsulating RNA, under conditions where the RNA could start to replicate driven by energy from the sun. And that would allow Darwinian evolution to get started. So that the, some RNA sequences that did something useful for the protocell that they’re in would confer an advantage, those protocells would start to take over the population. And then you’re off and running, and life can gradually get more complex and evolve to spread to different environments, until you end up with what we see around us today.

Let me just stop the tape here for a moment. Even a Nobel Prize winning biologist, who we might think cares deeply about how nature actually works, uses phraseology in his “best guess for how life began on Earth” that carelessly ignores stupendous difficulties that completely undermine the abiogenesis hypothesis. He spins off these statements like overripe political campaign promises:

“blocks of RNA were made and accumulated, along with lipids and other molecules relevant to biology”
“And then they self-assembled into lipid vesicles encapsulating RNA, under conditions where the RNA could start to replicate driven by energy from the sun.”
“And that would allow Darwinian evolution to get started.”
“And then you’re off and running, and life can gradually get more complex and evolve to spread to different environments, until you end up with what we see around us today.”

Szostak (05:12): For decades, thinking about the origin of life was confused, because everything in modern life depends on everything else. So it’s, so you have the DNA encoding the sequence of RNA and proteins, but you need the proteins to replicate the DNA. And to transcribe DNA into RNA, you need RNA to make protein. So you need — all parts of the system need all the other parts. So it was kind of a logical conundrum. And the answer, the solution to that, came with the so-called RNA world idea, which was originally postulated by some very smart people, like Francis Crick, and Leslie Orgel in the late ’60s, with the idea that RNA maybe had the ability to act as an enzyme.

Szostak (06:40): Okay, so tRNA is short for transfer RNA. It’s a relatively short set of RNA molecules, around 70 or 80 nucleotides long, and they carry amino acids to the ribosome. And then the catalytic machinery of the ribosome takes the amino acids from the tRNA, and assembles them into a growing peptide chain. So there’s a lot of roles for RNA in making proteins. There’s the tRNA that brings in the amino acids, there’s the RNA components of the ribosome, that it turns out actually orchestrate everything, do the catalysis. And of course, there’s the messenger RNA, which, you know, I think now everybody knows about messenger RNA these days, don’t they?

Strogatz (09:14): Well, maybe we should talk about cyanide, since you brought it up. I’m sure many people listening to this will be horrified, thinking that cyanide is how you kill people.

Szostak (09:22): I think it’s one of the lovely ironies of the whole field, that the best starting material to build all of the molecules of life, turns out to be cyanide.

Strogatz (11:54): Hm. Incredible. So, maybe we should return then to this theme of, you know, now that we’ve got cyanide world, we can somehow go up to RNA world, except that, apparently, that’s a big mystery, still, right?

Szostak (12:51): Well, I think the pathway to getting to two of the four building blocks of RNA is maybe 90% worked out? And I’d say one of the biggest steps — we have all this energy from sunlight, right? But the question is, how do you transform that energy into energy that’s in a useful form, a kind of chemical energy that can drive these building blocks to condense into long RNA chains? I think we would all agree that that has not been solved.

Let’s pause the tape again. When will origin-of-life researchers (publicly) acknowledge that living systems require specified complexity. Even if it were easy to condense the building blocks of RNA to long chains, the missing key is getting the correct sequence. Random strings of letters are easy to produce (the typing monkey business), but getting a reproduction of a meaningful essay just won’t happen by chance in the spacetime history of our universe. Nor can the result come about by a law of nature (emergent or otherwise), since the forces holding the “letters” together are not discriminatory.

Szostak (15:47): Okay, I can tell you where we are. So, several years ago, we found ways of making these primitive membranes, fatty acid membranes, grow and divide. They’re easy to feed with more fatty acids. And it doesn’t take very much to make them divide. So, for example, gentle shaking will do it. On the other hand, getting RNA sequences to replicate is a much harder problem. And so, that’s why that’s — we’re really focusing on that in my lab at the moment. We’ve been getting better at copying RNA sequences. So that means if you have, say you have one strand of RNA, you can use it as a template to build up the complementary strand, and then you’ll get a double helix, sort of like the double helix of DNA, except an RNA double helix. But a big problem then is how do you get those strands apart and copy the copies, and then copy those copies. And we have ideas about how to do it, but we haven’t gotten there yet. That’s the big challenge for the next couple of years.

Quanta

Obviously, there’s room for much interesting biochemical experimentation to be done, and we have much to learn. But let’s not pretend that nature can do what already-discovered limitations of nature say it can’t do.

44 Replies to “How Could Life Evolve From Cyanide?

  1. 1
    Fred Hickson says:

    Cyanide World as a precursor to RNA World as a precursor to Protein World.

    Interesting!

  2. 2
    Fred Hickson says:

    The transcript is a good read. Thanks, UD, for bringing it to my attention.

  3. 3
    EvilSnack says:

    As long as you don’t attribute life to an agent that tells you who you may sleep with, anything goes.

  4. 4
    Fred Hickson says:

    Maybe Upright Biped will follow the link to the interview with Jack Szostak. Worth a look, UB.

  5. 5
    Fred Hickson says:

    Maybe Upright Biped will follow the link to the interview with Jack Szostak. Worth a look, UB.

  6. 6
    doubter says:

    As expected, if a Darwin-bot actually notices the post he ignores the salient points made showing that Szostak is full of it, and posts irrelevancies.

  7. 7
    Upright BiPed says:

    .
    Just the other day I was saying ….

    UB: OoL researchers (certainly RNA World proponents) invariably start their proposals with a presumed abiotic environment and then try to explain the steps going forward that would eventually result in a description-based replicator over some evolutionary period of time. This means they move from an unknown condition to another unknown condition, then to another unknown condition after that, so on and so forth, eventually ending in some final unknown condition. What we see most is that an RNA replicator appears, then some form of chemical (not Darwinian) evolution occurs, which sets off the glorious and inevitable climb to modern cell. You can sit through any number of lectures by Szostak or Joyce or Sutherland, and discover this pattern of argumentation for yourself. What we never hear about are the actual steps where a description-based replicator (an actual known entity) is specified by a dynamic replicator.

    Jack Szostak: Okay, so, so I think we have to think about some environment on the surface of the Earth, some kind of shallow lake or pond where the building blocks of RNA were made and accumulated, along with lipids and other molecules relevant to biology. And then they self-assembled into lipid vesicles encapsulating RNA, under conditions where the RNA could start to replicate driven by energy from the sun. And that would allow Darwinian evolution to get started. So that the, some RNA sequences that did something useful for the protocell that they’re in would confer an advantage, those protocells would start to take over the population. And then you’re off and running, and life can gradually get more complex and evolve to spread to different environments, until you end up with what we see around us today.

    He goes on the mention the roles mRNA, and rRNA, and tRNA … and never mentions the appearance of aaRS or the critical role it plays in the living cell.

    I wonder why.

  8. 8
    Fred Hickson says:

    He [Jack Szostak] goes on the mention the roles mRNA, and rRNA, and tRNA … and never mentions the appearance of aaRS or the critical role it plays in the living cell.

    I wonder why.

    A question that Szostak might answer if asked.

  9. 9
    Fred Hickson says:

    While waiting for a reply from Professor Szostak, I came across a paper by him entitled:

    Ribozyme-catalyzed tRNA aminoacylation

    Here is a PDF of the paper.

    From the conclusion:

    We have evolved a ribozyme that contains two distinct catalytic
    domains with different activities. These domains act sequentially
    to transfer an aminoacyl group first to the ribozyme itself, and
    then to tRNA, thus acting as an aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase.

    Hmm.

  10. 10
    Fred Hickson says:

    I see the Szostak paper went down like a lead balloon. Did nobody bother to glance at it? Szostak et al. engineered a ribozyme to perform as an amino-acyl tRNA synthetase.

  11. 11
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Link didn’t work for me. I’m guessing the pdf is on your cloud storage and you need to give permission for public access? I’m using Firefox.

    This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it. The document tree is shown below.

  12. 12
    Fred Hickson says:

    Ah, OK. The paper is not free access. I’ll try again.

  13. 13
    bornagain77 says:

    While we are waiting,

    Evolutionists Admit Their Field’s Failures – July 2022
    The headline from the left-leaning British daily asks, “Do we need a new theory of evolution?” Answer in one word: yes. The article is full of scandalous admissions:
    “Strange as it sounds, scientists still do not know the answers to some of the most basic questions about how life on Earth evolved. Take eyes, for instance. Where do they come from, exactly? The usual explanation of how we got these stupendously complex organs rests upon the theory of natural selection….
    This is the basic story of evolution, as recounted in countless textbooks and pop-science bestsellers. The problem, according to a growing number of scientists, is that it is absurdly crude and misleading.
    For one thing, it starts midway through the story, taking for granted the existence of light-sensitive cells, lenses and irises, without explaining where they came from in the first place. Nor does it adequately explain how such delicate and easily disrupted components meshed together to form a single organ. And it isn’t just eyes that the traditional theory struggles with. “The first eye, the first wing, the first placenta. How they emerge. Explaining these is the foundational motivation of evolutionary biology,” says Armin Moczek, a biologist at Indiana University. “And yet, we still do not have a good answer. This classic idea of gradual change, one happy accident at a time, has so far fallen flat.”,,,
    https://evolutionnews.org/2022/07/donate-darwinism-for-a-tax-credit-evolutionists-admit-their-fields-failures/

    Do we need a new theory of evolution? – Jun 2022
    https://www.theguardian.com/science/2022/jun/28/do-we-need-a-new-theory-of-evolution

    Of semi-related note:

    The human eye consists of over two million working parts making it second only to the brain in complexity(1). The retina covers less than a square inch, and contains 137 million light-sensitive receptor cells. The retina possesses 7 million cones, which provide color information and sharpness of images, and 120 million rods which are extremely sensitive detectors of white light(2). There are between seven to ten-million shades of color the human eye can detect(3). The rod can detect a single photon. Any man-made detector would need to be cooled and isolated from noise to behave the same way(4). On average, about a quarter of a billion photons enter our eyes each second(5). For visible light, the energy carried by a single photon would be around a tiny 4 x 10-19 Joules; this energy is just sufficient to excite a single molecule in a photoreceptor cell of an eye(6). The eye is so sensitive that it can, under normal circumstances, detect a candle 1.6 miles away(7), but if you’re sitting on a mountain top on a clear, moonless night you can see a match struck 50 miles away(8). It only takes a few trillionths of a second, (picoseconds), for the retina to absorb a photon in the visible range of the spectrum(9). The inverted retina, far from being badly designed, is a design feature, not a design constraint. Müller cells in the ‘backwards’ retina span the thickness of the retina and act as living fiber optic cables to shepherd photons through to separate receivers, much like coins through a change sorting machine(10). The eye is infinitely more complex than any man-made camera(11). The eye can handle between 500,000 and 1.5 million messages simultaneously, and gathers 80% of all the knowledge absorbed by the brain(12). The brain receives millions of simultaneous reports from the eyes. When its designated wavelength of light is present, each rod or cone triggers an electrical response to the brain, which then absorbs a composite set of yes-or-no messages from all the rods and cones(13). There is a biological computer in the retina which compresses, and enhances the edges, of the information from all those millions of light sensitive cells before sending it to the visual cortex where the complex stream of information is then decompressed(14). This data compression process has been referred to as “the best compression algorithm around,”(15 & 15a). While today’s digital hardware is extremely impressive, it is clear that the human retina’s real-time performance goes unchallenged. To actually simulate 10 milliseconds of the complete processing of even a single nerve cell from the retina would require the solution of about 500 simultaneous nonlinear differential equations 100 times and would take at least several minutes of processing time on a Cray supercomputer. Keeping in mind that there are 10 million or more such cells interacting with each other in complex ways, it would take a minimum of 100 years of Cray time to simulate what takes place in your eye many times every second(16). (of note: the preceding comparison was made in 1985 when Cray supercomputers ruled the supercomputing world). In an average day, the eye moves about 100,000 times, and our mind seems to prepare for our eye movements before they occur(17). In terms of strength and endurance, eyes muscles are simply amazing. You’d have to walk 50 miles to give your legs the same workout as the muscles in one of your eyes get in a day(18). The brain exploits a feedback system which produces phenomenally precise eye movements(19). The human is the only species known to shed tears when they are sad(20). Tears are not just saline. Tears have a similar structure to saliva and contain enzymes, lipids, metabolites and electrolytes (21). And, tears contain a potent microbe-killer (lysozyme) which guards the eyes against bacterial infection(22). The average eye blinks one to two times each minute for infants and ten times faster for adults. This blinking adds up to nearly 500 million blinks over an average lifetime(23).
    – The Human Eye, Like The Human Brain, Is A Wonder
    https://uncommondescent.com/evolution/from-philip-cunningham-the-human-eye-like-the-human-brain-is-a-wonder/

  14. 14
    relatd says:

    Ba77 at 13,

    Oh my. This is problematic.

  15. 15
  16. 16
    bornagain77 says:

    ” We report here that a bifunctional ribozyme generated by directed in vitro evolution can specifically recognize an activated glutaminyl ester and aminoacylate a targeted tRNA, via a covalent aminoacyl-ribozyme intermediate.”

    Excuse me but that ‘directed in vitro evolution” of a bifunctional ribozyme is a far, far, cry from ‘life in the lab” in 3 to 5 years which is exactly what Szostak promised us 8 years ago.

    Jack Szostak: “Life in Lab” In 3 – 5 Years – by Suzan Mazur – June 2, 2014
    https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1406/S00007/jack-szostak-life-in-lab-in-3-5-years.htm?from-mobile=bottom-link-01

  17. 17
    Silver Asiatic says:

    generated by directed in vitro evolution

    Directed evolution. Let’s use an intelligently designed process to see how nature did it?

  18. 18
    Lieutenant Commander Data says:

    1.Unfortunately for evolutionists self-replicating systems of RNA molecules have not been found in nature. End of story.
    2. RNA is more complex(one more stereocenter) than DNA and is very instable ( few minutes) compared with possible thousands of years of DNA .
    3.RNA molecules could not be formed initially by purely nonenzymatic means because the precursors of RNA, the ribonucleotides, are difficult to form nonenzymatically.
    4.Deamination( unwanted chemical changes occurring in polynucleotides) is easier to detect and repair in DNA than in RNA because the product of the deamination of cytosine is uracil, which already exists in RNA, so that such damage would be impossible for repair enzymes to detect in an RNA molecule .In DNA, which has thymine rather than uracil, any uracil produced by the accidental deamination of cytosine is easily detected and repaired.
    5. If RNA can’t be repaired, can’t form long chains ,is very instable (break in few minutes ) and there is no stable genetic information (DNA) bank how will be recovered “dissolved” functional information? Will emerge spontaneously the “required” functional information again and again 🙂 ?
    6. RNA world doesn’t solve the fundamental problem : how appeared in the first place the functional coded information(?) so is no help for darwinists.

  19. 19
    Silver Asiatic says:

    BA77 @13

    The problem, according to a growing number of scientists, is that it is absurdly crude and misleading. For one thing, it starts midway through the story, taking for granted the existence of light-sensitive cells, lenses and irises, without explaining where they came from in the first place.

    It’s hard to believe an evolutionist or anyone in mainstream media was actually that honest. The truth will eventually win. But it’s a painfully long journey traveling through the land of lies in order to get to that point.

    That article is putting all its hope in the extended synthesis but they don’t have any answers either – just a lot more speculations that don’t add up to a coherent theory.

  20. 20
    Fred Hickson says:

    So Professor Szostak responded to my email and supplied PDFs of a couple of papers that his lab have published that he thought relevant to the discussion on aaRSs. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask his permission to quote his email to me directly here. So I emailed him just now to ask and I’ll post it if he agrees.

  21. 21
  22. 22
    Fred Hickson says:

    The Suga & Szostak (2,000) paper is available for free download here:

    https://www.academia.edu/17829843/Ribozyme_catalyzed_tRNA_aminoacylation?from=cover_page

  23. 23
    ET says:

    There still isn’t any evidence for any RNA world. So, what is Fred talking about?

  24. 24
    ET says:

    Fred Hickson:

    Szostak et al. engineered a ribozyme to perform as an amino-acyl tRNA synthetase.

    OK. That doesn’t mean that nature can do it, Fred.

  25. 25
    Lieutenant Commander Data says:

    ET

    Fred Hickson:

    Szostak et al. engineered a ribozyme to perform as an amino-acyl tRNA synthetase.

    OK. That doesn’t mean that nature can do it, Fred.

    🙂 It’s the same poetry from Urey-Miller from few amino-acids to life emerged by chance is a fact . Why after 70 years they didn’t advance a single step from those amino-acids? 😆 Why they moved to other more insane and scientifically unprovable hypotheses (like RNA world, extraterestrial origin of life ,etc.)?

  26. 26
    Fred Hickson says:

    Still waiting for Professor Szostak to OK posting his email response to me here. But no harm in mentioning that he agreed that the paper I refer to in comment 22 made a good case for ribozymes being the first aaRSs and drew my attention to two later papers following up on that point. They can be found at

    https://molbio.mgh.harvard.edu/szostakweb/publications.html

    as 2022 and 2021 entries, lead author Radakovic.

    That whole publication list is an indication of how much research is ongoing into the biochemistry of RNA. And there is a 2016 article by Szostak entitled On The Origin of Life (PDF) which makes interesting reading.

  27. 27
    Fred Hickson says:

    1.Unfortunately for evolutionists self-replicating systems of RNA molecules have not been found in nature. End of story.

    But scientific research is a never-ending story! RNA has inherent properties that can be observed. Work has been done and published, research continues.

    RNA as catalyst was first formally observed back in the 1980s. Like Jack Szostak, Thomas Cech won a Nobel Prize for his work on the properties of ribonucleotide polymers.

  28. 28
    Fred Hickson says:

    From the abstract of Szostak’s 2016 paper:

    The origin of life is a very rich field, filled with possibilities and ripe for discovery. RNA replication
    requires chemical energy and vesicle division is easy to do with mechanical energy. These requirements point to a surface lake, perhaps at some time following the period of concentrated cyanide chemistry that gave rise to nucleotides, amino acids and (maybe) fatty acids. A second requirement follows specifically from the nature of the RNA replication cycle, which requires generally cool to moderate temperatures for the copying chemistry, punctuated by brief periods of high temperature for strand separation. Remarkably, lakes in a geothermal active area provide just such a fluctuating temperature environment, because lakes similar to Yellowstone can be generally cool (even ice covered in winter), but they contain numerous hydrothermal vents that emit streams of hot water. Protocells in such an environment would occasionally be swept into these hot water streams, where the transient high temperature exposure would cause RNA strand separation. However, the protocells would be quickly mixed with surrounding cold water, and would therefore cool quickly, before their delicate RNA molecules could be destroyed by heat. Because of the combination of favorable chemical and physical environments, this could be the most likely scenario for the early Earth environment that nurtured the origin of life.

  29. 29
    Fred Hickson says:

    Looking at the 2022 Radakovic et al. paper, the idea of chimeras between nucleotides and amino-acids would seem preposterous if they hadn’t been sythesized as described in this paper.

  30. 30
    Lieutenant Commander Data says:

    🙂 RNA carry information and do not create information..
    Darwinists say that RNA, DNA is the source of the code like paper is the source of the poetry.
    A container(RNA)cannot create merchandise(code) just carry the merchandise but darwinists say the container create and carry the merchandise. Szostak show us that containers can carry goods[we already knew that 🙂 ] but doesn’t open the boxes because in the boxes is garbage and not code .
    Show us the code ! 😆

  31. 31
    ET says:

    Fred Hickson:

    But scientific research is a never-ending story! RNA has inherent properties that can be observed. Work has been done and published, research continues.

    Right. And there still isn’t any evidence for any RNA world. All you have is hope and a prayer.

    Szostak is a good storyteller. Unfortunately, there isn’t any science to support his stories.

  32. 32
    ET says:

    If someone sends you an email or a letter, that means you can publish it as consent was given by them just by sending it.

  33. 33
    Fred Hickson says:

    Sure, ET, but I think it is a courtesy to ask.

  34. 34
    relatd says:

    ET at 32,

    Not true. Permission is always required. That is especially true if that communication contained personal information meant only for the recipient and not to be revealed to others.

  35. 35
    Fred Hickson says:

    Professor Szostak confirms he is fine with me quoting him: So here is his reply to my email passing on Upright Biped’s question:

    Dear [redacted],

    The origin of the aaRS enzymes is an important issue, because obviously coded protein synthesis by the ribosome could not have evolved if the aminoacylated tRNAs did not already exist. The paper you noted shows that RNA enzymes (ribozymes) could act as aaRSs, so that helps to some extent, in the sense that the evolution of a set of aaRS ribozymes could have evolved in the RNA World, that early phase of life prior to the evolution of coded protein synthesis. But why would aaRS ribozymes have evolved if there was no ribosomal machinery to use their products (aminoacylated RNAs) to make proteins?

    One possible answer, which my lab is exploring, is that aminoacylated RNAs had some early function, prior to their use as substrates for the ribosome. For example, aminoacylation may have facilitated the assembly of early ribozymes. If aminoacylated RNAs had some such early function, there would have been a selective pressure for the evolution of aaRS ribozymes. I have attached pdf’s of two of our papers on this subject. We’re still working on this, and exploring related questions, such as the function of the first peptides.

    As with all of the so-called chicken-and-egg paradoxes in the origin and evolution of life, the answer comes from breaking down the evolutionary process into a series of smaller steps, all of which can happen sequentially.

    Best wishes,

    Jack

    I’ve redacted just my RL name.

  36. 36
    Fred Hickson says:

    I’ve mentioned upthread the papers he attached are available at the Szostak Lab website (publications page);

  37. 37
    Fred Hickson says:

    My email to Jack Szostak

    Hi Professor Szostak

    Please excuse my presumption in contacting you personally. I’m a retired layman who spent three years studying biochemistry (1968 -1971, [redacted] University) but was not good enough to follow a career in academia. I do try to maintain a current interest in the field and became very involved in internet discussions beginning 2005, with the events around the Kitzmiller v. Dover School Board. Your iconic paper, Functional proteins from a random-sequence library, often featured in those and later discussions.

    I write to you now because of an interview you gave recently published in Quanta Magazine (How Could Life Evolve From Cyanide?) which was picked up by an anti-evolution site, Uncommon Descent, where I am active (under a pseudonym, Fred Hickson, as I’ve previously been banned there several times) and another commenter made this point:

    He goes on the mention the roles mRNA, and rRNA, and tRNA … and never mentions the appearance of aaRS or the critical role it plays in the living cell.

    I wonder why.

    This commenter (pseudonym Upright Biped) maintains that aaRSs raise the chicken-and-egg problem of how the genetic code could evolve prior to proteins adopting the role of catalysis from ribozymes or conversely how could proteins have adopted the role prior to the genetic code evolving due to the arbitrary connection between the charged amino acid and the tRNA codon. I suggested we could simply ask you. A friend, a professional biochemist, thought this paper of yours (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10625423/) is probably enough of an answer, although I can only access the abstract.[ed – free access PDF found since and mentioned upthread] I agreed to include the specific question Upright Biped wanted to ask you:

    Aminoacyl tRNA synthetase (aaRS) play a fundamental role in establishing the genetic code. They are sizable proteins that are specified from genetic memory via mRNA. It stands to reason that they did not always exist on earth, which implies that there was once (at some point in the distant past) the very first time that an aaRS was successfully synthesized from that genetic memory and then went on to serve its role in establishing the genetic code. Regardless of what any person might propose to have occurred prior to that event, at that particular point in time, how many of the other aaRS would need to be in place?

    Anyway, if you got this far reading, I much appreciate that you did and would be most grateful for any comment you may offer. It feels surreal to be sending an email to a real-life Nobel laureate!

    My best wishes
    [redacted]

  38. 38
    relatd says:

    FH at 35,

    Experiments are fine. This is all highly speculative and based on an assumption that smaller steps led to bigger steps because… of your assumption? Because evolution is true and XYZ MUST have happened?

    This is like telling people that leaving some metal and wire in close proximity will lead to a radio.

  39. 39
    Fred Hickson says:

    @ Related,

    It’s OK to be unconvinced by an argument you don’t like. The origin-of-life hardly matters to most people. It’s like all scientific research. If we knew the answers to the questions we are researching, there wouldn’t be any point in doing it.

    However there do seem to be avenues in aaRS research that could lead to medical advances, for example a more targeted way of attacking pathogen infection than using antibiotics with their issues of resistance and specificity.

  40. 40
    Fred Hickson says:

    As there is no “alert me to further posts” facility on this site, I’ll leave my contact email on the off chance anyone is interested in further discussion on aaRSs and I miss spotting them in “recent comments” as this thread gets buried.

    fredhickson@protonmail.com

  41. 41
    ET says:

    Relatd- it is true. Any communication is fair game unless it is somehow declared confidential or top secret.

  42. 42
    ET says:

    OK. So, still no evidence for any RNA world, just a hope. Only fools are convinced by arguments. Sane people require evidence and a way to test the claims being made.

  43. 43
    ET says:

    OK. So, still no evidence for any RNA world, just a hope. Only fools are convinced by arguments. Sane people require evidence and a way to test the claims being made.

  44. 44
    relatd says:

    ET at 41,

    I would never take that risk. Privacy matters.

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