Professor Dave responded with a diatribe:
Who is Professor Dave? His name is Dave Farina and EducationWeek tells us,
Farina, who taught in high school and undergraduate classrooms for 10 years before turning into a YouTuber, received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Minnesota’s Carleton College and a master’s in chemistry and science education at California State University. His career included a full-time position teaching chemistry, biology, and physics at a private school in Hollywood, and substitute teaching in the San Francisco Bay Area, before transitioning to lecturing at a trade university.Michelle Goldchain, “‘Professor Dave’ Explains How He Attracted 345,000 YouTube Subscribers” at EducationWeek (March 6, 2019)
Organic chemist Royal Truman (who isn’t on YouTube, so sent us text) responds:
Typical evolutionist strategy: A. Insult your opponent and speak with such authority the ignorant will figure they must know what they are talking about. No sane person would be so arrogant and risk looking foolish, right? B. Spread the opposition thin. We can’t respond to this flood of nonsense from all sides. 95% of all this dribble remains unanswered.
I don’t think origin of life researchers will be too pleased with a video so hopelessly flawed that it makes the community look dumb. If I were Prof. D. I would discretely remove this video. Dead serious.
Some of us with PhD’s in organic chemistry actually understood Tour’s arguments. Where to start with all Prof. D’s errors? I’ll stop at half a dozen.
(1) Prof. Tour points out that converting molecules A->B->C-> leads to mostly unwanted side products and low yields for every step unless carefully controlled. Eventually, one runs out of material, unless the reaction steps are each carefully designed and executed. Prof. D. claims this is irrelevant since “autocatalytic cycles would solve this”. Uh, is this supposed to be a joke? Is he saying the whole reaction series needs to be organized, such that each conversion step is part of an autocatalyzed cycle; and then all of these are linked together? That is insane. This is chemical gibberish, even more so in the natural world.
(2) Gas-phase chemistry which produces simple molecules like CO, SiO, NH3, CH4, etc. in space are “relevant to abiogenesis” we are told. Right. And also, to space ships and computers and, I suppose, to an integrated chemical plant. Tour offers his opponents all of these chemicals they want in pure form. Now, he says, show how true RNA, DNA and proteins can form naturally.
(3) Prof. D. brings up “self-replicating ribozymes” as if these carefully synthesized molecules (manufactured ultimately using optically pure biological enzymes) would be available naturally. He never mentions how the cycles are carefully guided by changing temperatures and other details at just the right time, nor that after a few cycles everything degrades to become worthless. Cellular process are utterly different mechanistically and reliable for millions of cycles.
(4) Prof. D. claims a “Continuum between replicating chemical systems and biological systems.” That is absurd. Enzymes are coded for on DNA, nothing remotely related occurs naturally. There is no continuum. No replicators have been reported outside of life, based on complex internal structure. The formation of raindrops or crystallization are obviously not replicators, not being able to synthesize their own components.
(5) Prof. D. should show the viewers a real, naturally occurring autocatalytic system that was not deliberately designed and very, very carefully put together under pristine lab conditions. Even if we are only given a non-natural conceptual example, we’d like to see it’s relevance to how cellular life could have arisen from it.
(6) ee (enantiomer excess): some amino acids are known to crystallize with sometimes more d, other times more l form, under very carefully designed conditions, having no relevance to origin of life scenarios (e.g., a mass of pure asparagine). Prof. D. forgot that such entrapped amino acids can’t polymerize to form proteins. He says thermodynamic stability is irrelevant. Really? What happens under conditions where amino acids polymerize to form proteins, over deep time and equilibrium conditions (like in water)? Nature produces 50:50 d:l forms. Nobody disputes that a small ee excess can form short-term in miniscule sample sizes for stochastic reasons. But life requires vast amounts of 100% pure amino acids, and for statistical reasons large quantities will produce 50:50 mixtures.
I found the ad hominems vulgar and no substitute for an understanding of what Prof. Tour has been explaining. The evidence Prof. D. presented was ridiculously superficial and misleading. If I were him, I’d get rid of this video, since this is a pure gift for Prof. Tour. Other creation scientists or intelligent design specialists could use this as “a typical example of the level of abiogenesis work.”
Dr. Tour responded to Prof Dave graciously:
We are told:
In spite of the continued personal attacks by Professor Dave, Dr James Tour has decided to stand by his invitation…will he accept? For anyone who wonders…this was recorded on April 26th.
If we hear anything more, we’ll let you now.