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Rob Sheldon on the problems with the peptide origin of life hypothesis

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Yesterday we ran a story on that. Rob Sheldon, our physics color commentator, who takes an interest in origin of life theories, writes to offer some comments on the peptides hypothesis:

It turns out that the article synthesized polyglycine from CO, NH3 and C on a very cold surface, thereby bypassing the warm pond and the need to dehydrate amino acids to form the peptide bond. It is a remarkable accomplishment, finding another pathway to protein without actually making amino acids.

Alas, they didn’t say what the drawbacks were.
1) The synthesis only works for glycine, the simplest amino acid
2) The synthesis cannot control chirality of the amino acids, which is moot for glycine because it is the only non-chiral amino acid
3) The synthesis only makes enough material to observe in a spectrometer–not even enough to weigh, photograph, feel, smell or taste.
4) It is unlikely life can start with one or a few amino acids, because the full suite is needed to build nano-machines. Although your car has lots of bolts, one cannot build a car out of nothing but bolts.

So the results were quite modest, but the claims were not. If one believes in a chance OOL, one clutches even at straws.

Here’s Christian de Duve on the subject:

Rob Sheldon is the author of Genesis: The Long Ascent and The Long Ascent, Volume II .

You may also wish to read: In this version of the origin of life, peptides gave life its start Now we are back to Proteins first! It’s comforting to spend time in an environment where nothing much changes. Peptide world, for example, is just SO 2013…

Life is irreducibly complex. Period. martin_r

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