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Synthetic chemist James Tour wonders why “everyone is lying” about the origin of life


Image result From James Tour at Inference Review:

Life requires carbohydrates, nucleic acids, lipids, and proteins. What is the chemistry behind their origin? Biologists seem to think that there are well-understood prebiotic molecular mechanisms for their synthesis. They have been grossly misinformed. And no wonder: few biologists have ever synthesized a complex molecule ab initio. If they need a molecule, they purchase molecular synthesis kits, which are, of course, designed by synthetic chemists, and which feature simplistic protocols.More.

He doesn’t literally mean that “everyone is lying” but rather that the problem is so much bigger and deeper than it is often portrayed that typical science media claims are not reliable.

See also: Chemist James Tour calls out Jeremy England’s origin of life claims – in a nice way

Chemist James Tour writes an open letter to his colleagues

Our all-time most-read post here at Uncommon Descent was about renowned chemist James Tour: A world-famous chemist tells the truth: there’s no scientist alive today who understands macroevolution

See also: Origin of life: Informational principles or “other laws”?

Biophysicist [Jeremy England]: Order can arise from nothing! I have evidence! – Rob Sheldon replies


What we know and don’t know about the origin of life

Dionisio @ 3: Brilliant...as usual. Truth Will Set You Free
Seversky @ 1: I think you misunderstand the real problem (and Dr. Tour's point). The "if" in your first sentence seems much less likely (and thus less believable) in the face of modern empirical evidence, especially in molecular biology. People are far less likely to accept your "if" in today's world. It seems too much like blind faith...even religion. Otangelo Grasso @ 22: Nice work. Thanks for the link to the Abiogenesis article. Truth Will Set You Free
By chance? - Not a chance !! http://reasonandscience.heavenforum.org/t1279-abiogenesis-is-impossible Single proteins do not have any function on their own unless interconnected correctly in a living cell. In order for life to begin naturally, all essential proteins required for life to start would have had to emerge randomly on a prebiotic earth, protein super-complexes like ribosomes would have had to join the subparts together to get the right protein-protein interactions, like lock and key. A miracle would have had to prevent them to be burned by UV radiation. Then start to interconnect in the correct order to create a functional metabolic network and multi-protein production lines , where the joint venture of several enzymes began to produce functional products, hand them over to carrier mechanisms, tag them in order to be transported to the right locations. Somehow, all this would have had to begin in a protected environment, so a protective envelope would have had to exist. That envelope had to emerge fully functional with " gates " that permit the right materials in, and the waste product out. Once the data storage system (DNA) emerged, a language based on a code system had to be established, and the blueprint to store the information to make all parts of the cell had to be stored within it, and DNA replication errors had to be reduced times. Let's suppose that a self-replicating RNA molecule would appear miraculously on early earth. that does not explain the origin of the information to make all life essential parts in the cell. It is as to go just from a hard drive storage device to a self replicating factory with the ability of self replication of the entire factory once ready, to respond to changing environmental demands and regulate its metabolic pathways, regulate and coordinate all cellular processes, such as molecule and building block biosynthesis according to the cells demands, depending on growth, and other factors. The ability of uptake of nutrients, to be structured, internally compartmentalized and organized, being able to check replication errors and minimize them, and react to stimuli, and changing environments. That's is, the ability to adapt to the environment is a must right from the beginning. If just ONE single protein or enzyme - of many - is missing, no life. If topoisomerase II or helicase are missing - no replication - no perpetuation of life. Somehow, that envelope had to create a homeostatic environment, diminishing the calcium concentration in the cell 10000 times below the external environment, to permit signaling. At the same time, a signaling code would have had to be established, and immediately begin to function, with a common agreement between sender and receiver................energy supply would have been a major problem, since almost all life forms depend on the supply of glucose, which is a product of complex metabolic pathways, and not readily available on a prebiotic earth. Most proteins require active metal clusters in their reaction centers. These clusters are in most cases ultracomplex, each cluster had to have the right atoms interconnected in the right way, and get the correct 3-dimensional form. They require the complex uptake of the basic materials, like iron and sulfur, molybdenum, and complex biosynthesis processes, and after the correct assembling, the insertion in the right way and form inside the proteins. All these processes require energy, in form of ATP, not readily available - since ATP is the product of complex nano-factories, like ATP synthase - which by themselves depend on a proton gradient. Sorry------- not by chance !! Otangelo Grasso
I don't think that anyone has answered the author's question better than the late G.K. Chesterton. I hope I'm not paraphrasing. " If a man doesn't believe in God, it doesn't mean that he believes in nothing, it means he will believe in anything" willspeaks
j-mac @16 hehe mike1962
Seversky @1, He is just pointing out that just as we have no clue how Mt. Rushmore or the Rosetta Stone could have been chiseled into what they are by erosion or any other natural, mindless and accidentally applied force, it appears that the far more unlikely, ultra-sophisticated, digital-informtion-based nanotechnology of life couldn't have come about mindlessly and accidentally, either. Yet life may have indeed come about accidentally, and the inscription on the Rosetta Stone just might really be the accidental and very lucky product of mindless, natural erosion. But how likely is that? It is so unlikely that life and the Rosetta Stone and Mt. Rushmore came about mindlessly and accidentally that it is irrational to just assume that that is the case. Science perverted by atheism is irrational. It assumes that life came about mindlessly and accidentally. harry
The link to D.Abel's chapter points to the wrong place! It should point here instead. Apologies. Eugene S
JM, it's not so simple. There is an epistemic duty of responsible warrant before believing or propagating a claim. For, to lie is to speak with disregard to truth in hope of profiting from what was said or suggested being taken as truth. You can first lie to yourself, then spread deception to others, based on a self-serving belief. That's how agit prop operators get the politics of personal destruction by slanderous accusation to work: people BELIEVE smears (without carrying out reasonable and responsible tests for truth and fairness on such destructive claims) and spread them -- which BTW I am betting we are going to see a lot more of in coming months. Major media houses, I am looking straight at you. This dirty game goes beyond merely being in honestly acquired error, having done duty to truth, fairness and right. KF kairosfocus
"It's not a lie, if you believe it..."- George Costanza J-Mac
KF, you have described very accurately the pathetic situation in this world. Facing the strong arguments of a scientist like Dr Tour, the still dominant voices in academia just circle the wagons, but that won't keep them from defeat anyway at the end of the day. It's just a matter of time. Thanks. Dionisio
Dionisio: why debate someone when instead: [a] you can ignore, marginalise and rob of publicity? [b] you can caricature, smear, slander and poison the well? [c] you dominate institutions and are utterly ruthless in imposing a crooked yardstick as the standard for straightness and accuracy? (If you doubt me, see the Wiki article on ID. Resemblance to current trends in discussing political issues, policy alternatives and personalities is NOT coincidence.) KF kairosfocus
qedlin @6: Excellent commentary. Thanks. Dionisio
Eugene S @10: Excellent point. Thanks. Dionisio
Marfin @8: That's it. There's nothing you or I can do about it, except pray for their eyes to get opened if that's God's will. I was there for too many years. I believed all that nonsense. Educated in the capital of the soviet empire, I was proud and looked down at the 'ignorant' people who didn't see things the way I or my comrades did. I firmly believed my comrades and I were right and the 'others' were wrong. No room for discussion. My 'truth' was the valid one. What a shame! Spiritually lost and blind. Amazing grace that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see. Dionisio
Seversky I don't think that time is your ally here because every! step in the synthesis is at least as complex as the first, if not more complex. The human mind is many orders of magnitude more efficient than Brownian motion or any other non-telic phenomenon. Mind you, stochastic phenomena are sometimes referred to as 'processes' but only by convention and without necessary rigour because in a 'stochastic process', nothing actually gets processed. Eugene S
KF, Exactly. Not free. But it isn't cheap either. Not even expensive. The price is absolutely unaffordable. Yes, I know some folks out there don't like this. Too bad. Not my fault. That's the way it is. Dionisio
George Wald Nobel prize winner for medicine 1967 said- "I do not want to believe in God so I choose to believe that which I know is scientifically impossible spontaneous generation leading to evolution" He also said he "chooses to believe the impossible on philosophical grounds" and i`m afraid this is what all Atheists must do. Marfin
There is no statistical thermodynamics free lunch. kairosfocus
Tour is spot on, there are no naturalistic solutions to the intractable issues related to the origin of life. Tour is not shy about communicating the truth, but allow me to state categorically why the lies about the origin of life are being propagated: Richard Lewontin delineated the mandate for all scientific endeavors, slightly paraphrased: materialism is the only cause, because we cannot allow a Divine foot in the door. This is what drives the equivocation and duplicity that usurps and perverts true scientific investigation. Thank you Dr. Tour. qedlin
Marfin @4: "why on earth would anyone believe it's possible?" Well, why not? Someone told me that there's nothing wrong with the 'hotel California' because the phrase 'such a lovely place' is said 4 times! Some folks might believe an advertisement for an oceanfront penthouse with direct beach access in the middle of Kansas. Hey, why not? Ok? Dionisio
Seversky, Forget the atheist philosophical position, forget the if and the likely,based on the evidence available the conclusion must be it is not possible that life began by random chance.Atheist may want to believe it did but the overwhelming evidence does not support their position. If what I have said here is wrong please show me some experimental evidence to the contrary that a non directed, non designed, random chance events can begin life, if this evidence is not available why on earth would anyone believe its possible. Marfin
The Current State Those who think scientists understand the issues of prebiotic chemistry are wholly misinformed. Nobody understands them. Maybe one day we will. But that day is far from today. It would be far more helpful (and hopeful) to expose students to the massive gaps in our understanding. They may find a firmer—and possibly a radically different—scientific theory. The basis upon which we as scientists are relying is so shaky that we must openly state the situation for what it is: it is a mystery.
Animadversions of a Synthetic Chemist James Tour is the T. T. and W. F. Chao Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Computer Science, and Professor of Materials Science and NanoEngineering at Rice University. He has over 590 research publications and over 100 patents, and has received numerous scientific awards. http://inference-review.com/author/james-tour
Wow! Anybody out there would dare to debate this guy? However, I have a minor observation to tell Dr Tour: It's the known -not the unknown- what clearly points to complex functionally specified informational complexity that points to designed biological systems. It's not that we don't know how to do things, but that we know how they could have been done, based on empirical proof. That's all. Next please? Dionisio
Evolutionary Biology has only been around for a short while. We’ll see if it can last as long as Alchemy did. ppolish
The problem is that if organic life arose from prebiotic chemistry it would likely have taken place over hundreds of millions of years at least. Professor Tour has been working on the problem for a few decades at best. He may be right but I'd say it's still a bit premature to call it a day on abiogenesis and evolutionary biology. Seversky

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