In “The mystery of how Earth’s primordial soup came to life” (MSNBC.com, , February 21, 2012 ), Clara Moskowitz reports ,
Evolution of life, and how its building blocks joined for added protection, studied
with the helpful note,
The individual molecules within early Earth’s primordial soup that form the basis of life likely developed in response to natural selection.
We are told,
“When molecules interact, they start taking on properties they don’t have as individuals, but do gain when they’re in a complex,” Robert Root-Bernstein, a physiologist at Michigan State University, said Sunday here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “This provides a means of natural selection.”
Molecules that could combine to gain attributes would survive longer and proliferate, while those that were more easily destroyed would fade away.
There are two problems with this:
Natural selection assumes that a life form already exists, and that random mutations in its genetic inheritance will cause some offspring to be more fit to survive in a given environment than others. Darwinism (natural selection acting on random mutations) was proposed as a mechanism by which existing life forms gain further complexity while reproducing themselves. For good reasons, Darwin did not propose it as a mechanism for the origin of life.
Principally, if it were true that molecules do what is described by these researchers, random molecules should be evolving toward protocells today. But there is no evidence that they are or that they can. (People were just plain more sharp-witted in Darwin’s day, and they would immediately pounce on a problem like that.)
In the absence of specialized cellular machinery that prevents simplification, the natural tendency of such long strings of molecules is towrd greater simplification. As Stephen Meyer writes, in Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science,
In a classic experiment, Spiegelman in 1967 showed what happens to a molecular replicating system in a test tube, without any cellular organization around it. … these initial templates did not stay the same; they were not accurately copied. They got shorter and shorter until they reached the minimal size compatible with the sequence retaining self-copying properties. And as they got shorter, the copying process went faster. – The Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2011), p. 313–18.
We wish the origin of life folks would come up with something genuinely new, instead of trying these same old wheezes over and over again. But then, this was fronted at an AAAS meet where most participants who promote climate change did not know that the birth rate has been dropping worldwide for decades.
Something anyone might have noticed.
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