Cell biology Intelligent Design

What about the idea that cells were once much simpler? But how much simpler?

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Introducing the third vid in the Long Story Short series (on cell membranes) Rob Stadler comments:

First, scientists have been working for decades to simplify existing life, trying to arrive at a minimal viable life form by jettisoning anything that is not essential from the simplest extant cells. The success of Craig Venter’s group is well known. Building on their efforts to produce synthetic life (“Synthia” or “Mycoplasma labritorium”) in 2010,1,2 in 2016 they introduced the current record holder for the simplest autonomously reproducing cell (JVCI Syn3.0).3 With a genome of only 473 genes and 520,000 base pairs of DNA, JVCI Syn3.0 can reproduce autonomously, but it certainly isn’t robust. Keeping it alive requires a coddling environment — essentially a life-support system. To arrive at a slightly more stable and robust organism that reproduced faster, the team later added back 19 genes to arrive at JVCI Syn3A.4 When combined, this work provides an approximate boundary for the simplest possible self-replicating life. We are clearly approaching the limit of viable cell simplicity. It seems safe to conclude that at least 400 genes (and approximately 500,000 base pairs of DNA) are the minimum requirements to produce a self-replicating cell.

(April 6, 2022)

Rob Stadler, “[article title]” at Evolution News and Science Today

Here are earlier episodes of Long Story Short, an education you actually have time for.

The critical question is viability. Anything can be a lot simpler, at least in principle, if it does not also need to be alive.

3 Replies to “What about the idea that cells were once much simpler? But how much simpler?

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Technological example.

    In 1946 the auto industry was a simple environment with no constraints and no need for adaptation. Anything with four wheels would sell for any price. The tiny Crosley, just barely countable as a car, sold well in this environment.

    As the infinite demand was satisfied, a more complex environment returned. Henry Kaiser didn’t understand the change, and brought out the supersimple Henry J, with no trunk and no glove compartment and no decorations. It failed. Consumers had more choices and less appetite in 1951, so cars needed to have more features and variety.

    George Mason of Nash understood the problem, and his much fancier Rambler succeeded hugely, changing the entire ecosystem. The Rambler appealed to several types of buyers, just as a life form needs to fit into several different niches.

  2. 2
    tjguy says:

    While it might be interesting to know that the simplest life form probably would need at least 500(not 400) genes, it doesn’t really tell us anything. The assumption/belief is that life evolved from chemicals and the the original reproducing cell must have been simpler than today’s life. But that’s just a belief or assumption with absolutely no scientific evidence to back it up. Lots of just so stories about what might have happened, but no facts.

    I think what we learn from this is that even the “simplest life” was not simple at all so this really does not support the evolutionary hypothesis at all. Abiogenesis of even such a “simple cell” would require an amazing amount of miraculous luck. (How’s that for an oxymoron?) What I mean is that even scientists are forced to believe in miracles in order to maintain their faith in Naturalism – where everything is assumed/believed to have a natural cause. All of evolutionary science is built upon this unprovable assertion!

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    TJG, just the number of genes is already decisive as even at one bit that would be at threshold and genes have dozens to many more base pairs. KF

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