Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Origin of life requires “a privileged function?”

arroba Email

From Journal of Molecular Evolution:

ABSTRACT: A general framework for conventional models of the origin of life (OOL) is the specification of a ‘privileged function.’ A privileged function is an extant biological function that is excised from its biological context, elevated in importance over other functions, and transported back in time to a primitive chemical or geological environment. In RNA or Clay Worlds, the privileged function is replication. In Metabolism-First Worlds, the privileged function is metabolism. In Thermal Vent Worlds, the privileged function is energy harvesting from chemical gradients. In Membrane Worlds, the privileged function is compartmentalization. In evaluating these models, we consider the contents and properties of the Universal Gene Set of life, which is the set of orthologous genes conserved throughout the tree of life and found in every living system. We also consider the components and properties of the Molecular Toolbox of Life, which contains twenty amino acids, eight nucleotides, glucose, polypeptide, polynucleotide, and several other components. OOL models based on privileged functions necessarily depend on “takeovers” to transition from previous genetic and catalytic systems to the extant DNA/RNA/protein system, requiring replacement of one Molecular Toolbox with another and of one Universal Gene Set with another. The observed robustness and contents of the Toolbox of Life and the Universal Gene Set over the last 3.7 billion years are thought to be post hoc phenomena. Once the takeover processes are acknowledged and are reasonably considered, the privileged function models are seen to be extremely complex with low predictive power. These models require indeterminacy and plasticity of biological and chemical processes. (public access) – Lanier, K.A. & Williams, L.D. Journal of Molecular Evolution, articles in press: “The Origin of Life: Models and Data,” J Mol Evol (2017). doi:10.1007/s00239-017-9783-y More.

Let’s see: These “privileged” functions require “indeterminacy and plasticity of biological and chemical processes.” It sounds as though they require design.

Question: Would these subjects be easier to sort out if we just assume that the functions are designed and proceeded to investigate on that basis? As opposed to trying to figure out some way it all just sort of happened? Would it save time?

See also: Origin of life: We are all descended from a “complex” ancestor? In the biosphere we know, there was probably never any such thing as a “simple” cell, which is the likely reason the innumerable “it all comes down to” theories of the origin of life don’t work. But now, how can we research pre-Snowball Earth?


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

Follow UD News at Twitter!

This abstract actually provides an interesting description (perhaps even a critique, if we read between the lines?) of the main OOL models. It is true that RNA-World, Metabolism-First, Thermal Vent models, and so on, all attempt to take a particular biological function, argue that it is the most important (or at least the starting point), and attempt to show how such a function could exist out of context of biological systems. When described this way, one starts to see the problem and paradox with all the prevailing theories. It is a rather naive approach in many ways. Here is a better way to look at OOL: We have a real chicken-and-egg situation. We can't have information transmission without metabolism without accurate replication without use of environmental energy sources and so on. Having an information-containing, self-replicating entity with any realistic chance of existing in the real world is an irreducibly complex problem. It can be solved. But only by purposeful planning and engineering. Not by a bunch of particles accidentally bumping into each other. Eric Anderson
There's so much research to be done in order to understand how the biological systems work, no time left to squander on OOL nonsense. But some folks out there seem to like that stuff. Dionisio
It sounds as though they require design
No, that's just an illusion. :) Dionisio

Leave a Reply