In “Astrobiology: Life’s beginnings” (Nature 476, 30–31, 04 August 2011), origin of life expert Robert Shapiro tells us “that laboratory experiments don’t always translate to nature”:
Deamer’s thesis diverges from the standard RNA-world concept. He focuses not on the generation of a naked RNA-like polymer, but on the formation of a simple cell-like compartment, or vesicle. Modern cells are enclosed by a complex fatty membrane, which prevents leakage. Vesicles with similar properties have been formed in the lab from certain fatty acids. Deamer holds that the spontaneous formation of vesicles, into which RNA could be incorporated, was a crucial step in life’s origin. Unfortunately, his theory retains the improbable generation of self-replicating polymers such as RNA.
Nevertheless, Deamer’s insight deflates the synthetic proofs put forward in numerous papers supporting the RNA world. He ends First Life by calling for the construction of a new set of biochemical simulators that match more closely the conditions on the early Earth. Unfortunately, the chemicals that he suggests for inclusion are drawn from modern biology, not from ancient geochemistry. We should let nature inform us, rather than pasting our ideas onto her.
But surely nature only exists to front atheist cosmology?