Friday, December 26, 2008

To start life: Heat to 70 degrees Celsius, add dash of vinegar ...

In "Origin Of Life On Earth: Simple Fusion To Jump-start Evolution" (December 23, 2008) in Science Daily, we read,
Specifically, this study demonstrated how ancient RNA joined together to reach a biologically relevant length.

[ ... ]

The problem is that in the primordial world RNA molecules didn't have enzymes to catalyze this reaction, and while RNA growth can proceed naturally, the rate would be so slow the RNA could never get more than a few pieces long (for as nucleic bases attach to one end, they can also drop off the other).

Ernesto Di Mauro and colleagues examined if there was some mechanism to overcome this thermodynamic barrier, by incubating short RNA fragments in water of different temperatures and pH.

They found that under favorable conditions (acidic environment and temperature lower than 70 degrees Celsius), pieces ranging from 10-24 in length could naturally fuse into larger fragments, generally within 14 hours.
Apparently, at about 100, the chain can start folding into functional shapes.

This scenario, assuming it contributes valuable information, makes specific assumptions: "acidic environment and temperature lower than 70 degrees Celsius". Now note what follows: Any scenario that requires higher temperatures or a different environment must be incorrect.

One problem with origin of life research is that it does not seem like a growing body of information; it seems more like a disorderly pantheon of powerful individual ideas that do not usually connect.

Over at Uncommon Descent Gil Dodgen identifies the critical origin of life problem:
The origin-of-information problem ... is ignored in all hypotheses for an obvious reason. It is insoluble in materialistic terms.
Another friend writes
I fail to understand how people who are presumably smart enough to have got a PhD in a science do not realize that the overwhelming problem in the origin of life is generating the necessary information. For the generation of RNA or DNA molecules that will produce a living organism from which evolution can take over, the big problem is not the chemistry, nor the fabrication of big molecules, nor the synthesizing of RNA building blocks. It's putting those building blocks together in such a way that it encodes all the necessary life functions, including metabolism and reproduction, to say nothing of generating the information necessary to read and interpret the information in those information-bearing molecules.
Generally, origin of life scenarios focus on the random roduction of mechanisms that might embody information - somewhat like a random evolution of computers that ignores the minor detail of software algorithms.

See also:

Origin of life: A meatier theory? Or just another theory?

Origin of life: There must be life out there vs. there can't be life out there

Origin of life: Oldest Earth rocks may show signs of life, in which case ...

Origin of life: Positive evidence of intelligent design?

Origin of life: But is being greedy enough?

Origin of life: Ah, that "just so happens" intermediate series of chemical steps

Why should the search for Darwin's "warm little puddle" be publicly funded?