Could Life Have Started With RNA?

Many scientists have long sought to understand the origin of life from a naturalistic worldview, and this article from The Scientist seeks to further that understanding by examining the RNA molecule (ribonucleic acid), and how it could “self-assemble”.

The origin of life has always been a thorn in the side for evolutionists because, without the emergence of life from non-life, there is no evolution. Therefore secular scientists have been seeking an explanation for the origin of life from non-living chemicals for centuries, culminating in the famous experiment by Miller and Urey in 1953. This experiment resulted in organic compounds and amino acids (considered the building blocks of life), but it also produced toxic chemicals harmful to amino acids. The experiment has been largely discredited because it fails to take into consideration chemical and biological barriers, and I’d argue that it does more to demonstrate the impossibility of abiogenesis; after all, if it takes intelligent scientists years of hard work to produce simple molecules, then they’ve failed to show that complex life could form spontaneously via naturalistic occurrences. It further demonstrates that intelligence is necessary to create life.

Nonetheless, researchers from Germany are attempting to demonstrate how RNA could have self-assembled in a primitive earth atmosphere. They’re using simple molecules they believe were present on a primitive earth and are hoping to join these bases into a strand of RNA.

Previous research from 2009 attempted to show how two of the smaller bases (cytosine and uracil) could form from simple chemicals, but their experiment hinged on “plausible” prebiotic molecules available in an early earth atmosphere. What a primitive earth atmosphere would have been like is still unsettled. The presence of oxygen, for example, would be devastating to these chemical processes and their hope to produce life.

New research is trying to demonstrate how the larger bases (adenine and guanine) could have formed from simple molecules. Studies showed a series of chemical reactions from simple compounds reacting in water and producing amines, acids and purine bases.

But once again there are problems- including the assumption of what an early earth atmosphere would have been like; in this case the researchers started with different conditions than the 2009 experiment. Sceptics question if the experiments really demonstrate the origin of life at all. Bill Martin of Heinrich Heine University said, “It’s very fine chemistry. [But] I remain sceptical that it is reflecting any process that were involved in how we—our ancestors—arose.”

It’s impossible to know with any certainty what the early earth atmosphere was like at the beginning, but any origin of life theory must address these starting assumptions. Another hurdle for abiogenesis is the homochirality problem, where almost all biomolecules, such as amino acids, are left-handed. Yet those produced in the lab are half left-handed and half right-handed, forcing scientists to use pre-existing homochirality from biological sources.

Ancient Greeks used to believe that maggots, worms and mice could spontaneously generate from rotting meat and other non-living material. Early scientists even believed in the spontaneous generation of microscopic organisms. But Louis Pasteur did experiments demonstrating that microbes don’t form spontaneously from non-living matter. He clearly showed that “Microscopic beings must come into the world from parents similar to themselves.” In other words, life only comes from life, and this is one of the most reliable laws of science. There are no known exceptions, yet that hasn’t stopped secular scientists from attempting to disprove it. Spontaneous generation remains essential to the theory of evolution despite the overwhelming evidence against it.

Fortunately there are many scientists who do reject the idea of spontaneous generation, but instead believe in God, who created the heavens, earth, and all living organisms. The complexity of proteins and molecules, DNA, RNA and cells all speak of his amazing design.


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