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New Scientist Weighs in on the Origin of Life

This week's issue of New Scientist contains an interesting article bearing the headline "First Life: The Search for the First Replicator." As a means to circumvent the chicken-and-egg problem pertinent to the relationship of DNA and proteins, author Michael Marshall attempts to revive the fashionable (but scientifically bankrupt) scenario of an RNA world.

In brief, RNA exhibits both information-carrying capacity and catalytic activity. Arguments for the RNA world include the fact that RNA makes up a large proportion of ribosomes (the protein factory of the cell). Furthermore, in eukaryotes (organisms with nucleated cells), components of genes that don't code for proteins (called "introns") are spliced out of an RNA transcript before translation. RNA molecules are involved in many of the RNA-splicing processes, and it has been documented that some RNA introns have self-splicing capability: that is to say, they can excise themselves, though at a slower rate than proteins can do so. Further observations that are taken as evidence for the plausibility of the RNA world thesis include the existence of RNA viruses, which use RNA as their genetic material that is translated directly into proteins.

The New Scientist article states the chicken-and-egg conundrum (which the RNA world thesis is invoked to resolve) up-front

When biologists first started to ponder how life arose, the question seemed baffling. In all organisms alive today, the hard work is done by proteins. Proteins can twist and fold into a wild diversity of shapes, so they can do just about anything, including acting as enzymes, substances that catalyse a huge range of chemical reactions. However, the information needed to make proteins is stored in DNA molecules. You can't make new proteins without DNA, and you can't make new DNA without proteins. So which came first, proteins or DNA?
The solution? The article continues,
The discovery in the 1960s that RNA could fold like a protein, albeit not into such complex structures, suggested an answer. If RNA could catalyse reactions as well as storing information, some RNA molecules might be capable of making more RNA molecules. And if that was the case, RNA replicators would have had no need for proteins. They could do everything themselves.

It was an appealing idea, but at the time it was complete speculation. No one had shown that RNA could catalyse reactions like protein enzymes. It was not until 1982, after decades of searching, that an RNA enzyme was finally discovered. Thomas Cech of the University of Colorado in Boulder found it in Tetrahymena thermophila, a bizarre single-celled animal with seven sexes (Science, vol. 231, p. 4737).

After that the floodgates opened. People discovered ever more RNA enzymes in living organisms and created new ones in their labs. RNA might not be as good for storing information as DNA, being less stable, nor as versatile as proteins, but it was turning out to be a molecular jack of all trades. This was a huge boost to the idea that the first life consisted of RNA molecules that catalysed the production of more RNA molecules -- "the RNA world," as Harvard chemist Walter Gilbert dubbed it 25 years ago (Nature, vol. 319, p. 618).

The article goes on to cite Johnston et al. (2001), in which it was reported that a ribozyme (called R18) could catalyze the type of polymerization required for RNA replication, namely, the extension of an RNA primer by up to 14 ribonucleotides using nucleoside triphosphates and the coding information of an RNA template. As the New Scientist article acknowledges, however, R18 itself is 189 ribonucleotides in length, whereas the longest RNA it can make contains just 20 ribonucleotides. Thus, the RNAs it builds are not even close to its own length, a requisite for self-replicating RNA.

But not to worry, we are told. After all, Wochner et al. (2011) have identified a ribozyme (called tC19Z) that can copy RNA sequences up to 95 ribonucleotides in length: the problem, of course, being that this isn't even half (about 48%) of its own length.

New Scientist is, of course, completely ignoring the real issue. That is the problem of attaining RNA molecules in the first place from inorganic material. As I wrote recently, at the heart of Darwinian theory lies the concept that evolution must strike a balance between reliable reproduction of a species on the one hand, and opportunistic variation on the other. A poor replicator is much more likely to degrade through inaccurate copying than to be enhanced by evolution. There thus exists a threshold before the cumulative improvement of a replicator can occur by selection. A replicator must already have a reasonably good performance level before it can improve on that performance. At that point, however, we are running perilously close to yet another Catch-22. If (as I think is a legitimate assumption), this threshold performance level may be attained only with a sequence substantially longer than the minimum required for folding, one is faced with the even greater improbabilities of attaining such a replicator by a blind search.

RNA is also notoriously unstable. Ribose sugar possesses a free hydroxyl (OH) group in its pentose ring, making it prone to hydrolysis (where the free hydroxyl group attacks the phosphodiester bond, thus breaking the phosphate bonds which are holding the structure together). This renders RNA much less stable than DNA.

Moreover, as I documented in a review of Nick Lane's book, the conundrum of making the individual ribonucleotides is only part of the story. They will only polymerize if the nucleotides are present at high concentrations. When the nucleotides are present in high concentrations, it is conceivable that they would spontaneously polymerize (this, of course, ignores the problem of sequence-specificity, but we can leave that aside). In the case of low concentration, conversely, the RNA breaks down into its constituent nucleotides. But here's the thing: Synthesis of the novel RNA strand requires that nucleotides be consumed (thus decreasing their concentration). The pool of nucleotides, therefore, would have to be perpetually replenished at a rate faster than it is consumed. Please see my response to Nick Lane's notions of the origin of life in hydrothermal vents for a rebuttal to a common attempted resolution of this problem.

Another problem pertains to the fact that the formose reaction (the chemical reaction which some have theorized could have led to the emergence of ribose on the prebiotic earth) will not produce sugars in the presence of nitrogenous substances. This includes peptides, amino acids, and amines. This leads one again into a confounding paradox: If the prebiotic environment contained amino acids, it would have prevented sugars (and, as a consequence, RNA or DNA) from forming. On the flip side of the coin, if the prebiotic world contained no amino acids, protein synthesis would not be possible. Related to this is the problem of nucleotide bases, which requires the abundance of nitrogen-rich chemicals, something which would also limit the production of ribose sugars.

The New Scientist article discusses a couple of other pertinent problems: "...where did the energy to drive this activity come from? There must have been some kind of metabolic processes going on -- but RNA does not look up to the job of running a full-blown metabolism." And "Proteins have many more functional groups than RNAs." Indeed. Ribozymes possess very few of the many functions performed by protein-based enzymes.

The solution? Marshall tells us,

...there is a way to make a single tool much more versatile: attach different bits to it, like those screwdrivers that come with interchangeable heads. The chemical equivalents are small helper molecules known as cofactors.

Proteins use cofactors to extend even further the range of reactions they can control. Without cofactors, life as we know it couldn't exist, Ferré-D'Amaré says. And it turns out that RNA enzymes can use cofactors too.

This is accompanied by a citation of Suga et al. (2003) and Breaker et al. (2004). In the case of the former, it was reported that a ribozyme could oxidize alcohol with the aid of the cofactor NAD+. In the case of the latter, it is reported that glmS (a natural ribozyme) also uses a cofactor. Of course, the details of where these cofactors may have emerged from in the prebiotic context is conveniently omitted.

More than halfway through the New Scientist article, Marshall finally gets to the part we've all been waiting for. He writes, "there is still one huge and obvious problem: where did the RNA come from in the first place?"

He continues,

RNA molecules are strings of nucleotides, which in turn are made of a sugar with a base and a phosphate attached. In living cells, numerous enzymes are involved in producing nucleotides and joining them together, but of course the primordial planet had no such enzymes. There was clay, though. In 1996, biochemist Leslie Orgel showed that when "activated" nucleotides -- those with an extra bit tacked on to the phosphate -- were added to a kind of volcanic clay, RNA molecules up to 55 nucleotides long formed (Nature, vol. 381, p. 59). With ordinary nucleotides the formation of large RNA molecules would be energetically unfavourable, but the activated ones provide the energy needed to drive the reaction.

This suggests that if there were plenty of activated nucleotides on the early Earth, large RNA molecules would form spontaneously. What's more, experiments simulating conditions on the early Earth and on asteroids show that sugars, bases and phosphates would arise naturally too. It's putting the nucleotides together that is the hard bit; there does not seem to be any way to join the components without specialised enzymes. Because of the shapes of the molecules, it is almost impossible for the sugar to join to a base, and even when it does happen, the combined molecule quickly breaks apart. [emphasis added]

Yes, indeed. In order to obtain nucleosides (i.e., base and ribose), one would need to begin with a mixture of nitrogenous bases and ribose and an appropriate condensing agent. To obtain nucleotides requires the mixing of nucleosides with phosphate and a different condensing agent. But putting the subcomponents together to form nucleotides (and subsequently polymerizing them) is ultimately trivial compared to generating the required sequence-specificity.

Marshall continues,

In the meantime John Sutherland, at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, has been doggedly trying to solve the nucleotide problem. He realised that researchers might have been going about it the wrong way. "In each nucleotide, you see a sugar, a base and a phosphate group," he says. "So you assume you need to make those building blocks first and then stick them together...and it doesn't work."

Instead he wondered whether simpler molecules might assemble into a nucleotide without ever becoming sugars or bases. In 2009, he proved it was possible. He took half a sugar and half a base, and stuck them together -- forming the crucial sugar-base link that everyone had struggled with. Then he bolted on the rest of the sugar and base. Sutherland stuck on the phosphate last, though he found that it needed to be present in the mixture for the earlier reactions to work (Nature, vol. 459, p. 239).

Stephen Meyer responds to this paper here:
This study does partially address one, though only one, of the many outstanding difficulties associated with the RNA world scenario, the most popular current theory of the undirected chemical evolution of life. Starting with several simple chemical compounds, Powner and colleagues successfully synthesized a pyrimidine ribonucleotide, one of the building blocks of the RNA molecule.

Nevertheless, this work does nothing to address the much more acute problem of explaining how the nucleotide bases in DNA or RNA acquired their specific information-rich arrangements, which is the central topic of my book [Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design]. In effect, the Powner study helps explain the origin of the "letters" in the genetic text, but not their specific arrangement into functional "words" or "sentences."

Moreover, Powner and colleagues only partially addressed the problem of generating the constituent building blocks of RNA under plausible pre-biotic conditions. The problem, ironically, is their own skillful intervention. To ensure a biologically-relevant outcome, they had to intervene -- repeatedly and intelligently -- in their experiment: first, by selecting only the right-handed isomers of sugar that life requires; second, by purifying their reaction products at each step to prevent interfering cross-reactions; and third, by following a very precise procedure in which they carefully selected the reagents and choreographed the order in which they were introduced into the reaction series.

Thus, not only does this study not address the problem of getting nucleotide bases to arrange themselves into functionally specified sequences, but the extent to which it does succeed in producing biologically relevant chemical constituents of RNA actually illustrates the indispensable role of intelligence in generating such chemistry.

Toward the end of the article, Marshall entertains the hydrothermal vent hypothesis, as well as the notion that life began in ice (for problems with the former, see my comments here; for problems with the latter, see this article).

To conclude, Michael Marshall's New Scientist article does not even come close to demonstrating the feasibility of the RNA world hypothesis, much less the origin of the sequence-specific information necessary for even the simplest of biological systems. Since information is a phenomenon uniformly associated with intelligent causes, it follows inductively that intelligent design constitutes the best -- most causally sufficient -- explanation for the information-content of the hereditary molecules DNA and RNA.


24 Comments

Nick,

Scientists are supposed to admit to mistakes: When they make them.

In this case, you cited the Sutherland research (which I had seen previously, because of its previous address in ID circles) as a refutation of one of my points. I subsequently explained why the Sutherland research does not offer much help. Quite apart from the fact that the experiment is unlikely to resemble plausible prebiotic conditions (as documented in my most recent article), only pyrimidine -- and not purine -- ribonucleotides were produced.

People also explained to you on Uncommon Descent why your citation does not serve as a refutation of my argument.

So far, you have not responded.

JonathanM naively assumed back then that a severe difficulty with the RNA world was that
you would have to first separately assemble base, ribose, and phosphate, and then assemble
all three.

I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure producing some nucleotides (half in this case)
under heavily orchestrated conditions (manipulating pH, temperature, and UV radiation levels) doesn't make his claim about prebiotic conditions any less true.

I found the following statement Charles Garner made a few years ago pretty relevant to this:

"The starting materials are "plausibly" obtainable by abiotic means, but need to be kept isolated from one another until the right step, as Sutherland admits." [emphasis mine]

So do they only form independently or is the Sutherland paper just another case of citation bluffing?

This shoots his credibility; scientists are supposed to admit their mistakes.

I can agree with this, but deciding who is losing credibility is where we part ways.

In the meantime I would like to note that I envy you Jonathan M. I hope to acquire the same
depth of knowledge myself so I can put it to use and disseminate it to others.

From behind seven proxies of course.

Jeffrey Helix | August 19, 2011 10:11 PM | Reply

Interesting how Nick Matzke (on the Pandas Thumb) thinks that the Sutherland experiments
(which you already address in this post) went right past your head - even though
you address that research in the last quarter of your post.

Not that those experiments haven't been addressed on ENV already though:

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/07/scientists_say_intelligent_des022621.html


It's interesting that you can't seem to get the history of posting straight, even though I reviewed it in detail in my PT post.

Yes, JonathanM addresses Sutherland's work in this DI thread, but just a few weeks ago, at Uncommon Descent, JonathanM didn't know about Sutherland's work, which is why JonathanM naively assumed back then that a severe difficulty with the RNA world was that you would have to first separately assemble base, ribose, and phosphate, and then assemble all three.

All I was trying to do, then and now, was get JonathanM to admit that he made a mistake there. He seems unable to do it. This shoots his credibility; scientists are supposed to admit their mistakes.

By the way, regarding Nick Matzke's allegation that we declined his comment, no such comment -- according to our recollections and records -- was submitted. Must have been a glitch in the system, or perhaps Nick is confusing ENV with UD -- or something along those lines.

Anyhow, I will be responding to Nick with a separate blog post.

J

article conclusion: "Since information is a phenomenon uniformly associated with intelligent causes, it follows inductively that intelligent design constitutes the best -- most causally sufficient -- explanation for the information-content of the hereditary molecules DNA and RNA."

Since evolution was accepted as being caused by natural unintelligent agents, Intelligence is not an option for evolutionary theorists.

And since there is no source of information about God that says life was first introduced in the form of a molecular singularity, the conclusion epitomizes sourceless subjectivity.

Very interesting comment on Pandas Thumb if you post it and allow discussion on it.

O.K. . . . I'm not a scientist or a student of philosophy . . . just a regular guy who appreciates common sense. Can someone please address the basic question of why any so called Replicator - be it organic or chemical - would have any reason to replicate itself unless it already knew it existed (awareness - I am) and wanted to make more of itself (purpose - I want to be)?

It seems we can argue all we want on the materialistic probability that the chemical constituents of the RNA molecule could have come together with or without a designer, but lets not just ignore the significance of what we are really talking about when we discuss such a replicator. In my mind there is an irreducibly complex assortment of non-materialistic components that are required for this replicator to do what it supposedly does. These include the distinctive life attributes of awareness and purpose, in addition to information.

Replication (not to mention metabolism, growth, response, and competition) cannot be explained without accounting for all three of these.

Explaining the materialistic challenges of generating information in an RNA molecule is huge. But it's only part of the story and I think we're giving Darwinist's a pass by engaging in materialistic debate while not calling them on their assumptive leaps in regards to all of these non-material attributes. The question of why a replicator would want to replicate seems to be a pre-requisite to a discussion of the mechanics of how it did so.

Am I so simple that I’m miles behind you guys in asking this question here? I’m fine with being ignored if this is just a distraction.

Since information is a phenomenon uniformly associated with intelligent causes, it follows inductively that intelligent design constitutes the best -- most causally sufficient -- explanation for the information-content of the hereditary molecules DNA and RNA.

There are two things wrong with this conclusion. First, you must carefully qualify the sort of information you're talking about; information in general is obviously associated with all sorts of causes (temperature information is associated with exothermic reactions, etc).

Second, and more importantly, intelligence is a phenomenon uniformally associated with complex living systems, so what follows inductively from your reasoning is simply that life comes from other life. But if ID hypothesizes the existence of life forms which were responsible for life appearing on Earth, it certainly doesn't help to postulate these life forms were intelligent and somehow bio-engineered the terrestrial species. Rather, it is much simpler to assume that life on Earth is simply descendent from life elsewhere. This theory, proposed by various people from time to time, is just as causally sufficient as ID, but since it is a simpler theory, it should be considered as more likely than ID to be true.

Interesting how Nick Matzke (on the Pandas Thumb) thinks that the Sutherland experiments
(which you already address in this post) went right past your head - even though
you address that research in the last quarter of your post.

Not that those experiments haven't been addressed on ENV already though:

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/07/scientists_say_intelligent_des022621.html

We’ve been having riots here in the UK. Alas, I wish a similar thing would explode in the UK’s academic and intellectual media circles. The UK prides itself as a haven of respectability; socially, financially and intellectually. The first two seems to be under pressure lately, but the third seems to be Carrying On business as usual. Not that there are no Darwin dissenters here, but that BBC and Channel 4 are under such tight censorship – I’m sure R.D has a personal telephone line to each Director and can dictate program policy. We’re on an island steered by Instinctual Ahabs; and with their last breath – they will spit on ID!

I guess I would disagree that they are "completely independent" since, when reasoning abductively, evidence against one hypothesis will also raise the likelihood of other hypotheses. I am not an analytic philosopher, but from what I understand of Bayesian logic and probabilities, when the likelihood of one mutually exclusive, non-overlapping option decreases, the probability (and hence the believability) of the other option increases. The devil is in the details, here, and is what we pay philosophers to hash out. Wait, we don't pay philosophers in this country, just scientists :) Now, when reasoning inductively, you would be correct that a current failure of a certain line of evidence does not necessarily invalidate the hypothesis that "an RNA World produced X." I completely agree that the RNA world is still being explored and it might be too early to dismiss it entirely, especially since I think we gain great insights into extant ribosomal/ribozymal cellular machinery through these investigations. ID prides itself on not actually being the "science-stopper" it is portrayed to be. Therefore, as a research program I think they would not say "stop researching RNA; we know enough." I think the research goal here is to be careful about our assumptions and pay close attention to what these experiments actually teach us:1. It is difficult to make a true self-Replicator (in fact we [assumably intelligent agents] have yet to do so)2. Information is yet to be addressed in these experiments scientifically (and when it is, it is obviously coming from human agents)3. The chemical reactions needed might be, in principle, prohibitive (not just undiscovered) These points and others come from a fair reading of the results and might even lead one to ID friendly conclusions.

But Alex, don't you think that for RNA-World to be a credible alternative to ID it should as a minimum have a reasonable theoretical explanation for the sequencing of the 'first RNA', even if no evidence for that explanation has been gathered?

By a 'reasonable' explanation, I mean anything that doesn't exceed the universes probabilistic resources and that doesn't postulate infinite alternate universes to circumnavigate said resources.

Yes, I believe I understand both sub-arguments. What I meant to say is that your first point (that our uniform experience that information comes from intelligence implies that ID is the best explanation of biological information) is completely independent of the rest of your post.

Your second point, that the inability on part of this New Scientist author to demonstrate the feasibility of scenarios leading to the non-intelligent origin of biological information strengthens the notion of ID by weakening "Darwinism", I agree with. (I assume all you mean is that the probability of ID increases as time continues to pass without Darwinists finding a good scenario for the non-intelligent origin of biological information.) But it doesn't instantly establish ID as the best explanation, unless you assume "RNA world is feasible" entails "New Scientist in 2011 will have convincing evidence of RNA world feasibility". The inability of someone somewhere to find good evidence for X is evidence against X, because the alternative, that person finding good evidence for X, would of course be evidence of X, but the relationship is not symmetrical and the details depend on the evidence-gathering capabilities of the person. Do you think that we have in 2011 managed to invest sufficient resources into testing the feasibility of the RNA world scenario that we can be confident of the counterfactual "if RNA world is feasible then we would have shown this by now". I think we can all agree that scientists as little as 20 years ago were not in any position to assign this counterfactual a high probability, and I'm not sure exactly how much better our current state is. Are you?

David Z:

Yes, the principle of multiple competing hypotheses is indeed an abductive inference.

The extrapolation of present-to-past cause-and-effect relationships is inductive. Wikipedia defines inductive reasoning as follows:

Inductive reasoning, also known as induction or inductive logic, is a kind of reasoning that constructs or evaluates propositions that are abstractions of observations. It is commonly construed as a form of reasoning that makes generalizations based on individual instances.

J

If I remember the argument from Signature in the Cell properly, you are correct and this would actually be abductive or historical reasoning, not inductive. I think Jonathan's point is that since the explanations of the Origin of Life and specifically the RNA World Hypothesis continue to fail in demonstrating Chance, Necessity, or Chance+Necessity as plausible creative mechanisms, the only reasonable conclusion ("follows") is that intelligent intervention was involved to get things started.It is almost axiomatic that intelligence produces the kind of effects we are studying (codes and machines). This means intelligence is an adequate explanation. However it is also quite distasteful to some. What Jonathan seeks to demonstrate is that intelligence is also unique in its ability to account for early life. So far (an important caveat in science), other causes have failed miserably, despite the hopeful promises of explanations and continuing research programs offered in articles such as the one in New Scientist.

Alex:

This is how historical scientific methodology works! Reconstruction of past causes assumes the principle of uniformity of cause-and-effect relationships (i.e. that the same causes seen to produces effect x now produced x in the past). It infers to the best (i.e. the most causally sufficient) explanation, while employing inductive logic and present uniform and repeated experience.

Since information uniformly derives from intelligence (at least in all of our experience up to this point), it follows inductively that intelligence is the most likely explanation for information in this context as well. Because we are dealing with an historical phenomenon, we cannot go back in time to find out what happened, and we cannot repeat a past event in the laboratory. All we have to go on, therefore, is our experience of what causes produce certain kinds of effects.

Since the most reputable candidate counter-explanation is Darwinism, and its related notions of chemical evolution, a demonstration of its inadequacies strengthens the argument for design (a position which stands or falls on its own merits). If you wanted to falsify the design inference, you could show that there are alternative causes which can produce the kind of functionally-specified information which is found in living systems.

Alex, it's a simple clause - "Since 'A', it follows that 'B'". Regardless of whether you think it's a fitting conclusion or not, do you agree with the logic? If not, why not?

By the way, Jonathan M doesn't demand that New Scientist demonstrates the RNA-World scenario. Rather, he concludes "Michael Marshall's New Scientist article does not even come close to demonstrating the feasibility of the RNA world hypothesis". Feasibility was all he was looking for, so I'm not sure where you're going with your second point.

The concluding paragraph of the article is very unclear. What does it follow from that ID is the best explanation for information in DNA/RNA? From "information is uniformly associated with intelligence" or from this in conjunction with the fact that this particular New Scientist article does not succeed, in your estimation, in demonstrating the feasibility of the RNA world and non-intelligent causes of biological information? If it's the former, how is summarizing the article relevant at all relevant to the conclusion? If it's the latter, I hope you are kidding. The conjunction of "RNA world is feasible" and "information of the kind we see in biological systems can plausibly arise without intelligent planning" doesn't come close to predicting that a particular New Scientist in 2011 will demonstrate the truth of these claims. It increases the probability, to be sure, but the author claims that the conclusion "follows".

Well said Jonathan, lots of useful information here, this was much needed.

Thanks

They have no plausible hypothesis for mirror image breaking of either sugars or amino acids, yet they move beyond these persistent obstacles to dream their fantasies of materialism...

"As always Jonathan’s scientific arguments are impressive (and for the most part above my academic understanding). It seems frustrating however, that he should even have to expend the energy formulating a scientific response. At times I am afraid that if we don’t call the other side on their blatantly faulty logic we minimize the importance of simple reason in the pursuit of truth. In so doing we may unwittingly enter a materialistic arena where they make the rules, have influenced the judges, and can easily bamboozle an uneducated mass audience."

Brilliantly stated!

Marshal says:

“If RNA could catalyse reactions as well as storing information, some RNA molecules might be capable of making more RNA molecules. And if that was the case, RNA replicators would have had no need for proteins. They could do everything themselves.”

They could do everything themselves!?

Through his series of "if" statements he has assumptively attributed characteristics of life - “awareness” (I am) and “purpose” (I want to . .) - to the chemical constituents he is proposing will eventually lead to life. He's just answering one chicken-and-egg conundrum by proposing another.

Richard Dawkins uses the same assumptive trickery very early into the second chapter of The Selfish Gene.

“At some point a particularly remarkable molecule was formed by accident. We will call it a Replicator. It may not necessarily have been the biggest or the most complex molecule around, but it had the extraordinary property of being able to create copies of itself.”

As always Jonathan’s scientific arguments are impressive (and for the most part above my academic understanding). It seems frustrating however, that he should even have to expend the energy formulating a scientific response. At times I am afraid that if we don’t call the other side on their blatantly faulty logic we minimize the importance of simple reason in the pursuit of truth. In so doing we may unwittingly enter a materialistic arena where they make the rules, have influenced the judges, and can easily bamboozle an uneducated mass audience.

When reading evolutionists stuff, I always try to bring out the fluffy words. Here are some examples taken from the New Scientist article:

If RNA could…
…molecules might be capable…
…if that was the case…
…replicators would have had…

Seems to me the author was not convinced of his own ideas!

Contrast this with Einstein proposing his famous formula.

He did not say: E could equal MC squared.

There is science and there is wishful thinking.

Thanks Jonathan, you're always a pleasure to read.

The Origin Of Life is a design event; at least, that's what RNA world research is suggesting.