Evolution Icon Evolution

About That RNA World Hypothesis

Cornelius Hunter

RNA world

Given its widespread popularity and acceptance you might not have realized that the so-called RNA World hypothesis suffers from some dramatic problems. At the top of the list is the rather awkward fact that there is no evidence for it. While skeptics have pointed this out for years, we now see evolutionists coming clean on this inconvenient truth as well. To wit, here is how Peter Wills and Charles Carter open their recent BioSystems paper:

The RNA World is a widely-embraced hypothetical stage of molecular evolution, devoid of protein enzymes, in which all functional catalysts were ribozymes. Only one fact concerning the RNA World can be established by direct observation: if it ever existed, it ended without leaving any unambiguous trace of itself.

Even this is a bit of an understatement. Because without the prior assumption of evolution, which can and has underwritten a wide range of speculation, there is precisely zero reason to believe this wild hypothesis. No organisms have ever been discovered that demonstrate the RNA World hypothesis in action. Nor have scientists ever constructed any such organisms in their laboratories. This is not too surprising because no one has even produced anything remotely close to a detailed design of how such organisms could function.

Wills and Carter also point out negative evidences such as catalysis (RNA enzymes lack the ability to function over a wide range of temperatures) and the “impossible obstacles” to the hypothetical yet necessary transition from the RNA World to something resembling today’s extant cells. As Carter explains:

Such a rise from RNA to cell-based life would have required an out-of-the-blue appearance of an aaRS [aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase]-like protein that worked even better than its adapted RNA counterpart. That extremely unlikely event would have needed to happen not just once but multiple times — once for every amino acid in the existing gene-protein code. It just doesn’t make sense.

Indeed, it just doesn’t make sense. And yet in spite of these obvious problems, the RNA World has been a textbook staple, presented as a plausible and likely example of how early life evolved.

Image credit: DasWortgewand, via Pixabay.

Cross-posted at Darwin’s God.