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Seeking a Way Around RNA World, New Study Only Increases Perplexity of Abiogenesis

David Klinghoffer

abiogenesis

The difficulties with the RNA world thesis, as part of a solution to the enigma of abiogenesis, are well known to readers of Evolution News. As Cornelius Hunter has observed, “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.”

Now a new paper touted at Science Daily claims that rather than RNA preceding DNA, they both popped into existence about the same time: “According to the authors of the study, these results suggest that the earliest DNA molecules could have appeared in parallel with RNA — some 4 billion years ago. This would mean that DNA molecules emerged around 400 million years earlier than previously thought.” 

The journal article, in Angewandte Chemie, advertises a “Direct Prebiotic Pathway to DNA Nucleosides.” But having DNA “appear” or “emerge” some “400 million years earlier than previously thought” simply gives purely naturalistic processes that much less time to work with. It’s delicious to consider how chemist James Tour would slash this proposal to bits along with all the others.

“Almost Exactly Like a Computer Tape”?

Dr. Tour will appear in a future episode of Science Uprising. As Denyse O’Leary observes at Mind Matters regarding the current episode, “DNA Is Code: Who Coded It?,” the origin of biological information is a mystery not so much highlighted by a comparison with software as downplayed by it. From “There Is A Glitch in the Description of DNA as ‘Software’”:

[G]enome mapping entrepreneur Craig Venter informs us that DNA is “actually the software of life.” Darwinian biologist Richard Dawkins announced some time ago that it is “almost exactly like a computer tape.”

Really? It’s not clear, in an age of daily discoveries in epigenetics, that DNA is exactly like a computer tape. Or like anything that either runs without interference or stops. Life forms are more like individual stories moving through time, shaping and getting shaped in a variety of ways as they go.

Software geniuses do not create anything like that, or so far have not.

Bill Gates admits (at .48) that “DNA is more advanced than any software ever created.” “Advanced” is an interesting way of describing DNA, given that the life that requires it must be at least three and a half billion years old. Life forms underwent many changes in the meantime and became larger and more complex but their platforms seem largely the same.

In contemporary culture, we are asked to believe, in an impressive break with observed reality, that the code wrote itself. No wonder the students’ screens freeze in the film. It’s a lot to demand of them, just so they can stay in sync with top contemporary thinkers.

Read the rest at Mind Matters. 

The Earth itself is only about 4.5 billion years old. So saying that the “code wrote itself” as the “top contemporary thinkers” insist, not 3.5 billion years ago but 4 billion years, i.e. “around 400 million years earlier than previously thought,” only increases the perplexity. Hardly helpful, it’s a bit like seeking to solve the problem of a massive hole in your roof by the expedient of burning the house down. For more, see the Episode 3 of Science Uprising:

Photo at top: A scene from Science Uprising, Episode 3, “DNA Is Code: Who Coded It?.”