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On the Origin of Life, Why Listen to James Tour?

David Klinghoffer
Photo: James Tour, in a scene from Science Uprising, via Discovery Institute.

origin of life

Synthetic organic chemist James Tour is a star of this past week’s Episode 5 of Science Uprising. In a bonus video, he answers some questions including, “Are you an expert on origin of life?”

I can’t say enough about what a forceful personality Tour is, and how powerful his arguments seem. But why listen to him? Here he explains that his professional background makes him just the person you’d want to ask about how plausible current origin-of-life scenarios are: “Origin of life is purely synthetic organic chemistry. There’s no way around it.” 

Tour is not one for mincing words: “The people who might disagree with me are biologists because they’ve never made anything.” As he points out, the problems faced by OOL researchers have become harder, not easier, since the palmy days of Miller-Urey. That’s in large part because we understand better the complexity of cellular life, the countless, coordinated challenges that would have to be overcome in order to “spark” life in a pre-biotic environment. Or in a modern chemistry lab, for that matter, where scientists also stand by helplessly.

Materialist theories of origins must have an account of chemical evolution — how unguided, unintelligent, purposeless processes alone could have built the first life. Without that, their breezy explanations of biological evolution, how complex life diversified without recourse to intelligent design, are cast into deep suspicion. If you have access to an evolutionary biologist, ask him or her to watch these 22 minutes and tell you how materialist origins accounts of how complex life arose can be trusted when materialist accounts of the first life are so painfully inadequate.

Photo at the top: James Tour, Rice University, in Episode 5 of Science Uprising, “Origin of Life: Intelligence Required.” 

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.

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biological evolutionbiologistschemical evolutionchemistry labevolutionary biologistintelligent designJames TourmaterialismMiller-Urey experimentorigin of lifeScience Uprisingsynthetic organic chemistry