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“Radical New Theory” on the Origin of Life?

A headline in New Scientist announces, “A radical new theory rewrites the story of how life on Earth began.” But if the riddle of life’s origin was already near solved, why was there a need for a “radical new theory”? As Günter Bechly has pointed out numerous times, evolutionary ideas about human origins are also constantly being “rewritten.” It’s not a good look for supposedly solid science. On a new episode of ID the Future, host Eric Anderson talks with scientist and fellow engineer Rob Stadler about the New Scientist paper and how the authors paint themselves into a corner. Download the podcast or listen to it here.

The context for the paper is this: Decades of research have undermined the three great hopes for a purely naturalistic origin of life — scenarios starting with some sort of metabolism, scenarios starting with some kind of membrane, and scenarios starting with RNA. All three are necessary for cellular life; none seems able to have come ahead of the others. So now some recent work suggests it all happened at once in a sort of “chemical big bang.”

It’s the return of an old idea long ago dismissed as too improbable. Is this “hopeful monster” plausible after all? As Anderson and Stadler show, there are numerous hidden assumptions and imaginary entities lurking in the proposal, which when surfaced, call its soundness into question.