Is there no end to the madness? Some new attempt at producing an inorganic energy source by which life had a jump-start in the make-believe prebiotic soup of earth is amazingly newsworthy[i]. Jargon like “may have solved a key puzzle” and “suggests this could be the missing link between geology and biology” and “rechargeable chemical battery” are used to create a buzz over the nonsense of“…how living organisms sprung out of lifeless rock…”. This is somehow beginning to make sense to scientists?.
The experiment involved a simulated meteor impact. This was done by placing samples of an iron meteorite in test tubes of hot acid for 4 days. The tubes were then left for 30 more days at room temperature. This was supposed to simulate the hypothetical early earth; hot springs, room temperatures, acids? A bundle of phosphate compounds with the pyrophosphate group – PO33− , were formed from the reaction. The whole gamut of inorganic chemicals that were “created” by this humanly designed experiment is quite unrelated to the biological energy molecule used by the cell. The cell uses a web of biological enzyme networks to produce chemical energy from either sugars, sunlight or some inorganic compounds that are modified by the cell’s physiology.
ATP or adenosine triphosphate is the chemical product of the breakdown of sugars by a cascade of respiratory enzymes that are coded for by DNA and are found in a precise localized arrangement in membrane-bound structures in any and all living cells. Forget for a moment the enzymes needed to strip glucose into the hydrogen radicals (there are about 16 not counting the glucose transport system) used to energize the ATP Synthase complex. Consider only the ATP synthase complex. It is composed of two subunits. One subunit is called the FO subunit and has properties that embed the complex into a specified region of the internal membranes of cells. It is composed of 3 major subunits, i.e., three different proteins and an additional 6 other subunits that collectively create a pore in the membrane. This pore controls the hydrogen ions that will energize the complex to regenerate ATP from free phosphate and ADP; a used form of ATP. The FO region associated with the F1 region of the complex. This F1 region lies within the inner membrane of the cell. It is composed of 5 different proteins, one of which comes in 3 forms for a total of 8 protein subunits to give the molecule its enzymatic function. The whole complex, depending on where it is located in the cell, can be run in one direction to burn ATP and make a proton (hydrogen) gradient that is used to do chemical or mechanical work. Or when run in the other direction the complex uses the proton gradient to combine free phosphate with ADP (Adenosine DI-phosphate) to make ATP (Adenosine TRI-phosphate). Please see the video associated with this article to get an inkling of what the cell can do just to regenerate ATP. But do not forget that the cell must also build the Adenosine, strip glucose to make a proton gradient and coordinate the production of energy with gene expression, cell growth and other energy demanding jobs like making DNA, RNA and, well create the 17 proteins required to make the ATP synthase.
[Go to Recommended Videos to see ATP Synthase in action.]
Regardless of these known facts, the origin of life researchers says that their experiment means: “Chemical life would have been the intermediary step between an inorganic rock and the very first living biological cell. You could think of chemical life as a machine – a robot, for example, is capable of moving and reacting to surroundings, but it is not alive. With the aid of these primitive batteries, chemicals became organized, in such a way as to be capable of more complex behavior and would have eventually developed into the living biological structures we see today.”
Friends and readers, as a genetic engineer and molecular and cellular biologist I find the interest in origins research more than just absurd, it is appalling. To think that inorganic chemicals just “became organized in such ways as to be capable of more complex behavior” is as close to fairy tales as anyone can get. Once again the origin of life researchers is going to outer space for interesting rocks like meteorites. Without knowing the origin of these rocks, they falsely assume impacts, heat, cold and time are able to do anything ultimately associated with the physiological processes that make life unique. They design an experiment to create chemicals that have no credible association with the complexity of biological life in any sense of the word. Yet their creation story gets newsworthy of how this might work anyway. It is the product of tortured minds desperate to make sense of a materialistic worldview.
This is not science.
Chemical life is, well, sort of like robots. You understand, don’t you?“You could think of chemical life as a machine – a robot, for example…” Is this statement true? Nonbiological chemicals are similar to a robot, for example? Think of any robot you know and ask the right question. “Who made the robot?” The answer will not be a rocky impact on volcanic earth. Why not just say, “One day life jumped out of a rock!” It makes as much sense as stubbornly hanging on to the failed hypothesis of Darwin’s “warm little pone” story of how life evolved.
It is an embarrassment to any respectable scientist to see press given to such failed experiments. These reports are ignorant meanderings of what they want to believe is possible when it is so clearly chemical nonsense. When scientists fail to find anything useful they often try their best to overwhelm us with the exuberance of their own tenacious verbosity. We should leave such story-telling to Hans Christian Anderson and not give press to anti-knowledge. It is dangerous and damaging to the development of meaningful insights and true discovery. Instead, we read such statements as “Researchers at the University of Leeds may have solved a key puzzle about how objects from space could have kindled life on Earth.”[ii] It is just not true!
[i] David E. Bryant, David Greenfield, Richard D. Walshaw, Benjamin R.G. Johnson, Barry Herschy, Caroline Smith, Matthew A. Pasek, Richard Telford, Ian Scowen, Tasnim Munshi, Howell G.M. Edwards, Claire R. Cousins, Ian A. Crawford, Terence P. Kee. Hydrothermal modification of the Sikhote-Alin iron meteorite under low pH geothermal environments. A plausibly prebiotic route to activated phosphorus on the early Earth. 2013..Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta; 109: 90