[Left: Classical theory for chemical evolution on Earth, NASA]
of a series commenting on a paper, "The Crisis in the Problem of the Origin of Life" (1978) by Rutgers University biology professor and origin of life theorist John Keosian (1906-).
Keosian began his critique of Chemical Evolution, first fully set forth by the Russian Alexander Oparin (1894-1980) in his 1938 book, "The Origin of Life" (although the actual term "Chemical Evolution" apparently first appeared in a paper by the late Berkeley Nobel Laureate Melvin Calvin, "Chemical evolution and the origins of life," American Scientist, Vol. 44, No. 3, pp.248-263).
Chemical Evolution was a "materialistic hypothesis consisting of three (not "two") main propositions": 1) the "abiotic synthesis of organic compounds from a primordial atmosphere of gases"; 2) the organic compounds self-assembly into lipid globules called "coacervates"; and 3) and "their subsequent evolution to the level of living things":
"Chemical Evolution OPARIN in 1924 and more fully in 1938, proposed a testable, materialistic hypothesis consisting of two main propositions. The first proposition detailed the manner of abiotic synthesis of organic compounds from a primordial atmosphere of gases, and the second discussed at length the origin of microsystems (coacervates) and their subsequent evolution to the level of living things. HARRISON [sic. Garrison] and co-workers (1951) in 1951 in Calvin's laboratory, and MILLER in 1953 and 1955 in Urey's laboratory, experimentally established the validity of Oparin's first proposition. The MILLER experiments, which more closely followed (1959) Oparin's thinking, were more successful and are credited with having attracted world-wide attention once more to the problem. Thus began the accumulation of data on abiotic organic chemical synthesis which has been characterized by the term `Chemical Evolution' (CALVIN, 1956)." (Keosian, "Origin of Life: Proceedings of the Second ISSOL Meeting, the Fifth ICOL Meeting," Center for Academic Publications: Japan, 1978, pp.569-574, p.570. Emphasis original).
Keosian pointed out that "Chemical evolution is ... misnamed" because the "organic compounds" did not "evolve... from one another" but "were the result ... of separate lines of synthesis" and so it was the result of "chemical accumulation" (my emphasis). Moreover, "the term `chemical evolution' is misleading because" of its "assumption that, in time, complex ... biochemicals arose in the primordial atmosphere and waters culminating in the ... sudden origin of life therefrom" (my emphasis):
"Chemical evolution is a misnamed and misleading offspring of the central problem. The appearance of organic compounds in probiotic times was not an evolutionary process in the sense that chemical species evolved from one another. Rather, the organic compounds that did form were the result mainly of separate lines of synthesis. Organic chemical accumulation, not evolution, was the result. Further, the term `chemical evolution' is misleading because it channels thinking into the assumption that, in time, complex compounds and biochemicals arose in the primordial atmosphere and waters culminating in the more or less sudden origin of life therefrom." (Keosian, 1978, p.571. Emphasis original).
Chemical evolution therefore relies "on the preexistence of a great abundance and variety of organic and biochemical compounds" accumulating in "primordial waters" that "resembled a `soup' containing all of the biochemicals necessary for the spontaneous origin and subsequent nourishment of the first living thing(s)" (my emphasis):
"As a result, most present theories on the origin of life rely on the preexistence of a great abundance and variety of organic and biochemical compounds. MILLER'S 1955 report listed a number of relatively simple organic compounds, some of which are identical to present-day cell components, some related to or derivatives of these, and some unrelated to contemporary biochemistry. In the next few years, reports by other investigators confirmed these findings in general. Later work in this field seems to be based on the tacit assumption that the primordial waters resembled a `soup' containing all of the biochemicals necessary for the spontaneous origin and subsequent nourishment of the first living thing(s). The quest is still on to confirm this view. The list of biochemicals claimed to have been synthesized under probiotic conditions is impressively long." (Keosian, 1978, p.571. Emphasis original)
But although "The list of biochemicals claimed to have been synthesized under probiotic conditions is impressively long" (ignoring that: 1) not all have been synthesised; 2. most of them were in minuscule quantities; and 3. they were impure; 4. half the right amino acids and sugars were the wrong handedness; and 5) there were also a lot of other chemicals synthesised that would interfere with any reactions between the prebiotic biochemicals), "No single experiment yields the whole gamut of listed compounds" which "in probiotic times" therefore "would have required different probiotic conditions scattered over wide areas and over different periods"(my emphasis):
"No single experiment yields the whole gamut of listed compounds, pathways, and mechanisms. In different cases, different techniques have had to be used. Experimental design has varied from familiar laboratory glassware to intricate apparatus of special design, necessitating the manipulation of reactions that require specific durations and sequences not conceivable in a probiotic environment. Many experiments, targeted to the synthesis of a specific compound, produce nothing else. Such selectivity in the probiotic environment was unlikely. Experiments have been performed under a wide variety of conditions, some admittedly not probiotic, and some that are mutually exclusive. Translated into abiotic synthesis in probiotic times, it must therefore be assumed that the spectrum of compounds from laboratory syntheses could not have existed in any one probiotic locality, since abiotic synthesis of different compounds would have required different probiotic conditions scattered over wide areas and over different periods." (Keosian, 1978, p.571).
I remember when this first occurred to me that each different experiment producing a different building block of life, meant that they would not occur together in either time or space. I then realised that this alone kills off the entire chemical evolution paradigm. And yet this was the preferred materialistic paradigm, because then only time and chance would spontaneously produce life, with no implausibly special conditions (which could then require an Intelligent Designer) required.
Indeed, as Keosian pointed out, "none of the experiments can be so characterized" as having "been performed under simulated probiotic conditions" because of "reactions taking place within a confined space" in a laboratory which otherwise would not "remain to enter other reactions" (my emphasis):
"Most of the experiments on chemical evolution are claimed to have been performed under simulated probiotic conditions. Strictly speaking, none of the experiments can be so characterized. For obvious reasons, experiments are performed within the confined space of laboratory apparatus. But the results of reactions taking place within a confined space may differ from the results of the same reactions occurring in a relatively limitless space. Volatile products cannot escape but remain to enter other reactions. A product of low solubility can accumulate beyond its solubility product and form a precipitate which may differentially influence the course of other reactions. In vast oceans, this may never take place. Judging from the great amount of colloid formed in proportion to other products, in Miller-type and similar apparatus, the primordial oceans must have been thick with colloid. More likely, a disproportionate amount of colloid is formed experimentally due to the confined space. In such experiments the influence of colloid on the nature and direction of other reactions needs investigation. Further, potential reactants among the first generation of products can reach a reaction level early, whereas, in a vast space this may never occur. These are some of the factors to be considered when reactions are confined to experiments performed under alleged probiotic conditions. PATTEE (1965) suggested a more valid setting measured in hundreds of cubic meters and containing sand, simulated tides, and alternating day and night." (Keosian, 1978, pp.571-572. Emphasis original).
Therefore, Keosian blows the insider's whistle that "The claims of chemical evolution are unreal" because "biochemical compounds ... metabolism and storage ... codes, transcription and translation apparatus, and more" all "appeared ... with the functions they would have in a living thing before there were living things" (my emphasis). "Chemical evolution" involves "contrived or ingenious laboratory syntheses which have no counterpart in abiotic organic chemical synthesis in an acceptable range of probiotic conditions" (my emphasis):
"The claims of chemical evolution are unreal. We are asked to believe that biochemical compounds, biochemical reactions and mechanisms, energy metabolism and storage, specific polymerizations, codes, transcription and translation apparatus, and more, appeared in probiotic waters with the functions they would have in a living thing before there were living things. Chemical evolution has become an end in itself. In many cases it represents contrived or ingenious laboratory syntheses which have no counterpart in abiotic organic chemical synthesis in an acceptable range of probiotic conditions. There is no point in further pursuing this line of investigation to add more biochemicals to the list. Let it be assumed that the probiotic waters contained all of the material that `chemical evolution' is supposed to have brought about. Then how, and in what form, could life have arisen from such a scattered mélange? That question must be answered, if there is an answer, to give meaning and direction to the pursuit of chemical evolution, otherwise that pursuit will continue to be an endless series of laboratory experiments unrelated to the central problem. There has been a good deal of uncritical acceptance of experiments, results, and conclusion which we are all too ready to acknowledge because they support preconceived convictions." (Keosian, 1978, p.572).
Keosian above exposed the utter bankruptcy of the entire chemical evolution paradigm by a simple thought experiment. Even assuming that "the probiotic waters contained all of the material that `chemical evolution' is supposed to have brought about" (which it does not, even by the application of highly intelligent design in "contrived or ingenious laboratory syntheses"), "Then how, and in what form, could life have arisen from such a scattered mélange?" (my emphasis).
This point was made by the late Princeton Biology Professor Harold F. Blum that that is like saying that bringing together all the simple components of "an automobile" would cause it to "spring spontaneously from" them:
"The living machine is clearly not just a mixture of chemicals, yet there seems to be widespread belief that, once the proper molecular compounds were there, life would appear, whether on the earth, on Mars, or elsewhere in the universe. This no more follows, I may point out at the risk of being thought overly facetious, than that an automobile, 1962 model, might spring spontaneously from a mixture of all the chemical species from which it is composed." (Blum, H.F., "Time's Arrow and Evolution," , Harper Torchbooks: New York NY, 1962, p.178G).
Moreover, it is far, far worse a problem than that, since, as Blum observed, the first living organism was not a comparatively simple machine like an automobile, but "a kind that is unique in our experience ... one that can replicate itself " and "this poses problems that are indeed difficult to formulate in our imagination":!
"When we examine a modern living machine [it] is of a kind that is unique in our experience, for it is one that can replicate itself ... we are trying to understand how a self-replicating machine came into existence; this poses problems that are indeed difficult to formulate in our imagination, and should not be passed over too lightly." (Blum, 1962, pp.178G-178H)
It is no wonder that Keosian's name seems to have been expunged from the record origin of life studies. A field that "has become an end in itself" does not take kindly to having the whistle blown on it by one of its own! To be continued in part #5.
Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biology).
Exodus 7:1-6. 1Then the LORD said to Moses, "See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. 2You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. 3But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, 4he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. 5And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it." 6Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD commanded them.