chemical evolution

Long Story Short Origin of Life Title Screen

Origin of Life: The Basic Building Blocks

We’re often told that origin of life experiments have simulated the production of life’s building blocks under conditions that mimicked the early earth. Or at least that’s what many textbooks say. But is this really true? This video shows how origin of life researchers “cheat” by using purified chemicals that don’t reproduce actual natural conditions. Another dirty little secret is Read More ›


Science Uprising 05: Origin of Life

Can life spontaneously generate itself from chemicals? Or are detailed instructions required? This episode of Science Uprising investigates the origin of life and claims by scientific materialists like Stephen Hawking that life spontaneously arose from chemicals without any guidance or intelligent design. Be sure to visit to find more videos and explore related articles and books. Experts featured in Read More ›


In the Beginning

In this revised and expanded collection of essays on origins, mathematician Granville Sewell looks at the big bang, the fine-tuning of the laws of physics, and (especially) the evolution of life. Sewell explains why evolution is a fundamentally different and much more difficult problem than others solved by science, and why increasing numbers of scientists are now recognizing what has Read More ›

Debate on Origins of Life: Meyer, Sternberg vs. Shermer Prothero

To mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Origin of Species, advocates for intelligent design and Darwinian evolution squared off to debate the origins of life, the challenges to Darwin’s theory of evolution and the alternative theory of intelligent design. The American Freedom Alliance sponsored this debate as a part of their series of events celebrating the 150th anniversary Read More ›

Green Leaf Structure
Photo by Vivaan Trivedii on Unsplash

On the Origins of Life

I suspect it would be more prudent to recall how much has been assumed: First, that the pre-biotic atmosphere was chemically reductive; second, that nature found a way to synthesize cytosine; third, that nature also found a way to synthesize ribose; fourth, that nature found the means to assemble nucleotides into polynucleotides; fifth, that nature discovered a self-replicating molecule; and sixth, that having done all that, nature promoted a self-replicating molecule into a full system of coded chemistry. These assumptions are not only vexing but progressively so, ending in a serious impediment to thought. Read More ›
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Students Should Learn the Weak Points of Evolutionary Theory, Too

Accurate teaching of evolution (along with the continuing debate) could be improved greatly by educating students about the important difference between microevolution and macroevolution. Microevolution refers to variation within a species. There is 100 percent consensus in this “fact of evolution,” as we see it every day in instances like the breeding of dogs and the creation of hybrid corn Read More ›

The RNA World


One of the earliest published suggestions that RNA-catalyzed RNA replication preceded and gave rise to the first DNA-based living cells was made by Carl Woese in 1967, in his book The Genetic Code1. Similar suggestions were made by Crick and Orgel2, for reasons that are not difficult to grasp. Prior to the discovery of catalytic RNAs, proteins were considered by many to be the only organic molecules in living matter that could function as catalysts. DNA carries the genetic information required for the synthesis of proteins. The replication and transcription of DNA require a complex set of enzymes and other proteins. How then could the first living cells with DNA-based molecular biology have originated by spontaneous chemical processes on the prebiotic Earth? Primordial DNA synthesis would have required the presence of specific enzymes, but how could these enzymes be synthesized without the genetic information in DNA and without RNA for translating that information into the amino acid sequence of the protein enzymes? In other words, proteins are required for DNA synthesis and DNA is required for protein synthesis.

This classic “chicken-and-egg” problem made it immensely difficult to conceive of any plausible prebiotic chemical pathway to the molecular biological system. Certainly no such chemical pathway had been demonstrated experimentally by the early 1960s. So the suggestion that RNA molecules might have formed the first self-replicating chemical systems on the primitive Earth seemed a natural one, given the unique properties of these substances.

They carry genetic information and (unlike DNA) occur primarily as single-stranded molecules that can assume a great variety of tertiary structures, and might therefore be capable of catalysis, in a manner similar to that of proteins. The problem of which came first, DNA or proteins, would then be resolved.

Self-replicating RNA-based systems would have arisen first, and DNA and proteins would have been added later. But in the absence of any direct demonstration of RNA catalysis, this suggestion remained only an interesting possibility.

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