The new study reports on a way to spawn two ribonucleic acid (RNA) nucleotides. The formation of such nucleotides, without too much experimenter interference, is quite difficult. And yet RNA is thought likely to be needed in the hoped for abiogenesis process. The bad news for evolutionists is that this finding does nothing to mitigate enormous problems with the whole idea of abiogenesis. Yes, it does improve the picture slightly, but big obstacles remain.
The good news for the rest of us is that science writer Nicholas Wade does a good job on providing a balanced view of this new study. To be sure, his article in today’s New York Times gives, on the whole, a much too rosy interpretation of the finding. The worst part is the headline (“Chemist Shows How RNA Can Be the Starting Point for Life”) which greatly exaggerates the findings. But headlines are headlines. Otherwise, much of the article is a vast improvement over the sort of reporting we are accustomed to seeing.
For instance, Wade gives mention to the problem of investigator interference and fine-tuning (e.g., the starting point for the experiment includes an unstable chemical). Wade quotes one critic, who suggests it would be a fantasy to think the chemical would be naturally available in its pure form. Also, Wade explains that even the lead author has reservations about the results.
Wade also mentions the problem of chiralty. Just as our right hand is different from our left hand, so too important organic molecules come in two mirror image forms. But only one form is present in our biochemistry. The new study does nothing to explain why or how this is so. As Wade explains:
A serious puzzle about the nature of life is that most of its molecules are right-handed or left-handed, whereas in nature mixtures of both forms exist. Dr. Joyce said he had hoped an explanation for the one-handedness of biological molecules would emerge from prebiotic chemistry, but Dr. Sutherland’s reactions do not supply any such explanation. One is certainly required …
It is good to see more accuracy in the reporting of evolutionary research.