The article also summarizes how far along are the solutions to these various steps. In most cases evolutionists working in the laboratory have been able to devise experiments that produce many of the key players. Sugars, phosphates, nucleobases, membranes, nucleotides, RNA sequences, and so forth can all be synthesized given the right experimental conditions. On the other hand, many of these steps have their limitations. For example, only two of the four RNA nucleotides have been synthesized.
While Szostak and Ricardo discuss several of these limitations, many problems are not discussed. For example, how are the needed concentrations of the key chemicals maintained? How finely-tuned are the experiments and could such a disparate collection of conditions work together? How did biology's chiralty arise?
Beyond such basic issues, even if all their problems disappeared Szostak and Ricardo would only be at the point of having some RNA macromolecules inside a water-filled vesicle. In the laboratory such a system would do nothing. Why should we believe things would be different in a warm little pond? Indeed, from here the problems are enormous and here the evolutionist's credulity moves into high gear.
In fact, a high level of credulity seems to be the theme of abiogenesis / origin of life research. True, with finely-tuned experiments ribose can be stabilized, phosphate can be obtained, nucleotides can be synthesized, RNA can be coaxed to polymerize, duplication can be arranged, vesicles can be formed and divided, and so forth. But this is light years from even the simplest of living cells.
The scientific conclusion is that, given our current level of knowledge, abiogenesis is not likely. Perhaps future findings will change this, but we cannot change this conclusion with bed-time stories of warm little ponds teeming with activity that just happen to lead to the most complex nanomachines we know of.
While Szostak and Ricardo may sound scientific with their summary of the abiogenesis research, the article is firmly planted in the non scientific evolution genre, where evolution is dogmatically mandated to be a fact. Consequently, the bar is lowered dramatically as the silliest of stories pass as legitimate science. As Szostak and Ricardo conclude:
There could be pools of cold water, perhaps partly covered by ice but kept liquid by hot rocks. The temperature differences would cause convection currents, so that every now and then protocells in the water would be exposed to a burst of heat as they passed near the hot rocks, but they would almost instantly cool down again as the heated water mixed with the bulk of the cold water. The sudden heating would cause a double helix to separate into single strands. Once back in the cool region, new double strands--copies of the original one--could form as the single strands acted as templates.
As soon as the environment nudged protocells to start reproducing, evolution kicked in. In particular, at some point some of the RNA sequences mutated, becoming ribozymes that sped up the copying of RNA--thus adding a competitive advantage. Eventually ribozymes began to copy RNA without external help.
It is relatively easy to imagine how RNA-based protocells may have then evolved. Metabolism could have arisen gradually, as new ribozymes enabled cells to synthesize nutrients internally from simpler and more abundant starting materials. Next, the organism might have added protein making to their bag of chemical tricks.
With their astonishing versatility, proteins would have then taken over RNA's role in assisting genetic copying and metabolism. Later, the organisms would have "learned" to make DNA, gaining the advantage of possessing a more robust carrier of genetic information. At that point, the RNA world became the DNA world, and life as we know it began.
What a pathetic and embarrassing example of evolution's influence on science. While great material for a story book, it is astonishing that a scientist would pen such a passage. Religion drives science, and it matters.