Unraveling the mystery of the origin of life

For about 40 years now, scientists have been working to recreate the primordial soup.  What I mean by this is we’ve been trying to determine and recreate the original conditions that led to life on this planet.  Powner et al. 2009 have managed to do just that.  

We believe that life originated as RNA, a chain of nucleotides consisting of a nitrogenous base, a ribose sugar and a phosphate.  These nucleotides come in two types, pyrimidines (cytosine and uracil in RNA or thymine in DNA) and purines (adenine and guanine).  Using compounds that were likely present in the early atmosphere and under similar conditions (for example, under high UV radiation), researchers have observed the creation of RNA’s pyrimidines.  This is a major step toward understanding the origin of life on earth. 






As an aside, fairly specific conditions that were present millions of years today and are not present today were required for this experiment to work.  For example, the level of UV radiation required to create the pyrimidines is probably much greater than the UV radiation on the planet today, suggesting that we may not be seeing spontaneous new life emerging anytime soon.  A popular creationist argument is that scientists claim life arose spontaneously and therefore we should be seeing spontaneous life emerging all over the place.  The “peanut butter argument” claims that the fact that life doesn’t spontaneously arise in the millions of jar of peanut butter that have been sold throughout the years disproves evolution.

First of all, as I said a moment ago, the conditions necessary for creating life simply aren’t present in a peanut butter jar. Second, we tend to consider the origin of life as a thing somewhat separate from evolution.  As soon as RNA molecules arose, there was certainly evolution occurring as the molecules competed for resources with varying success in the primordial soup. But how these molecules arose in the first place is a matter of chemistry, not evolution.  Anyway, for the sake of a good laugh, here is the argument:



17 thoughts on “Unraveling the mystery of the origin of life

  1. Wrong, the correct question is smooth or chunky.

    Another argument I’ve heard against new formation of life is that, even if it were able to form under present day conditions, it would immediately be gobbled up by life as we know it.

  2. First it was the banana argument, now it’s the peanut butter argument. Will none of my sandwiches be safe? What next? The wheat bread argument? Will I still be able to eat toast? Ahhhhhhhhhh!

  3. I dunno, I mean, the actors probably did it for free, camera was probably charitably loaned, and Peanut Butter is hardly expensive! Two jars of it are hardly going to ruin the economy

  4. I still can’t figure out if it’s better or worse for scientists to try and refute these streams of Moronarrhea… it’s impossible to truly refute their arguments, because the details central to their arguments are false or, at best, largely deprived of facts.

    (God, I love the Banana argument. I thank God more for that than actual bananas.)

    What I’m wondering though, is what the status is on thermal vent life deep under the sea. You have an absence of light, massive pressure and yet lots of critters great and small… is there any indication that some convergent evolution took place? Would we have any means of knowing?

  5. I can’t access the whole paper you linked, but I read this just today and I think it might interest you: http://www.innido.com/ (it proposes pathways for the formation of all of the general macromolecule classes and gives a hypothesis for the introduction of chirality into biological systems)

  6. I was eating a peanut butter jelly sandwich when I saw this! XD
    Oh, and how does he KNOW there’s no newly formed microorganisms in his peanut butter? I didn’t see him use a microscope!

  7. Hey, nice website you got here, but may I ask what you mean by this comment?
    ‘As soon as RNA molecules arose, there was certainly evolution occurring as the molecules competed for resources with varying success in the primordial soup.’

    • Those RNA molecules were “eager” to grow (attach more molecules) and to reproduce (autokatalytic).
      Those who could do best because of ideal chemical structure or such would exist longer.
      Others would disintegrate into the consisting elements and provide more chemical ressources for others.
      So some molecules had a good condition for surviving and others did.
      As a matter of fact, only the first did indeed survive.
      This is evolution 🙂

  8. Ok, thanks for replying.

    But can you please explain to me what you mean by the molecules are ‘eager’ to grow and reproduce. I have studied chemistry at a higher school level so I would really appreciate a stronger explanation please.


  9. Sorry, I just looked up autokatalytic. and also sorry for putting up with my weird questions.

    It is something very amazing, especially as a muslim, i find this a beautiful thing.

    Thank you Jan :D.

  10. I wounder, if life spontaneously arise i a jar, would they recognize it as life or just some random molecules?

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