Articles appearing regularly in scientific journals claim to have generated self-replicating peptides or RNA strands, but they fail to provide a natural source for their compounds or an explanation for what fuels them... this top-down approach... [is like] a caveman coming across a modern car and trying to figure out how to make it. “It would be like taking the engine out of the car, starting it up, and trying to see how that engine works” (Simpson, 1999, p.26).
Some bacteria, specifically phototrophs and lithotrophs, contain all the metabolic machinery necessary to construct most of their growth factors (amino acids, vitamins, purines and pyrimidines) from raw materials (usually O2, light, a carbon source, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur and a dozen or so trace minerals). They can live in an environment with few needs but first must possess the complex functional metabolic machinery necessary to produce the compounds needed to live from a few types of raw materials. This requires more metabolic machinery in order to manufacture the many needed organic compounds necessary for life. Evolution was much more plausible when life was believed to be a relatively simple material similar to, in Haeckel’s words, the “transparent viscous albumin that surrounds the yolk in the hen’s egg” which evolved into all life today. Haeckel taught the process occurred as follows:
By far the greater part of the plasm that comes under investigation as active living matter in organisms is metaplasm, or secondary plasm, the originally homogeneous substance of which has acquired definite structures by phyletic differentiations in the course of millions of years (1905, p.126).
Abiogenesis is only one area of research which illustrates that the naturalistic origin of life hypothesis has become less and less probable as molecular biology has progressed, and is now at the point that its plausibility appears outside the realm of probability. Numerous origin-of-life researchers, have lamented the fact that molecular biology during the past half-a-century has not been very kind to any naturalistic origin-of-life theory. Perhaps this explains why researchers now are speculating that other events such as panspermia or an undiscovered “life law” are more probable than all existing terrestrial abiogenesis theories, and can better deal with the many seemingly insurmountable problems of abiogenesis.
Acknowledgements: I want to thank Bert Thompson, Ph.D., Wayne Frair, Ph.D., and John Woodmorappe, M.A., for their comments on an earlier draft of this article.
Jerry Bergman has seven degrees, including in biology, psychology, and evaluation and research, from Wayne State University, in Detroit, Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and Medical College of Ohio in Toledo. He has taught at Bowling Green State University, the University of Toledo, Medical College of Ohio and at other colleges and universities. He currently teaches biology, microbiology, biochemistry, and human anatomy at the college level and is a research associate involved in research in the area of cancer genetics. He has published widely in both popular and scientific journals.