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Early molecules would have decayed (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Early molecules would have decayed (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CB030:

Complex organic molecules, such as the bases in RNA, are very fragile and unstable, except at low temperatures. They would not hold together long enough to serve as the first self-replicating proto-life.


CreationWiki response:

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. The source Bergman cites for the fragility of RNA bases (Levy and Miller 1998) disputes abiogenesis only at high temperatures, around 100 degrees Celsius.

What Talk Origins does not tell you is that Bergman cites Levy and Miller mainly in rebuttal of the “warm little pond” origin-of-life theory which involve temperatures of 80-110 degrees Celsius.

They also conclude, "At 0 degrees C, A, U, G, and T appear to be sufficiently stable (t1/2 greater than or equal to 106 yr) to be involved in a low-temperature origin of life." They also say that cytosine is unstable enough at 0 degrees Celsius (half life of 17,000 years) that it may not have been involved in the first genetic material.

Bergman also recognizes this part of Levy and Miller pointing out that the short half life of cytosine (C) at 0 degrees Celsius precludes the formation of DNA and RNA at reasonable temperatures.

Furthermore Talk Origins claims that C, A, U, G, and T have a half life of 106 years and at 0 degrees but cytosine’s half life is 17,000 years, ignoring the fact that the C in C, A, U, G, and T is cytosine.

The fact that Levy and Miller concluded that cytosine “may not have been involved in the first genetic material” is clearly a result of a bias in favor of abiogenesis, when the conclusion based on real DNA and RNA is that the absence of cytosine would prevent their formation.

The discovery of a ribozyme without C-G bases shows that genetic material without cytosine is plausible (Reader and Joyce 2002).

This just presents more problems. Such an RNA system would be a binary data storage system, while the RNA and DNA actually used in living cells make up a quaternary data storage system. To make the switch would not only require translating all the information stored in the binary system to the new quaternary, but the cellular machinery would have to switch over at exactly the same time or else the cell would die. Not only that but both the RNA and the cellular machinery would have to switch over to using same quaternary code. So this is no help to abiogenesis, it just shows how desperate Evolutionists are that they will grasp at such flimsy straws.

2. If synthesis of nucleo-bases is catalyzed and hydrolysis is not, we expect the nucleo-bases to accumulate. Formamide, which can form under prebiotic conditions, has been found to catalyze the formation of nucleo-bases (et al. 2001; Saladino et al. 2003).

What Talk Origins does not tell you is that the fastest decaying nucleo-base (cytosine) has low yield with a formamide catalyst, that is 0.6 to 0.9 mg cytosine per g formamide. Furthermore adenine is the only other nucleo-base produced. Additionally, the experiments were conducted at 160 degrees Celsius, a temperature at which the other three nucleo-bases (guanine, uracil and thymine) are known to decay too rapidly for abiogenesis.

RNA degrades quickly today because there are enzymes (RNAses) to chew it up. Those enzymes would not have evolved if RNA degraded quickly on its own.

Such enzymes simply allow a cell to dispose of unneeded RNA quickly enough for its own needs. That is a far shorter period of time than the shortest estimated time needed for abiogenesis. This makes sense from both a design and Evolutionary perspective.

This also ignores other chemical causes of RNA degradation.

If complex organic molecules were so fragile, life itself would be impossible. In fact, life exists even in boiling temperatures or at very high acidity.

Not true! Living cells are capable of protecting and even repairing their complex organic molecules.

3. Life need not have begun with highly stable molecules. Eigen and Schuster developed a notion of chemical hypercycles, in which many chemical components coexist; each component of the reaction leads to other components, which eventually reform the original one. Chemicals involved in such a cycle need not persist longer than the duration of the hypercycle itself.

Hypercycles is a purely and rather simple mathematical model that seems to be lacking any detail. It seems to be entirely speculative, with no apparent real world basis.

4. Organic molecules may have grown in association with stabilizing templates, such as clay templates,

Talk Origins’ cited source says that the clay templates increased the diversity of available protonucleic acids. This would increase the number of different types of protonucleic acids, thereby increasing the number of failures, and therefore increasing the time needed for a successful trial. This would eliminate any stabilizing affect.

or parts of the hypercycles mentioned above.