Prebiotic chemistry/origin of life

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Prebiotic chemistry/origin of life

#1  Postby Black_Rose » Jun 14, 2011 6:52 am

Below is originally posted one year ago on [url=""]Catholic Answers Message Board[/url]; the website has some links on the origin of life that too lazy to post here. I also like the Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives Series on the origin of life -- best of all, it's free!!!

NB: I was considering myself to become a Catholic neophyte at that time, but I've become disillusioned with religious faith. I am more interested in earnestly discussing the technical aspects of various origin of life scenarios, not to proselytize the existence of an allegedly benevolent, personal God.

Feel free to move it to the intelligent design section, mods! I posted it since I spend about a week rereading some articles and I found a related topic on this forum, although it was hijacked by creationists. A general rule of thumb to discourage ill-informed creationists from posting: don't post if you do not know or unwilling to learn what a "nucleophile" is.


The origin of life personally interests me and I am pursuing it as an intellectual leisure interest. This attempts to understand a fundamental existential question: the chemical origin of the existence of all life.

My interest is independent of any theological/religious attachment and is entirely secular since I do not affirmatively believe in divine intervention in life's origins although I am receptive to the possibility. Furthermore, even if God did create life, promulgating a supernatural origin of life would not be an effective argument supporting the existence of a benevolent personal god for the reasons I argued [url=""]here[/url].

I highly recommend individuals who have the combination of the requisite general intelligence, knowledge of chemistry and biology, and free time required to understand the literature on this topic to pursue it. Of course, one should not expect to find concrete, confident answers to this intriguing question as origin of life has been plagued, in general, with uncertainty, ambiguity, and speculation. Inquiry into the origin of life is scientific since the topic can be explored empirically by analyzing and interpreting data from experiments that attempt to recapitulate the environment and chemistry of the early Earth. It is important to know what is kinetically and thermodynamically possible on the early Earth in order to comprehend the physical processes that ultimately lead to the formation of macromolecules capable of undergoing Darwinian evolution.

One hypothesis, the RNA world generally acceptable but still controversial, postulates early biochemistry being dominated by ribonucleic acid where it assumes the roles of catalyst (before the advent of translation) and genetic polymer. Synthesizing the RNA monomers, nucleotides with the ribose and sugar backbone with a purine and pyrimidine nucleobase, has been a notoriously difficult endeavor for prebiotic chemists. The recent work of chemist John Sutherland, however, has provided some optimism that the pathways for producing nucleotides would be discovered. Recently, Sutherland and his colleagues published a purported prebiotic synthesis of pyrimidine ribonucleotides in Nature, which was considered extraordinarily difficult due to the challenge of linking pyrimidine bases to ribose via an N-glycosidic bond to the hemiacetal/anomeric carbon of furanose ribose. No plausible route to the purine nucleotides has been discovered yet. Robert Shapiro, a well-known critic of the RNA world hypothesis, doubts the relevance of Sutherland's work on the origin of life, citing how one of the reagents, cyanoacetylene, would not be abundant on the early Earth.

What are your perspectives and views on the origin of life?

I am in particular interested in discussing John Sutherland's research on the prebiotic formation of ribonucleotides which is relevant to the origin of the RNA world.
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