The Primitive Environment

The Evolution Handbook pages 208-241

Was there water and oxygen present during the formation of the chemical compounds?

"But if (and oh! what a big if!) we could conceive in some warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity etc., present, that a protein compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes."—*Charles Darwin, in *Francis Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887 ed.), p. 202 (the parenthetical comment is his also).

"Since Darwin’s seminal work was called The Origin of Species one might reasonably suppose that his theory had explained this central aspect of evolution or at least made a shot at it, even if it had not resolved the larger issues we have discussed up to now. Curiously enough, this is not the case. As Professor Ernst Mayr of Harvard, the doyen [senior member] of species studies, once remarked, the ‘book called The Origin of Species is not really on that subject,’ while his colleague Professor Simpson admits: ‘Darwin failed to solve the problem indicated by the title of his work.’

"You may be surprised to hear that the origin of species remains just as much a mystery today, despite the efforts of thousands of biologists. The topic has been the main focus of attention and is beset by endless controversies."—*Gordon R. Taylor, Great Evolution Mystery (1983), p. 140.

"Mathematics and dynamics fail us when we contemplate the earth, fitted for life but lifeless, and try to imagine the commencement of life upon it. This certainly did not take place by any action of chemistry, or electricity, or crystalline grouping of molecules under the influence of force, or by any possible kind of fortuitous concourse of atmosphere. We must pause, face to face with the mystery and miracle of creation of living things."—Lord Kelvin, quoted in Battle for Creation, p. 232.

"We are left with very little time between the development of suitable conditions for life on the Earth’s surface and the origin of life . . Life apparently arose about as soon as the Earth became cool enough to support it."—*Steven Jay Gould, "An Early Start," in Natural History, February 1978.

There are 2000 complex enzymes required for a living organism,—yet not a single one of these could have been formed on earth by shuffling processes in even 20 billion years *Fred Hoyle wrote in the November 19, 1981 issue of New Scientist

"Biogenesis is a term in biology that is derived from two Greek words meaning life and birth. According to the theory of biogenesis, living things descend only from living things. They cannot develop spontaneously from nonliving materials. Until comparatively recent times,  scientists believed that certain tiny forms of life, such as bacteria, arose spontaneously from non-living substances."—*"Biogenesis," World Book Encyclopedia, p. B-242 (1972 edition).

"Pasteur’s demonstration apparently laid the theory of spontaneous generation to rest permanently. All this left a germ of embarrassment for scientists. How had life originated after all, if not through divine creation or through spontaneous generation? . .

"They [today’s scientists] are back to spontaneous generation, but with a difference. The pre-Pasteur view of spontaneous generation was of something taking place now and quickly. The modern view is that it took place long ago and very slowly."—*Isaac Asimov, Asimov’s New Guide to Science (1984), pp. 638-639.

"His aphorism ‘omnis cellula e cellula’ [every cell arises from a preexisting cell] ranks with Pasteur’s ‘omne vivum e vivo’ [every living thing arises from a preexisting living thing] as among the most revolutionary generalizations of biology."—*Rudolf Virchow *Encyclopedia Britannica, 1973 Edition, Vol. 23, p. 35.

" ‘Spontaneous generation is a chimera [illusion].’—Louis Pasteur, French chemist and microbiologist."—*Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), p. 193.

"what really matters, to start life, is the faculty of reproduction" (*G. Montalenti, Studies in the Philosophy of Biology, 1974, p. 13).

"It is therefore hard to see how polymerization [linking together smaller molecules to form bigger ones] could have proceeded in the aqueous environment of the primitive ocean, since the presence of water favors depolymerization [breaking up big molecules into simpler ones] rather than polymerization."—*Richard E. Dickerson, "Chemical Evolution and the Origin of Life," Scientific American, September 1978, p. 75.

"Spontaneous dissolution is much more probable, and hence proceeds much more rapidly than spontaneous synthesis . . [This fact is] the most stubborn problem that confronts us."—*George Wald, "The Origin of Life," Scientific American, August 1954, pp. 49-50.

Such reactions proceed from reactant substances to compounds produced in the manner normally expected. But these reactions tend to reverse themselves more easily and quickly (*"Review of R. Shubert-Soldern’s Book, Mechanism and Vitalism," in Discovery, May 1962, p. 44).

"Dehydration [condensation] reactions are thermodynamically forbidden in the presence of excess water."—*J. Keosian, The Origin of Life, p. 74.

"Beneath the surface of the water there would not be enough energy to activate further chemical reactions; water in any case inhibits the growth of more complex molecules."—*Francis Hitching, The Neck of the Giraffe (1982), p. 65.

"[Arrhenius] contends that if actual lightning struck rather than the fairly mild [electrical] discharges used by [Stanley] Miller [in making the first synthetic amino acids], any organics that happened to be present could not have survived."—*Report in Science News, December 1, 1973, p. 340.

"First of all, we saw that the present atmosphere, with its ozone screen and highly oxidizing conditions, is not a suitable guide for gas-phase simulation experiments."—*A.L Oparm, Life: Its Nature, Origin and Development, p. 118.

"The synthesis of compounds of biological interest takes place only under reducing conditions [that is, with no free oxygen in the atmosphere]."—*Stanley L. Miller and *Leslie E. Orgel (1974), p. 33.

"With oxygen in the air, the first amino acid would never have gotten started; without oxygen, it would have been wiped out by cosmic rays."—*Francis Hitching, The Neck of the Giraffe (1982), p. 65.

"The synthesis of compounds of biological interest takes place only under reducing conditions [that is, with no free oxygen in the atmosphere]."—*Stanley L. Miller and *Leslie E. Orgel (1974), p. 33.

"With oxygen in the air, the first amino acid would never have gotten started; without oxygen, it would have been wiped out by cosmic rays."—*Francis Hitching, The Neck of the Giraffe (1982), p. 65.

“Certain physical limits seem inescapable. In approximately 50,000 years, water alone strips bases from the DNA...Oxygen also contributes to the destruction of DNA. Even in ideal conditions – in the absence of water and oxygen and at low temperature – background radiation must finally erase all genetic information.”
*Scientific American, 11/93, p. 92

*Bernal. There would not have been enough phosphorus available for the many chemical combinations needed. Phosphorus is needed for DNA and other high-energy compounds. But phosphorus concentrations are too low outside of living things.

*Carl Sagan found that adenosine triphosphate (high-energy phosphate) could not possibly form under the prebiological conditions.

"If there ever was a primitive soup, then we would expect to find at least somewhere on this planet either massive sediments containing enormous amounts of the various nitrogenous organic compounds, amino acids, purines, pyrimidines, and the like, or alternatively in much metamorphosed sediments we should find vast amounts of nitrogenous cokes . . In fact, no such materials have been found anywhere on earth. There is, in other words, pretty good negative evidence that there never was a primitive organic soup on this planet that could have lasted but a brief moment."—*J. Brooks and *G. Shaw, Origins and Development of Living Systems (1973), p. 360.

 Could  glycine, the simplest amino acid (one out of the 20), form by chance? The concentration needed for glucose, for example, would be 10134. That is an extremely high improbability! (*D. Hull, "Thermodynamics and Kinetics of Spontaneous Generation," in Nature, 186, 1960, pp. 693-694).

Barlian University in Israel, said the formation of just one protein was totally impossible, mathematically. It would be 1 chance in 10157. They concluded that no proteins were ever produced by chance on this earth.

"In the vast majority of processes in which we are interested, the point of equilibrium lies far over toward the side of dissolution. That is to say, spontaneous dissolution [automatic self-destruct process] is much more probable, and hence proceeds much more rapidly, than spontaneous synthesis [accidental put-together process] . . The situation we must face is that of patient Penelope waiting for Odysseus, yet much worse: each night she undid the weaving of the proceeding day, but here a night could readily undo the work of a year or a century."— *G. Wald, "The Origin of Life," in The Physics and Chemistry of Life (1955), p. 17.

"No satisfactory synthesis of fatty acids is at present available. The action of electric discharges on methane and water gives fairly good yields of acetic and propionic acids, but only small yields of the higher fatty acids. Furthermore, the small quantities of higher fatty acids that are found are highly branched."—*S. Miller, and *L. Orgel, The Origins of Life on the Earth (1974), p. 98.

"At that time, the ‘free’ production of organic matter by ultraviolet light was effectively turned off and a premium was placed on alternative energy utilization mechanisms. This was a major evolutionary crisis. I find it remarkable that any organism survived it."—*Carl Sagan, The Origins, p. 253.

*Urey himself admitted, a non-oxygen atmosphere is just an assumption—a flight of imagination—in an effort to accommodate the theory (*Harold Urey, "On the Early Chemical History of the Earth and the Origin of Life," in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 38, 1952, p. 352).

Miller later said the theory that the earth once had no oxygen is just "speculation" (*Stanley L. Miller, "Production of Some Organic Compounds under Possible Primitive Conditions," in Journal of the American Chemical Society, 7, 1955, p. 2351).

 Cows to Whales -
 Dino to Birds -
 Fossils -    Inaccurate Dating Methods -  
 Mathematics, Probabilities and DNA - 
 Second Law of Thermodynamics -  
 Soup -  
 Spontaneous Generation -  
 Whales -


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