ID the Future Intelligent Design, Evolution, and Science Podcast

chemical evolution

Single helix RNA, Epigenetics concept

Minimal Replication Fidelity: Another Problem for the RNA World Hypothesis

The RNA world is proposed by some to explain how early life began before DNA. But is RNA capable of maintaining a life-friendly self-replication rate? On this ID The Future, host Andrew McDiarmid welcomes back Dr. Jonathan McLatchie to discuss another headache for the RNA world scenario. Before a trial and error process like natural selection can even get started, self-replicating molecules must have a minimal accuracy rate to copy genetic material effectively. The required fidelity rate is estimated to be 2%. Any error rate higher than that results in error catastrophe for organisms. The average error rate in RNA copying is estimated to be around 17%, vastly higher than the estimated maximum error threshold for survival. McLatchie explains the implications of this for chemical evolutionary theories like the RNA world hypothesis. He also explains how a Bayesian approach to this evidence can provide us with the likeliest explanation for the origin of biological life. "The sorts of features that we observe in life are not particularly surprising if we suppose that a mind is involved," says McLatchie. But things like minimal self-replication fidelity are wildly surprising on a naturalistic hypothesis. Read More ›
Laboratory, Chemistry, Formula.

Why Hands-On Chemistry Experiments Can’t Simulate A Prebiotic Earth

When scientists claim they have simulated early earth chemistry to create life from non-life, are they being honest? This episode of ID The Future is the fourth and final installment in a series of conversations between philosopher of science Dr. Stephen Meyer, author of Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, and Dr. James Tour, a world-leading synthetic organic chemist at Rice University. Dr. Tour has recently been engaged in a series of back-and-forth responses to attacks on his work from YouTube science communicator Dave Farina. This has given Tour a new opportunity to critique experts in the field of abiogenesis and allows an interested public to better evaluate both sides of the argument. In Part 4, Meyer and Tour evaluate the work of chemist Bruce Lipshutz; specifically his work designing surfactant molecules that enable amide/peptide bonds. By itself, Lipshutz’s work developing synthetic techniques for doing chemistry in water is interesting and has value. But for those tempted to think that his work validates chemical evolutionary theories of the origin of life, Tour has bad news. Peptides don’t form in aqueous environments like water. A realistic prebiotic environment would not be capable of producing the reactions necessary to form proteins. And Lipshutz acknowledges this. In their conversation, Tour and Meyer discuss how Lipshutz applies hands-on chemistry that bears no resemblance to the likely conditions of a prebiotic earth. If anything, the work of Lipshutz and others in origin of life research is actually simulating the need for intelligent agency to move simple chemicals in a life-friendly direction. Says Meyer, "Even the modest movement they get towards life seems to be intelligently designed at each step of the way, and even the vocabulary will sometimes reveal that: ribozyme engineer, designer surfactants. Very curious!" Watch the series on video at Dr. Meyer's YouTube channel: @DrStephenMeyer Read More ›
Cell membrane, lipid bilayer, digital illustration of a diffusion of liquid molecules through cell membrane, microscopic view of a cell membrane, biology background, medical background

The Innovative Cellular Engineering That Keeps Us Alive

When left to their own devices, the laws of nature tend toward death, not life. So what does it take for life to exist? On this ID The Future, host Eric Anderson talks with physician Howard Glicksman about some of the remarkable engineering challenges that have to be solved to produce and maintain living organisms such as ourselves. Glicksman is co-author with systems engineer Steve Laufmann of the recent book Your Designed Body, an exploration of the extraordinary system of systems that encompasses thousands of ingenious and interdependent engineering solutions to keep us alive and ticking. In the "just so" stories of the Darwinian narrative, these engineering solutions simply evolved. They emerged and got conserved. Voila! But in this chat, Anderson and Glicksman explain that it takes more than the laws of nature to keep us from dying. "Chemicals on their own don't have any desire or tendency to turn into living organisms," says Anderson. "They tend to degrade, they tend to break down, they tend to go back to their basic constituents." Glicksman and Anderson discuss examples, including how the human body handles friction, heat transfer, and the crucial task of maintaining chemical balance at the cellular level. And where does all this essential innovation come from? Glicksman points to an intelligent cause that transcends matter and energy. Read More ›
classic science experiment, with smoke and bubbling liquid, in black and white, created with generative ai

Smoke & Mirrors: Tour and Meyer Assess Origin of Life Experiments

Have scientists made life in a laboratory? Two-thirds of the public think the answer is yes. What do you think? This episode of ID The Future is the third installment in a series of four conversations between philosopher of science Dr. Stephen Meyer, author of Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, and Dr. James Tour, a world-leading synthetic organic chemist at Rice University. Dr. Tour has recently been engaged in a series of back-and-forth responses to attacks on his work from YouTube science communicator Dave Farina. This has given Tour a new opportunity to critique experts in the field of abiogenesis and allows an interested public to better evaluate both sides of the argument. In Part 3, Meyer and Tour continue their critique of the claims of chemist Lee Cronin, including his experiments on the formose reaction, autocatalysis, his attempts to conjure up lipids in oil, and more. Along the way, Tour explains how he got into the debate in the first place, providing some background on his interactions with Farina and how it led him to call out experts in the field. Tour and Meyer are careful to remind us just what life is and what it takes to build it. And on several occasions, you’ll enjoy Meyer’s insight into the big picture. These simulation experiments, says Meyer “are actually showing the difficulty of making life-relevant molecules…via an undirected process.” In other words, origin of life researchers are doing sophisticated chemistry with multi-million dollar equipment that can only be done in a modern lab! In the process, they’re showing us just how implausible chemical evolutionary theories actually are. This is Part 3 of a 4-part series. Watch the video versions of these conversations at Dr. Meyer's YouTube Channel: @DrStephenMeyer Read More ›

David Berlinski on Chickens, Eggs, Human Exceptionalism, and a Revolution

On today’s ID the Future, Science After Babel author David Berlinski continues discussing his newly released book from Discovery Institute Press. In this conversation with host Andrew McDiarmid, Berlinski explores a chicken-and-egg problem facing origin-of-life research, a blindness afflicting some evolutionists focused on human origins, and the mystery of why science almost flowered in ancient Greece, early Medieval China, and in the Muslim-Arab Medieval Empire, but did not, having to await the scientific revolution that swept through Europe beginning in the sixteenth century. Check out the endorsements and get your copy, paperback or e-book, at Read More ›
black mole

Could Blind Forces Build a Self-Replicating Molecule?  

On today’s ID the Future, scientist and Stairway to Life co-author Rob Stadler and host Eric Anderson examine a recent PNAS paper on origin of life, “An RNA Polymerase Ribozyme that Synthesizes Its Own Ancestor.” A superficial look at the paper—and the paper’s title in particular—might give the impression that the laboratory findings behind the paper render the blind evolution of the first self-replicating biological system appreciably more plausible. Not so fast, says Stadler. Listen in as he and Anderson highlight various ways the laboratory work in question is wildly unrealistic. And for a video exploring the many problems involved in blindly evolving the first self-replicator, check out a new Long Story Short animated YouTube video, created with input from Stadler, Debunking RNA world: Replication & Chemical Evolution.

Golden bubbles of sludge gas on a swamp

James Tour Talks Origin-of-Life Dealbreakers

On today’s ID the Future, distinguished synthetic organic chemist James Tour of Rice University explains why the goal of synthesizing life from non-life in conditions similar to those of the early Earth appears further away than ever. It’s not an illusion, he explains. The illusion was how close OOL researchers thought they were 50-70 years ago. They were never close, and the more we learn about how mind-bogglingly sophisticated even the simplest cells are, and how the complexity is essential for biological life, the more we realize just how far we are from constructing a plausible scenario for the mindless origin of the first life. Tour points out that even granting a great deal of intelligent design in the form of the highly skilled and interventionist work of the origin-of-life researchers in the lab, they still can’t engineer into existence all the key building blocks of a living cell. What if you handed them all the building blocks in the right proportions? They’re still nowhere near being able to intelligently design those ingredients into a living cell, Tour says. It has to do with what’s termed the interactome—that is, all the interdependent molecular interactions in a particular cell, many of which may initially appear unimportant but turn out to be crucial. Tour doesn’t argue that researchers will never be able to design a cell from non-living matter. He does say that if it is achieved, it will be well into the future. What will such an achievement underscore? As Luskin emphasizes, it will highlight the creative power of intelligent agency. The occasion for Dr. Tour’s conversation with host Casey Luskin is Tour’s essay in a new book now available for free download, Science and Faith in Dialogue. For more from Dr. Tour, check out his website and his YouTube channel.

football goal posts
american football field goal post

James Tour: The Goalposts are Racing Away from the Origin-of-Life Community

On today’s ID the Future distinguished nanoscientist James Tour explains to host Eric Metaxas why the origin-of-life community is further than ever from solving the mystery of life’s origin, and how the public has gotten the false impression that scientists can synthesize life in the lab. Tour explains that origin-of-life scientists aren’t even close to intelligently synthesizing life from non-life in the lab. The problem, Tour says, is that some leading origin-of-life researchers give the impression they are right on the cusp of solving the problem. Not so, Tour says. He offers the analogy of someone claiming, in the year 1500, that he has the know-how to build a ship to travel to the moon, when no one yet knows even how to build an airplane, car, or car engine. Tour says that if he took a cell that had just died a moment before and asked top origin-of-life researchers to engineer it back to life, they couldn’t do it. They’re not even close to being able to do it. And yet all the ingredients, all the building blocks of life are right there, all in one place, in the right proportions. And not only can scientists not engineer those ingredients back to life, they still can’t synthesize even a fraction of the building blocks essential to cellular life, despite decades and millions of dollars poured into the problem. And yet they assume that purely blind material processes turned prebiotic chemicals into all the key building blocks, and then mindlessly engineered those into the first self-reproducing cell on the early Earth. There are no models that would make such a scenario plausible. And the more we learn about cellular complexity, the harder the problem gets. Indeed, as Tour puts it, origin-of-life research is like moving down a football field in nanometer increments while the goalposts are racing away. What’s left is only the dogmatic assumption among origin-of-life researchers that the first life must have appeared on Earth purely through blind material forces. Tour has made it his mission to show the broader scientific community and the public that the emperor has no clothes. Not surprisingly, the origin-of-life community has not responded with heartfelt gratitude. Tune in to hear more of Tour’s argument and to learn what kind of blowback he has experienced. The interview is reposted here with permission of Eric Metaxas and Socrates in the City. Find James Tour’s many videos on the origin-of-life problem here.

3d Illustration structure of the graphene or carbon surface, abstract nanotechnology hexagonal geometric form close-up, concept graphene atomic structure, concept graphene molecular structure.

James Tour Talks Nanotech at Socrates in the City

Today’s ID the Future features the first part of a conversation between James Tour and Socrates in the City host Eric Metaxas on Tour’s astonishing work in nanotechnology and on the topic “How Did Life Come into Being?” Tour is the T. T. and W. F. Chao Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Computer Science, and Professor of Materials Science and Nanoengineering at Rice University. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading nano-scientists. This event took place at the River Oaks Country Club in Houston, Texas, and is presented here with permission of Eric Metaxas. Here in Part 1, Tour explains some of the inventions coming out of Tour’s Rice University lab, including molecular cars and astonishing graphene technologies, one of which restores full mobility in laboratory rats whose spines have been severed.

achilles heel
Achilles injury on running outdoors. Man holding Achilles tendon by hands close-up and suffering with pain. Sprain ligament or Achilles tendonitis.

Energy Harnessing: An Achilles Heel for Origin of Life

Origin-of-life specialist Rob Stadler joins today’s ID the Future to discuss a new Long Story Short science video short. The video investigates a special problem that faces all naturalistic origin-of-life scenarios: To be viable, a cell must have sophisticated machinery, including ATP synthase, to turn raw energy into constructive energy. But how could prebiotic chemicals harness raw energy on the way to evolving into a viable self-reproducing cell without first having the sophisticated machinery to harness raw energy and convert it to useful work? Are the energy sources that have been proposed for chemical evolution realistic? In his conversation with host Eric Anderson, Stadler argues that, no, they aren’t. This isn’t the sort of thing that mindless natural processes can overcome, but is precisely the sort of problem that a designing mind could solve. Check out the new video here.