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.
On today’s ID the Future, Stairway to Life co-author Rob Stadler and host Eric Anderson delve deeper into Challenge to Origin of Life: Energy Harnessing, the latest video in the Long Story Short intelligent design video series. Could the first cell have been much simpler than any current cell, making it easier for it to emerge through blind natural forces on the early Earth? Stadler and Anderson surface one big problem with that idea: in experiments to make relatively simple cells even simpler, the cells inevitably become less robust and adaptable. These simpler cells must be coddled to survive. But the first cell on earth would have been anything but coddled. It would have had no source of glucose and been battered by all and sundry. (Plus, even these artificially simple cells are still extraordinarily sophisticated compared to human technology.) What about reports of a fungus near the Chernobyl nuclear accident that can feed off radiation? As Stadler notes, while this is an intriguing discovery, funguses are much more complex than anything being proposed as the first living cell, and the fungus undoubtedly possesses sophisticated energy-harnessing and processing machinery. The bottom line: any viable, self-reproducing cell, including the first one in the history of life, must have an energy-harnessing system already in place to survive, and such systems are necessarily enormously sophisticated. Stadler argues that we know enough about what natural forces can and cannot do to know that natural causes alone could not make this leap from non-life to first life. Another kind of cause was required. Tune in to learn more.
On today’s ID the Future physicist Brian Miller and host Eric Anderson explore a recent conversation between physicists Jeremy England and Paul Davies on Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable? radio show. Davies admitted he doesn’t want the origin of life to require divine design, while England argued that his work on non-equilibrium systems offers a promising avenue for explaining the origin of the first life in naturalistic terms. Miller and Anderson demur on both counts. They hold out hope that Davies, having recognized his philosophical bias, will eventually decide to follow the evidence wherever it leads, even if doing so has theistic implications. And as for Jeremy England’s approach, Miller says it’s fascinating work but fails to solve the origin-of-life challenge in naturalistic terms, and for multiple reasons.
On today’s ID the Future, physicist Brian Miller continues his conversation with host Eric Anderson. Here they explore more problems facing the idea that life began as strings of RNA. In their discussion of the RNA World Hypothesis and the origin of life generally, they touch on ideas advanced by Jeremy England, Jack Shostak, Nick Lane, Helen Hansma, and others. One of several big problems with the RNA-first hypothesis underscored by Miller and Anderson: For it to have even a slender chance of working, you need prebiotic Earth to generate not one but two information-rich RNA strands, and they somehow need to find each other before falling apart, and do so despite the fact that they aren’t looking for each other and the statistical odds of them bumping into each other at random are vanishingly small. What about approaching the origin of life from an intelligent design perspective? Miller explains why he’s convinced that the design perspective, far from stopping science, is actually much more fruitful than a blind-evolution approach.
On today’s ID the Future, host Eric Anderson sits down with Rob Stadler, co-author with Change Tan of The Stairway To Life: An Origin-Of-Life Reality Check. The topic of discussion–protocells. Stadler notes that the simplest existing single-celled organisms are far too sophisticated to have emerged through a blind process of prebiotic evolution. He further notes that this is widely acknowledged in the origin-of-life community, but those committed to a purely materialistic origin of the first life have a fallback explanation–protocells. That is, early biological structures far simpler than anything we find today. An intriguing hypothesis, but the problems with it, according to Stadler, are legion. Tune in as Stadler and Anderson walk through several lines of evidence that appear to break against the much sought-after but ever-elusive protocell.
Today’s ID the Future features the next in a YouTube video series by Dr. James Tour on the origin-of-life problem. Here Tour, a distinguished synthetic organic chemist, lists the characteristics of life and describes some features of the early Earth where life first appeared. Then he provides a fast flyover of the many grave problems of blindly evolving the first living cell from prebiotic materials.