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.
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 Your Designed Body author and physician Howard Glicksman takes a deep dive with Philosophy for the People podcast host Pat Flynn into Glicksman’s new book, co-authored with systems engineer Steve Laufmann. As Glicksman puts it, he and Laufmann look not just at how the human body looks but at what it actually takes for it to work and not die, and what this implies for evolutionary theory. Begin by piling up the layers of complexity in the human body—the layer upon layer of complex interdependent systems. Then ask hard questions about whether any blind and gradual evolutionary process could have kept our evolutionary ancestors alive at every generational stage as all this was gradually engineered by countless random mutations over millions of generations, beginning with the first single-celled organisms billions of years ago. Once one faces those hard questions without retreating to vague just-so stories about nature needing vision (or hearing or any number of other bodily functions) and therefore magically evolving it, at that point Darwinism’s story of gradual and blind evolution collapses. The explanation that is left standing, according to Glicksman, Laufmann, and Your Designed Body: intelligent design. This episode is posted her with the generous permission of Pat Flynn and the Philosophy for the People podcast.
Today’s ID the Future is Part 2 of physicist Brian Miller exploring a recent report from the University of Tokyo claiming a big breakthrough in origin-of-life research. As Miller and host Eric Anderson make clear, the university’s laboratory work on RNA, detailed in a recent Nature Communications article, involved the intelligent interference of the lab scientists and, despite this intelligent interference, the devolution of RNA rather than the evolution of increasing RNA sophistication. Miller says that it’s ironic that Steven Novella, a scientist committed to puncturing science hype, seems to have fallen for the hype surrounding this laboratory work. Miller and Anderson go on to discuss critiques of origin-of-life tall-tale claims, critiques coming Robert Shapiro, James Tour, and others. Life, Miller says, requires organizational blueprints and design logics already in place to battle against nature’s relentless tendency toward entropy. Without those sophisticated organizational blueprints already instantiated in living cells and sophisticated molecular machinery, natural forces appear utterly powerless to pull off the kind of creative design work required to move from non-life to life.
On today’s ID the Future, biologist Jonathan Wells and host Eric Anderson discuss a recently discovered problem with the famous Miller-Urey experiment, long ballyhooed in biology textbooks as dramatic experimental evidence for the naturalistic origin of life. The newly uncovered problem involves the glassware used in the experiment. It is an interesting finding, but as Wells explains, it is far from the first problem discovered with the experiment, nor the most serious one. While biology textbooks often present the 1952 experiment by Stanley Miller and Harold Urey as a key icon of evolution, even those origin-of-life researchers who hope to one day to discover a credible naturalistic scenario for the origin of the first living cell concede that the experiment at the University of Chicago failed in crucial ways to mimic Earth’s early atmosphere, and fell short in multiple other ways. The various challenges, Wells explains, are each alone sufficient to elicit a healthy skepticism toward the whole prospect of a designer-free origin of the first living cell. For more in-depth analysis, check out Wells’s chapter in the 2020 revised and expanded The Mystery of Life’s Origin: The Continuing Controversy, along with the other chapters in the book.