Religion in Society

The Puzzle of Life Darwin Never Solved

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Today’s New York Times features an article by science writer
Nicholas Wade highlighting what Wade calls “surprising advances [that] have
renewed confidence that a terrestrial explanation for life’s origins will
eventually emerge.”

Yet the scientists quoted in the article fail
to address the fundamental issue that has generated the longstanding impasse in
the field: the problem of the origin of biological information.

Wade
describes the various developments in pre-biotic chemistry that are making some
scientists more optimistic about solving the problem of the origin of life. Yet,
the central problem facing them is not the synthesis of pre-biotic building
blocks or even discovering an environment in which life might have plausibly
arisen—difficult as these problems have proven to be. Instead, the fundamental
problem is getting the chemical building blocks to arrange themselves into the
large information-bearing molecules (such as DNA and RNA) that direct the show
in living cells.

Even the experiments of Gerald Joyce that Wade
describes do not address this problem. The “self-replicating” RNA molecules that
Joyce constructs are not capable of copying a template of information from free
standing chemical subunits as the polymerase machinery does in actual cells.
Instead, in Joyce’s experiment, a pre-synthesized specifically-sequenced RNA
molecule merely catalyzes a single chemical bond, thus fusing two other
pre-synthesized partial RNA chains. More significantly, Joyce intelligently
arranged the matching base sequences in these RNA chains. Thus, as my
forthcoming book Signature in the Cell shows, Joyce’s
experiments not only demonstrate that self-replication itself depends upon
information-rich molecules, but they also confirm that intelligent design is the
only known means by which information arises.

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