Re: Life in the Lab -- Fox and the Nobel Prize

Arthur V. Chadwick (
Mon, 03 May 1999 08:34:18 -0700

At 02:08 PM 5/2/99 EDT, Kevin wrote:
>Greetings to One and All:
>Maybe Moorad Alexanian has a point after all. There are many people who
>believe that, if anyone should have received the Nobel Prize for synthsizing
>life in the lab, it was Sidney Fox.
>I copied this from the website I posted earlier:

As a scientist who knew Sidney Fox quite well, I think I can say without
ambiguity that any suggestion that Sidney Fox did anything worthy of a
Nobel prize is ludicrous, and an offense to the whole spirit and meaning of
the Nobel Prize. I have spoken to Fox personally on several occasions WRT
his views on origins, and he knew well my own views on origins. His claim
to have created anything like a life form (the best he did was to make tiny
bubbles of proteinoid material that resembled cells as much as soap bubbles
do) was laughable, and must have been considered by him as a
tongue-in-cheek claim. His colleagues had no respect for his claims, and
very little for his work.

When I last spoke with him, I challenged him again as to how he was going
to come up with a bridge from DNA to protein without a ribosome. He
explained to me that the problem was already solved. He told me a French
biochemist had discovered a bacterium that did not need a ribosome to make
proteins. This bug, he said, made proteins by directly associating the
amino acids along the DNA backbone, then synthesizing the peptide bonds
while they were thus ordered. I asked him why, if this was the case, that
he was the only one who knew about this fabulous discovery. He gave me a
lecture on the philosophy of science, and about how ideas that were not
popular had a hard time being accepted in the scientific community. He
stated that the Frenchman had been greeted by ridicule from his colleagues.
I assured him that he needn't give his lecture to me, that I was already
well acquainted with the problems scientists had accepting or even giving
consideration to new ideas. Needless to say, the Frenchman's idea has
still not caught on. But this absurdity demonstrates the length we are all
capable of traveling in propping up an idea that is our own, whether it has
merit or not.

Sidney Fox's work is now considered by most origin of life advocates I have
read to have been a tiny detour down a road that led nowhere. If you know
of any publication by Fox or his students that has made the claim to have
produced a functioning reproducing cell, and has substantiated that claim,
please give us the reference. Posting his obituary does not cut it.