Re: Origin of life, design & thermodynamics

Pim van Meurs (
Tue, 25 Mar 1997 15:23:24 -0400

Paul: The problem arises, of course, when
reactions don't have a tendency to proceed in the direction one
wishes them to. Such is the case concerning the origin of life.
There are too many unfavorable reactions to ignore.

Which ones ? THere are many pathways to get to the same end.
Temperature, pressure and presence of other chemicals can make a difference
as well.

> Well, let's see, simple chemicals -> aminoacids, amino acids ->
> polymers, ATP, glucose and many more reactions have been shown to be
> feasible under conditions that might have existed on the primordial
> earth. Furthermore Fox's protocells might show the next step.

Paul: Perhaps you could demonstrate simultaneous production of these
molecules in a one pot "organic soup" synthesis? Some molecules, like
amino acids are fairly easy to explain in certain scenarios. Others
are more difficult. Each successive step in coming up with all the
necessary molecules becomes increasingly difficult to explain under
natural conditions. Amino acids are light years from life. But, I'm
willing to listen.

Needless to say all the steps have not been solved but significant
progress has been made in synthesizing under reasonable circumstances many
of the required

Fox's protocells are perhaps not life as we know it but also not non-life
as we know it.

>Or just the original formation of the first 'life' ?

Paul: This is closer.

Okay, the assumption that the second law is violated continuously by living
creatures is much harder to defend. Now the issue is does the original
formation of first life violate the second law ? Presently there is little
evidence suggesting this, many of the required chemicals can be reproduced
without such violations, from a theoretical point of view, the far from
equilibrium thermodynamics indicate that increase in complexity is almost
inevitable, protolife has been created by Fox's experiments. The issue now
is, why should there be a violation of the second law of thermodynamics
for life to have originated ?

> Fox's protocells reproduce, grow, respond to impulses. RNA is a
> chemical which shows self-reproducing, coded, information and it is
> just chemistry.

Paul: The second statement is self-contradictory. By definition a code is
not just chemistry.

It isn't ? I would consider DNA a coded chemical.

> Paul: suspect (on at least a couple of grounds) that what you are
> thinking of as a thermodynamic explanation may not significantly
> apply to biological systems.
>Pim: I would be interesting in what
> these grounds are, since thermodynamcs appears to be no problem for
> living systems.

Paul: There are reasons why thermodynamics, at least in principle, pose no
problem for already living systems. The origin of these systems is a
different matter and, at this point at least, that is where I must
disagree with you.

Okay, at least we have narrowed the issue to origin of life.

Paul: I do wish to discuss this issue more, and I will try to begin a more
systematic defense of my proposition in a following post. If I could
suggest Pim, please, do use a little less "put down" tone in your
posts. I don't know if I speak for any others, but at least for

I apologize for my use of style, blame it on my dutch origin.

I am really interested in how the second law should have been violated for
the creation of original life.