Mystery of the Origin of Life Solved?

Last week in our News to Note, Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell discussed a study that some scientists claim may help solve the mystery of the origin of life. The scientists created a molecule called XNA that can store information much like DNA or RNA.  Dr. Mitchell explained as follows:

DNA and RNA are polymers with nucleic acids (“NA’s”) attached to backbones of sugar molecules. The “D” and the “R” stand for the type of sugar. XNAs are synthetic polymers that use the same nucleic acids as DNA but different sugar molecules (“X”) for the ladder stringing them together. Since the nucleic acid (NA) sequence encodes information, an XNA copy of a DNA strand is analogous to using the same words but recording them on papyrus instead of paper.

I fail to understand how merely changing the sugar portion of the nucleic acid—which does not encode information, it’s in the base sequence of the nucleic acid—will somehow explain how life came from non-life. Information requires an information-giver; it cannot come about through random processes such as mutation. I stated the following in News to Note:

That molecules other than DNA and RNA can successfully carry information does not solve the problem of where actual genetic information came from. This study has simply shown that other molecular components could work in a genetic system. But XNA replication does not demonstrate how randomly produced genetic information could direct the formation of a living organism.

It seems that once again the media has misrepresented what the scientists have discovered. Those directly involved in the research stated that they envision applications of the synthetic molecules for “biotechnology and medicine.”[1] Nowhere in their paper did they indicate that the creation of XNAs could explain the origin of life. That is only in the imagination of the journalists.

In a related story, scientists think that studying pumice may solve the mystery of the origin of life. Pumice is a type of volcanic rock that is very porous and so light that it floats in water. Biologists studying pumice have found that microbes make their home there. This is not surprising because bacteria can survive just about anywhere due to their diversity and ability to adapt. Astrobiology Magazine reported the following:

“Pumice is highly reactive,” Brasier [a scientist studying pumice] says. Its large internal surface area works as a substrate for a large variety of chemical reactions. Moreover, its absorption properties could allow it to soak up several biological building blocks and catalysts and concentrate them in a small volume.[2]

But for life you need more than just concentrated “biological building blocks,” “catalysts,” and chemical reactions. You need an intelligent source for the information to make life. Whether it’s a warm, little pond or a piece of pumice floating in water, without an information-giver, non-life will never become life.

God is the ultimate Information-Giver, the only one who can give life, and He tells us how He did in Genesis 1.

I’m looking forward to giving a special Mother’s Day presentation entitled, “Mother’s Day: Tragedy, Triumphs, and Legacies,” in Bethel, Ohio, (east of Cincinnati) this coming Sunday. For more information, see the events page. I hope you’ll be able to join us.

Keep fighting the good fight of the faith!


[1] Vitor B. Pinheiro, et al., “Synthetic Genetic Polymers Capable of Heredity and Evolution,” Science 336(2012): 341-344.

[2] Michael Schirber, “Microbes Go Rafting on Floating Volcanic Rocks,” Astrobiology Magazine, April 30, 2012, http://www.astrobio.net/exclusive/4720/microbes-go-rafting-on-floating-volcanic-rocks.