James Tour: The Mystery of the Origin of Life (Transcript)

Full text of chemist and nanotechnologist James Tour’s talk titled ‘The Mystery of the Origin of Life’.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:


James Tour – American chemist and nanotechnologist

So I’m going to stand off to the side here because I’ve got to look back at them like in the old days where you have to look back at the slides and use a laser pointer rather than.

So go ahead to the next slide. This is just an overview of some of the work that we do in our group because many times there’ll be criticisms of those who speak at conferences like this, that they’re not practicing scientists, that they read papers and they write books. But I write very few books. In fact, I’ve only written one book and I’ll never do that again.

And I’ve written chapters for books, but only at great urging. Usually I just publish papers, and we publish papers in journals. That’s what we do in my world. And so we work in a number of different areas. And the reason I’m telling you all this is because I want you to see that I really am a practicing scientist. I rarely attend conferences like this. I’m usually in conferences with scientists and engineers.

But we work in an area called laser-induced scrapping. That’s where we can take, this is a polyamid sheet, and hit it with a laser and write patterns of graphene. Graphene is single sheets of graphite, one atom thick. And it’s the strongest material known at that level. And generally it’s made at high temperatures. And this is all done in the air with a laser. This is on bread. That’s not dropping down ink. That is converting the carbohydrate atoms in the molecules in the bread, these carbon atoms in that bread, to graphene. So we convert that. That’s a coconut we turn into a supercapacitor. So we can do it on food.

You say, why would you want to write patterns on food? Well, why wouldn’t you?

So if you have, for example, a potato, and you can just mark it very quickly, just on every one of your plastic bottles, it’s a water bottle, it has a little laser scribe date. If we can laser scribe electronics very quickly, you would know exactly what field that potato was picked from, what date it was picked on. And if you build in electronics, you can put an E. coli sensor, a salmonella sensor. You could build in electronics into food very rapidly.

We split carbon nanotubes, and we use these in medicine, and we use these also in electronics and batteries. This is two terminal memory. This has all gone commercial now. This is commercial memory now, two terminal memory. We work in the area of traumatic brain injury and stroke. There’ll be a company launch this year for that, and also dementia.

We work on supercapacitors. This is where we’ve taken asphalt, and we can trap over 200 weight percent CO2 in it, and we use it for removing CO2 from natural gas. That’s all licensed by Apache. This is the leg of a cockroach that we can turn into graphene. I wanted to take something of negative carbon value. What has negative value? What do you pay people to take away from you that’s carbon?

I figured roaches, we’ve done it with dog feces. We can actually turn this into graphene.

Now, just to give you an idea of why you would want to do this, we did this with Girl Scout cookies. If you calculate all the carbon in a box of Girl Scout cookies, which is $4, and you convert that into graphene, that graphene that you could convert just from one box of Girl Scout cookies would be worth $15 billion, which shows you that the value of a material is not in the atoms itself. It’s in how those atoms are arranged.

Just like if you take a person, what’s the value of a human being? Just take away the spirits. Just the physical entity, just like a robot. What would be the value of a human robot?

Now, if you take that entity and you cremate it, you get less than a penny of CO2 and water out. Same atoms arranged differently bring the change in value. A piece of coal, $60 a ton. Same atoms in diamond, which has very high value. They’re just rearranged differently.

This is where we take graphene, grow carbon nanotubes. This is a company that started, it’s being built up right now just outside of Houston. It’s for lithium batteries. We work a lot in these areas of cleaning up water. We work in these areas of nanomachines. If you click it once, this car will start to go, so you click the slide, advance once. Oh yeah, that’s not going to run. I forgot because it’s been transferred.

All right, that’s okay. Trust me, that moves across the surface.

What happens is this top part spins and pushes the car along. And it spins at three million rotations per second and propels the car. These cars are so small, we can part 50,000 of these across the diameter of a human hair, 50,000 of them. And they have little motors that are all light operated. Now what we’re doing is we’re taking these same motors that spin at three million rotations per second, we put on a peptide, and that’ll direct it to the surface of a cell, a cell of choice depending on the peptide addend we put there. And then we activate the motor, and it spins at three million rotations per second. It drills right through, and the cell is dead in one minute. Just these drilling into cells.

So we’re looking at this. So if you’d advance to the next slide. So these are just transitions to companies in the past five years, Graphene quantum dots, that’s commercial now, it’s working in anti-counterfeiting platforms, and also for frac water tracking, two terminal ultra-dense computer memory, lithium metal batteries, corrosion inhibitors already on the market.

We’re working on spinal cord repair, peripheral nerve repair, optic nerve repair. We want to do the works of Jesus Christ. We want to make the lame walk and the blind see. We’ve already made the deaf hear. So we’re trying to build technologies that can do this. And this is real. We do this type of thing. We can cut a spinal cord completely in half in a rat, and fuse this back up so the rat within three weeks has a 19 out of 21. 21 is the highest mobility that can be achieved. So it can get to near perfect mobility within three weeks. So that’s a company now that’s going in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Treatment of pancreatic cancer, that’ll be in clinical trials within one year at MD Anderson Cancer Center. DNA sequencing, this is doing the entire human genome map, entire human genome, not just 23andMe, the entire genome for $100 in one hour. This opens it up now to everyone in the world.

We work in this area of water purification based on laser-induced graphene. We have inserts for texting with long fingernails. So if you have long fingernails, and it’s hard to text, we’ve got a little thing. You can just put it on your fingernails and you can text just fine. There’s actually a big demand for that. I mean, this is real stuff.

This is the traumatic brain injury, stroke and dementia drug. This company will launch this year graphene synthesis at $100 per ton in energy costs, going to concrete, plastic, and metal that’ll launch this year. And then the molecular nanomachines to kill cells is going to cancer and the killing of superbugs. These things that are resistant to antibiotic, antibiotic resistance, we can drill right through them. And a friend of mine here, Richard, is here and he works on this as well.

So these are areas. So we’re real scientists, we do real things.

Okay, next slide.

And the next slide. This movie’s not going to run, so just go to the next slide there. There’s Richard there.

And let’s go to the next slide. That was a research group. So we’re going to get into the talk at hand. I’m not going to make any reference to God, any reference to intelligent designer or anything. I’m just going to allow science to critique the science.

WHAT DO WE HAVE TO SAY ABOUT ORIGIN OF LIFE? What does science tell us? What can we infer here?

And so by choice, I am not going to mention God because if I mention God and Jesus Christ, people will say, oh, to our introduce the baby Jesus to talk about this, it’s not a real talk. This is pure scientific talk. This would work in any medical school, in any chemistry department.

Next slide. So this is a cell. WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF LIFE? How do you get a cell like this? What is the origin of something like this?

This is an amazing machine. A cell is an amazing machine. It’s not just a blob of protoplasm. Every day, it gets harder to have the origin of life, to come up with a scenario because the origin of life becomes more and more complex every day. A cell is a factory. It has the lipid bilayer which is extremely selective to let certain things in and not other things. It has all of this substructure in here, these little areas where energy is made in here.

It has these microtubules which can form so you can move matter from point A to point B. If you go to a factory, what you see is you see these overhead hanging machines that are moving materials from point A to point B in these systems. And the way they do this is they build these racks.

But the same thing happens in a cell. You get these microtubules to move material from point A to point B. And then as soon as the material is done moving, the microtubule breaks down and then assembles some other place. You say, well, why doesn’t it leave it there? Because then the cell would become too rigid. So it just rebuilds it.

It’s just amazing factory what’s happening in a cell. This is what we have to make. If we want to have origin of life, you got to start here. You don’t start here. You start with a single cell. Just build a single cell. That’s what we have to do in origin of life. Nobody has ever done this. If you’ve been taught that simple forms of life have been made, that is a lie that you are believing. Somebody told you a lie. That has never been done.

Next slide. ORGANISMS CARE ABOUT LIFE. Molecules don’t care. Chemistry, on the contrary, is utterly indifferent to life. Without a biologically derived entity acting upon them, molecules have never been shown to evolve toward life. Never.

Molecules don’t care about life. They don’t know anything about moving toward life. They have no brain. Organisms want to move toward life and keep life going. Molecules don’t care about life. Nobody has ever seen molecules assemble toward life. Never. It doesn’t happen. Without a biological entity working on them, I asked all my colleagues, can you show me an example of this? Of molecules moving toward order. Moving toward an ordered system where you have a non-regular assembly. Regular assemblies like AAAA or ABAB. That you can get pure thermodynamic assembly.

But non-order assembly is a non-regular pattern. That’s what you have in DNA. We know from computer science you have to have non-regular patterns in order to have complexity for living systems. And I asked my colleagues, do you have any example of molecules without a biological entity acting upon them moving to give an ordered assembly that is a non-regular pattern? And they sent me papers where chemists have taken molecules and assembled them in that way. Non-biological entity. You can’t have a human doing this. Molecules don’t move toward life.

Well, even if you want to have molecules move toward life and you have human beings working upon them, can the human beings do it? And the answer is no.

Next slide. So almost every chemical synthesis experiment in origin of life research can be summed up by a protocol analogous to this. They purchase chemicals generally in high purity from a chemical company. So that’s what they do. They first purchase the chemicals.

They mix those chemicals together in water in high concentrations in a specific order under some set of carefully devised conditions in the modern lab. Then they can obtain a mixture of compounds that have a resemblance to one or more of the basic four classes of chemicals needed for life.

So what you need for life is you need carbohydrates, nucleic acids, amino acids, and lipids. That’s what we know. All life we know composes those four building blocks. So they try to make those four building blocks. Then they publish a paper making bold assertions about origin of life from these functionless crude mixtures of stereochemically scrambled intermediates, much like Miller did in 1952. Nothing has changed in 66 years. Nothing, nothing’s changed. Exactly where we were in 1952 is exactly where we have remained.

Think about what’s been done in science in the past 60 years. Think about how we have now satellite connectivity. Remember in 1952 there had never been a satellite. Now we have satellite connectivity. We have cell phones. We have structured DNA. We can manipulate DNA structure. Nothing has changed in origin of life studies in 66 years. That’s important to realize.

Then you engage with the ever-gullible press to dial up the knob of unjustified extrapolations, watch the mesmerized layperson explain, you see, scientists understand how life formed. Then you encourage a generation of science textbook writers to make colorful, deceptive cartoons of raw chemicals assembling from cells which then emerge as slithering creatures from a prehistoric pond. That is exactly what is done every one of their experiments.

It’s all done like this. Every one of their experiments can be fit into this. And so what’s going to happen is I’m going to go back and a bunch of you are going to send me articles. Look at this. These people have made life, haven’t they? It fits into this. Trust me, it fits into this, every one of them.

Next slide. So here’s the synthesis problem. If you just want to make the molecules, remember we have to make those four classes of molecules. If you just want to make the molecules, here’s what you gotta do. Molecules that compose living systems almost always show homochirality, meaning that they have one-handedness, not the other. The vast majority of biological molecules, except for very small ones like water and acetic acid, anything larger than that, they’re mirror images, just like your left hand and your right hand are mirror images. They’re non-superimposable. You can’t put a left-handed glove on your right hand. It doesn’t fit. All molecules are like that in biology.

ALSO READ:   The Power of a Teacher: Adam Saenz (Full Transcript)

That is hard to make. It is very hard to make just one mirror image of a compound. It can be done, but it’s very hard. So that’s part of the problem.

When you’re building molecular systems, constant redesigns are needed to take the synthesis back to step one. So take the synthesis back to step one. So in other words, when you’re going and you’re making something, you’re like, oh boy, those conditions didn’t work. My stuff decomposed. So you go back to step one and you bring through more starting material. And so you take small amounts. You try this, you try this.

Anything that would be happening in a prebiotic earth, it’s marching along trying to make something. If it makes a mistake, you can’t pull that entity off. Very hard to pull the entity off. Once it’s on there, it’s on there. So you’ve been going along, say, for 400 million years if you wanted to take these sorts of numbers, and all of a sudden it’s put a wrong moiety on there. Uh-oh, what am I going to do?

Well, you gotta go back to step one. I gotta go back 400 million years? Yeah, you gotta go back there. Well, I don’t know how to go back. Well, why not? Because I never kept a laboratory notebook. When you don’t keep a record of it, you don’t even know how to go back. You don’t even know what you’re going toward because it doesn’t know that it’s moving toward life.

Remember, molecules have no brain. They don’t know where they’re going. That’s the synthesis problem. And they don’t know how to stop the course of progression or why to stop. There’s no target. They don’t know. I think we’ll form life today. I think we’ll make a certain, you don’t know that. Molecules don’t know that.

So they’re going along and things are, chemical reactions are happening. It doesn’t have a target. When you’re in the lab, you’re going toward a particular target. You know where you’re headed. Here it doesn’t know when to stop or how to stop. Maybe it’s made of carbohydrate. It doesn’t say why. Made of carbohydrate, I think I’ll stop. Synthesize, no. It’ll go on and make something else from that. Doesn’t know how to stop.

Time, although claimed to be the great savior of abiogenesis, that’s before there’s biology, abiogenesis can actually be the enemy. For example, carbohydrates are kinetic products. They undergo caramelization or the Cannizzaro reaction. They decompose. So in other words, when you make a carbohydrate, that is not the final product that would form in that reaction mixture. You have to stop the reaction.

So a chemist watches the reaction and they stop it at a certain time to stop that progression of the molecule going on. Now, if this is just undirected, unguided, it keeps going to other garbage. Carbohydrates are kinetic products, meaning if they caramelize, they polymerize into a bunch of trash.

Just like when you take sugar and you heat the thing up on the oven and things turns into caramel, that’s what happens to carbohydrates. They don’t stay nice, simple carbohydrates. They end up actually dehydrating.

A prebiotic system doesn’t have the ability to easily purify the structures. You have to be able to purify because if you cannot purify, then the byproducts build up in the system and they start using up your starting material and they start inhibiting the reactions that you want. You have to be able to do purification. Without purification, you can’t work. Every chemist has to run a reaction and you stop, you purify, you get it pure, and you go on the next step.

Once in a while, if it’s a really pure reaction, you can go on one or two steps, but you have to purify.

Reagent order is essential. Reagent addition order. You can’t just say all the reagents mixed together and you get what you got. You’re making a cake. You got your flour, you got your milk, you got your eggs. You say, well, I think I’ll just add the frosting now. No, there’s an order to this. This is real. This is what you do in chemistry. Things have to be added at certain times. You can’t just add it whenever you want to.

Reagent addition order at proper timing is critical. The parameters for temperature, pressure, solvent, light, no light, pH, atmospheric gases, have to be carefully controlled in order to build complex molecular structure. There’s no way around it. This is what’s needed.

You have to have characterization at each step. This is hard to do. Chemists have to characterize things at each step because you have to make sure what you’ve got before you can go on to the next step.

How does nature characterize?

Well, right now, biological systems characterize things by every time it makes something, there’s an enzyme that checks that structure. If it’s not the right structure, there are other enzymes that come and chop that up into smaller pieces and try rebuilding it again. You get a mistake in the DNA. You have enzymes that run up and down the DNA, find this mistake, excise it, and stick in the right base there.

But in a pre-biological world, there are no enzymes. How does it check it? And every time, whatever it’s using to check it, whatever system is needed to check it, is more complex than the system that it’s checking. So where’d you get that from? Nobody knows. Everybody’s clueless on this, but nobody wants to admit it.

There’s the mass transfer problem. This seems like not a problem to you, but let me tell you something. This is the killer of it all. Anybody, are there any synthetic organic chemists in here? Any synthetic chemists here? Any synthetic chemists? Get your hand up high. One there, okay. So if, and one there, okay.

If I say something that’s not true, I want you to stand up and just say liar, all right? If I say something that’s not true, just stand up, all right? Because I want these people to know, for all they know, I’m lying. You have to verify on this.

All right, the mass transfer problem. Anybody who’s done complex organic synthesis, what you do is you start with like a half a kilo of material and you go along and your yields are never 100%, you’re purifying, you’re going, and you end up with two milligrams and you’re not at your target yet.

So what do you do? Then you go back to the beginning and you make more and you follow the defined route that you had defined before and so now you can keep your yields high but you keep having to go back and pull up starting material from the rear. You’re bringing up more material.

How do you do that? So say in nature they started, say somehow it started and then got a kilo of formaldehyde and acetone and it’s going to start combining these. So these are going to go along and start reacting. At some point it’s going to run out of material. How do you go back to the beginning and get more? Again, you never kept the laboratory notebook so you never know how you got there.

So even if you could repeat it, go down the same junky path and you’d run out again. You’d never get to where you want to go.

Nature keeps no laboratory notebook. Next slide.

So this is just the motor part on the nanomachines. We were building nanocars. We actually won in 2017 the International Nanocar Race. It was the first race. We went 150 nanometers in an hour and a half. And that sounds like a long time to go 150 nanometers but we actually, the second place people behind us were the Swiss team. Took them five hours beyond us. So it took them six and a half hours total. And none of the other international teams were able to complete the race in 30 hours.

So it’s not easy to go 150 nanometers when you’re driving these little cars. But anyway, so this is the motor on just the car. And so you see these different steps. You react at all these different temperatures. You have to have it at five degrees and cool it to minus 10 and minus 15 and then minus 50 degrees here. And then you run these reactions. This one’s done at 130 degrees. This one’s done at 60 degrees.

You’re like, what’s with the temperature? What’s your problem? Why are you doing cold, hot, cold, hot? Why do you do this? Oh, because we just like to. We just like to cool things down and heat things. No, you have to. Each step needs its own parameters.

How does nature know that? Well, it’s some deep sea vent, okay? So it warmed up there. And then what? Then it left the vent. Then it ended up at some other really cold place. And then it went back, and then it went back, and back, and so on.

Nobody knows how any of this ever happened in nature. Nobody knows.

Next slide. So this is the experimental procedure. So what you do, you take an oven-dry three neck round bottom flask, and you charge it with 33. You add magnesium sulfate and dichloromethane, and you cool it down, cool it down here, cool it down. This is just one step, just one step on that thing. And then you get the yield. This is just one step. There’s all these things you gotta do. You have to know what you’re doing. Even if I just gave this to you, you wouldn’t know what to do.

So you have to be an experienced chemist to take this and to be able to repeat this. So what is a mindless, a biological system? How does it know how to do? Nobody knows.

Next slide. Then you have to characterize it. Once you make what you want, you have to characterize this. We have this tool called NMR, and you get these peaks. And from these peaks, you assign the structure so you can get the exact structure. This is how all the pharmaceuticals that you take. This is how the structures are assigned. You run these spectra.

And you say, well, nature doesn’t have to do this. It doesn’t. Nature uses a more complex system. It has a different glove for every hand in nature, a different enzyme that detects structure problems. It’s more complex than this. This is a general tool.

But the next slide shows us, next slide. This is what we have to write to convince our colleagues that we got what we thought we got. A combination of standard deuterium, proton, C-13, depth 135, C-13 experiments with standard 2D, H1-H1 COSY, H1-H1 NOE, boom, boom, boom. So you go all through this. Not done.

Next slide. So that’s part two. All of that needed to just characterize the one molecule. Characterization is harder than synthesis. It really is. Any chemist will tell you. You can make something, but it takes you a lot longer to characterize. And you have to know the structure because you have to know what to do for the next step.

Nature is confronted with the same thing all the time. Making molecules is hard.

Next slide. This paper had 281 pages of supplemental characterization data. I showed you a paragraph of characterization, 281 pages of that to convince the world that we made what we were making when we made those light-driven motorized nanocars. Has a dumb, a biological world ever do this? Nobody knows. They’re all clueless, but scientists aren’t saying how hard it is.

Next slide. This was the first generation motor that we put in the car. It worked, but it only rotated 1.8 revolutions per hour. When we rebuild it without that sulfur atom there, then that five-member ring, then it goes three million rotations per second. All right, so small changes can make a big difference.

Well, what do you do? Well, what do you do is you just come here and you erase that sulfur and you do that. Now, that you can do on a blackboard, but this took us back to step one.

This is what I’m talking about. When something, you’re going along and you want to build and you say, oh, I’m just near life. If you have one thing wrong, it doesn’t work. Well, you just modify this and it’ll work.

All right, go back to the beginning. Go back a billion years to the beginning. It’s too hard. Nobody knows how this thing is solved. You can’t build the molecules.

Next slide. Remember, just to make the molecules, the simple molecules, you gotta have the carbohydrates. You have to have the lipids. You have to have the nucleic acids. You have to have the proteins. Even if you make an amino acid, how do you hook the amino acids together? Amino acids don’t hook together by themselves. We’re not even talking about order. How do you just get them to hook? I mean, somebody sent me a paper just last night. I mean, here’s a paper just came out on self-folding molecules.

Well, duh, that doesn’t prove anything. You build a molecule, it folds up. Big deal. How do you get these things to hook together in the first place? Nobody knows. That’s with amino acids.

How about with nucleotides? You want to get these things to hook up. People will make, oh, you have nucleotide. We got DNA. No, you don’t have DNA. You gotta get these nucleotides to hook up. Look at a DNA synthesizer. How many steps of blocking, protection, deprotection you need to do the complex chemistry just to get one linkage made? Nobody knows.

ALSO READ:   Daniel Simons on Seeing The World as It Isn't (Full Transcript)

You can throw all these together in a flash. People say, well, the concentration of nucleotides was very high. I’ve read this in high school books. It was very high, and these things came together. You calculate the concentration. The world would have to be raining nucleotides, and even if it were raining nucleotides at those concentrations, they wouldn’t hook up. They don’t hook up. You need enzymes to hook them up, but this is prebiotic. There’s no enzymes here, or you need very complex DNA synthesizers. Those weren’t there either on early Earth.

Now you have to assemble it. So say we had the molecules. How can you get them to assemble?

So here’s the assembly experiment. A protocell is a self-organized, indogiously ordered spherical collection of lipids proposed as a stepping stone to origin of life. So that’s what a protocell is, but most so-called protocell assembly experiments in origin of life research can be summed up by a protocol analogous to this.

You purchase homochiral diacyl lipids from a chemical company, or you synthesize, stare, or scramble lipids from smaller molecules. Add those lipids to water and observe a small amount of it to form simple and expected thermodynamically-driven assembly of those lipids into synthetic bilayer vesicles upon agitation.

Sometimes the researchers will add other molecules that get engulfed by those vesicles. Then you publish a paper claiming that the synthetic vesicle is a protocell and suggestive of early forms of life. Engage with the media, hype it up, watch the layperson be misled. Every assembly experiment I’m telling you can be summarized in this. Whatever you send me, don’t send me anymore. I’ve dealt with it all, all right? I get enough of them.

And people say, well, what about this one? What about this one? And it fits all into this. It’s all garbage, all garbage.

Next slide. Okay, so the complex cellular membrane. So this is actually what the membrane of a cell looks like when it’s made really, really simple in cartoon form. So researchers have identified thousands, actually 40,000 different lipids now have been identified in cell membranes, not just one. Every protocell experiment, they use one type of lipid. Actually, a cell is made up of thousands of different types and mixtures of monoacyl lipids destabilize the system. So when they have their monoacyl lipids, those would destabilize the systems. You can’t use those.

Lipid bilayers surround subcellular organelles such as nuclei and mitochondria, which are themselves microsystem assemblies. Each of these has their own lipid composition. So this is a lipid bilayer. You have some pointing out toward water, some pointing in toward the water on the interior of the cell. And the outside ones are different than the inside ones. Nobody knows how that was done. Nobody knows. Clueless, nobody knows how that was done.

Every protocell experiment just uses homogeneity throughout the whole thing. And so it’s not really a protocell. It’s not really reminiscent of a cell.

Now, within each one of those, you have other organelles like nuclei and mitochondria that have their own bilayer assemblies with their own constitution, different than what’s on the outside of the cell. Nobody knows how that was done.

Plus, these have these proteins. So there’s this non-symmetric distribution. Then there’s proteins that go through here. These are ionophores. That allows certain things into the cell and certain things out. Without that, you can’t let anything into the cell. It’s going to kill the cell. It has very discrete sensors that allow certain molecules to get in, certain other molecules to get out. It has ionophores that allow certain ions in, certain ions out to keep the ionic concentration at a certain level for maintenance of that cell.

As soon as that ionic concentration gets off, you know what happens? Boom, the cell explodes because the ionic concentration has gotten off. It blebs and explodes. Nobody knows how that was done.

None of the protocell experiments, none of them have these proteins going through them as these control gateways. Then there’s also lipid bilayers have a vast number of carbohydrate appendages. So off of these, this is a carbohydrate appendage. It’s called the glycan. The artist is just showing us a few of these.

A cell is covered with these. This is how cells recognize each other. How does one cell recognize another cell? By these carbohydrate assemblies that they recognize each other. They have this recognition patterns. And so you can tell one cell from another.

And so if you just take nucleotides, if you just take DNA, DNA, oh, DNA’s so complex and it has so much information. If you have six A bases, AAAA, how can you arrange those? What are the different ways you can arrange it? Just that one, AAAA, that’s it. One way you can arrange six bases. Look at carbohydrates. If you just take the carbohydrate D-Pyranose, just the standard carbohydrate, just D-Pyranose, you have six of those, has over one trillion ways it can assemble. One trillion ways it can assemble, just with six of them. These have much more than six. And if it’s not assembled right, guess what? The cell dies. You change any one of the carbohydrates that will result in cell death.

There is much more information that can be stored in carbohydrate assembly than in DNA. Yeah, much more information can be stored in carbohydrates. You want to build a massive computer, build it based on carbohydrate assembly. Much better than DNA assembly. It’s just that carbohydrate assembly’s really hard to control. Nobody knows how to control this, nobody.

But somehow, on a prebiotic Earth, with nobody around, under a rock, it figured this out.

How do Origin of Life researchers address this problem? They don’t. They don’t.

Next slide. Interactomes. This is the non-covalent interactions that function within a cell. Nobody knows how a viable cell emerges from massive combinatorial complexity of its molecular components. And of course, nobody’s ever synthetically mimicked it. An interactome is the whole set of molecular interactions in a particular cell. If one merely considers protein-protein interaction combinations in just a single yeast cell, the result is an estimated 10 to the 79 billion combinations. That’s estimated by these folks at Johns Hopkins in Brussels, all right? That’s not my estimation. These are biophysicists, all right?

So, just to give you an idea of how big that number is, that’s 10 to the 90th is the number of elemental particles in the universe. That’s 10 to the 90th. This is 10 to the 79 billion. That’s a big, big number. People do not understand numbers. They just don’t. You say a million dollars, a billion dollars. What’s the difference? A million dollars or a billion dollars?

Well, let me put it in a way that you understand. A million seconds is 11 days. So you ask somebody, will you marry me? I’ll tell you in a million seconds. Okay.

If they say a billion seconds, that’s 32 years. All right? You feel that now? A million to a billion?

And then if they say a trillion seconds, that’s 32,000 years. Huh?

You see the difference when you go up three orders of magnitude? You go a million 10 to the sixth to 10 to the ninth to 10 to the 12th. That’s 10 to the 79 billion. That number’s crazy big. That’s just in a single yeast cell, the interactions between the non-bonded interactions.

So how does the information flow? Information flows through non-bonded interactions, through electrostatic potentials, which physicists call a virtual photon. Information goes down these at the speed of light. That depends on ordering between molecules, non-covalent interactions. These have to be all kind of assembled right, and that’s why this information, you don’t dehydrate cells and rehydrate them and get them to work properly.

When a cell divides, it collapses down, puts the information on both halves and brings it into both sides so that that information keeps going to the next and the next generation because when you lose these intermolecular interactions that are non-covalent, non-attached, you’ve lost your information flow. Big problem. Nobody has explained, nobody, nobody in origin of life ever mentions the word interactomes. Never will you hear it in their literature.

Next slide. Proto-turkeys. Origin of life proto cell assembly is akin to buying 20 pounds of sliced turkey meat, adding a gallon of turkey broth, warming, sticking a few feathers, and suggesting that a live turkey will eventually come gobbling out. If given enough time, or that a proto-turkey or extant turkey has been synthesized. This is exactly what is done in origin of life experiments. It’s exactly what is done.

If given enough time, a turkey’s going to come out. And people buy this stuff. There’s a whole area of research called origin of life research and they’ve been doing the same thing since 1952.

Next slide. Critical for life is the origin of information, DNA or RNA. The information is primary and the matter is secondary. We can’t even get the matter. Carbohydrates, nucleic acids, lipids, proteins, let alone the information.

What is the code? Even if you had the nucleic acids and even if you could hook them up, what’s the code? Where do you get that code? So we heard a little bit about this earlier in this conference. The information is primary. That’s the information. It can be stored on all sorts of mediums.

So I have an idea. And then I transcribe this onto a piece of paper and now it’s on the paper. And then I type this into my computer and it goes into DRAM. And then when I hit save, it goes into flash memory. And then when I upload it to the web, that same information now is going through an RF wave into a box on the wall. And then from that box on the wall, it’s going through wire to some server form someplace where it goes right back down into transistor-based flash memory.

That same information, which was here in my hand to the paper in my computer in several different forms in an RF wave, same information, different medium. The information is primary. The medium can change all the time. So for example, the molecules in our bodies are always changing. It used to be said that the molecules in our bodies turn over or changed every seven years. And that’s a bunch of nonsense. They’re changed continually. It’s much less than seven years.

And some guys wrote, well, the molecules in your teeth aren’t changed. And then they send them, I did one second Google search. I mean, your teeth are constantly, you get dissolution, redeposition, constantly changing. Every molecule in your body is undergoing a proton exchange. Proton comes with a spin up, a proton comes with a spin down. Every one of these now is a different molecule in the sense that it has different atoms that make it up.

Maybe the same pattern of atoms, but a different atom. You had a different proton exchange. Every molecule is continuing to change. We are dynamic structures constantly changing. What is the real me? I don’t know what the real me is. If you want to say it’s the matter is the real me, then you got a big problem because it’s constantly changing. This is what we were talking about earlier, the difference between brain and mind. What is the real me?

Next slide. You try to build a cell, even hypothetically. Get the dream team, get the smartest people together. Can they build a living cell? I’ll give you all the chemicals you want in homochiral form. And I’ll give you even the informational code. I’ll give you the whole code. In other words, you tell me how you want the DNA set up. I’ll give it all to you. Now just assemble a cell. Go ahead.

You got all your diacyl lipids all in chiral form. Make your protocell. Make it, put in your peptides any way you want, set it up, get your carbohydrates out there. I’ll even hook the carbohydrates together. You just tell me the pattern you want. Then you gotta stick them on your cell. Can you do it? No, nobody can. Nobody, nobody’s ever done it. Nobody can do it. That’s not to say it won’t ever be done. I’m just telling you, as of today, it hasn’t been done and it’s far, far away from being able to do it.

People will quote to me this, synthetic cells. Well, in 2010, Craig Venter’s group copied an existing bacterial genome and transplanted it into another cell. So, what happens? I buy, I buy, say, a Corvette. And so what do I do? I take the computer control box out of that Corvette and I go to my clean room at the university and I copy the chips. I copy them.

And I put my chips that I copied into that control box and I go back and I stick that in my Corvette. And I say, I built that Corvette. I made that Corvette. I did that. He just copied the same chip and he put it back in. That’s all he did.

He took another one in 2016 and he did something similar but he took the control box and he knocked out all but 473 of the working devices and he stuck it back in the cell and went, whoa. You made a cell. No, he didn’t. You just made a cell worse. You just chopped out a bunch of stuff and left just a few pieces to keep it operating enough. He didn’t make the cell. There’s all this complexity, all these interactives. Nobody ever made that. Nobody knows how to do it.

Next slide. So, here’s what’s written in books that people read, people like you. What is life? I never read these books. You never see people like me read these books. This is the masses but this is what they tell you.

So, here’s a science writer read this. He says, life began with little bags of garbage, random assortments of molecules doing some crude kind of metabolism. That is stage one. The garbage bags grow and occasionally split into two and the ones that grow and split fastest win. That’s in his book on what is life by Oxford University Press.

Well, few origin of life researches would state it so shamelessly. Nonetheless, little bags of garbage is precisely what they’ve been making and those little bags of garbage have little more resemblance to living cells than a big bag of garbage to a horse.

ALSO READ:   Invisible Diversity: A Story of Undiagnosed Autism by Carrie Beckwith-Fellows (Transcript)

Next slide. So, you say, well, that’s a book from 2009. Well, let me show you the primary literature. 2018 in the journal Nature. This is our top journal. You want to see what Nature will publish in this area? None of us could get away with this except origin of life researchers do.

This guy is Nobel Laureate Jack Szostak. Here’s what he writes on how did life begin. Let’s go through it. I’m interested in it. How did life begin? I mean, the guy’s a Nobel Prize winner, you must know.

The early atmosphere had no oxygen. It consisted mainly of nitrogen, carbon dioxide with smaller amounts of hydrogen, water, and methane. Lightning, asteroid impacts, UV light from the sun acted on the atmosphere to generate hydrogen cyanide a compound of hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen. Raining into volcanic or crater lakes, the cyanide reacted with iron brought up water circulating through rocks. The resulting iron cyanide compounds accumulated over time building up into a concentration stew of reactive chemicals.

Okay, cool, where are we?

Life, as we know it, requires RNA. Some scientists believe that RNA emerged directly from these reactive chemicals nudged along by dynamic forces in the environment. Huh?

Nudged has no, you can’t put nudged in any of our articles. No scientist knows what nudged means. They don’t know. Nucleotides, the building blocks of RNA, eventually formed then joined together to make strands of RNA. Some stages of the process are still not well understood. You think?

How do these things work together? Show me the chemistry. It’s not there. Once RNA was made, some strands of it become enclosed within tiny vesicles formed by spontaneous assembly of fatty acid lipids in the membranes creating the first protocells. As the membranes incorporated more fatty acids, they grew and divided. At the same time, internal chemical reactions drove replication of encapsulated RNA.

That is nonsense.

Next slide. Here is, next slide, the figure that he showed. This is the figure from Nature. This is his figure. Cyanide derivatives and simple sugars. Those are not sugars. He says this is oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus. That’s fictitious. I don’t know any sugars that have that chemical composition. You don’t know that. He’s lying to you. That’s not real.

Is this HCN? I mean, there should be a carbon, a nitrogen, and a hydrogen if that’s HCN. You know, I’m colorblind, but I can see that’s not really HCN. I don’t know what that is. Maybe that’s phosphate. I can see that that’d be phosphorus, oxygen, oxygen. Maybe that’s phosphate, okay. And then all of a sudden, boom, you got an RNA nucleotide. But the problem is that’s not a nucleotide. It’s the wrong structure.

By far, that’s the wrong structure. He didn’t even put the right structure. At least he could have put the right structure. He didn’t even put the right structure.

Well, what’s acting upon this to make it do this? Well, heat from here, UV light from there. Boom. Nobody knows. That’s in Nature. That’s not in an eighth grade textbook from 2018. People think I selectively choose these things from crazy places. No, this is Nature 2018.

This is what confuses even professors see this and they think, oh, yeah, people know. Nobody knows. This is a bunch of garbage. This is garbage.

Next slide.

All right, exquisite exactness is needed in synthetic protocols. This is one of the kingpins in origin of life research from Oxford, John Sutherland. I’ve never spoken to John. I’m not sure he likes me. But so this is from Nature Chemistry 2015.

Next slide. So you go back to his protocols. You go to the supplemental procedures. You read his protocols. It is amazing how hard it is to make the things that he says he wants to make. And then he makes a little bit of it and it’s a bunch of junk. And so then he says, well, we’ll just use synthetic organic techniques, real techniques, to make more, just to simplify handling procedures. Come on, because you can only make like a fraction of it and you wanted to carry it on. But it was just a bunch of junk. It was just a peek and a, it’s not real.

And even with all your synthetic prowess. And these are just for intermediate. It’s not even the real compounds.

Next slide. So to give you an idea, so he takes copper one and he says he makes it, copper chloride was mixed with potassium chloride to generate the Newland catalyst at 70 degrees. So this is supposed to mimic a prebiotic earth. But he’s using all clean glass where he’s not under rock. He’s in an advanced organic lab. Separately generated source of acetylene was prepared from calcium carbide and water. This gas was bubbled through the Newland catalyst to prepare acrylonitrile. This is a highly unstable molecule. You look at acrylonitrile, it’ll polymerize. When you buy it, you buy it with stabilizers to keep it from polymerizing.

So he had to properly inhibit its polymerization in store. Then he treated with potassium cyanide for one hour with five equivalents of ammonia as a 13 molar, ammonia ammonium solution adjusted to pH 9.2 with sodium hydroxide to generate the desired aminopropionitrile. I mean this is hard chemistry to do. Even if I gave this to synthetic chemists, this would be hard to pull off. Hard, hard chemistry.

There’s all this. Even the most skilled synthetic chemists are preparing a very simple precursors to very few of the molecules within the building block class and all the precursors. And then we’re all racemic at that.

Next slide. Then he even goes so far as to say all the cellular subsystems could have arisen simultaneously through common chemistry. That is crazy.

I’ll tell you, if you work in the area of nanotechnology, you try to build systems. You take molecules to build into a system that functioned. He says they all could have arisen simultaneously through common chemistry. That’s a lie. And it’s accepted in the best of journals. This is crazy. All he made was a couple of precursors and he’s going into the assembly of all subsystems. Show me. If it could have happened, show me. He’ll never show you.

Next slide. So then here’s an article from 12 December 2018. So this is like a month ago. This comes out now in Nature Communications, Prebiotic Chemistry and Human Intervention. So now they’re saying, yeah, you know, if you’re really going to copy prebiotic chemistry, you can’t have too much intervention. So they’re beginning to catch on. I’m surprised the journal took this. He says such a pure chemical scenario is unrealistic prebiotically but necessary.

He’s saying if you want to do something prebiotic, you gotta have clean chemicals. He says nobody’s really explained this. Furthermore, the ideal experiment does not involve any human intervention. So this is this guy, Clemens Richard. They’re beginning to catch on.

Next slide. How close have researchers come to making an artificial cell?

Well, we know now. We know how far, how close they’ve come. How do we know? Because in November 2018, it’s just a couple months ago, Science Magazine, top journal, says biologists create the most lifelike artificial cells. Whoa, I want to see what they’ve made. That’s how far along it really is.

Next slide. So they’re commenting on this article which appeared in Nature Communications in November 2018. Communication and quorum sensing in non-living mimics of eukaryotic cells. Wow, they made these cells and they’re communicating with one another? Quorum sensing, meaning that they can tell distance between each other? Let me read about this.

Next slide. So semiporous microcapsules were made of plastic, plastic, from acrylate polymerization containing clay were prepared using modern microfluidic techniques done within a fabrication devices. So you go into a clean room, you build microfluidic devices and you take, you polymerize, you make polymers around clay. That’s all well known, how to do that. That’s what they did. These are plastic shells.

Clays have a high affinity for binding DNA because clays are positively charged, DNA is negatively charged. So you add DNA to the solution, it goes through the porous plastic and binds to the clay.

Then they add in, they buy ribosomes and RNA, enzymes and reagents were purchased or extracted and they add that to the medium, those diffuse in too. And the normal protein synthesis starts taking place which is normal synthesis and then some of that diffuses out of those and then the nearby ones they add, some of it diffuses into the nearby ones. The ones that are near get more diffused into them than the ones further away. Well duh, that’s normal diffusion gradient.

The ones that are closer get hit more often. The chemistry’s going to work.

Next slide. The chemistry of the exogenously added reagents will work regardless of the container, whether it’s a plastic semi-porous microcapsule as was used in a test tube or in a large industrial production vat. The chemistry’s the same, it’s done all the time. You take these biological derived systems, you add them together, proteins will start being made. This is how proteins are made.

You know, you buy these drugs, how are they made? They’re made in vats. Well this guy did it in a little microcapsule. That’s the most life-like system that’s ever been made according to Science Magazine. That’s it.

So it is far from the press-hype claims of gene expression and communication rivaling that of living cells. That’s what the press is saying. There is no rivalry here, no one. Further, one might arguably agree that these are indeed the most life-like artificial cells yet, but that only serves to underscore the point. Nobody has ever come close to generating the workings of life. Nobody’s even close.

You do this chemistry in the lab all the time. So they did it in a microporous capsule, and they said, whoa, this is life. My test tube is life then.

Next slide. Fool’s gold. So if you take sulfur and you add it to different metals, those metals can turn yellowish, and then they’ll turn golden looking. Iron sulfide.

Well when alchemists made iron sulfide, don’t you think they would think that, wow, if you add enough sulfur to different elements, it’s going to start being gold? They knew it wasn’t gold. It didn’t have the same ductility, didn’t have the same melting point, but wouldn’t they have thought, hey, at least we’re going in the right direction? They would have thought that.

But no, you’re totally wrong. You can add sulfur to any element you want all day. It’s never going to turn into gold. We know now the only way to make gold from another element is you change the number of protons. Then you need a nuclear process which is a lot more expensive than gold. So you can get thrown off just because it looks like gold. It’s not really gold, and you’re way off base.

Next slide. So what I’m saying is I’d like to have a moratorium on the origin of life research so a change is warranted, and we’ve gotta change the way we do things, and we need to address fundamental problems here in origin of life research.

Next slide. Again, one more slide. Here’s the ramifications of Colin Conjecture’s facts. Claims that mislead the patient taxpayer are unhelpful, and the public will even distrust scientific claims into other fields. Uncorrected or unfounded assertions jeopardize science beyond the singular field, especially since there’s mounting distrust of higher education in general. Condescending comments toward the public or a student if they will not embrace our conjectures as facts will lead to continued division between our scientists and non-scientists which can yield public reluctance to fund our research. We must tell the truth with specificity. If it is a fact, say it. If it’s not a fact, say it.

Blackballing scientists, if they bear legitimate non-conformist views by excluding them from professional societies and academies, withholding their funding or denying them tenure is anti-scientific, and it will retard the advancement of science.

Next slide. I’m just going to finish up quickly. Now I’m done with the technical talk. I’m going to come back to the Bible.

A scientific fact. Water has two hydrogens, one oxygen. That’s a fact. That’s not going to change anywhere in the universe. There’s never been discordance between the scientific facts and statements in the Bible, so there’s no need to reconcile them.

So-called scientific facts, which are really theories, are constantly changing even on the order of decades and certainly on the order of a century. So trying to twist the Bible to fit the scientific theory is a frustrating endeavor. Don’t let professors with their bold claims of facts upset you.

Theories or conjectures are not facts, but unfortunately and shamefully, many professors themselves do not make the necessary distinctions. This leads to the confusion of generations of students and even professors themselves.

I am telling you, professors are confused on these issues. Professors think that simple forms of life have been made. They’re confused on these issues, and I’ll close with this Bible verse.

Next slide.

You must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow and Him you must revere. Keep His commandments, obey Him, serve Him and hold Him fast.

When your students go off into the universities and they hear these things, these are false prophets speaking to them. Some of them are sincere, but they’re sincerely false prophets. Some of them are sincerely misleading people. As believers, you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you really love Him or not. He’s testing you. Keep His commandments, obey Him, serve Him and hold Him fast.

Thank you.

For Further Reading:

John Lennox: 7 Days That Divide the World (Transcript)

(Through The Bible) – Book of Ecclesiastes: Zac Poonen (Transcript)

Bill Nye Debates Ken Ham (Full Transcript)

AI, Man & God: Prof. John Lennox (Full Transcript)

Scroll to Top