Origin of life energy problem described in an article in ScienceDaily, 25 May 2010. The origin of life has been described as a chicken and egg problem, where scientists can’t work out what came first – the ability to reproduce, or the ability to control chemical reactions (metabolism). Both are needed for life. Scientists at the University of Leeds have now pointed out another necessity for life – a controlled source of energy. However, this leads to yet another chicken and egg problem. Cells use a molecule named ATP to transfer chemical energy, but this requires enzymes (large proteins that act as catalysts) to make. Terry Kee of the University of Leeds explained: “You need enzymes to make ATP and you need ATP to make enzymes. The question is: where did energy come from before either of these two things existed?”

The P in ATP is phosphate – a combination of phosphorus and oxygen. ATP gives out energy when a phosphate ion is removed from it, and regains the energy when a phosphate is re-attached. In this way it acts like a rechargeable battery, undergoing cycles of discharging and recharging, as phosphates are attached and detached. Kee and his colleagues at the University of Leeds have studied chemical reactions involving phosphorus-containing compounds and concluded: “We think that the answer may lie in simple molecules such as pyrophosphite which is chemically very similar to ATP, but has the potential to transfer energy without enzymes.” But scientists who study the origin of life are not sure where phosphorous containing molecules came from in the first place. One theory is they came from meteorites. Kee commented: “Phosphorus is present within several meteoritic minerals and it is possible that this reacted to form pyrophosphite under the acidic, volcanic conditions of early Earth.”


Editorial Comment: Kee’s description of the chicken and egg problem of needing both energy and enzymes for the origin of life is a serious problem for those trying to explain the origin of life by naturalistic processes. Finding molecules like pyrophosphite does not really help because these molecules do not exist in living things. You cannot explain the origin of life until you can explain the origin of the real molecules that actually do occur in living cells.

Furthermore, the energy and enzyme problem is not the only chicken and egg problem in the origin of life. The most serious problem is how the genetic code came into being. Genetic code is stored on DNA, but DNA itself cannot be made without the enzymes it codes for. In fact, none of the genetic code can be used for any purpose without the coexistence of a lot of complex cellular machinery consisting of proteins and many other large molecules, along with the controlled energy sources referred to by Kee and colleagues. The Leeds University research only confirms that the origin of life requires the plan and purpose of an intelligent Creator who devised the genetic code and, at the same time, made the cellular machinery to use it, and the energy source to power it all. (Ref. biochemistry, abiogenesis, nucleotides)

Evidence News, 23 June 2010