The Odds Against a Natural Account of Life’s Origin
by Lenny Esposito
One of the most fundamental questions human beings have asked “Where did we come from?” The Christian will respond that we are creations of God. Modern atheism, though, seeks to erase God from the picture by proposing that we came about as a result of a very lucky combination of material and the laws of science where short strands of polynucleotides—the stuff that makes up our DNA and RNA molecules—would stick together to form longer chains. The story goes that eventually, an RNA molecule would form that could self-replicate and life would begin.
Just how much luck was involved? Dr. David Berlinski discusses it here:
Was nature lucky? It depends on the payoff and the odds. The payoff is clear: an ancestral form of RNA capable of replication. Without that payoff, there is no life, and obviously, at some point, the payoff paid well. The question is the odds.
For the moment, no one knows precisely how to compute those odds, if only because within the laboratory, no one has conducted an experiment leading to a self-replicating ribozyme. But the minimum length or “sequence” that is needed for a contemporary ribozyme to undertake what the distinguished geochemist Gustaf Arrhenius calls “demonstrated ligase activity” is known. It is roughly 100 nucleotides.
Whereupon, just as one might expect, things blow up very quickly. As Arrhenius notes, there are 4100, or roughly 1060 nucleotide sequences that are 100 nucleotides in length. This is an unfathomably large number. It exceeds the number of atoms in the universe, as well as the age of the universe in seconds. If the odds in favor of self-replication are 1 in 1060, no betting man would take them, no matter how attractive the payoff, and neither presumably would nature.1
Following that description, Berlinski notes that Arrhenius seeks to escape his own dilemma by proposing that such long self-replicating sequences may not have been as rare in the primeval earth as they are today. He then answers…
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