Investigating Tour's Misrepresentations

Continuing the discussion from Comments on Tour Apologizes to Sostack:

OK. I’ll look it over and get back to you.


Quote from article. “The truth is that the illustration showed the structure of glyceraldehyde. This is the core of all sugar on Earth. This is undergraduate chemistry. This is the molecular structure James Tour insisted did not exist. This undergraduate level chemistry!”

@Timothy_Horton From what I can tell this is not true. According to what I read glyceraldehyde is C3H6O3. There is no hydrogen listed in the illustration, only oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous. What Tour says is the chemical composition is not that of any sugar he’s aware of, and it seems he’s correct. I must admit for a social scientist to claim he knows more about chemistry than a renowned chemist seems a bit of a stretch.

Actually from glancing through the article Hurd doesn’t seem to be objective in his criticisms but seems bent on painting as bad of a picture of Tour as he can get away with. Just my impression. Setting that aside, my main interest is in the portion between 14:00 and 40:00 where the core of the evidence is discussed which Hurd completely skips over.

We usually don’t depict hydrogens. They are implied.


Oh, I stand corrected.


I see you “accidentally” omitted Dr. Hurd’s explanation for the simplified diagram

"James Tour shows a slide at 45:20 that was a clip from Szostak’s little paper. The molecule structures are presented in a very simple manner. The core atoms are represented as colored dots, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, and Phosphorus. Hydrogen atoms are not shown, and all chemical bonds between atoms are represented by simple lines. The actual professional publication of this chemical reaction pathway is “Prebiotic synthesis of simple sugars by photoredox systems chemistry”

That wasn’t a very honest thing to do, now was it?


Sorry, I didn’t read in detail. Just kind of glanced at it. My mistake. :slight_smile:


OK. Do you understand now Dr. Hurd is correct in his assessment it was Tour, your “renowned chemist” who was lying?


I concede it seems he is correct about his assessment regarding the simple sugars. I haven’t examined the rest of the article in detail so that’s about all I can comment on at the moment.


There’s so many threads on this topic, I don’t know which to post this in. Moderators feel free to move it to another thread if you think it’s more appropriate.

Here’s the video @Gary_Hurd mentioned was coming (I haven’t watched it yet):

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I hope you like it.


You saw the graphics about cyanide derivatives, and the RNA nucleotide strictures also?

I saw them but I didn’t really look at that part very carefully. So I guess if you’re asking if I looked at them close enough to understand that part, no.

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I could be wrong but it seems it would be better if social scientists do not try to dabble in fields that they aren’t really qualified in especially when trying to correct someone who is. Here is Tour’s explanation of the problem with the simple sugars diagram along with other issues he addresses. I’m assuming since Szostak himself agreed with Tour that the diagram was wrong, that there would be nothing further to say about that particular issue, except for maybe some confessions from some who were a little too quick to jump to conclusions.

I was ‘alerted’

My undergraduate research fellowships at the University of California were in nuclear chemistry. I had ordinary course work in general, organic, and biochemistry. I had as many graduate student hours in chemistry as anthropology. I was an industrial polymer chemist after my doctorate. I preferred medical research and teaching, and I was a professor of medicine until 1985.

In fact, the claims Tour made about the 2 1/2 page popular item were lies. This is simple fact. This is why the Disco’tute, and James Tour are freaking out trying to get their dupes and stooges to attack the “social scientist.”

Instead, read the facts;

As it turns out, the real world is intruding, and it will probably next week before I expose the current crop of BS from John West, and James Tour.

PS: Just a personal note, I needed 2 courses for a BA in chemistry, but I was broke. I would have had to pay a months rent for a MS in 1975, but I was broke. My Ph.D. in 1976 was delayed for 2 months because I owed the Big U $250. And I was broke. My first real checks were from the industrial chemistry job in 1977.


I think that Jim has some retracting and apologizing to do.


James Tour’s take, from the conclusion of his letter to John West:

We are nowhere close to cracking the OOL problem, as I said in my lecture. And if
someone suggests otherwise—I think they are incorrect. I am not just saying OOL is a
hard problem. I am saying we are nowhere close to solving it because we are
neglecting the fundamentals that need to be addressed—like the fundamentals that I
addressed in my Dallas lecture. And even with all the great work by Sutherland, and
the citations by Szostak, we are nowhere close to a solution.

@Gary_Hurd and @Mercer, do you disagree, and if so, why?

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I agree (and most should) with most of it except the bolded part.

Everyone should agree we are not close to solving OOL. We are not.

However, that bolded part seems, in my opinion, to be under great dispute. I respect Tour a great deal, but the exchange I’m watching seems like he and OOL field are talking past one another.

If his only point is that OOL is not solved, and we are far from solving it, there should be no argument with him. I’m just not sure what the force of his point is beyond this.


I should also add that Tour, in my opinion, has earned the right to be heard on this, even if he is wrong on particulars. This is not an endorsement of his position, and it certainly not license to call people liars. At the same time, I think he has a right to be heard.

In fact, given Tour’s stature, I would hope that Szostack and others would respond directly to him, and publicly. Such a response might lead to some increased understanding, and perhaps even put to bed some of the mischaracterizations on both sides. I do not say this as an endorsement of any of Tour’s specific arguments. At the moment, I am speaking relationally. Tour, in my view, earned the right to be heard.


It seems very strange for James Tour to simultaneously argue for a “moratorium” on origin of life research, as in advocate that we should stop funding it, and then also to say that we are far from having having solved the problem.

Well then maybe it’s time we increase funding and get more people involved?

He wants it to stop, the research. He wants the organizations that fund this research to stop doing so, and the people who do the experiments and theorizing, either to stop doing it, or use their own money on it. Because he believes it’s a waste of time and resources because life can’t originate (“this we know from chemistry”), rather it was …wink wink made supernaturally by God. He just says he doesn’t know how to prove that(that God did it), so he just wants the research to stop.


Having talked to him about this directly, I think this is not really what is going on. I could be wrong, but that is not how I read him.

I think he believes all the current OOL work is totally misdirected. He wants people to acknowledge this, and rethink their approach.

Maybe he is right (who knows really?), but even if he is, a moratorium is not the right way to fix it. Increasing funding, also, is not the right way. Science takes time. We need brilliant insight and a lot of work.