James Tour accuses origin of life researchers of lying

At a conference sponsored by the creationist Discovery Institute:

Provide quote and timestamp please.


At 43:05, he starts quoting papers by Jack Szostak and John Sutherland, punctuating his description with remarks like “That’s a lie! He’s lying to you!”, to general laughter and applause from the audience.


What did he say was a lie?

He says that Nobel Laureate Jack Szostak claims as sugars compounds that are not sugars (45:25).

I used to think Tour was just a confused but very religious scientist but it has become obvious he’s become another paid propagandist for the DI’s clown circus.


Here is the article he is complaining about. It is clearly meant as a simplified summary for the general public.


His concern seems to be re: the diagram at the end, where there is an illustration showing cyanide derivatives being converted by UV radiation into simple sugars. He yells “THOSE ARE NOT SUGARS!”. And maybe, as shown in the drawing, they are not. Is this the only place where Szostak discusses his model and is there nowhere that he clarifies what he means by “sugars” being formed from cyanide derivatives? I somehow suspect not. Does anyone know?

Here is an article by one of the other people Tour accuses of lying, John Sutherland. It shows how SUGARS!! can be formed from hydrogen cyanide by UV radiation. I wonder if Tour would recognize these as SUGARS!!??


Tour really is unconscionable. The article is first of all a pop-sci article, and it isn’t at all claiming to have solved how life evolved. In several places Szostak is upfront about the fact that we don’t know how RNA was first synthesized, and even mentions the fact that there are some researchers who disagree about the putative role of RNA in the origin of life.

It’s rather stupid to criticize a rough general outline in cartoon form, intended for a lay audience as if it is “a publication in nature”.

This blatant creationist tool is even attacking Szostak’s cartoon, openly stated as representing a rough outline of an unproven hypothesis, for stating completely honestly and openly, that some stages in the transition from simple precursors to RNA aren’t well understood.

What the hell else should Szostak have said, that they were understood?

Tour is a fraud and he’s playing to an audience like a clown.


Indeed. It took me a matter of seconds to find that article by Sutherland. And I am not a chemist. Tour is lecturing to people as a self-proclaimed expert and is telling them that Jack Szostak publishes fraudulent articles in Nature, and either does not know what a sugar is or lies to his readers about the processes by which sugars can be produced. This is the message his audience will take away.

As you say, unconscionable.

@swamidass, he’s a friend of yours, isn’t he? Maybe you could remind your brother in Christ of the one about not bearing false witness.

As you know, I resist calling people deceitful when other explanations are just as valid. I haven’t reviewed the details yet, but would disagree with Tour here if what you are reporting is true (and I have not yet checked).


To check, just watch the video from 43:00 to 47:00, then look at the article in Nature (note: not a Nature “Article” sensu stricto) by Szostak. Tour is either severely misrepresenting the article deliberately or has somehow worked himself into a frenzy over a simplified cartoon, an option I don’t find particularly plausible.


Is he objecting to sostak or the press on sostak?

I just watched the relevant portion of the video. It’s bad, really bad. He even refers to the Nature article as the “primary literature” when it’s clearly, obviously not.





Why not just watch the video? Just the few minutes I mentioned. It’ll tell you all you need to know.

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He closes with Bible verses that, for all practical purposes, are warnings to Christians that scientists are false prophets.

If Tour had credibility, it’s pretty much gone.


James Tour has 669 research publications with 71562 citations and over 120 patents, with an H-index = 123

@swamidass another example that Hurts me why? because I am human

this is a real example of how ID is being criticized and by whom.

No one in this discussion board has even 10% of Tour’s achievements, but you allow yourself to call him ‘‘self-proclaimed expert’’

P.S. if the article in Nature is written for the general audience then, lying is allowed. OK

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Which matters not one iota to the fact Tour was caught falsely claiming actual abiogenesis researchers are liars when in fact if was Tour who was lying to his religious audience.