James Tour and the Origin of Life

This isn’t naked tribalism. I was merely pointing out atheists must appeal to evolution as an origins theory and Christians have options. I admit I didn’t state that well, and I can understand your POV on what I said. I did not not and have never said that people that affirm evolutionary theory for origins cannot be Christians.

Your argument doesn’t make sense. It’s as if you said schoolteachers can’t care about politics because then they would be politicians.

I know this is an ID channel, but feel free to listen to him in your own words to decide if this is hearsay or evidence. I assume because he’s a chemist, he actually knows what he’s talking about.


Good question. I don’t know.

I already pointed out why you are wrong, but I will reiterate: A person can not believe in any gods, but still believe in other things he considers to be supernatural, like ghosts or telekinesis.

So atheism does not presuppose naturalism.

This is really not that complicated.

You would be wrong:


Time for a little shameless self-promotion. :wink:

This is a little article I wrote last year for a Christian audience about authority and science: Science and Authority – Adventist Today

1 Like

uh…should I point to the times that people corrected me in another thread and said that OoL has to do with chemical evolution and not biology? It seems I’m not the only one that gets confused.

:neutral_face: I think it still looks embarrassing. What progress do you see?

If you read the articles I linked you would know that Tour does not understand the chemistry involved in abiogenesis.

I’m a medical doctor, but that does not mean I’m an expert in every field of medicine. Believe me, you don’t want me doing open heart surgery on you.

Tour talking about the chemistry of abiogenesis is like a psychiatrist doing open heart surgery.


I don’t think you really looked. Where in Tour’s video did he address prebiotic metabolism, if you disagree?


It most certainly is. You were falsely attributing a view to a very heterogeneous group of people. We all have options. For example, I can be a Christian while admitting that the historical evidence for Jesus having existed is thin, with historical evidence for the Resurrection being much thinner. I can be a Christian while seeing that anyone claiming that there are eyewitness accounts of the Resurrection is obviously profoundly mistaken or lying.

It wasn’t simply not stated well, it was objectively false.

Sure it does. Why aren’t there any creationist pharma companies when there exist creationists with scientific training? They don’t have faith in what they are selling.

That’s not a very thoughtful analogy, starting with the facts that politics affects everyone and schoolteachers do become politicians.

I don’t have to listen to know that it is hearsay unless he reports his own research. Your challenge suggests that you don’t understand the meaning of the term.

Yet I’m a BIOchemist, and you blithely assume that I don’t know what I’m talking about. It seems that your credentialism is as selective as your Biblical literalism.

How is that not a statement that abiogenesis occurred?

Do tell. Which ones?

Do you realize that you have access to public databases of terabytes of sequence evidence, as well as software tools for the analysis of that evidence, that would allow you to look for any hypothesized discontinuity?

Do you see how I’m not telling you to take my word for it (hearsay) but am encouraging you to examine the evidence for yourself?

Back to the Bible, Isaiah 11:3:

He will take delight in obeying the Lord. He will not judge by mere appearances, or make decisions on the basis of hearsay.

Valerie, why does the Bible so clearly tell us that judging others on the basis of hearsay is not a good thing?


No. Which articles by the way? I only read yours. Ask @swamidass if Tour is qualified to criticize the field or not.

Tour certainly has the expertise to form opinions on OOL that need to be taken seriously and engaged. When he advances those opinions in the public square, it’s a full contact sport, and no one’s views are above harsh criticism from other experts.


I agree. But to my point to @Faizal_Ali OoL is an arena of chemistry not biology? Or correct me if I’m wrong.

OOL is an interdisciplinary question that spans many fields, including chemistry and biology and many others.

Every experienced chemist is qualified to criticize the various OoL models that involve some form of prebiotic chemical synthesis, but if they go on to dismiss the entire field without any good reason and/or evidence, then they won’t be taken seriously.

Scientists love to criticize the work of other scientists. This is good for science, as it ensures that scientists take great care to scrutinize their models or hypotheses with the best data available and avoid pitfalls in logical reasoning. Robert Shapiro (NYU Chemistry Professor) was an ardent critic of the various models of abiogenesis (especially the RNA World hypothesis). Unlike Tour, he got into the field by studying the prebiotic synthesis of the nucleobase, adenine. Seeing the difficulties in the RNA World model, he strongly criticized it and instead pushed for the Metabolism-First hypothesis, which seemed more probable to him.

There are many chemists (like Greg Springsteen and Ramanarayanan Krishnamurty) working on the OoL. It’s more reasonable to get firsthand reports on progress and unsolved puzzles from them, than someone who isn’t working in the field.


I had the privilege of personally discussing Professor Shapiro’s views with him on abiogenesis around the time of the Dover trial (he also confirmed he did not peer-review Darwin’s Black Box but that’s another story). He was skeptical of RNA world, certainly, but he was no ID supporter, reckoning that the best place to look for evidence for life was on other planets, citing his own book, Planetary Dreams, as a good summary of his views.


Wow. Don’t these guys think of visiting Nigeria, they have fans over here (hehehe). Was there any claim that he supported Behe’s arguments in “Darwin’s Black Box”?

Personally I agree a lot with Shapiro on the apparent improbability of the RNA World model and higher probability of a Metabolism-First origin of life.

Shapiro’s suggestion is certainly a good one but its success will depend on us knowing what extraterrestrial life looks like. We can barely agree on whether viruses are inanimate or alive, so it might be difficult to spot life on other planets even if we see it. I have a simple (but idiotic) answer to this challenge; if it moves, its alive, either at the microscopic or macroscopic level, hehehe).

ID guys sometimes like to exaggerate or misrepresent the criticisms of scientists by other scientists to their audience. Its good Shapiro clarified his stance. His book would certainly be a good read.

Unfortunately the email exchanges are lost on a fried hard drive. There was some public discussion at The Panda"s Thumb website but those archives are currently inaccessible (I hear Joe Felsenstein and others are working to resurrect them). Professor Shapiro’s name was put forward as having “peer-reviewed” DBB and I contacted him to ask if it was correct. He clarified he was sent an advance copy by the publisher asking for comments. He replied, praising Behe’s literary ability but criticizing the science. He was then quote-mined in the publisher blurb.

PS, I see there is a short article by Skip Evans (also sadly no longer with us) covering this.

1 Like

Sad to hear about Evans.

Thanks for the link. It cleared things up.

Devastating logic!

1 Like

Every first year biochemistry student knows what @Rumraket said is a fact. Don’t let your religious attachments keep you from seeing this.

Let’s take brief journey through the process of protein digestion. When you eat meat, your body breaks down the constituent (inanimate) proteins in it into smaller peptides, usually starting at the stomach using your stomach’s acidic juice. These (inanimate) peptides next move into the small intestine where they are further hydrolyzed to release their (inanimate) amino acid (aa) components. Organs like the small intestine have a high protein turnover rate (rate of protein degradation and synthesis is relatively rapid), so they “lap” up many of the amino acids released by peptidases. When an (inanimate) aa like glutamate gets into an intestinal epithelial cell, it is bound by a tRNA molecule and taken to a ribosome where it is incorporated into a nascent polypeptide. That’s exactly how inanimate molecules are used to make biologically functional macromolecules.


Life arose when nature put molecules together in specific ways. They are trying to figure out how nature did it. That is an extremely difficult task, but some progress has been achieved.

Like I said, you won’t get this sort of info from James Tour. If you want to follow progress on their various efforts, find their papers and read.

For example, Krishnamurty, Greg Springsteen and other co-workers have been able to nonenzymatically synthesize alpha-ketoacid analogues to the alpha-ketoacid intermediates of the reverse citric acid cycle (r-TCA). This non-enzymatic r-TCA further synthesized alanine and glutamine via transamination reactions.

Of course, no one knows if nature did it this way, but it is a likely route. Similarly, when a patient gets diagnosed with cancer, the oncologist would never be able to determine exactly how the patient’s tumor started, but thanks to decades of research, possible pathways leading to tumorigenesis that have been experimentally determined and the doctor can say it was any of such pathways by examining the special conditions of the patient (say history of smoking). This is the goal of chemists like Springsteen and Krishnamurty with regards to the OoL.

Protein folding researchers like Ken Dill have not been able to “check off” all the mechanisms leading to protein folding, but does it mean you can’t follow up their research?

Even creationists like Jeanson have not checked off all the numerous problems plaguing their “research”, but you hang on to most of what they say, just because they agree with your religious ideology. Worse still, people like Jeanson are not experts on many of the issues they try to refute and of course they make serious mistakes in doing so. I would go with @Joe_Felsenstein or @Herman_Mays anytime on issues relating to population genetics than Jeanson, because they do the hardworking necessary to validating any models or hypotheses they propose. Take a cue from me.