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How Did Life Begin?

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA...


Quite  often I have  heard the objection that life could not have formed until the first replicator, such as DNA or RNA, had formed. Usually this objection came to me via Jehovah’s Witnesses but I have occasionally heard the same objection from other creationists. Firstly, DNA does not replicate itself in the absence of DNA polymerase which is a protein that catalyzes the reaction by adding nucleotides to the DNA strand.  In concept RNA could replicate itself but that has not been observed. What has been observed in a sort of autocatalytic reaction is that RNA through Ribozymes, which are molecules of RNA, have been found to catalyze either the hydrolysis of one of their own phosphodiester bonds, or the hydrolysis of bonds in other RNA molecules.  Another objection is that life can not come from non-life. Formic acid, the simplest organic acid and still found in those painful bee stings, can be fixed from Carbon Dioxide under UV light which coincidently were the conditions on the primordial Earth.

DNA replication or DNA synthesis is the proces...

DNA Replication

There was a term used above that needs defining and one that entirely negates the argument against abiogenesis by creationists and their ilk. That term is autocatalysis. Autocatalysis is a chemical reaction where the product is itself the catalyst for that reaction. Extremely convenient that people like Michael Behe and Kent Hovind et al. totally ignore autocatalysis.

Full-Length Hammerhead Ribozyme color-coded so...


How is life defined? There is no definition, at least not an unequivocal one. An autocatalytic reaction can reproduce itself so unless one is prepared to define some inorganic reactions as life that can’t be one of the requirements. One way to grasp the difficulty of defining life is to ask yourself the question why is a dead horse dead. The dead horse has the exact same amount of RNA and DNA, the biochemical activity continue (at least for a short time after death) so what has changed?

Crystal Growth

Crystal Growth

Looking at some of the requirements for life we find an ability to grow,  reproduce and an ability to transfer ‘genetic’ information from parent to child. This is found in totally inorganic crystal growth  A nice experiment to illustrate this is to put about 250 grams of Sodium Thiosulphate Pentahydrate and put it in a beaker with 75 ml of distilled water. Heat it to just under 100 C while stirring the solutiion. Remove the beaker from the heat source and cover with a lid in order to keep contaminants out. You now have a supersaturated solution. Let it cool for a few hours and you now have a supersaturated solution that is about to perform what looks life magic before your very eyes. Carefully remove the lid and drop one crystal of Sodium Thiosulphate Pentahydrate into the beaker and watch what happens. From that initial seed the crystals grow and after a few minutes you find pieces of the growing crystal breaking off and starting their own growth cycles which by any means is reproduction and a transfer of  ‘genetic’ information as far as how to grow and what crystal structure to have. Depending on the level of supersaturation of the solution, seeding like this can happen spontaneously on the beakers sides or on particles of dust or other contaminants.

How hard is it to consider crystal growth as being a possible means of abiogenesis? Is it really that much of a leap to  see the primordial soup being supersaturated with inorganic molecules that grew as crystals on outcroppings of either clay or rock? It isn’t hard to imagine those growing crystals undergoing a sort of molecular version of natural selection which ultimately led to organic molecules such as DNA and RNA.

Some further reading on the suject you might enjoy

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4 Responses

  1. New research has been released which indicates chemiosmosis as a key step in the abiogenesis puzzle.


  2. Hi friends

    The Universe and in it the life began to shape up after when the Creator -God Allah YHWH commanded it with the words “Be”; it did evolve in many millions of years to come up to its present shape or form. This journey will continue till the Creator -God Allah YHWH commands it to stop. We are thankful to the scientists that their research continuously brings about new things for our knowledge; there is no real contradiction between Revelation- the Word of God and the Science- the Act of God; if truly understood.

    I love Jesus and Mary as mentioned in Quran.


    I am an Ahmadi peaceful Muslim

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