All About Science Green and blue chemistry symbols - All About Science Banner

Life and Abiogenesis

QUESTION: Life and Abiogenesis – How simple can life be?


Abiogenesis traditionally asserts that life can self-assemble from non-life. But just how simple can life be? What is the minimum life-permitting complexity of a single cell? Modern science has revealed vast amounts of complex, specified information in even the simplest of self-replicating organisms. For example, Mycoplasma genitalium has the smallest known genome of any free living organism, containing 482 genes comprising 580,000 bases. Obviously these genes are only functional with pre-existing replicating and translational machinery. However, Mycoplasma genitalium may only survive by parasitizing more complex organisms, which provide many of the nutrients it cannot manufacture for itself. Darwinists must thus posit a first organism with more complexity, with even more genes than Mycoplasma.

Some researchers have attempted to calculate the bare minimum required for a living, self-replicating cell. Eugenie Koonin and others came up with a result of 256 genes. They expressed doubt, however, as to whether such a hypothetical bug could survive, because such an organism could barely repair DNA damage and would lack the ability to digest complex compounds, and would require a comprehensive supply of organic nutrients in its environment.

Follow up research led by Hamilton Smith at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville in 2006 indicates that the minimum genome consists of 387 protein-coding and 43 RNA-coding genes. Yet even this ‘simple’ organism possesses far too much information to be expected from time and chance without natural selection. Clearly natural selection cannot help, as this requires self-replicating entities -- therefore it cannot be invoked to explain their origin.

The information theorist Hubert Yockey calculated that given a pool of pure, activated biological amino acids -- and granting as much as 109 years -- a total amount of information which could be produced would only be a single small polypeptide 49 amino acid residues long. This is about 1/8 the size of a typical protein. But the hypothetical cell described above requires at least 256 proteins. Yockey’s estimate not only grants a generous 109 years, but also assumes that the many as yet non-surmounted chemical hurdles can be overcome.

So, how simple can life be? Now you know…not very!

Abiogenesis - Learn More!

Copyright © 2002-2021, All Rights Reserved