ID Prediction #3

“Future experiments will continue to show that RNA catalysts lack the capacities necessary to render the RNA-world scenario plausible.”

Meyer presents another set of predictions that relate to the “structure, organization, and functional logic of living systems.” This is the first of four predictions in this field.

Several chapters of the book are devoted to analyzing proposed origin-of-life theories. One of the more popular scenarios in the last decade is the so-called “RNA world scenario.” The dilemma facing origin of life researchers is to decide what elements evolved first. Since proteins and enzymes that are essential to replicating DNA are themselves formed from patterns stored in DNA, it is not clear what came first, the DNA chicken or the protein egg. The RNA world seeks to avoid that dilemma by postulating that the first biomolecules to evolve were RNA fragments that were self-catalytic. These molecules evolved to proteins and DNA later on. Meyer is simply stating that none of the proposed RNA catalysts will prove to be up to the task.

This prediction is more likely than the first two to have an experimental resolution within our lifetimes. No doubt, the RNA world scenario will be revised significantly as time goes on, but it is reasonable to expect that the core concept of self-catalytic processes may be rejected or shown to be plausible. The definition of plausibility may make it hard to clearly judge whether the prediction has been met or not. What is judged by some to be plausible may not be to others. Some might argue that plausibility has already been established. Nevertheless the prediction has some merit.

The validity of ID, however, is not likely to be influenced by the result. Again, the prediction of a null result is quite problematic. If RNA catalytics are not up to the task, it is still quite possible that other molecules will be discovered to play that role. There are many reasons why this null result might occur. On the other hand, if they are up to the task that Meyer poses, few ID advocates would give up the faith. There are yet many other aspects to be solved in order to have plausible theories for the origin of life. In summary, the prediction may or may not be verified but either way, the argument will go on.

2 comments to ID Prediction #3

  • Jon Tandy


    You mention two possible outcomes of further research on the RNA world scenario.
    1. RNA world proves not up to the task of creating protein and DNA molecules
    2. RNA research may prove to have merit, so ID researchers might “give up the faith”.  (I’ll generalize this as not necessarily giving up religious faith, but the ID proposition of intelligent design.

    But if such research did prove to have merit, I think there is more likely a third possibility.  If RNA proves to be self-catalytic, so as to be able to create more and more complex structures and complex information such as DNA, doesn’t that appear to be a very intelligently designed system?  So,

    3. The existence of an RNA self-catalytic process is evidence that there must have been an intelligent designer involved in the creation of RNA.

    • Randy Isaac

      Isn’t that essentially the lower case i, lower case d id that Owen Gingerich talks about rather than ID? Essentially, it’s deducing the ultimate cause of a designer rather than a proximal cause being the designer. It’s not a scientific conclusion, per se.

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