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Organic Molecules

What is an "organic molecule?" When scientists announce that they have found one, the impression that a layperson gets is that this molecule can, like magic, suddenly produce life!  It is, after all, "organic" and organic things are living things, right?

A science magazine recently announced, "A speck of dust that drifted into the Earth's atmosphere from the edge of the solar system shows that complex molecules can form even in the chill near-emptiness of interstellar space." (New Scientists March 2004) The article makes a few assumptions based on its evolutionary worldview and then gets backs to real facts again: "Simple organic molecules have been detected in this dust before .  .  .  dust particles could have seeded the young Earth with organic matter." Could they?  Let us consider this leap of false logic.

A chemist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, John Bradley, said, "Its another hint that extraterrestrial carbon may be implicated in the origin of life." The dust particle, named Benavente, was very small - it was only one femtogram, which is one millionth of one billionth of a gram, yet from this a mass spectrometer was able to detect molecules of carbon, nitrogen and . . .

What is an "organic molecule?" When scientists announce that they have found one, the impression that a layperson gets is that this molecule can, like magic, suddenly produce life!  It is, after all, "organic" and organic things are living things, right?

A science magazine recently announced, "A speck of dust that drifted into the Earth's atmosphere from the edge of the solar system shows that complex molecules can form even in the chill near-emptiness of interstellar space."
(New Scientists March 2004) The article makes a few assumptions based on its evolutionary worldview and then gets backs to real facts again: "Simple organic molecules have been detected in this dust before .  .  .  dust particles could have seeded the young Earth with organic matter." Could they?  Let us consider this leap of false logic.

A chemist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, John Bradley, said, "Its another hint that extraterrestrial carbon may be implicated in the origin of life." The dust particle, named Benavente, was very small - it was only one femtogram, which is one millionth of one billionth of a gram, yet from this a mass spectrometer was able to detect molecules of carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen.  These molecules were found to differ from similar molecules on Earth - there were fewer carbon atoms and the nitrogen atoms were heavier, not that this means much to a lay person, but to scientists it is remarkable because it shows that molecules can still form in the near zero temperatures of space, despite the lack of energy to help them.

Could such dust particles have seeded the young Earth with organic matter?  There seems to be no dispute about the fact that "organic" molecules do fall out of space and land on Earth, but we have to be careful about the word "seeded" because it implies that the molecules have within them some intrinsic power to cause life to begin - which they do not.  The idea that if enough of them fall, and conditions are right, they will automatically start "life"
is a giant leap of hope against all odds.  Life is far, far more complicated than a pile of organic molecules.

What does "life" need?  A large number of different things, only two of which are listed below:

Polymers.  These are large molecules that are built from many simple molecules, called monomers.  Polymers grow as more and more specially shaped bifunctional monomers are added.  These combine with two others to form the polymer, but polymers would never end if it were not for unfunctional monomers, which block one end of the growing chain.

Left and right-handed molecules.  Many of life's molecules come in two forms, 'left-handed' and 'right-handed'.  Life requires polymers with all building blocks having the same 'handedness', so a protein will not be of any use unless it is completely 'right-handed', while DNA and RNA will not be any use unless they have all 'right-handed; sugars.

In just these two areas it is obvious that for "life" to happen, a deliberate, intelligent design must be imposed on the molecules, because left to themselves they could never sort themselves out to supply a living cell with perfect polymers.  It is therefore quite irresponsible for a scientist to say that because he has found "organic molecules" he has therefore found a trigger for "the origin of life" - nothing could be further from the truth.

It would be just as valid so say, if we found a round pebble, that we had discovered the "origin of the Empire State Building" simply because there was some stonework in it.  "organic molecules" are simple molecules which are also found in living things.  We might find stone in the Empire State building, but that doesn't mean the stone caused the building to appear.  Common materials do not cause anything to happen.  Molecules simply react with each other in the ways they were designed to do.

The origin of life was brought about by a command from the God of Life, who is the Source and Sustainer of all life. He did not need to shower Earth with molecules in some clumsy, haphazard manner and hope for something to happen - He spoke with power and authority and created life the way He wanted it to be.

Richard Gunther, Copyright 2006

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