Chemistry by Chance

Chemistry image 1900s

A Formula for Non-Life

By Charles McCombs, Ph.D

Scientists observe life today in order to determine what processes were at work when life originated on this planet. It would be like looking at a 100-year-old photograph to determine which camera was used. The best result this type of analysis can provide is conjecture, and conjecture is the best that chemical evolution can produce. Evolutionists tell the tale that life was formed from chemicals, in some primordial soup from which life arose by accident.

Can random chemical “accidents” produce the building blocks of life? The following eight obstacles in chemistry ensure that life by chance is untenable.

1. The Problem of Unreactivity

The components necessary for life can be formed only by certain chemical reactions occurring in a specific environment. Water is an unreactive environment for all naturally-occurring chemicals. In a watery environment, amino acids and nucleotides cannot combine to form the polymeric backbone required for proteins and DNA/RNA. In the laboratory, the only way to cause a reaction to form a polymer is to have the chemical components activated and then placed in a reactive environment. The process must be completely water-free, since the activated compounds would react with water. How could proteins and DNA/RNA be formed in some primordial, watery soup if the natural components are unreactive and if the necessary activated components cannot exist in water?

2. The Problem of Ionization

The problem of ionization also involves the issue of unreactivity. To produce a protein, the amine group of one amino acid must react with the acid group of another amino acid to form an amide bond. Such reactions must take place hundreds of times to build a protein. As mentioned above, the amino acid must be chemically activated to form the polymer, because without activation every amino acid would be ionized because of an acid-base reaction. The amine group is basic and will react quickly with the acid group also present. This acid-base reaction of amino acids is instantaneous in water, and the components necessary for protein formation are not present in a form in which they can react. This is the problem of ionization.

3. The Problem of Mass Action

There is another major problem that will be encountered while trying to form the polymeric backbone of a protein or DNA/RNA. Every time one component reacts with a second component forming the polymer, the chemical reaction also forms water as a byproduct of the reaction. There is a rule of chemical reactions (based on Le Chatelier’s Principle) called the Law of Mass Action that says all reactions proceed in a direction from highest to lowest concentration. This means that any reaction that produces water cannot be performed in the presence of water. This Law of Mass Action provides a total hindrance to protein, DNA/RNA, and polysaccharide formation because even if the condensation took place, the water from a supposed primordial soup would immediately hydrolyze them. Thus, if they are formed according to evolutionary theory, the water would have to be removed from the products, which is impossible in a “watery” soup.

4. The Problem of Reactivity

Chemical reactivity involves the speed at which components react. If life began in some primordial soup through natural chemical reactions, then the laws of chemistry must be able to predict the sequence of those polymer chains. If a pool of amino acids or nucleotides came together in this environment, reacting to form the polymer chain of a protein or DNA/RNA, then there would have to be a chemical mechanism that determines the sequence of the individual components.

In chemical reactions, there is only one way that all chemicals react: according to their relative reaction rates. Since all amino acids and nucleotides have different chemical structures, that difference in structure will cause each component to react at different rates. Consequently, each of the known amino acids and nucleotides has a known relative reaction rate, but this fact causes a serious problem for evolution. The relative reaction rate tells us how fast they react, not when they react.

In a random chance chemical reaction, the sequence of amino acids can only be determined by their relative reaction rates. The polymer chain found in natural proteins and DNA/RNA has a sequence that does not correlate with the individual component’s reaction rates. In reality, all of the amino acids have relatively similar structures, and, therefore, they all have similar reaction rates. The same holds true for the polymerization of nucleotides to form DNA/RNA. The problem is that since all of the amino acids or nucleotide components would react at about the same rate, all proteins and all DNA/RNA would have a polymeric sequence different than that observed in our bodies. The product of natural or random reactions could never provide the precise sequences found in proteins and DNA/RNA…


image credit: Image from page 123 of “Elements of modern chemistry” (1887)