The Instigator
whiteflame
Pro (for)
Winning
8 Points
The Contender
GarretKadeDupre
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Abiogenesis is a reasonable theory for the beginnings of life

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
whiteflame
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/26/2013 Category: Science
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,985 times Debate No: 42955
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (22)
Votes (2)

 

whiteflame

Pro

So I want to be clear on several things off the bat so that whoever joins this debate understands the line I'm drawing here and what this debate is going to be about.

This is not a debate on evolution. This is not a debate on the Big Bang theory. I would be happy to argue these in future debates, especially evolution, but there is a distinct line of separation here. The argument will be specific to abiogenesis, and it is my burden to present a reasonable theory and defend it.

As such, I will describe the RNA world hypothesis below as my main argument, but what this hypothesis is meant to propose a natural process by which life arose from non-living matter such as simple organic compounds.

Here's a brief rundown of the theory. The RNA world hypothesis proposes that self-replicating ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules were precursors to current life, which is based on deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), RNA and proteins.

My main points of argumentation will include:

1. The simple formation of nucleic acids from basic organic compounds and its spontaneous assembly into RNA strands.
2. The capacity of RNA to store information
3. RNA's ability to catalyze reactions like an enzyme.
4. The importance of RNA in cells today

I will also address issues of protein assembly should anyone be interested in pursuing it.

The structure of this debate will be as follows:

R1: Acceptance, opening argument
R2: Opening arguments and rebuttal
R3: Rebuttals, new argumentation
R4: Rebuttals, new argumentation
R5: Conclusions, no new argumentation

I have set the argument max limit to 10,000 characters per post, and I eagerly await anyone who is willing to take me on.
GarretKadeDupre

Con

I accept. In round 2, I will be arguing that spontaneous assembly of amino acids into a living organism is an unreasonable idea.
Debate Round No. 1
whiteflame

Pro

I would like to thank my opponent for accepting this debate, as it is something I've wanted to discuss for quite a while and of large interest to me. I'm certain that we will have a good discussion.

Before I launch into it, I want to set a more solid idea of the burdens in this debate. We are discussing whether abiogenesis is feasible. As I began this debate, it is my burden to prove that there is a decent likelihood of this being the case. I will leave it up to the voters to decide whether I have proven this reasonable likelihood given my argumentation and Con's responses, rather than setting a specific numerical representation of that likelihood as a threshold to meet.

But this requires that everyone be on the same playing field when it comes to what abiogenesis means and how it can be satisfied. It is "the supposed development of living organisms from nonliving matter."[1] As such, we are describing hypothetical processes by which this scenario could have occurred, something we cannot yet know for certain as we have not discovered time travel nor have we reproduced this process fully in any laboratory setting. We do, however, know that, at some point in the past, life started on Earth, somewhere over its 4.5 billion year history as a planet, something that requires explanation.

As we are discussing the transition from nonliving to living, we should define these two states, though there is some uncertainty here. This is a difficult question, one scientists are still struggling with. Definitions widely differ, but one of the best I've found is "the condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms, being manifested by growth through metabolism, reproduction, and the power of adaptation to environment through changes originating internally." (http://dictionary.reference.com...) But even this is generalized, and it's difficult to be certain where the separation lies. Are viruses, many of which are composed of a single nucleic acid and a protein coat, considered life? They modify the metabolism of cells they infect and reproduce using their machinery, and though they certainly adapt, could we reasonably call them life? I think we can agree that a single nucleic acid associating with a protein, however, is not a threshold for the beginnings of life, at least in terms of this debate. Instead, we will assess whether an organism with its own metabolism, an ability to reproduce itself, and the capacity to adapt could come from matter that lacks one or more of these traits.

So how do we get from nonliving to living? Several theories are presently being explored, many of which aren't mutually exclusive, allowing for multiple theories to explain this progression. The building blocks of life as we see it today are relatively straightforward " DNA, RNA and protein play integral roles in almost every organism we would consider to be living. However, this is not to say that the first living organisms of the world contained all three. In fact, as I will argue, they would only have required one: RNA.

The reason this is possible is because the roles of RNA are highly varied. RNA can function as an enzyme, in information storage, and can affect protein expression. These widely varying functionalities, I will argue, provide a basis for life that would exist without the presence of either DNA or protein.

1. RNA functions

RNA must carry many of the properties we associate with enzymes if we are to accept that it can function in a world without them. These include replication and catalysis of chemical reactions. Self-replication is necessary for a certain functional RNA to predominate, while these chemical reactions are necessary in order to generate more of the building materials for this replication. There are actually many examples of these today.

Self-replication has been shown to be possible with RNA sequences that are only 165 bases long, and high fidelity only required 14 more bases, meaning that exact copies could be made of the RNA sequence.[2] These could even perform primer extensions, making it possible for these RNAs to replicate other sequences.[3] The catalysis of chemical reactions, which can enhance the creation of molecules that are the building blocks for more RNA molecules, have also been revealed to be a function of some short RNAs.[4][5]

However, it doesn't stop there. As proteins did eventually come from RNAs, there has to be a method by which proteins could form using just RNA. rRNA and tRNA, both of which currently persist in all living cells, are mainly responsible for the formation of the peptide bonds that make protein possible [6][7], as well as catalyzing the transfer of amino acids that make up a given protein. In fact, it is believed that amino acids may have only functioned as cofactors, enhancing or diversifying their enzymatic capabilities, before rRNAs made it possible to form the peptide bonds that made the first proteins possible.[8]

As an information storage vehicle, RNA bears many similarities to DNA, and is capable of storing information by the same means. It can even form a double helix with DNA [9], and is used by many viruses as their sole source of genomic material. In many cases, the RNA is all that is required for transmissibility.[10] In the case of viroids and satellite RNAs, which don't even have the protein coat found in viruses, RNA is their sole component, and the proteins necessary for their replication are recruited from other sources.[11] This proves that RNA is capable of storing consistent information.

2. The formation of RNA is simple and reproducible

None of those functions matter if the RNA cannot form in a world without proteins. In order to prove this, I must provide evidence that nucleotides can form in the absence of enzymatic activities, and that those nucleotides can assemble into RNA strands.

So let's get into nucleotide assembly. Though the yield is low, abiotic conditions utilizing simple organic compounds in the correct orientations have been proven to produce nucleotides.[12] Formamide specifically, the simplest naturally occuring amide, is a very effective starting material for their production.[13] Studies have shown that conditions early in the history of his planet could have led to the synthesis of pyrimidine ribonucleotides in the absence of free ribose, meaning that the various nucleotides could indeed have formed even without the abiotic synthesis of ribose.[14]

How about assembly? In this case, studies are definitive. Nucleotides have been shown to self-assemble in water without any energy input.[15] There are also other methods by which these have been performed which require a number of other inputs.[16][17]

3. Why this matters

What we are discussing here is whether life could have gotten its start in any form from nonliving materials. If, by the end of this debate, I have proven beyond reasonable doubt that a) RNA and simple organic compounds are sufficient for life to form and persist, and b) RNA and its components were possible without protein, then I will have proven that RNA is sufficient for the formation of life. As my opponent is likely to argue about the likelihood of protein formation, he will also have to provide reasons why RNA is not sufficient for life, though I will still address all arguments along these lines.

1. http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...
3. http://www.sciencemag.org...
4. http://www.cell.com...
5. http://adsabs.harvard.edu...
6. http://adsabs.harvard.edu...
7. http://www.amazon.com...
8. http://www.cell.com...
9. http://nar.oxfordjournals.org...
10. http://www.sciencedirect.com...
11. http://www.pnas.org...
12. http://www.nature.com...
13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...
14. http://140.123.79.88/~neige7675/page_3.files/Chap.%203/reference/Physics%20of%20Life%20Reviews%209%20%282012%29%2084%A1V104.pdf
15. http://www.jbc.org...
16. http://pubs.acs.org...
17. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...
GarretKadeDupre

Con

My opponent has already conceded, right off the bat, that his position is “something we cannot yet know for certain as we have not discovered time travel nor have we reproduced this process”.

We both seem to agree that viruses do not qualify as life. Interestingly, Pro admits that “a single nucleic acid associating with a protein, however, is not a threshold for the beginnings of life, at least in terms of this debate.” This contradicts the thesis of his main arguments, which is that the first living organisms were pure RNA and not associated with a protein. My opponent tries to say that a strand of RNA, a single nucleic acid without a protein, qualifies as life immediately after saying that this is not a threshold for life!

I'm interested to hear my opponent's thoughts on this, and I'm sure he will argue that I've straw-manned him in some way. Anyways, let's move on.

  • In the case of viroids and satellite RNAs, which don't even have the protein coat found in viruses, RNA is their sole component, and the proteins necessary for their replication are recruited from other sources. This proves that RNA is capable of storing consistent information.”

These viruses cannot be used as an example of the beginnings of life, since they require organisms that are millions of times more advanced than themselves to replicate.

  • 2. The formation of RNA is simple and reproducible”
  • Nucleotides have been shown to self-assemble in water without any energy input.”

This is misleading. Yes, RNA has been observed assembling under specific laboratory conditions, and this a reproducible experiment. However, the RNA that results cannot reproduce.

These nucleotides are just meaningless chains of amino acids, formed in a lab “in the absence of enzymes or inorganic catalysts.3

Pro's experiment depended on a tub of carefully chosen molecules – only those favorable to the assembly of RNA. Outside of the lab, in a true prehistoric setting, millions of other chemicals would be present to interrupt this delicate process.1 My opponent's idea of a universe where not only RNA molecules spontaneously emerge, but self-replicating ones, has been mocked as a “Molecular Biologist's Dream” by molecular pioneer Leslie Orgel. Orgel is famous for spearheading the study of the origins of life.2 Walter Gilbert, another pioneer in molecular biology and winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, put it this way:

"One can contemplate an RNA World, containing only RNA molecules that serve to catalyze the synthesis of themselves."4

In brief, the specific setting required for the spontaneous emergence of self-propagating RNA is confined to the realms of fantasy.

My opponent's fantasy

Pro closed by remarking that:

  • As my opponent is likely to argue about the likelihood of protein formation, he will also have to provide reasons why RNA is not sufficient for life, though I will still address all arguments along these lines.”

I guess I took Pro off-guard. I didn't need to touch on the subject of protein formation, for I explained why it's impossible for spontaneously-assembled RNA to manufacture anything. It's not that RNA in general is insufficient for life; it's the fact that the artificially produced RNA flaunted by my opponent is not compatible with life.

1http://www.arn.org...

2http://www.nature.com...

3http://www.jbc.org...

4Walter Gilbert, "The RNA World," Nature 319 (1986): 618.

Debate Round No. 2
whiteflame

Pro

I'm not sure why the statement that we cannot possibly know for certain is viewed as a concession. If either of those things were true, we wouldn't be having this conversation. And yes, I didn't want to make this a conversation about whether or not viruses are life. That's a separate conversation, one we could spend as much time discussing without ever coming to a conclusion.

But let's get into this issue you have with my argument. I think I can see the problem here: I defined what the first versions of life likely were by what they weren't rather than describing them directly. That's because, as I "conceded," we cannot possibly know what these life forms looked like. I'm not going to purport that I could know that answer. However, I did provide several definitions for what it must have been capable of doing:

"...metabolism, reproduction, and the power of adaptation."

And I defined what I must prove in order for the RNA world theory to be sufficient for the creation of life:

"a) RNA and simple organic compounds are sufficient for life to form and persist, and b) RNA and its components were possible without protein, then I will have proven that RNA is sufficient for the formation of life."

In other words, my burden is to prove that an organism could theoretically exist that would lack proteins and DNA, utilizing RNA for metabolism, reproduction, and adaptation.

Now, there appears to have been a misinterpretation of what this means. You are correct that my argument "is that the first living organisms were pure RNA and not associated with a protein." You are incorrect in stating that "my opponent tries to say that a strand of RNA, a single nucleic acid without a protein, qualifies as life."

There's a reason you didn't quote that " it didn't appear in my argument. I didn't say a single nucleic acid was sufficient. It's not, otherwise I would have argued that a viroid or satellite RNA were life, or at the very least, I would have never stated that a virus wasn't life. Metabolism requires more than just the processing of organic and inorganic compounds, otherwise we'd say anything with processing activity has a metabolism. Metabolism is defined as "the sum of the physical and chemical processes in an organism by which its material substance is produced, maintained, and destroyed, and by which energy is made available."(http://dictionary.reference.com...) This requires more than one processing step, and therefore, likely more than one RNA. Not a single RNA, but many, interacting with a number of inorganic and organic compounds and localized in the same space in order to maintain the sources of energy and materials necessary for their survival and replication. These RNAs likely had basic functions and were inefficient, but sufficient for the maintenance of that proto life.

This is not a contradiction in terms.

So let's move into his rebuttal. As I said, I don't view viroids and satellite RNAs as examples of life, and they are certainly not the beginnings, as they've had as much time to evolve as we have. The purpose of presenting these two examples is to show that a) stable RNAs exist and propagate in the absence of protein, b) they can have a number of catalytic activities as ribozymes, and c) that they are capable of information storage. To take it one step further, they also showcase adaptation, which, as I stated, is one of the main aspects that describes life. Just because it is not the sole aspect doesn't mean that these don't present an important example of functional RNAs that act like enzymes.

Con then states that "the RNA that results [from self assembly experiments in the lab] cannot reproduce." This is where my opponent's lack of response to my other points is going to be a problem. My citations [2] and [3] reveal that short RNA sequences can engage in self replication, and even perform primer extensions. Perhaps he believes these sequences can't self-assemble in the same manner as the RNAs in my links [15], [16] and [17], which provide examples of both random and directed assembly of RNAs. While I'd contend that both models of assembly could most certainly assemble into these same nucleotide organizations, I would also argue that this also has a lot to do with secondary structure of the RNAs (which occur when a single strand of RNA binds to itself), often an important determinant of activity, and therefore that only segments of the RNA sequence may be necessary for function.(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...) In some cases, more than one sequence could have the same function, providing multiple opportunities for the RNA to assemble correctly. (http://www.pnas.org...)

And no, nucleotides are not "meaningless chains of amino acids," as my opponent contends, apparently misunderstanding the use of the terms. These RNAs, or nucleic acids, are composed of of nucleotides (amino acids compose proteins), and they are far from meaningless, as all of my links point out and as I have further argued. And yes, the fact that they formed "in the absence of enzymes and inorganic catalysts" is actually my point, since it shows just how possible this process is and therefore how it could occur.

At this point, my opponent finally begins to counter my argumentation in a way that addresses my links. I'll address each in turn.

1. Con states that "outside of the lab, in a true prehistoric setting, millions of other chemicals would be present to interrupt this delicate process."
2. Con states that this view is a "Molecular Biologist's Dream."

I'm grouping these two. I'd like to first point out that these two are both over a decade old. Con's [1] was written in 1996, and his [2] was written in 1999. Even if we assume that each of them covered everything that came in previous years that I included in my post, neither of them could possibly respond to the majority of the papers I posted, many of which are directly responsive to their points and were published in or after 1999. As for the one point that Con has transcribed, this idea that other chemicals could have interrupted the process, the article doesn't actually say anything about these (I read it through a few times to make sure), but even assuming that this is the case, we're talking about hundreds of millions, if not billions, of years in hundreds of millions of square miles of water. (http://ga.water.usgs.gov...) The idea that there might have been a zone where these interfering chemicals were less concentrated is not difficult to believe.

They both make other interesting arguments, and while my own links provide many of the responses, you can feel free to point out the ones you like and include them in your next post.

3. Con quotes Walter Gilbert, who states "One can contemplate an RNA World, containing only RNA molecules that serve to catalyze the synthesis of themselves."

This is a strange choice. I'm not sure what you're having trouble understanding in this quote, but it doesn't say anything too difficult. Enzymes and ribozymes catalyze reactions, as in, they make them faster and sometimes less reversible. Assembly in their absence is slower and less stable, but far from impossible, as my links have made clear.

Con decides he's not going to address protein formation as he stated in his accepting post. That's fine, he doesn't have to do so. But he makes a very strange argument in this final point.

"It's not that RNA in general is insufficient for life; it's the fact that the artificially produced RNA flaunted by my opponent is not compatible with life."

My opponent appears to be admitting in the first portion of that argument that RNA could theoretically be sufficient for life, or at the very least, that he hasn't proven its insufficiency. In either case, this is an important choice of words, essentially granting that an organism could exist in the absence of protein and DNA. That's an important admission, and something that I'll be remembering as this debate proceeds.

The latter statement simply isn't upheld by the data, much of which he chose not to respond to in this post. The artificially produced RNA was made utilizing ingredients and reactions possible in the prevailing models of early earth, and his links simply don't prove that that's not the case, and my links reveal multiple pathways by which it could have occurred.

That's a nice picture you posted there, by the way. Is that two women in lab coats working in front of a volcanic landscape that's supposed to represent the earth in its early days? No, I don't ascribe to that fantasy. I'd much rather stick to the evidence at hand and make reasonable conclusions from that.
GarretKadeDupre

Con

  • My burden is to prove that an organism could theoretically exist that would lack proteins and DNA, utilizing RNA for metabolism, reproduction, and adaptation.”

But an organism cannot theoretically exist which utilizes only RNA for these things. Also, Pro's burden is a little tougher than that; he also has to prove that this theoretical organism could arise in the environment of early earth.

  • "You are correct that my argument "is that the first living organisms were pure RNA and not associated with a protein." You are incorrect in stating that "my opponent tries to say that a strand of RNA, a single nucleic acid without a protein, qualifies as life.""

My mistake. Apparently my opponent meant that a single strand of RNA can't constitute life, but multiple strands can.

Pro tries to prove that “stable RNAs[…] propagate in the absence of protein” by using Viroids and Satellite RNA as examples; however, neither of these can reproduce in the absence of proteins. Viroids require three proteins from a host to replicate: a polymerase, an RNAse, and a ligase.2 Satellite RNA also requires a polymerase protein from it's host.1

  • My citations [2] and [3] reveal that short RNA sequences can engage in self replication, and even perform primer extensions.”

Yes, incredibly tiny RNA sequences, and none of them even fully replicated. Your 2nd source admits that the experiments didn't result in “an RNA system with true autoreplicative potential.” The biggest achievement proclaimed in your 3rd source is the self-replication of RNA fragments no longer than a single twist of the helix.


There was also lots of babysitting involved to ensure this outcome, which involved filtering out RNA strands that didn't conform to the experimenters' desires.

In further opposition to Pro's position, his 3rd source confesses that “current understanding of prebiotic chemistry argues against the emergence of meaningful amounts of RNA molecules” that are even a fraction of the size required to be compatible with life!

  • These RNAs[...] are composed of of nucleotides [...], and they are far from meaningless, as all of my links point out and as I have further argued.”

They actually are pretty meaningless. Only fragments of the RNA strands were useful for replication, and even then the replication wasn't complete. On top of this, much of every strand was junk that didn't aid the replication process.

  • The fact that they formed "in the absence of enzymes and inorganic catalysts" is actually my point, since it shows just how possible this process is and therefore how it could occur.”

That may be my opponent's point, but mine is that an absence of enzymes and inorganic catalysts is a very unrealistic scenario for early earth. You wouldn't be able to find a lake of Aqua Fina at just the right temperature, with just the right type and quantity of RNA, to encourage the same results that Pro's cited experiments obtained. This is what I referenced as “A Molecular Biologist's Dream,” and caricatured with a photo of scientists in lab coats working with petri dishes in a prehistoric time.

  • The idea that there might have been a zone where these interfering chemicals were less concentrated is not difficult to believe.”

It's difficult to believe that a place naturally existed, during the chaos of the prehistoric era, with just the right amount of the correct type of RNA to result in production of a fully auto-replicating version, especially when that hasn't even been observed happening under carefully controlled lab conditions.

I quoted Walter because his fantasy is so silly. Here it is again:

"One can contemplate an RNA World, containing only RNA molecules that serve to catalyze the synthesis of themselves."

I agree, one could contemplate a world where only RNA molecules that help each other replicate exist, but it's ludicrous. A world where RNA molecules exist would contain many other molecules as well, most of which would either not encourage their self-propagation, or directly impede it.

  • My opponent appears to be admitting in the first portion of that argument that RNA could theoretically be sufficient for life, or at the very least, that he hasn't proven its insufficiency.”

Apologies for wording my statement so ambiguously. Let me re-state it:

It's not just that RNA in general is insufficient for life; it's the fact that the artificially produced RNA flaunted by my opponent is not compatible with life.

I hope that makes my position clearer.

  • The latter statement simply isn't upheld by the data[...] The artificially produced RNA was made utilizing ingredients and reactions possible in the prevailing models of early earth, and[…] and my links reveal multiple pathways by which it could have occurred.”

To the contrary, the data in Pro's own links support my position. His experiments failed to produce fully self-replicating RNA, and one of his sources even admits that the evidence argues against the emergence of this RNA!

The RNA World theory is not reasonable, and my opponent's case has failed.

1http://courses.bio.indiana.edu...

2http://www2.oakland.edu...

Debate Round No. 3
whiteflame

Pro

Well, I'm glad Con thought it worth his time to open my links and directly respond to them after the second time quoting them. I'll be happy to hit those responses directly, but first, I'll go through the rest of his responses.

I agree, my burden is to prove that it could have happened in early earth. Since many of the papers I've cited have utilized materials that were likely available in early earth, it is now Con's responsibility to present the "millions" of compounds somehow capable of interfering with this process. He was very clear that this was the problem, yet the link he used contained nothing of the sort. Interesting that he keeps using that line of thought throughout this post, again without any proof that a multitude of such substances exist (and neither of his new links address it either), and without response to my concentration argument. Again: hundreds of millions of years and hundreds of square miles of ocean create a lot of opportunities. And it only needed to happen once. This doesn't have to be Aqua Fina, as Con suggests, but if he wants to state that so many interfering molecules existed (and actually back that up), he also has to prove that they were at high enough concentration to inhibit everything across the whole planet.

Con states that viroids and satellite RNAs cannot propagate in the absence of protein. This RNA propagation seems to have become his main line of attack on my case at this point, but I'll grant that he's correct here. Viroids and satellite RNAs both require enzymes to propagate. Of course, we've both agreed they're not life, just examples of the functionality of RNA, so they simply exist as examples of ribozymes and RNA's capacity to engage in information storage.

Con has a very strange way of looking at a line of text.

"[Nucleotides formed in a lab] in the absence of enzymes or inorganic catalysts."

When I see this sentence, I interpret it as meaning that enzymes and inorganic catalysts can help make nucleotides, but that nucleotides can also form in their absence. When my opponent sees this line, he apparently believes that enzymes " somehow made from a world that contains no ribosomes " and inorganic catalysts are actively preventing the process of RNA formation. I'm having a hard time seeing that. If anyone needs the context, I guess we could look back at my [15] and my opponent's [3]. Seems incredibly simple to note that they're arguing that the formation of nucleotides can occur in the absence AND presence of enzymes and inorganic catalysts.

"One can contemplate an RNA World, containing only RNA molecules that serve to catalyze the synthesis of themselves."

He keeps using this one, and even now that he's explained why, I don't understand it. It seems he now wants to call this ludicrous since it assumes an RNA-only world. I'm sorry, does it say in that quote that RNA is the only thing that exists in that world? Did I say in any of my posts that RNA was the only thing that existed? If anything, that would make this impossible " you need the inorganic phosphate, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen to keep building more nucleotides and creating these bonds. You need organic compounds, like formamide (my [13]). Walter was well aware that such molecules existed in the oceans of an early earth, even when he wrote this back in the 1980's. It doesn't showcase anything silly or fantasy unless you interpret it as Con somehow has managed to do.

I'm glad my opponent has reworded his argument on sufficiency, as it would have been very damaging to his case. I don't think he's proven insufficiency. But he's made a new mistake: Con has thrown all of his eggs into one basket here. My burden is to prove that RNA is sufficient for the formation of life. As my opponent has agreed to the definition I laid out for life (or at least, has not made any efforts to contradict it), I must prove that an organism could exist that utilizes RNA, organic, and inorganic compounds and is able to engage in metabolism, reproduction, and adaptation. We have no questioning of metabolism or adaptation, and therefore reproduction is all we are left with.

And so it's come down to two of my links, specifically my [2] and [3]. (I'll recite them for ease of access: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov..., http://www.sciencemag.org...) By quoting small portions of them, my opponent appears to think them discarded. He hasn't read them very carefully.

His response to my [2] is incredibly flippant, especially since this is a follow-on experiment to [3] and improves on their findings. Not only did he apparently avoid some of the most important parts of this paper, which showed that they could exceed 20 nucleotides of extension, but it also had a lower error rate, was faster at incorporating nucleotides, and could function in a variety of environments that weren't optimal for its activity. Con is likely to point out that this is not sufficient to replicate the whole strand (I'll get to that later), but he shares an interesting quote in his post, one he took out of context. The line "an RNA system with true autoreplicative potential" wasn't in reference to their results, but rather in reference to the results of my [3], and if he had read further into the introduction of this paper instead of stopping there, he might have noticed that they went on to say that they had at least partially solved for the problems involved in isolating more efficient ribozymes. This is the entire point of this paper " it's not to point out that they've isolated the one thing that specifically made it possible for an RNA-based organism to replicate, but that a selection system could be used to produce a more efficient ribozyme. Again, we wouldn't be here having this conversation if I could just show you all the pieces of such an organism today, otherwise we would have already reconstructed such an organism. But this substantially improves the likelihood that a long-term selection system could well have produced the RNA polymerase ribozymes necessary to make this possible. In case this doesn't prove it well enough, you could look at this (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...) and this (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...), both of which analyze this process with more depth.

My [3] is where he spends most of his time. One of the most important aspects that he left out of his analysis was how this paper reveals that primer extension " the main mode by which RNAs are replicated, even with enzymes " is non-specific with this ribozyme, and therefore capable of recognizing a lot of different substrates. That's a big omission, since it ensures that this would have multiple opportunities to replicate various RNAs so long as they have just a few nucleotides of RNA base paired to them. This means that it could have easily replicated all available RNAs so long as a few nucleotides were floating around.

His main complaint with this citation appears to be that it doesn't reproduce the whole strand, often stopping at 14 nt or fewer. That's a problem with polymerization efficiency, or the amount of time that the ribozyme stays on the RNA strand and keeps adding nucleotides. Three problems with this. One, the paper addresses it: "the increase in polymerization efficiency would have to be more substantial, although not beyond the degree of optimization achieved previously with other in vitro experiments." This means that the worst he can claim is slightly less likelihood. Two, ever heard of lagging-strand synthesis? These are processes that occur on DNA, where primer has to be added multiple times and primer extension also occurs multiple times, creating Okazaki fragments. (http://www.nature.com...) A DNA ligase is used to unite these extensions. RNA ligase ribozymes have been discovered, which can self-replicate (http://www.pnas.org...) and even function in much lower than optimal concentrations of necessary molecules (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...). These could have been used to produce full replication of longer RNA strands. The replication process slower, but entirely plausible. Three, my number [2] presents an advance over the ribozyme made in this paper, one that is higher fidelity (less mistakes) and more efficiency (longer products). Further evolution is obviously possible, producing a ribozyme capable of replication of longer strands.

He also tries to use one portion of the discussion from [3] against me. This is just another example of my opponent utilizing an old paper to outdo a new one. The absurd part of this is that he reused one of his own links to do so! If he looks at the citation provided in the paper, it turns out to be the very Orgel/Joyce paper referred to in his Orgel citation in round 2, the one from 1999. The one that's directly responded to by my [15] (>120 nucleotides) and [17] (multiple 39-mers), both of which came later. This also ignores the existence of ribozyme RNA ligases, which could be used to paste together multiple shorter strands. So yes, my [3], which was also written before those two papers, buys into the mentality that was thought to be true up until just about 7 years ago. That doesn't prove your point, it's just another example of Con ignoring my citations and restating his.

Lastly, Con seems to believe that the selection process utilized in [3] was only possible because of a lot of "babysitting." He is either deliberately ignoring natural selection or else doesn't believe it. In this case, the selective force is pretty simple to see: RNAs won't persist if they don't replicate, therefore the lack of such a ribozyme would lead to degradation of the whole population. The selective force is retention of the necessary steps of metabolism, which my opponent never responded to, thus creating a need to be filled by a RNA polymerase ribozyme.
GarretKadeDupre

Con

I'm going to take the opportunity to take on a more offensive position here, since this is the last round where it is acceptable for me to present new arguments. Rebuttals to my opponent's arguments will come immediately after.

First, since Pro has conceded that there is no known RNA which can self-replicate without proteins, it must be assumed that Pro's prehistoric earth contained both RNA and the required proteins. These are both macromolecules (read: large and complex) who would have had to arise spontaneously at the same time to allow the RNA to develop into something that we can call life.

Pro has not demonstrated that the required proteins also could have theoretically arisen with early RNA.

Since my citing of testimony from a late Nobel Chemistry Prize winner doesn't sit well with my opponent, I will present an expert testimonial from 2013. According to Charles Carter, an ancient biology expert for 40 years:

"The RNA world hypothesis is extremely unlikely[...] It would take forever."4 (emphasis mine)

Extremely unlikely. That is directly contrary to my opponent's claim it's “reasonable”. Mr. Carter even goes on to say that in his opinion, the RNA World is “little more than a popular fantasy.

Ring a bell? In a previous round, I quoted the late Leslie Orgel calling the RNA World a “Molecular Biologist's Dream”.

Dreams and fantasies aren't real! But it gets even better. Charles Kurland, holding a Ph.D in Biochemistry for half a century, had the following to say in 2010, in a paper titled The RNA Dreamtime:

[The] RNA world is an expression of the infatuation of molecular biologists with base pairing in nucleic acids played out in a one-dimensional space with no reference to time or energy”6

Wow. Moving on.

Science Daily calls my opponent's position “a hard sell”, explaining how it would take “much longer than the age of the universe for randomly generated RNA molecules to evolve sufficiently to achieve the modern level of sophistication.5 In other words, it's impossible.

  • Since many of the papers I've cited have utilized materials that were likely available in early earth, it is now Con's responsibility to present the "millions" of compounds somehow capable of interfering with this process[...] he also has to prove that they were at high enough concentration to inhibit everything across the whole planet.”

One of the compounds capable of interfering with the replication process is actually the RNA molecule itself. It's extremely unstable, and inherently so. “RNA is particularly labile at moderate to high temperatures”,1 which has prompted the theorizing of a very icy and frigid RNA world; however, cold temperatures are also a problem: RNA deforms to a dimer formation at a very quickly while frozen,indicating thata freezing environment causes “formation of intermolecular RNA complexes from stable RNA”. These deformations reduce the ability of RNA to catalyze reactions necessary to replicate.2

So neither hot nor cold temperatures resolve the problem of instability which is inherent to RNA. Both of the cited sources above reflect recent scientific research; the first one is actually dated 2012 and the other is from 2007.

Another manifestation of the inherent instability of RNA is it's vulnerability to base-catalyzed hydrolysis.3 This means that at a pH higher than 6, RNA breaks down.

What does this mean? Basically, for RNA to merely maintain it's own existence, much-less propagate, it requires a very specific environment.

Also, the conditions required to even get any of Pro's experiments off the ground are extremely unrealistic and to expect they would have existed anywhere on prehistoric Earth is unreasonable.

One example is that pools of RNA clump together into a useless, tangled mess. One method used to counteract this in the lab is tethering each molecule to agarose beads. This is a trick that the primordial soup would not have been clever enough to discover by itself.10 All of Pro's experiments involve extensive, pro-active measures to lead the process along to the likings of the scientists. However, those 2 girls in lab coats that I posted earlier unfortunately weren't around to babysit the RNA molecules, so these experiments (which do not even meet the goal of creating self-replicating RNA) are not representative of how RNA actually came to be.

  • Does it say in that quote that RNA is the only thing that exists in that world?”

I think so, but just to be sure, let's read it again:

"One can contemplate an RNA World, containing only RNA molecules that serve to catalyze the synthesis of themselves."

Yes, it does.

The next 4 shaded arguments from my opponent will be rebutted as one argument.

  • They could exceed 20 nucleotides of extension, [...] had a lower error rate, was faster at incorporating nucleotides, and could function in a variety of environments that weren't optimal for its activity.”
  • They had at least partially solved for the problems involved in isolating more efficient ribozymes.”
  • Two, ever heard of lagging-strand synthesis? [...] The replication process slower, but entirely plausible.”
  • My number [2] presents an advance over the ribozyme made in this paper, one that is higher fidelity (less mistakes) and more efficiency (longer products). Further evolution is obviously possible, producing a ribozyme capable of replication of longer strands.”

The most efficient ribozyme created so far is 200 nucleotides in length7, which is “far too long a sequence to have arisen through any conceivable process of random assembly.”1 So these experiments produce results that can only happen in a lab, and would have never had the chance to happen naturally.

Further, Charles Carter explains that these laboratory-synthesized ribozymes “bear little resemblance to anything anyone has ever isolated from a living system.

In summary, nature cannot produce a ribozyme half as good as Pro's synthesized example, which can't even cause auto-replication.

  • A long-term selection system could well have produced the RNA polymerase ribozymes necessary to make [true, complete auto-replication] possible.”

No, because as I already demonstrated, the hypothetical long-term selection system would be longer than the selection system used in the lab, and even this selection system is already impossible to fit within the time constraints of the age of the Earth without human intervention.

11

For elaboration on this argument, scroll down to the gigantic number I posted.

  • Lastly, Con seems to believe that the selection process utilized in [3] was only possible because of a lot of "babysitting." He is either deliberately ignoring natural selection or else doesn't believe it.”

Of course I believe in Natural Selection; it's hard to deny when there are examples of it happening in day-to-day life. However, the magnitude of selection required in this instance is unreasonably large. For example, the number of randomized RNA needed to begin isolation of ribozymic activity is a whopping

5O5,OOO,OOO,OOO,OOO.OO8

I'm convinced that is the number that Science Daily was referring to when they said that “living systems run entirely by RNA could not have reproduced and evolved either fast or accurately enough to give rise to the vast biological complexity on Earth today.”5

  • Con seems to believe that the selection process utilized in [3] was only possible because of a lot of "babysitting."”

That giant number I just showed is the number of starting RNAs that are needed under specific laboratory conditions (read: babysitting). The number required on prehistoric Earth would be orders of magnitude greater, since the odds would be in even less favor of successful RNA replication.

I will end this round by reminding everyone that “not one self-replicating RNA has emerged to date from quadrillions (1024) of artificially synthesized, random RNA sequences.”9This statement, although made a decade ago, still holds true today. Pro's self-replicating RNA molecules have not even been produced in a lab setting, so his position that these hypothetical chemicals arose spontaneously, millions of years ago, is far from reasonable; it's absurd.

1http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...

2http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...

3http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...

5http://www.sciencedaily.com...

4http://www.darwinthenandnow.com...

6The RNA dreamtime: [...].Kurland CG

Bioessays. 2010 Oct; 32(10):866-71.

7Ribozyme-catalyzed transcription of an active ribozyme.

Wochner A, Attwater J, Coulson A, Holliger P

Science. 2011 Apr 8; 332(6026):209-12.

8This number is the average of the two in source 1.

9Dover, Gabby L., "Looping the Evolutionary loop, review of the origin of life from the birth of life to the origin of language," Nature, 1999, vol. 399, p. 218.

10David P. Bartel and Jack W. Szostak, "Isolation of New Ribozymes from a Large Pool of Random Sequences, " Science 261 (1993): 1411-1418; p. 1412.

11Crystal structure of the catalytic core of an RNA-polymerase ribozyme (MMDB ID: 79360; PDB ID: 3HHN)

Debate Round No. 4
whiteflame

Pro

Before I get started, I would like to thank my opponent for a really intriguing debate. It was well worth the time and effort, and I appreciate the thought that went into his posts greatly.

So let's get into it. Rather than follow the flow of the debate as it's gone thusfar, I would like to break the whole thing down to its essentials, provide an overview of where we've been, get into some rebuttal on Con's most recent arguments, and give some reasons why my arguments are worthy of everyone's votes.

There was a lot of complex science thrown back and forth in this debate, but it all comes down to a few basic arguments. Voters will be deciding the debate on a number of key issues:

1. Did I set a reasonable definition of life?
2. Could such an organism as I have suggested (one composed solely of RNA, organic and inorganic compounds) meet that definition?
3. Could such an organism have formed in the conditions of early earth?

As I am the only one who set a definition of life, and it has gone uncontested throughout the round, that is how we will define how well I proved #2. So I have to prove that RNA, by itself, is capable of providing an organism with metabolism, replication and adaptation. Con has in no way argued metabolism and adaptation, and as such, I only need to prove that replication of the RNA strands are possible.

This is where most of this debate occurs. I'd like to make clear that I never conceded, as Con suggests, "that there is no known RNA which can self-replicate without proteins." I actually pointed to one example in my last post, something he didn't respond to (here it is again: www.pnas.org/content/99/20/12733.long). I also pointed out that RNA ligase ribozymes could be used to fully replicate any given RNA strand, which could easily lead to a uniting of shorter strands into longer ones, easily eclipsing the 200 nucleotide length that Con says is impossible. That's because it's not about self-replication, but rather the ability of one RNA to replicate other RNAs, since without that, none the RNAs cannot persist. I provided information on lagging-strand synthesis and Okazaki fragments as a current example of how this could work. Con chose not to respond to these arguments, nor did he fully address my points about the evolution of ribozymes.

I brought up a number of arguments about the importance of their evolution, and how we can see it taking place in the experiments I've discussed. The best response he provides is from Charles Carter, but this response is attempting to give me yet another burden, to prove that these RNAs could form TODAY. For all my opponent's arguments that it was so much harder in the days of early earth, he ignores all of the issues involved in their formation today. RNases, enzymes that non-specifically degrade every RNA they come into contact with, are everywhere (http://www.lifetechnologies.com...). RNA polymerases out-compete them easily and regularly, providing no source of natural selection, which my opponent agrees is important. They simply would not persist in the world today.

Con also shifts strategies to providing numbers at this stage. He does this utilizing the Bernhardt paper. While I respect that this one, as well as the Carter paper, actually take place after the publication of papers I cited, it is interesting that Bernhardt himself doesn't cite this number. What it appears is that Bernhardt bases this number at least partially on the likelihood of formation of longer strands, something he bases on a paper that still doesn't cite my [15] or respond to it. Nor do they respond to the possibility that ligases could increase length by uniting smaller strands. And without much in the way of understanding as to how it was come by (by which I mean almost no understanding), it's not very believable. It likely doesn't include all of the factors that influence such selection, which include the persistence of the strands by replication and their survival in stressful environments. It certainly doesn't include the activities of other ribozymes to make the environment more selective, or the nearly infinite number of folding possibilities, which I've already argued can have multiple outcomes that work.

But it's a big number, and I'm glad to see he's so proud of it. Posting it in large, bold text at its full length certainly makes it seem huge. Strange, then, since he likes numbers so much that he's been completely unresponsive to mine. Hundreds of millions of years. Hundreds of millions of square miles of ocean. Most laboratory tests function in milliliters of water. The number of 0's required to express that amount of ocean in milliliters would be 23 (I calculated), or 9 orders of magnitude higher than the probability he expresses. These reactions happen in the span of seconds. The number of 0's required to express that amount of time in seconds would be 15, or 1 order of magnitude higher. Numbers!

A word on Con's citations. I'd like to recognize that much of what he cites are just lines about specific sciences taking issue with the RNA world hypothesis. So I'm not going to leaf through these links and find the arguments these scientists make against him when he's not willing to post them himself. These would have been great links to explore, I'm sure, but since Con has decided to post them in round 4, we those arguments aren't a part of this debate, and won't be. So all Con garners by quoting scientists like Dr. Carter and Dr. Kurland is showing that some eminent scientists disagree with the RNA world hypothesis. The fact that some of them use the words "fantasy" and "dream" don't make the discoveries of other scientists stop existing. They make a great story, especially with the emphasis Con puts on them, but these opinions are based off specific views, often skewed by their own research. I can cite dozens of eminent scientists who believe the RNA world hypothesis is plausible, many of which are in links Con failed to address completely, but I won't. The data speaks for itself, and I've already detailed that. And the opinions of a select set of scientists doesn't prove anything.

The remainder of the debate focuses on whether this could have happened in early earth, and I'm glad my opponent has started supporting his arguments on this front. It is interesting that his "millions of interfering compounds" are now down to one that he's willing to explain. Con is overly enthusiastic here.

He states that RNA is particularly labile at high temperatures and deforms at low temperatures. Several problems here. First, the fact that Con ignored arguments about metabolism comes back to bite him. Since some RNAs can convert available compounds into something that can improve RNA stability is part of the reason why this matters. One of the simplest is EDTA, which is used all the time in labs for RNA resuspension and storage, and sodium hydroxide, which increases pH for the same reason (http://www.lifetechnologies.com...). Metabolism can very easily create better conditions. Second, double-stranded RNAs would obviously be preferred, since they're far more stable than the single-stranded variants (http://www.npdn.org...). As I've stated before, it's the RNAs that fold over themselves and create secondary structure that will have these functions. Their stability is also going to select for them. Third, I'm not sure Con understands RNA stability. RNAs are stable when frozen (that's how RNA is stored for years). At room temperature, it still lasts for a week, providing more than enough time for replication. Declines in RNA aren't even detectable at or below 4"C, and freeze-thaw cycles oscillating between 80"C and even room temperature doesn't damage the RNA at all (http://www.precisionbioservices.com...). Even at higher temperatures, which are used constantly for transcription experiments, most RNAs will survive for hours, if not days (http://www.jci.org...).

Con's point on pH just ignores the pH of water and the effects of salt. The world's oceans are made of water, which tends to hover around a pH of 7. Sodium chloride, or salt, modulates pH as well, keeping it at 7. Acidification of the ocean has not been an issue since recent times, and the early ocean wouldn't have suffered from it (http://www.ocean-acidification.net...).

Lastly, Con points to the fact that RNAs clump. This is only going to hurt him. Not only would this have solved for part of the problems of temperature fluctuations by making more double-stranded forms, it also would have created more secondary and tertiary structures, which improves the likelihood that the correct orientations could come about to make these RNAs functional. This is actually really likely to be effective for a randomized process, producing an incredibly large number of trials all at once in a small space.

So, how does this debate play out?

I gave myself a high burden in this debate. I could have argued that abiogenesis as a whole was possible, and utilized my opponent's arguments that a protein-RNA world was possible to do so. I didn't. That's because my argument was already solid. Metabolism and adaptation are now unassailable; Con chose not to argue them in the last 3 rounds. So the best he can do is claim that I'm not winning replication. But I am. I've provided multiple papers that showcase the replication of RNAs, some of which Con has left untouched. And the few he's touched, he's misinterpreted and undercovered. He massively overestimated the amount of inhibiting molecules without citation, and has done far too little to support his claims. He simply isn't doing enough to prove impossibility, or even implausibility. Vote Pro with that in mind.
GarretKadeDupre

Con

Many of my opponent's closing remarks are very colorful... They're elaborately written and quite emotionally appealing (even to me!). For example, he says that he “gave [him]self a high burden in this debate”, that I “misinterpreted and undercovered” his sources, and even claims that I “massively overestimated” a statistic and I've “done far too little to support [my] claims.

Prepare to embark on a journey where you will discover that this is not only pandering, but flat out wrong! Here we go...

  • I'd like to make clear that I never conceded, as Con suggests, "that there is no known RNA which can self-replicate without proteins." I actually pointed to one example in my last post, something he didn't respond to (here it is again: www.pnas.org/content/99/20/12733.long)”

But remember my quote from Charles Carter: That enzyme bear[s] little resemblance to anything anyone has ever isolated from a living system. This supports my point that these experiments that Pro cites are hardly relevant to the real world.

  • I also pointed out that RNA ligase ribozymes could be used to fully replicate any given RNA strand, which could easily lead to a uniting of shorter strands into longer ones, easily eclipsing the 200 nucleotide length that Con says is impossible.”

Yes, lagging-strand synthesis. Don't forget what else you had said about that:

  • The replication process [is] slower [than the other methods described]”

I already explained why the other methods are too slow, so any method that is even slower is definitely too slow as well.

  • The best response he provides is from Charles Carter, but this response is attempting to give me yet another burden, to prove that these RNAs could form TODAY.”

If you mean it gives you the burden to prove that these RNAs could form in nature today, then I have to disagree. I don't see how any quote I provided does that. However, it seems that you can't even prove that these RNAs could form today even in the lab, given that you had no response whatsoever to this quote that I provided last round:

not one self-replicating RNA has emerged to date from quadrillions (1024) of artificially synthesized, random RNA sequences.”

  • What it appears is that Bernhardt bases this number at least partially on the likelihood of formation of longer strands, something he bases on a paper that still doesn't cite my [15] or respond to it. Nor do they respond to the possibility that ligases could increase length by uniting smaller strands.”

The lagging-strand process again. Since this process is slower (as you conceded) than the other processes I already debunked, using it as an example isn't very useful to your position.

  • It certainly doesn't include the activities of other ribozymes to make the environment more selective”

You never mentioned these activities either.

  • These reactions happen in the span of seconds.”

But again, laboratory conditions are unrealistic.

  • I can cite dozens of eminent scientists who believe the RNA world hypothesis is plausible, many of which are in links Con failed to address completely, but I won't.”

Interesting, since this means that you are letting me get away with more expert testimony than you. =D

  • double-stranded RNAs would obviously be preferred, since they're far more stable than the single-stranded variants”

So the examples you provided (which were all single-stranded RNAs) aren't preferred? Than why did you use them as examples?

  • I'm not sure Con understands RNA stability.[…]
  • Con's point on pH just ignores the pH of water and the effects of salt. The world's oceans are made of water, which tends to hover around a pH of 7. Sodium chloride, or salt, modulates pH as well, keeping it at 7.” (emphasis mine)

I'm not sure Pro understands math. Here is my statement which he was arguing against:

at a pH higher than 6, RNA breaks down.”

Pro tried to defend the stability of RNA by saying that the environment tends to stay at 7... and I already said that at a pH higher than 6, RNA breaks down... 7 is higher than 6...

  • Con points to the fact that RNAs clump. This is only going to hurt him. Not only would this have solved for part of the problems of temperature fluctuations by making more double-stranded forms, it also would have created more secondary and tertiary structures, which improves the likelihood that the correct orientations could come about to make these RNAs functional. This is actually really likely to be effective”

Incorrect. Remember my exact words:

pools of RNA clump together into a useless, tangled mess.”

This was paraphrased from my source, whose exact words were:

formed large, tangled, useless networks of molecules”

The keyword here is useless. This useless RNA would not have “solved for part of the problems”; it wouldn't have “improved the likelihood that correct orientations could come about” and it certainly wasn't “really likely to be effective.”

Useless is useless is useless.

Before I close, I'd like to repost the same quote I ended the last round with. Remember that my opponent never responded to this very telling quote:

not one self-replicating RNA has emerged to date from quadrillions (1024) of artificially synthesized, random RNA sequences.

Thanks everyone for such a fun debate.

Vote Con! =D

Debate Round No. 5
22 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by TheLastMan 3 years ago
TheLastMan
Okay :)
Posted by wordy 3 years ago
wordy
Nothing..
Posted by TheLastMan 3 years ago
TheLastMan
What?
Posted by wordy 3 years ago
wordy
..:p
Posted by TheLastMan 3 years ago
TheLastMan
...Or maybe just I will leave it a tie from me..
Posted by TheLastMan 3 years ago
TheLastMan
@Roy: Thank you for spending time to read and vote this nice educational debate, sir. @white and Garret: This debate was so good that I wanted to leave it a tie. But, I dicided to vote on it. I am making an RFD. It will take sometime. Perhaps, I will do it later.
Posted by wordy 3 years ago
wordy
Yay! :D
Posted by RoyLatham 3 years ago
RoyLatham
Yes, a fine debate. I can tell you from experience that it is very difficult to get people to vote on five round debates, even on less difficult subjects. The modern attention span is tuned for twitter.

It's perfectly legitimate to contact friends or other members who might be interested and ask them to have a look at the debate. It deserves attention.
Posted by wordy 3 years ago
wordy
Yeah, both of them did very well... Wow! Roylatham voted on this debate.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Kreakin 3 years ago
Kreakin
whiteflameGarretKadeDupreTied
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: Thank you for such an educational debate, I had to read up some to feel justified in voting. On balance Pro has to my mind proven his resolution to be right at this point in time. I found some of Cons arguments to be spurious and some references at times to be contradicted by himself. An inspirational debate though!
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 3 years ago
RoyLatham
whiteflameGarretKadeDupreTied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: An excellent debate. I think determining the winner depends upon how much is required of a theory for it to be "reasonable" or "plausible." Light propagating in a luminiferous aether was, I think, plausible until a specific experiment disproved. Implausible theories are abandoned by science in favor of ore plausible ones. In the long debate with many references by both sides, the picture emerges that RNA world abiogenesis has neither been proved nor abandoned. Pro showed the avenues by which the theory has be sustained over objections. Carter's opinion was Cons best evidence, but Pro made the case that scientists, like debaters, tend to exaggerate when arguing their case. I thought the "tangled mass of RNA" helped plausibility, even if useless. Con's argument for "millions" of interfering agents proved weak. Pro established plausibility, even though the theory is unproved.