The Instigator
Pro (for)
5 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Abiogenesis is the most likely explanation for life.

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/25/2013 Category: Science
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,845 times Debate No: 41178
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (35)
Votes (1)




As I said just let me know if there is anything you'd like to change before you accept the debate. SInce we're working off of our previous conversation I don't feel the need to add any qualifies accept that first round will be for acceptance and the last round no new arguments, just rebuttals.


I accept this debate with the expectation of seeing a lot of math work specially in probabilities to supporrt the liklihood of Abiogenesis.
Debate Round No. 1


One widely accepted scenario for Abiogenesis is the gradual formation of life from simple chemicals leading to proteins (metabolism first) or RNA, self-replicating polymers (often assumed to be RNA) and simple cells called protocells leading to complex cells with a metabolism where evolution is in full swing.

It is the only credible scientific theory for life origins

It is defined simply as,the supposed spontaneous origination of living organisms directly from lifeless matter [1].”

Note the definition is very broad and encompasses any credible natural/scientific explanation and there are many models for the formation of life [8]. The only other alternative is Intelligent Design, which has no explanatory power. It offers no mechanism, proofs, predictive power, falsifiability or new information. It is not an explanation.

RNA world model, the gradual formation of complex life in stages:

1) The basic building blocks of proteins form naturally

Miller–Urey experiment famously demonstrated that 20 amino acids (out of 22) can spontaneously form [3]. This is important since these are the building blocks of complex proteins that, along with RNA/DNA form cell structures. Scientists have now worked with a variety of environments to produce amino acids and we know that at least 15 have been found in crashed meteorites, some with only a left handed chirality as seen in proteins [5].

2) Early cell core structures, RNA/DNA, and nucleotide formation

Scientists have now proven chemical pathways that form two of the four nucleotides that are the building blocks of RNA and also to form shorter RNA strands naturally. These were likely the core structure in the first cells [6]. RNA along with protein hybrids can form proteins from amino acids, catalyze important reactions in cells along with DNA formation and perform many other tasks important for life [7]. Recent studies have shown promise that DNA may even have formed first [9].

3) Self-replicating polymers, usually assumed to be RNA, ‘evolve’

In a large pool of random RNA self-replicating versions can arise and leading to potential ‘evolution’ as mutations made in self-replication lead to changes and respond to selection pressures improving efficiency [3]. The most efficient self-replicators winning the race and mutations leading to new polymerases and ligases that can assist in forming RNA/DNA and proteins.

4)Early cells (protocells) and replication

Early cells were likely small RNA strands enclosed in fatty acid membranes that have been shown to form naturally and can allow nucleotides to cross the membrane [6]. Experiments have shown that nucleotides naturally bond to single RNA strands by base pairing in colder environments eventually forming the twisted double helix we are all familiar with.

In hotter environments, such as thermal vents, the strands can separate. Natural circulation cools the environment where natural base pairing would then create a replicated RNA strand and this is a potential early path for RNA replication leading again to a process of natural selection. Experiments have shown that primitive vesicle membranes can both grow and divide potentially to protocell replication.

5) Increasing complexity of cells and the development of a metabolism

As RNA strands replicate they inevitably mutate and change. These could have formed before cells and have been shown to improve replication in successive generations and can form ribosomes which are folded RNA molecules that can take on such tasks catalyzing RNA reproduction, synthesizing nutrients and strengthening membrane walls.

At this point Evolution takes over and primitive cells would respond to selection pressures. Out of the polymers that can form many, called ligases and polymerases, can also catalyze DNA, RNA and protein formation, which are the basic building blocks of life[4]. In a 220 nucleotide RNA strand there are 2.5x 10^112 efficient ligases and that’s just those we are aware of.

I barely scratched the surface with our 5,000 character limit but I have been able to show that there is evidence and many plausible scenarios for the earliest cells to form. This is the explanation that the best method for identifying truth, the scientific method, has produced. It is the only credible explanation for life. God did it is not an explanation.











I would like to thank my friend 2-D for initiating this debate and for presenting a well-documented argument.

I apologize ahead of time because I will be using the same first argument that I used in another similar debate. My opponent was kind enough to agree to this even though it exceeds the 5,000 charachter limit by a little bit.

So here is the link to my argument:

It's the Con argument in round 2.
Debate Round No. 2


Slight miscommunication with Con but I am ok with him using the linked argument just for the last round.
Con has not contested that the only other option is a supernatural creator of life, one that he has not offered any evidence for leaving abiogenesis as the only explanation for life with evidence on the table. He has not refuted any step in the RNA world model, many of which have been demonstrated to occur in certain environments.

RNA World summary

The three main building blocks of modern cells are DNA, RNA and proteins. [7]. Since RNA can potentially perform all tasks within a cell it is where most of the research is currently directed to find the mechanism to form the first self-replicating molecule to form [6].
Scientists are looking to reverse engineer steps to form the first self-replicator and do not assume it formed randomly.

They have shown that RNA nucleotides and double helix strands can form efficiently in certain environments, again not random. They have shown that self-replicating RNA molecules can initiate a natural selection process selecting for efficiency, which is specific, not random.

Successive generations have potential to catalyze the production of proteins or and ribosomes that could form a cell metabolism, strengthen cell walls or catalyze DNA, RNA and protein production. The first cells were likely short RNA strands enclosed in fatty membranes and we are aware of natural mechanisms that would allow these early cells to grow and divide initiating natural selection [4].

The RNA world model is in no way random making Con’s entire argument irrelevant.

Scientists are looking for natural processes that would drive the formation of each step in the process by natural attractive forces in certain environments [6]. “Abiogenesis was a long process with many small incremental steps, all governed by the non-random forces of Natural Selection and chemistry [10].”

Cons entire argument hinges on proteins forming first, randomly. It is unlikely that proteins formed first and the processes were not random.

“Put one right-handed amino acid in the chain and the protein will not function.”

Proteins only formed first in the metabolism first model which is not favored by scientists [4]. Even in the metabolism first model scientists are looking for controlled not random possibilities. For instance the reverse krebs cycle provides a mechanism for how useful biomolecules could form from CO2. Also, there are several mechanisms to increase the number of left-handed amino acids in an environment. When formed by RNA, as in the RNA world model, left-handed amino acids are selected for anyway.

“Both peptide bonds and non-peptide bonds occur in nature in equal amounts”

Peptide bond is the name for the natural covalent bond that amino acids form when the carboxyl group on one amino acid reacts with the amino group on another [12]. They do not form non-peptide bonds.

“Now, let's calculate the number of functional combinations:”

“we will use the ratio of the functional proteins (1.08E-19)”

This number is completely bogus because it assumes random processes in selecting left-handed chirality and peptide bonds.

“Next step is to figure out the total number of amino acids available in the universe:”

Proteins form and break down over and over again this is completely irrelevant. I’m sure you’re aware that bodies decay or can be burned. Hydrolysis will also break peptide bonds in proteins [12]. There is no fixed number of proteins!

“==> Earth's share (actually the solar system's share) of protein = (3.38E+45)/(4E+22) = 10^23 molecules.

With Con’s errors and false assumptions a he has still arrived at 10^23 self-replicating proteins each of which could initiate natural selection. Failed strains would degrade leaving amino acids for more functional models. Mutations could lead to RNA, DNA or protein catalysts and this begins the process of natural selection.

Self replicating polymers have been shown to reproduce in hours [6] but lets say even the best self-replicators take a day to reproduce. We know that complex cells formed after about 2 billion years leaving self-replicating cells around 10E23 * 2 E9 = 2*10^32 generations for complex cells to form.

“Now for the second part: In order to create the simplest living cell, we will need 600 different proteins of different lengths”

No, you misunderstand. The first cells would be very simple and would have been consumed by the monstrous dinosaur bacteria we have today long ago. [6].


It is plausible, even under Cons completely unwarranted assumptions, that the first replicator could form randomly leading to natural selection. The predicted process is not random and we have no way of knowing at this point how many possible functional proteins there were and RNA likely formed first anyway.






First of all, when the word "Possible" appears in the title of a debate, one would expect to see some works in the mathematical field of Probability & Statistics. Pro didn't even present an estimated probability of life forming from non living material. All what Pro presented was a story. This turned into this then turned into this then turned into this then came the first cell. When we're discussing the possibility of Abiogenesis, one must calculate the yield rate of each step and then multiply the probabilities to reach the ultimate probability. Then iterate this probability by the available simultaneous trials since the big bang. This is the only way to theoretically predict the possibility. Experimentally, I think mankind is way behind to fully test this. You see, the more you describe how simple the first cell was, the more you make it easier for scientists to create it in labs, and we all know that didn't happen. And please don't rely on that source that mentions the generation of new lifeforms through genetic mutation, because they didn't create life from non-living things. I'm guessing there are thousands of scientists from around the world trying to put some strands of RNA in fatty acid membranes and whatever else there needs to be in an attempt to create a living cell from non-living material. We all know, of course, no one succeeded.

The only glimpse of hope for Abiogenesis is the Miller-Urey experiment. In the following, I will show you how this very experiment can work as a proof against Abiogenesis and not for it. I will use the same method of calculations I used in round 2 trying to predict the amount of functioning proteins the Miller-Urey experiment would produce:

Let's assume the Miller-Urey experiment, in 13 days, produced only 0.01 grams of amino acids = 0.01x6.023E23/75(molecular weight of glycine)= 8E19 molecule. And let's assume it was given a period of one day (the last day of the two week experiment) to try and produce proteins (specifically our small 32 long protein). The total number of events will be equal to 1 day in nanoseconds multiplied by the number of amino acid molecules (8E19), divided by 32 = 8E13 * 8E19 / 32 = 2E32 event (simultaneous and continuing for a whole day). From my argument in round 2, I concluded the probability of producing a functional protein from a set of 32 amino acids to be 1.08E-19. But we have a lot more events. This should lead to protein production with an estimated amount of 2E32 * 1.08E-19 = 2.16E13 protein molecules!!!

Do you know what this means? It means that I, Moze, a creationist, predict (through my generous theoretical calculations) that the Miller-Urey experiment will produce 2.16E13 protein molecules in one day. However, we all know that it didn't produce one single protein molecule. This means that my original calculations were far more generous than I would have ever imagined. I was way off by 13 orders of magnitude. This is very serious.

Finally, I would like to point out some flaws in your argument:

- "Early cells were likely small RNA strands enclosed in fatty acid membranes that have been shown to form naturally and can allow nucleotides to cross the membrane [6]"
The annoying part is "have been shown to form naturally". This sentence, whether it speaks of fatty acids or RNA strands, is totally misleading. It claims there is a natural force that governs the molecular interactions and leads them to form RNA strands of Fatty acids. This is totally different than the source you have referenced ([6]). In the source, it only speaks of spontaneous formation for both, and we both know what spontaneous means. It means by chance. Plus you said:"It have been shown". This is also misleading because it leads you to think the experiment conducted proved this. Allow me to quote the source:"Recent experiments suggest it would have been possible for genetic molecules similar to DNA or to its close relative RNA to form spontaneously". The language used in the source is very shakey "would have been possible" unlike my opponent who decided to use the word "shown" which is closer to "proved". I might be exaggerating in the last one. Please consider it as an advice to be more clear to our audience.

- You mentioned there are 2.5E112 efficient ligases of a 220 nuleotide RNA. But you didn't mention the total number of combinations. My humble calculation says it it is equal to 4.7E198. Now that is mind boggling!! If you disagree with my calculation, please give me your version.

You said you barely scratched the surface. I really respect your effort, but some of it was unnecessary. Please try to focus on the probability argument. We both have to get our hands dirtier with numbers in order to reach the truth.

Respect & Peace
Debate Round No. 3


“First of all, when the word "Possible" appears in the title of a debate, one would expect to see some works in the mathematical field of Probability & Statistics.”

The resolution says that the theory is the most likely option and I have encouraged Con to support another option but he has not, conceding that this is the only natural scientific explanation for life. The steps we are aware of are driven to occur in certain environments. The steps where we have no conclusive information scientists do not assume they are random.

I used Con’s highly flawed calculation to show that there would be plenty of room for 2*10^32 generations of self replicating polymers to form the first cells on earth. Scientists estimate that there may be as many as 40 billion habitable planets in the Milky way Galaxy alone or 8*10^42 generations all selecting for efficiency and population growth [15]. It is no surprise then that life formed on one of these planets even if completely random which no one has suggested.

“All what Pro presented was a story.”

No, what I have presented is the most likely explanation for the formation of life as understood and supported by scientists in the field.

Con is presenting a flawed probabilistic argument that no credible scientist agrees with.

“And please don't rely on that source that mentions the generation of new lifeforms”

I’m glad you brought this up because this is an important point. Scientists have been able to build synthetic DNA, which is the most complex and important part of a cell [16]. DNA controls the production of RNA and proteins, which make up the rest of the cell.

They were then able to insert this synthetically created DNA in another cell creating a new organism. There is nothing special about life. It is just a collection of polymers that can be synthesized from ‘nonliving’ chemicals and replaced.

The only glimpse of hope for Abiogenesis is the Miller-Urey experiment.

Again no one is assuming proteins formed first. An important difference between RNA and proteins is that RNA is built with 4 possible nucleotides while proteins have 22 possible amino acids. This would dramatically alter Con’s calculations along with the various other issues I brought up last round that you have not refuted. Any metabolism/protein first model relies on specific environments for protein formation as the RNA world model.

No one is assuming that life formed by random processes [4]. There is no fixed sequence for functional proteins or RNA. There are many regions in proteins where any amino acid could be changed without changing its function. Some functionally equivalent proteins can be formed with 30-50% of the amino acids different (this would also be true of the RNA that coded for this specific protein). There are proteins in yeast and worms that can be replaced by human proteins without causing a problem.

“It claims there is a natural force that governs the molecular interactions and leads them to form RNA strands of Fatty acids.

Yes and I stand by this claim. RNA strands form naturally in specific environments from nucleotides. All that is needed to form a fatty acid membrane is an excess of fatty acids in an area.

Scientists have worked with single RNA stands enclosed in fatty acid membranes and proved that the double stranded will form from a single strand in a solution with nucleotides and that the strands divide with heat leading to replication [13]. Fatty acid membranes can easily form around RNA strands.

“In the source, it only speaks of spontaneous formation for both, and we both know what spontaneous means. It means by chance.

‘Spontaneous’ in context means that they will form without any outside intervention such as catalysts. [6]. Experiments in this article have proven that RNA strands will form naturally from nucleotides especially in the presence of certain minerals and clay, which are widely available in nature.

“You mentioned there are 2.5E112 efficient ligases of a 220 nuleotide RNA. But you didn't mention the total number of combinations.

My point is that you are assuming specific molecules where many variations will do. Your statistics just are not relevant.

The mind bogling number of possible configurations of these chemicals should point out that there is no way to know how many combinations could be useful in the formation of some kind of life. Even if pro presented an accurate probability it would not be meaningful because it would still assume our specific form of life is the goal.


Con has focused on a probability argument that depends on many flawed assumptions, which he has not refuted. He has not presented any alternate theory for life and I have presented sufficient evidence to conclude that this is the most likely explanation for life.






I would've ran my calculations for RNA but nucleotides are more complex than amino acids. They include more nitrogen atoms and phosphate, which is a 100 times rarer than nitrogen. Plus, the Stanley-Miller experiment didn't report any findings of nucleotides at all. The synthsis of nucleotides even require many organic precursors (Wikipedia).

I would be happy to look into it even further and provide probability calculations for the formation of the first RNA. I apologize for not doing it right now, because that would be an added argument by me, and I'm only supposed to defend the argument I presented. Plus, honestly, I didn't have the time to look into it.

“Put one right-handed amino acid in the chain and the protein will not function.”
Your refute was not very clear and the source doesn't mention anything about chirality (The left-handedness or right-handedness of amino acids).

“Both peptide bonds and non-peptide bonds occur in nature in equal amounts”
You have defined what a peptide bond is, but you didn't mention the impossibility of amino acids sticking together in different ways. There are a lot of ways. They are not heard of because they don't produce relevant molecules.

"Proteins form and break down over and over again this is completely irrelevant". If proteins form and break down then there's no reason why functioning proteins don't follow that rule and not break down. So it's not logical to assume that non-functioning proteins are the ones that only break down giving another chance for the formation of a functioning protein. If they both break down and form again, then the proportions will fluctuate but remain the same essentially.

"10^23 self-replicating proteins each of which could initiate natural selection"
I may have underestimated it when I said 35 grams. But what I didn't mention was that Earth's oceans contain 10^24 liters. That's 10 liters for every protein. It's still highly unlikely, even if I surrender to the fact that proteins can naturally become self-replicating by time.

"The first cells would be very simple and would have been consumed by the monstrous dinosaur bacteria we have today long ago"
If they are very simple, then why can't you describe it in detail?
And if they were really that simple, why wasn't anyone able to synthesize it? Bare in mind scientist synthesize new types of DNA everyday.

Debate Round No. 4
35 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by 2-D 2 years ago
Sure, a fine tuning argument would be interesting. I understand what you're trying to do and I respect our mutual interest in science. The problem is science reveals partial truths that allow for criticism. We will always lack information but science provides the only explanations available.

I am curious about the fine tuning argument and would have a good time researching this for a debate. Lets have 8,000 character rounds this time! As you saw, even 5,000 is sometimes not enough especially to set up an initial case.
Posted by Moze 2 years ago
This type of debate is outdated to me. I mean the type where science keeps revealing things pushing back the God explanation further and further. Theists should stop claiming that God intervenes when we just simply don't know the mechanics behind something. God set the physical laws and everything just simply follow the laws.

My argument of God stands on the knowledge of Physics. Unlike historical arguments that are based on the ignorance of the physics. Do you see the difference I'm trying show?

This talk might lead us to another debate that discusses the fine tuning argument. If you're interested, we could go for this one too, if you're free in the holidays.
Posted by 2-D 2 years ago
I still see the different objections brought up against the theory as a form of the God of the God of the Gaps argument. It is also similar to the irreducible complexity argument that is still brought up today against evolution. They say that something is too complex to form the various parts, like bacterial flagellum, so there must have been a designer.

You are still simply arguing that since we haven't observed every step in a lab and are not aware of specifics, say exactly what the first reproducing cell looked like, this is somehow a problem. A scientific world view has no problem saying I don't know. Biochemistry is still a very new field and we are just now discovering a lot.

A couple hundred years ago we would have said that the universe was much to complex to form naturally. Those that relied on a deist creator God should have just admitted they didn't know how the universe formed. There will always be complex aspects of the universe we don't yet understand.

Again and again we find natural causes and those that attributed God as a cause continue to retreat further and further back. First it was the universe, then evolution now abiogenesis. When we figure this out creationists will be saying that dark matter or some other mystery is much too complex to have formed naturally.
Posted by Moze 2 years ago
God of the gaps argument was not a valid argument by theists a few centuries ago. The science of Biology relies on the science of Chemistry, and the science of Chemistry relies on the science of Physics. They are all sciences of nature but on different levels. Now, with the advancements in Physics and Chemistry, we are able to sneak up behind Abiogenesis from the Physics and Chemistry side instead of traditionally digging from the top (Biology) downwards reaching chemistry and Physics. And by sneaking up I mean understanding the mechanisms at which the building blocks of matter interact. And from that understanding we conclude that Abiogenesis is impossible. We didn't reach this conclusion from our inability to explain the mechanism. If a theist nowadays has no clue about a certain process and it's completely mysterious to him, and then concludes that there has to be a divine intervention, then I would be the first to refute his logic.

It's different with Abiogenesis. In this case we know all the rules and we're pretty sure of them. And still the rules don't explain what we see (Of course this is the debatable part. I don't claim the absolute truth).
Posted by 2-D 2 years ago
"How can you rely on a source that states hypothetical theories?"

Different aspects of the Abiogenesis theory have not been demonstrated and you were free to point this out in the debate. I disagree that it was 'hypothetical' I would say the research shows that it is theoretically possible and many aspects of the theory are still at this stage.

We do not have a proven mechanism for many steps in the process.
Posted by 2-D 2 years ago
Are you saying RNA strands have never been observed to separate after applying heat? I agree many steps in the process are not understood and are only theoretically possible. It would have been a good argument to research this and point it out in the debate since It's more compelling then the probabablistic argument. This still does not add any evidence for intelligent design.

We probably won't have a firmed up theory and mechanism for many years. If this were 40 years ago we'd be arguing about evolution with similar arguments. This is called a God of the Gaps argument where any point that is not understood is attributed to God.

If you we have only observed RNA splitting with helicase involved then that is exactly what you say and do not assume that you NEED helicase.

You are also still assuming that this one chemical pathway for life is necessary. RNA/DNA and helicase and every chemical in the human body would likely look very different if the process were repeated. Since chemicals naturally combine and form complex shapes self-replication is inevitable at some point.

There is no way of knowing how many possible configurations are useful for some form of life. I am guessing the different pathways and configurations are infinite. Life did not have to look like us it is just an accident of chance. All you need is some kind of self replicating chemical to get evolution started.
Posted by Moze 2 years ago
I've been doing some research. RNAs were never observed to self replicate without proteins, specially the helicase (A vital enzyme for replication). Once the two strands of RNA are connected, you NEED a helicase to split them delicately. Your source only conceptually mentions the possibility of RNA self-replication. The evidence you're providing is not experimental. It's hypothetical.

Replication also requires more molecules like single-stranded DNA binding proteins and DNA polymerase. If you check any basic source, you'll find that the molecules I mentioned above are all crucially necessary for the self-replication process.

How can you rely on a source that states hypothetical theories?
Posted by 2-D 2 years ago
Maybe, I think we could work something out along those lines. I have a lengthy debate challenge pending and am half way through another so we could probably arrange something later this week.

You have proposed an interesting way to level the playing field in a God debate.
Posted by Moze 2 years ago
Are you up for it?
Posted by Moze 2 years ago
Providing the proof of God will require another debate with a different title. The title would be "If Abiogenesis is impossible, then God is the most likely explanation for life". This debate is more philosophical. It takes the impossibility of Abiogenesis as a hard fact and builds on it.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Mikal 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: This was a clear win by pro. Con in his first round just posts a link that says abiogenesis is impossible. Pro starts out by breaking down the process and providing points to support his resolution. This is where con falls apart. Pro offered hard concrete biological and scientific evidence to support this, and Con just simply dropped 2 of his main points. Con then shoots out probability and calculations and pro rightfully points out that it would not matter how many time this ran in a sequence, but at some point the chance of life occurring would happen because it is the prime factor or goal.