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It is reasonable to believe Alexander Oparin's basic theory of abiogenesis (aka "Primordial Soup")

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/25/2011 Category: Science
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,087 times Debate No: 14930
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (11)
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Hello, this is my first debate on this website and so I apologize for perhaps not adhering to the customs and unwritten rules of this website. In any event, I've a great deal of respect for many of the debaters on this website. I've been especially impressed by many of the philosophical debates.

I've noticed that there have been more than a few debates on biological evolution. Unfortunately, the topic of abiogenesis is usually swept under the rug. The proponent of intelligent design/creationism will bring it up, and the evolutionist will invariably declare that evolution and abiogenesis are wholly separate topics. It's not that I disagree with the evolutionist, we can accept evolution with little to know knowledge of how life began in the first place, but I think that it's a travesty that a topic as interesting and important as abiogenesis goes undiscussed.

With that, from my perusing of DDO, it seems that I should set the terms of the debate in the first round and actual arguing will begin in the second round, where I and my opponent will make our arguments.

Some terms and rules:
-While I enjoy semantics, smoke-and-mirrors, and other parlor tricks, I would like this debate to be on the substanitive issue of abiogenesis, not the mistakes that I've inadvertantly made in wording the debate.
-I would like my challenger to be someone who believes that Oparin's theory (Primordial soup) of abiogenesis is unreasonable. They can believe and advocate any other position on how life began (from Biblical Creationism to Raelism to Biocentrism)
-Keep the arguments civil and rational. I can handle irrelevant jibes and whimsical personal attacks aimed at me, but the arguments themselves should remain academic.
-I realize that the resolution is fairly vague. By "reasonable" I mean that there aren't any glaring errors, insurmountable objections or better scientific theories. The resolution could be negated if there is an acceptable argument that would show that Oparin's hypothesis is logically impossible, scientifically invalid, extremely unlikely or there is a better alternative. Essentially, I don't have to prove Oparin's abiogenesis happened beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, I just have to show that it's the best idea that we have about the origins of life and that there are no blatant errors.
-By "basic" I mean conceptually. I realize that Oparin was unable to do much empirical investigation into his hypothesis, and that the scientific consensus points to the early atmosphere being composed differently than Oparin, Haldane and others believed. I would prefer that the debate focus on the principles of abiogenesis, as opposed to the merits of individual experiments and hypotheses. This doesn't mean that the results of individual experiments cannot be used to support a position but simply saying "The Miller-Urey experiments didn't accurately recreate the Hadean atmosphere" is not sufficient for negation.
-Argue as technically or abstractly as you like, this debate can focus on the specific chemical issues of the origins of life (though if you take this route, please ensure that you are engaging Primordial soup theory as a whole, not just individual experiments and studies) or on the more philosophical aspects, so long as you engage the principle of the Primordial soup theory.

If there are any other questions, or objections to these rules, please leave them in the comments section and we'll get that hammered out.

The basic conceptualization of the Primordial soup theory is as follows (this is informational and is setting out the theory that I'm defending, not an argument):
-In the Hadean eon, the atmosphere was virtually oxygenless.
-Sometime between 4000 and 2000 mya, life formed and the atmosphere was oxygenized to more closely resemble our current atmosphere.
-Before this, the chemical makeup of the atmosphere and oceans with the help of sunlight (or deep sea vents according to some) allowed for amino acids to form in the earth's oceans.
-These organic compounds sometimes arranged themselves into self assembling "proto life", expanding through fusion and dividing through fission. These early "cells" (though most would be loathe to call them actual, modern cells) were acted upon by natural selection, becoming more complex.

We should note that the borders of "life" are very fuzzy. The modern proponents of abiogenesis do not believe that life miraculously appeared, rather that there was a long time in which proto-life existed which gradually became more like modern life. There was never a spontaneous arrangement of inorganic molecules that formed the first cell.

Again, I apologize for my clumsy attempt at instigating a debate, but if you bear with me I think we can have an extremely productive debate.


I shall accept this debate on this quite interesting topic as a slight condition: That the claim is whether life appeared through an intelligent intervention or if, as Alexander Oparin's basic theory of abiogenesis claim's, through randomization.

If this clause is accepted, I will happily proceed to the first argument.
Debate Round No. 1


For readers unfamiliar with abiogenesis, I suggest that you peruse the following wikipedia articles.
Some opening arguments.
Per the rules section, I need only to defend that it is reasonable to believe in Primordial soup theory, not that it is undeniably true, my opponent needs to show that it is fatally flawed or there is a better theory to describe the origins of life. It is up to my opponent to show that there is something severely wrong with it. Note also that I will be defending Oparin's position as a general principle (see round 1). This means that I don't necessarily need to defend a "metabolism first" model, since in modern times, the dominant theory is "self replication first".
1. Primordial soup theory is accepted by the scientific consensus (Though there is disagreement on certain specifics, the validity of the theory is withstanding peer review).
2. Primordial soup theory accurately predicts when life formed (the time frame suggested by primordial soup corresponds with the early fossil record and indirect evidence of early photosynthesis). Additionally, there are "relics" of the proto life (an example of this is thermosynthesis still occurring in cell division, seed germination and the like).
3. Contrary to popular belief, scientists have recreated many of the steps necessary for life to begin (either with experiments or theoretical models). These include but are not limited to:
a. Creation of amino acids from early earth atmospheres (Miller-Urey experiment)
b. Spontaneous creation of proteinoid membranes or "microspheres" (Sidney Fox's experiments)
c. Creation of self sustaining and self replicating RNA (Lincoln & Joyce).
d. Models explaining pre-life metabolisms (see: also, pretty much everything by Dr. Muller has to do with early metabolisms).
e. Models explaining assorted phenomena such as homochirality.
My opponent alludes to primordial soup accomplished through "randomization". This is only partially true. While we can think of certain mutations and transformations of proto-life as "random", this doesn't tell the whole story. Experiments such as the Miller-Urey experiment (and subsequent ones), show that the formation of monomers, and in the case of Sidney Fox's experiments, protenoid spheres form predictably, these experiments have been repeated. It is no more random than chemical reactions.


This is quite annoying. You have not answered my question; you actually posted arguments on a question.

Very well, then. I'll take your lack of answer as a no.

Now here comes the interesting part: the actual arguments.

First of all, here is a small definition for the average reader: the bio genesis is the process in which life can appear. Abiogenesis refers to the same process, with the difference that it is done through inorganic matter.

Now, if we take into consideration that amino-acids can indeed be formed under ideal circumstances, as the Miller-Uray experiment has shown, it might be possible to think at first that life can originate through inorganic matter without an intelligent intervention.

Let's then take a more thorough and complete look at the thing: In no occurrence have we been able to create an actual living system, would it be something as simple as "proto-life". Of course, creating a few amino-acids is yet impressive. It is, however, nowhere near the actual requirements for bio genesis.

A quick, logic, and I hope, definitive example to counter the theory would be the number of genomes required to have a simple form of life.

The E.Coli bacteria, easily one of the most simple form of life on earth, contain the following: (If you'd allow me to quote a link):

""The complete sequence of the genome of a harmless laboratory strain of E. coli (K-12) was reported in the 5 September 1997 issue of Science. The genome consists of a single molecule of DNA containing 4,639,221 base pairs."
" (2)

A simple bacteria contains more than 4,639,221 base pairs.

A base pair is traditionally formed by Adenine (C5H5N5), Guanine (C5H5N5O), Cytosine (C4H5N3O) and Thymine (C5H6N2O2).

As you probably noticed, those are, for the most part, complex molecules. Now, is it logic to assume that two of them they formed together, randomly, 4,639,221 times in a row? Not only that, but also in a proper order to give life to something as simple as one of our smallest bacteria?

Despite that this is mathematically impossible, but there is also another problem. Even if you assumed, irrationally, that it is possible to be formed randomly, without any intelligent intervention,
(The odds are the you could win a good thousand time with the same numbers at different lotteries before this can happen), there is another main problem: The way that this information is decoded.
Would you assume that a Ribosome, encoded for this very precise chain of information, can appear at the same place? (1)

The last situation was already mathematically impossible, with this piece of information-decoding to be added, it just becomes plain ridiculous to even think it might work.

Conclusion: I must say, due to the odds being considered as mathematically impossible, that it is unreasonable to believe in Alexander Oparin's basic theory of abiogenesis.

I eagerly await my opponent's answer.

Vote Con!

P.S: If the numbers do not convince you of the following impossibility of this situation, I might be able to do a logic argument on why it is impossible that inorganic material create information and the component to decode it.

(1) -

(2) -


Debate Round No. 2


I thank my opponent for this debate. I apologize for not answering your question that you posed in the first round. I gather that English may not be your first language. Anyways, the answer would be no, I'm not changing the resolution.

My opponent makes a key mistake in defining what abiogenesis is, and I think that this misunderstanding explains why his argument fails to properly address the topic.

" Abiogenesis refers to the same process, with the difference that it is done through inorganic matter."

This isn't exactly true, if you read my first post, you'll see that organic matter (amino acids in the first stage, but later advancing to polymers, to single strands of RNA, to RNA surrounded by proteinoid microspheres, to early metabolisms etc.) What we consider to be actually "alive" appears fairly late, there is never a jump from inorganic matter to life, it happens slowly and progressively (over a period from tens of millions, to a billion years).

Thus, my opponent's single argument is a strawman. Of course it is so astronomically unlikely that life would form from simple amino acids that we wouldn't even consider it. However, this is not what primordial soup theory postulates.

If my opponent would please take the time to become educated on the subject, (the wikipedia articles in round 2 would be a great place to start) I think he will see that the modern theory avoids the problem that he poses.

E. Coli, when thinking about the origins of life is extremely complex. There would have been millions of intergenerational proto-life before we even get the first strand of DNA. Since we've already synthesized self replicating polymers (early RNA), it's not hard to see that these self replicating molecules would slowly transform across generations (pick up a book on evolution if you don't believe me), proteinoid spheres (also empirically tested), give the basis for cellular integrity. My opponent's probability calculation assumes that I'm postulating that the amino acids up and create some ecoli spontaneously, which just isn't true. I strongly recommend that my opponent learn a bit about the topic before coming in and throwing unrelated statistical analysis at me.

The only other blippy argument that my opponent makes is that we've never been able to make life in a laboratory. Of course we haven't, it would take million of generations for a population of self replicating molecules to eventually evolve into actual life. Remember that primordial soup theory postulates that it took tens of millions to a billion years for the monomers that were found in the Miller-Urey experiment to reach actual prokaryotic cells. Not to mention the natural "laboratory" was the entirety of the earth's oceans. Needless to say, of course we haven't made life in a lab.

Because my opponent's main argument doesn't address what scientists actually believe about abiogenesis, I urge you to vote pro.


First of all, I must say that this does have the merit of being a quick debate.
You did not answered not issued any of the point I rose in last round, you just gave an evasive answer with "proto-life", while this is at best a mere theory, with no actual indication on what the proto-life is.

For the purpose of the debate, let's now state clearly a few definitions:

""In natural science, abiogenesis or biopoesis is the study of how biological life arises from inorganic matter through natural processes.""

-- (Wikipedia's definition on Abiogenesis).

If you change the sense of those words to your liking, well I must say that you're a very poor debater.
They have only ONE meaning, which has been fully exploited up above.

Hence the whole argument you gave last round failed to demonstrate anything.

But, just for the sake of debating, let's pursue it. "Proto-life" is not yet a term recognized by the majority of the scientific community, it's at best an incomplete theory.
If, however, you do refer to "proto-life" as in "Materials that could, under ideal condition, give birth to life", well this once again fails, as proto-life cannot replicate itself without mistakes and would quite easily be dispersed within a relatively short span of time.

The so-called "experiment" you stated was made with a 482 base molecule (Compared to the 2,000,000 we need for a stable organism) . It did not reproduce, it duplicated without the slightest mistake, thus making evolution within proto-life impossible, even at term. May I also point out that the experiment was conducted with an already living base?

And as conclusion, I must say that my opponent's agreed with my previous arguments

Of course it is so astronomically unlikely that life would form from simple amino acids that we wouldn't even consider it")).
If we then consider that his definitions were wrong from the beggining, that sould make me an automatic winner, unless, of course, he got solid material to demonstrate his most illogical claims.

P.S: You have not cited any sources. Should I assumed that you once again created your arguments and so-called experiments to give you an edge?

Also, my last point is referring to your "Read on the subject".
May I point out, once again, that you're merely a 16 years old boy with "Some college" education?
I am not saying I'm any better, but before declaring one's incapacity in a field, please obtain some REAL education.

Debate Round No. 3


twerj forfeited this round.


Well, extension of my arguments in round 3.
Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 4


twerj forfeited this round.


Once again extension of my arguments in round 3.
Interesting debate for the time it lasted.
Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 5
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by tvellalott 5 years ago
Posted by Gileandos 5 years ago
K, I will await your challenge.
Posted by twerj 5 years ago
I'll have to write an opening argument and since I can't officially challenge you until I write my first round, it may be a few hours. At latest, I'll post tomorrow morning.
Posted by Gileandos 5 years ago
3 Rounds of rules and argumentation, launch your salvo to start.
Also priomordial soup is fine. I do not mind the nuances of the theory and do not wish to limit you to one person's sole viewpoint of Primordialism.

A challenge is fantastic
Posted by twerj 5 years ago
Also, could I change it from "Oparin's basic" to "Primordial soup" I don't want anyone to think that I'm advocating the existence of Coacervates. I mainly used Oparin to signify that I would be using the research that started in 1924 and included things like the Miller-Urey experiments and Haldane and whatnot.
Posted by twerj 5 years ago
I'll challenge you to that debate then.
Do you mean three rounds including the customary explanation of rules etc.
Or should I begin round 1 with opening arguments?
Posted by Gileandos 5 years ago
Oparin's basic theory of abiogenesis is more likely to be true than (Insert competing theory here).

I would take this form with three rounds only.
Posted by twerj 5 years ago
I would be willing to change the resolution to something along the lines of:

Oparin's basic theory of abiogenesis is more likely to be true than (Insert competing theory here).


Oparin's basic theory of abiogenesis has no glaring errors.


Oparin's basic theory of abiogenesis is right to be the dominant scientific theory regarding the origins of life on earth.

I realize, and sympathize with your concern, but I don't want to have to defend the notion that the theory is undeniably correct.
Posted by Gileandos 5 years ago
I would also take this debate as Con if the resolution was more like "It is unreasonable Not to beleive in Oparin's theory of abiogenisis.
Posted by Gileandos 5 years ago
I could not take this debate under the resolution.
I would take it if the resolution stated the theory was true.
No matter what... in technicality "con" has to show a commonly held theory is not "reasonable".

This is not possible as contrary scientific data and even positive data is sparse and purely speculative and based on "reasoned arguments".
No votes have been placed for this debate.