Quote: Leslie Orgel

In the Jehovah's Witnesses book on Creation/Evolution, we find a quote about how life could not easily arise from non-life:

However, the chances actually are far fewer than this "outrageously small" figure indicates. There must be a membrane enclosing the cell. But this membrane is extremely complex, made up of protein, sugar and fat molecules. As evolutionist Leslie Orgel writes: "Modern cell membranes include channels and pumps which specifically control the influx and efflux of nutrients, waste products, metal ions and so on. These specialised channels involve highly specific proteins, molecules that could not have been present at the very beginning of the evolution of life."

Life: How did it get here?, 1985, page 45
Reference to: New Scientist 15 April 1982, page 151

The implication is that Orgel has stated a huge problem, for which he does not have a solution. However, Orgel's article is in fact about how science is making great progress on such matters. After stating the cell-wall problem, Orgel suggested a solution. He thought that the very earliest pre-cell may have "stayed together by some sort of self-aggregation, perhaps stuck to mineral surfaces...".

Cell walls are basically lipids. Orgel could have mentioned that if you pour certain lipids into water, they self-assemble into hollow spheres about the size of a cell. Organic material found inside a meteorite has done the same thing. The spheres aren't as good as modern cell walls, of course - they're leaky. Which is what a primitive cell would have wanted, since a primitive cell didn't have all those fancy channels and pumps for getting stuff through the wall.

Last modified: 21 December 1997

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