Dave: Any biomolecule is easy to synthesize. Jim knows this. He’s a synthetic chemist. What he probably means is that we haven’t seen these bio-macromolecules form spontaneously outside of a biological system. But that’s not what he says.
Jim: There is this perception that biomolecules are easy to synthesize. They’re not easy to synthesize as I’m showing but they would be really hard to synthesize if you had to build the building blocks of the building blocks. What if you couldn’t buy glucose and you had to make it? What if you had to make glucose? That’s really hard to do, especially with pre-biotic chemicals.
Dave: Jim is constantly talking about how we don’t know how to make the four classes of biomolecules which are nucleic acids, proteins, carbohydrates and lipids. This is ridiculous. Nucleic acid synthesis and protein synthesis are utterly trivial. It’s so easy to do that we even figured out how to make machines that do it for us. We type in the sequence we want on a computer, let the machine run and we can get a DNA strand of any sequence of nucleotides we want or a protein of any sequence of amino acids we want.
Jim: What every one of these machines is doing is it’s starting with the building blocks. It’s essentially gone to Rock Auto and already bought the pieces but what if you had to make the pieces? And even with those pieces it’s not easy as I’ve shown you and am going to be showing you. I don’t know why people think that this is so easy. Maybe it’s because of the way origin of life researchers have written their papers but it’s not easy at all.
Dave: And lipids like triglycerides can be synthesized easily.
Jim: We’re going to show it’s not that easy, especially when you’re dealing with prebiotic methods. Here’s the misconception.
Dave: Some have said any biomolecule is easy to synthesize. Jim knows this. He’s a synthetic chemist. What he probably means is that we haven’t seen these bio-macromolecules form spontaneously outside of a biological system. But that’s not what he says. He does not make the distinction and this seems deliberate on his part.
Jim: No, I didn’t know that and neither does any other synthetic chemist. It is difficult for chemists to make most macromolecules and usually impossible when restricted to prebiotic chemicals and methods and much harder for the prebiotic earth, where the earth could not buy the 20 amino acids in homocairo form or the carbohydrates or the nucleotides or the lipids, all of those in homocairo form. Those are the building blocks of the building blocks and no chemist in her right mind would support the nonsensical claim that any biomolecule is easy to synthesize. That’s a gross misunderstanding.
Polysaccharides, their building blocks are monomeric sugars, the monomeric sugars are purchased and obtained from living systems. The companies from which you purchase them never synthesize from the bottom up. They obtain them from living systems so biology has already supplied this. Rock Auto is supplying this. There was no Rock Auto on early earth. There was no manufacturer selling these things. Early earth had no biological systems from which to isolate the sugars.
Proteins, their building blocks are amino acids, which are purchased and obtained from living systems. The reason you can make polypeptides, the reason you can hook amino acids together is because you buy the amino acids from a company that has isolated them from a natural source, through the digestion of proteins and through the cleaving of the amide bonds there in the proteins. These were all obtained from living systems. They were taken from biology but when you don’t have that, what are you gonna do?
Nucleic acids, their building blocks are nucleotides, which are purchased and obtained from living systems. You purchase the nucleotides from companies. They’re not purchased in the raw form; they’re purchased already protected so they can go into your synthesizer, if you still have a synthesizer. Most of this is farmed out right now. But these are purchased and obtained from living systems. These are molecules that are isolated from biological systems and then functionalized with the protecting groups.
Lipids, their building blocks are fatty acids and glycerol which are purchased and obtained from living systems. The fatty acids are not found in nature, they’re not found in a prebiotic earth. Those are products of biological systems. The glycerol is the product of a biological system.
Where do origin of life researchers get their chemicals for their stereo-scrambled synthesis? They don’t make them homochiral but even for their stereo-scramble synthesis, the gases have conveniently separated into individual cylinders. How convenient.
And then the basic chemicals that they need, they just go to the shelf and they pick them up. They’re all purified in a bottle as purchased. But early prebiotic earth didn’t have that luxury. All the gases were mixed together. So where did early earth get its chemicals for homochiro synthesis? Had ammonia, presumed methane, oxygen, co2, hydrogen sulfide, water, sulfate, formaldehyde, carbonate, formate, hydroxide, cyanide, cyanate, metal oxides. Probably had all of those things but where are you going to get those on an early earth? They’re all right there. Go on out there and find them. Origin of life students working in labs that are doing origin of life, your professor says to you “No, we don’t have any stores of chemicals and gases. Just go out and find them.” Now you have to find them on a prebiotic earth before there was any life. You got to find all these chemicals. Remember all the gases are mixed together; they’re not conveniently in cylinders. You have to find it all out here. You don’t have rockauto.com to call upon. You can’t go there to get it. You only have rocks and that atmosphere. Imagine the constraints upon a prebiotic earth.
Summary. Building blocks of the building blocks. To date, nobody has even made the building blocks of the building blocks for the necessary four classes of compounds needed for life while using the chemicals that would have been available on an early earth. Yet somehow under a rock someplace, the synthesis happened and bingo life was birthed. You really think that? We’re clueless regarding even the building blocks of the building blocks. Remember the building block would be a protein. We’re clueless on the amino acids for making the proteins, let alone the construction of a cell.