Life from an 'RNA World'?

The beginning of life itself is the greatest quandary for the evolutionary paradigm. What came first in the supposed primordial soup from which life sprung? Was it DNA, proteins, or RNA? The cell uses all three types of these interdependent biomolecules to function, and one cannot exist without the other two. DNA is made and replicated by proteins and the assistance of various RNA molecules. RNA is copied from DNA with the aid of proteins. Proteins are made via RNA and other proteins, and the sequences of all these proteins are encoded in DNA. From an organic chemical perspective alone, life spontaneously generating from non-life via random evolutionary processes is essentially impossible.

But evolutionists have big imaginations in their quest to reject the obvious observable facts of science. One of the most popular of these fictional scenarios is that life somehow started in an "RNA world." This theory postulates that RNA molecules were the precursors to both DNA and proteins—acting as both a template and also having enzymatic qualities of certain proteins to enable the copying of RNAs. But information is an absolute prerequisite for any cellular biomolecule to have any function whatsoever, including RNA.

A press release covered a recent study claiming to provide evidence of such an RNA molecule from an RNA world. Gerald Joyce, the senior researcher of the project stated, "This is probably the first time some of these complex RNA molecules have been synthesized with a ribozyme [a special RNA enzyme] since the end of the RNA world four billion years ago."1 Joyce is referring to a new ribozyme created in his lab under highly controlled conditions and with specific human-directed processes that can replicate short lengths of RNA efficiently—RNA about 24 bases in length. However, the molecule could not replicate itself, only very short RNAs were replicated under highly controlled human-engineered conditions. Hardly a shining example of evidence for an RNA world.

Does this laboratory effort really represent random naturalistic evolution or add any support to the evolutionary enigma of origins? First, it should be noted that no portion of this experiment was conducted under "primitive Earth conditions" thought to be present some 4 billion years ago. Rather, the experiments were conducted using high-tech laboratory equipment, under a highly controlled environment using specific solutions of complex man-made chemical reagents, and highly trained laboratory personnel. Thus, the claim that "in vitro evolution" produced this new ribozyme is very deceiving. One only has to read the Materials and Methods of the research paper along with the published supplemental material to realize the incredible amount of human ingenuity and engineering that went into executing this project.2,3 Nothing could be further from random materialistic processes.

But perhaps more important than the fact this was a contrived and highly engineered man-made experiment is that the essential information in the complex sequence of unaltered ribozymes found in nature is another aspect of this scenario that evolution cannot account for.

Information is an abstract concept that is specific and organized for a purpose. In the living cell it is presented as genetic language within a context that gives it meaning and relevance; it is separate from biomolecules and does not occur by chance random processes, but instead can only be conveyed through an intelligent designer. Such is the case with all RNA, DNA, and protein sequences found in nature—including ribozyme sequences such as the one researched and modified in this study. Not only are the alleged random unguided processes of evolution incapable of creating new information by copying and mixing existing information, but evolution cannot explain the existence of complex information or where the very first chemical building blocks of RNA, DNA, and proteins came from to begin with.

Instead of supporting the naturalistic paradigm of life's origins, this new research report emphasizes how even the modification of pre-existing information toward a specific purpose requires immense levels of ingenuity and expertise, outcomes that chance processes can never achieve. The main lesson is that the complexity of life did not come about through a spontaneous, iterative process, but through the action of an Omnipotent Creator.


  1. The Scripps Research Institute. 2016. TSRI Scientists Take Big Step Toward Recreating Primordial 'RNA World' of Four Billion Years Ago. News Release. Posted on on August 15, 2016, accessed August 18, 2016.
  2. Horninga, D. P. and G. F. Joyce. 2016. Amplification of RNA by an RNA polymerase ribozyme. Proceedings National Academy of Sciences USA. Published ahead of print August 15, 2016. doi:10.1073/pnas.1610103113.
  3. Horninga, D. P. and G. F. Joyce. Supporting information. Proceedings National Academy of Sciences USA. 10.1073/pnas.1610103113

*Dr. Tomkins is Director of Life Sciences at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his Ph.D. in genetics from Clemson University.

Article posted on September 6, 2016.