Renowned Chemist on Origin-of-Life: Put Up Or Shut Up | The Institute for Creation Research

Renowned Chemist on Origin-of-Life: Put Up Or Shut Up

For some time now, renowned and award-winning Rice University chemist and outspoken Christian Dr. James Tour has been exposing the fact that origin-of-life (OoL) researchers have no idea how life could have formed through natural processes. Two months ago, Dr. Tour issued a dramatic challenge to 10 prominent OoL researchers.1 Tour said he would take down all his public criticisms of OoL, but only if any one of the 10 leading OoL researchers could convincingly solve just one of five key OoL problems. The first four in need of explanation were (1) the origin of polypeptides (linear organic polymers that are composed of amino acids), (2) the origin of polynucleotides like RNA and DNA, (3) the origin of polysaccharides (necessary as biological energy sources such as glycogen), and (4) the origin of the specified information contained in living things. The fifth and final challenge was for an OoL research team to construct a living cell, assuming that the other four challenges had already been met.1

Tour was extraordinarily generous to these researchers, allowing them to assume, when answering the fifth challenge, for instance, that all the necessary components were present and had the appropriate chirality (“handedness”—a geometric property). Because chirality is a problem that has long bedeviled OoL researchers,2 this was extremely charitable to their position. Also, Tour allowed the construction of the living cell to be performed, not by mindless natural processes as must have happened in any truly realistic OoL scenario, but by the research teams themselves. He even allowed a three-member panel, chosen from the 10 experts themselves, to judge whether they had solved the problem. In essence, Tour was challenging OoL researchers to “put up or shut up.”

In spite of Tour’s very generous conditions, the deadline for the 60-day challenge passed without the researchers even attempting to answer any of Tour’s five challenges.3,4,7 Their silence was deafening. If after decades of research 10 top researchers in the field can’t answer even one of these questions, then no one can.

Despite blustery claims that researchers are getting closer to resolving this mystery, there are occasional tells, for those watching carefully, that OoL researchers don’t have a clue on this subject. Occasionally, evolutionists themselves admit ignorance.5 Wealthy evolutionists have offered a $10 million prize to the scientist who can offer a convincing naturalistic OoL scenario.6 Spoiler alert: the prize hasn’t been claimed.

Dr. Tour is right in that OoL research is indeed “an absolute scam.”3 How many millions (billons?) of dollars of research money have been apparently wasted on fruitless OoL speculation? And what’s really the point of such research, anyway—to help nervous atheists sleep better at night? What could have been accomplished if just half this money and effort had been devoted instead to real high-confidence scientific research in, say, medicine?

Unlike mainstream origin-of-life researchers, ICR does not receive tax research money. It is the faithful contributions and prayers of our supporters that make it possible for our research scientists to push back against misleading claims and explore science that confirms Scripture.


  1. Tour, J. Can Scientists Answer These Questions? RNA, Abiogenesis, Chemical Natural Selection & More. YouTube. Posted August 24, 2023 at, accessed November 10, 2023.
  2. McCombs, C. 2004. Evolution Hopes You Don’t Know Chemistry: The Problem with Chirality. Acts & Facts. 33 (5).
  3. Tour, J. Origin of Life Challenges RESULTS + HUGE announcement w/ Lee Cronin & James Tour| Evolution of Life. YouTube. Posted November 7, 2023 at, accessed November 10, 2023.
  4. Coppedge, D. F. Christian Chemist Trounces 10 Leading OoL Researchers. Creation Evolution Headlines. Posted November 8, 2023 at, accessed November 10, 2023.
  5. Horgan, J. Pssst! Don’t tell the creationists, but scientists don’t have a clue how life began. Scientific American. Posted at February 28, 2011, accessed November 10, 2023.
  6. Evolution 2.0 Prize. Herox. Accessed November 10, 2023.
  7. Since the writing of this news article, Dr. Lee Cronin, a prominent evolutionist, has engaged with Dr. Tour about science and the origin of life at a Cambridge faculty roundtable held on November 28, 2023. The recording of this event is available on YouTube:

Stage image: James Tour
Stage image credit: Copyright © Jeff Fitlow, 2018. Used in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holder.

* Dr. Hebert is Research Scientist at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Dallas.

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