The Essential Role of Clay and Photosynthesis in Evolution
NOUGH OF FIRE. Let us now turn our gaze upon water—its opposite number, and the role it played in the creation of life.
The era of the jinn comes to a close and a completely different phase begins which intermediates between this phase and the final act of photosynthesis. This intermediary phase can be referred to as the preparatory stage for the synthesis of material which was prerequisite for the creation of the living. A careful study of the following will be helpful for correctly visualizing all that transpired during this period.
Chemistry is largely divided into two major branches—inorganic chemistry and organic chemistry. Inorganic chemistry relates to compounds which are mineral in nature and are not the product of life. The mere presence of carbon does not entitle them to be called organic. Water, sodium chloride and potassium are inorganic because they are also widely found outside living cells. However, carbon dioxide is considered inorganic, despite the fact that it is manufactured by living organisms during respiration.
Except for carbon dioxide which is inorganic, carbon is found in all organic compounds which are not necessarily the product of living things.
This chapter deals with all the preparatory steps which were needed before the creation of bio-units. We briefly quote the Quranic account in our words of what happened during this critical intermediary phase: after the end of the most ancient period of jinn, water played a vital role for the preparation of material needed for moulding the living. This material consisted of organic compounds mentioned as stagnant mud.
OME outstanding scientists have attempted to resolve the riddle of the preparation of organic compounds prior to the beginning of life on earth. The essence of the problem was that all organic compounds were a product of the living. How could they have been prepared in sea or dry land while, during that period, only inorganic compounds were known to have existed? There were no advanced chemical laboratories which could synthesize organic compounds from the inorganic, like we find today in the modern pharmaceutical industry. Great pioneer work has already been carried out by Bernal, Haldane, Dickerson, Miller, Urey, Cairns-Smith, Oparin and many others. It is a great tribute to their genius that they have attempted to rebuild this amazing story of how organic compounds could have been synthesized from the inorganic without controlled laboratory conditions. Following is the amazing story of their success and failure. This failure they themselves confess, but this confession is another tribute to their greatness. This chapter entirely deals with how various attempts were made to solve this riddle and how various solutions were suggested during this period of research. It is not just an exercise in presenting the great works of biochemistry to which we draw the attention of our reader. We draw the attention of the reader to the fact that the Quranic account to which we referred above is fully corroborated by the most advanced scientific research on this matter.
The scientific exploration revolves around the preparation of organic material for life. They mostly remain confined to prove a watery beginning. In this much they agree with the Quran. But the Quran additionally mentions a separate earlier beginning on dry land.
The crux of the matter is simply this, that although organic chemicals could have been synthesized in a watery solution of prehistoric oceans, they must have reverted to their original elementary form by the influence of hydrolysis. It was a challenge to propose how this threat could be avoided and a more advanced organic material could be prepared which would not revert to its elementary form. This means that as long as this preliminary organic material remained in water, the transfer of a hydrogen atom to the newly born chemicals would have broken them into their earlier, simpler forms perpetually. This must have resulted in a vicious circle by which no sooner was the organic material gained than it was lost. For the benefit of such readers as would demand a more scientific description of this account, we venture to present the following:
All the amino acids needed by the bricks of life are formed from aldehydes by a well known mechanism known as the Strecker Synthesis. The Strecker Synthesis of amino acids is a two-step sequence. The first step is the reaction of an aldehyde with a mixture of ammonia and HCN to yield an aminonitrile. Further hydrolysis of the aminonitrile results in the amino acid.
But the problem is that the two steps involved in the Strecker Synthesis are reversible. How the evolution of these unstable elementary compounds could become possible, is the major challenge which scientists confront. Various solutions have been proposed but they raise many more questions than they answer.
There is a growing consensus among the scientific community that somehow a dry stage has to be envisioned, whereby the elementary unstable organic chemicals in the primordial soup could be given a chance to develop into more advanced irreversible organic compounds. Moreover the formation of proteins and nucleic acids from the elementary amino acids, inevitably requires the elimination of a molecule of water from every couple of amino acid molecules and nucleotides. This is called polymerisation. But the problem is that despite the fact that it occurred in sea water, the presence of water should certainly have reversed this reaction. Hence all this polymerisation would be depolymerised.
It means that in the primitive solution each molecule had to be dehydrated within water, an extremely complicated and difficult, if not impossible, task. Most condensation reactions in the laboratory invariably give better results when the mixture is allowed to dry. This suggests that the evaporation of primitive solutions must have taken place after it was splashed on rocks, mud and beaches. This may well have been an essential stage between the rudimentary compounds created in water and the more highly evolved ones which would no longer remain reversible to their elementary forms.
F ALL THE THEORIES tackling this problem, the most interesting and probable are those which present the scenario of surface catalysts, like silica and clay, to have played their part in this process. This was first pointed out by John Bernal in 1951. He writes in his book The Physical Basis of Life:
'...the adsorption of clays, muds and inorganic crystals are powerful means to concentrate and polymerize organic molecules...' 1
The idea has not lost its appeal ever since.
'... Sidney, W. Fox showed that amino acids were capable of polymerizing fairly easily to yeild polypeptides under various conditions simulating those which may have prevailed on the primitive Earth. This polymerization may have been induced by electrical discharges, by heat (geothermal energy for example) or by contact with certain types of clay and polyphosphates.' 2
Cairns-Smith took this idea even further. While Bernal had proposed that not only clay, but also silicon was necessary to help the formation of organic molecules, Cairns-Smith suggested that clays were the material, perhaps the sole material, out of which the necessary organic compounds were made. His theory was vividly summarized in the opening statement of his 1966 paper.
Some scientists however, insist that the evolution of organic material did not have a wet start, which, because of the constant threat of hydrolysis, could not carry the reactions beyond a reversible vicious circle. They insist that it is solid state chemistry we should be looking for.
Despite the differences of opinion as to how the problem of hydrolysis was finally overcome, one thing is certain that no scientific theory of chemical evolution is conceivable without proposing an initial or intermediary dry stage. This stage was reached when the oceanic pre-biotic soup was concentrated and dried in the form of laminated micro-thin layers of clay. The Quran is evidently on the side of those who support a wet beginning with an intermediary stage of dryness where concentrated primordial soup was moulded into plates like dry ringing clay, such as broken pieces of earthenware.
The research of Noam Lahav, David White and Sherwood Chang further illustrates the importance of clay as playing a pivotal role in the synthesis of organic material. They showed how clays subjected to cycles of wetting and drying can link molecules of the amino acid known as glycine. The cycling transfers energy from the environment to the organic molecule. 3
Their proposed solution was very close to the one presented by the Quran but it was Cairns-Smith who even more clearly and unreservedly supported the Quran while he was absolutely unaware of any Quranic statement on this subject.
HE relevant verses of the Quran are repeated below:
... With water did We create every living thing ... 4
He created man from dry ringing clay like pieces of pottery. 5
And, surely, We created man from dry ringing clay made from stagnant blackish mud. 6
It is worthy of note here that these verses clearly state that the material used for the making of pottery-like plates was decayed organic matter—stagnant blackish mud.
S the translators could not visualize how man could have been moulded out of pottery, they inferred that the pottery was only mentioned because pieces of pottery struck against other pieces of pottery would emit a ringing sound. Thus they thought that the relevant verse hinted at the human faculty of speech. This is a very far-fetched interpretation which twists the word al-fakhkhar beyond recognition. Now when we begin to understand the nature of the intermediary preparatory stages which synthesized the material for building, it has become within our grasp to understand this term better. This is the true significance of the word al-fakhkhar.
The scientists believe that upon further drying, the clay must have crystallized asymmetrically thus becoming laminated into extremely thin layers, set one upon the other, to form plates resembling pieces of pottery. It should be noted with interest that this thin lamination also serves another very important purpose—that of enlarging the area of reaction. Micas and clays comprise laminated sheets of silicate with layers of water molecules separating these sheets. They are only 0.71 nanometres apart (a nanometre is ten-millionth of a centimetre). This increases the surface area for adsorbing molecules enormously. Hence a cube of dry clay of this formation, as small as one centimetre on each side, can provide a total surface area of around two thousand eight hundred square metres—about three-quarters of an acre.
A brief account of what scientists have been engaged in during their search for clues leading to the creation of material required for life has already been given. What happened from then on till the end of their journey is produced below with reference to Coyne's profound research on this subject.
Coyne, University of California, discussing the role of kaolinite clays in the early stages of chemical evolution, argues that they can gather energy from the environment, (by radioactive processes), store it, and then release it when the clay is suitably disturbed, by repeated wetting and drying.7
The journey of exploration is far from over. In fact, the entire research of scientists and their efforts to unravel the riddle of the origin of life are no more advanced than the very primordial organic soup, the mysteries of which they are attempting to fathom. What happened and how it happened, during the misty dawn of creation in the primordial soup of the oceans, is as yet a study at its nascent stage.
Having examined the amazing significance of dry ringing clay at the preparatory stages of biotic evolution, let us pause and wonder for a while at the dazzling brilliance of the Quranic claim made over fourteen hundred years ago. The idea of the participation of dry ringing clay in the creation of man is so bizarre and unique, and is diametrically opposed to the then prevalent popular tale of the genesis of Adam. One can easily understand the workings of a simple mind, under the influence of such popular tales, to think of God as mixing earth with water, drying it up to a degree, until it achieved the consistency of modelling clay. What remained to be done was the simple exercise of moulding it into the shape of man. And Lo! Adam is raised from dust, complete with all his organic constituents! In that instant sprang into being the entire complex of his body cells furnished with DNA, RNA, chromosomes, genes, somatic cells, reproductive cells etc. Ears, nose and eyes were formed, blood vessels were created, and heart and lungs with all their complexities were completed and set in place. Also, of course, the central nervous and immune systems were completed that instant!
All that miracle was created, according to some naive readers of the scriptures, within the space of a single breath of life which, as they understand, the Creator blew into the statue of clay which He had moulded as Adam. This belief is as devoid of brain as blind evolution is devoid of sight. The evolutionists who believe in creation without a God, without a Conscious Supermind, may scorn at the naivety of those who take the account of the Old Testament over-literally. They forget however, that their stance is equally lamentable. If the scripture scenario is literally accepted, then the only conclusion one can draw is that God the Creator is Almighty, but not All-Wise! An All-Wise God could not have conceived such a brainless scheme of creation, in which even a skilful potter could beat Him at His own game!
The plan of evolution which antecedes the creation of man is a masterpiece of creative wonders and a work of beauty which knows no parallel. For such a Creator to have forgotten altogether the intricate laws of nature which He Himself had framed, and the bricks of life which He had so dextrously designed and moulded, and the profound wonders He packed into their tiny cells, is absolutely inconceivable. How could He have forgotten a billion years of the history of the evolution of life? Little did he remember, as he was engaged so seriously in shaping another Adam out of clay, all anew, that he had already created and perfected him a hundred thousand years before in a far more sensible manner. The earth was already abounding in Homo sapiens—and with what amazement they must have watched him engaged in this futile exercise in the garden of Eden!
However disdainfully one may reject this naive vision of the creation of man, as held by religious zealots, the case of the secular scientists is no less deplorable. They know full well the limitless intricacies involved in the scheme of creation and the most exquisitely executed plan of evolution. All the same they attribute this most wonderful masterpiece merely to 'chance' who is not only brainless, but is also blind, deaf and dumb! Little does it behove them to laugh and scorn at the religious zealots. The vision of their god, however senile he may have become—after executing his tremendous plan of creation—is out of all proportion superior to the evolutionist's concept of the creative force at work. The most exquisite and unimaginably intricate plan of creation, they believe, was conceived and executed merely by a sightless brainless fashioner of man, the ancient thrower of dice.
The image of God as emerges from the Book of Genesis, when taken literally, presents Him no doubt as a doting senile but what the scientists would have us believe is even more exasperating. All through the journey of a billion years of biotic evolution, only a brainless phantom of chance occupied the driving seat, the naturalists insist, steering the wagon of evolution through the uncountable number of twists and turns it took before reaching its ultimate goal.
But unfortunately all their profound search for truth comes to a naught when they reach the point where life should begin to emerge in an oxygen-free atmosphere, which then existed, according to Haldane. In agreement with his theory, the scientists believe that a transformation did take place from a non-biotic era to a biotic era despite the absence of oxygen. We believe, on the other hand, that despite their denial of the existence of free oxygen, one must visualize its presence in the atmosphere somehow to the degree that it could support life. For this we have no alternative mechanism to suggest, but our failure to do so does not prove that it did not happen.
There are many examples of unresolved mysteries of a certain age which in the light of discoveries of later ages became understandable. A specific example can be quoted in relation to the rapid extinction of dinosaurs. This problem remained unresolved for a very long time. Scientists could not understand why dinosaurs disappeared at all while other much weaker species of life continued to evolve uninterrupted. Finally, this mystery was resolved when they discovered that the impact from a fairly large asteroid hitting the ocean some sixty-five million years ago disrupted the entire life system of the planet, particularly to the disadvantage of dinosaurs. Under the changed environmental conditions it became progressively harder for them to survive. Until this knowledge was gained, there was no satisfactory explanation as to why the era of the dinosaurs came to such a swift end.
The transformation of an atmosphere devoid of free oxygen into the one comparatively rich in it, could as well be a case similar to that of the extinction of dinosaurs. But only the future will tell how far we are wrong, if the scientists are right. If they are right, then the problems which will emerge will be so enormous as to put to doubt the very existence of the new era of photosynthesis.
We must clearly visualize what may have happened at the time of transition when the age of photosynthesis had just dawned. All oxygen was found bonded to inorganic materials like carbon dioxide (CO2), water (H2O) and silicon dioxide (SiO2) according to the prevailing scientific opinion. In other words, the emergent bio-units must have manufactured oxygen themselves for their own consumption. After presenting the unrealistic manner in which this is supposed to have happened—but could not have happened, we will return to a more serious discussion on the nature of photosynthesis and that of chlorophyll, and the immense problems attendant upon the complexities of chlorophyll.
Imagine the scenario of a few pioneer biotic molecules suddenly emerging on the primitive seashore of evolution in an atmosphere totally devoid of oxygen to become the ancestors of all forms of life to come. It is an idea as beautiful as it is bizarre! There are many inherent problems and mysteries which remain unsolved. Their survival could not be possible merely because of photosynthesis. The energy converted from sunlight had to be stored and utilized by catabolism which was dependent in turn upon the availability of free oxygen, which during the said period was not available, or was extremely hard to come by. It was a period of storms and chaotic atmospheric conditions. How could the newly emergent life generate the oxygen itself and chase it to reabsorb it into its system for catabolism to work. How on earth, therefore, could our ancient ancestors begin their journey of life? The only supply of oxygen on which their survival depended had to be created by them themselves through photosynthesis. It is indeed a strange idea to visualize them springing into life and maintaining it without oxygen, as though they held their first breath till the time they were capable of producing the vitally needed oxygen—and catching it back from the air!
This means that if they were luckily ushered into life on a bright sunny morning, only then could photosynthesis start functioning, leading to steps which could produce oxygen. But that was not sufficient either. It was essential that the newly released oxygen should have remained within the easy reach of the bio-units for immediate consumption. In the most stormy and violent atmospheric conditions which then prevailed, it is most unlikely that the minute trickle of oxygen which they had just started producing, would remain hovering around them until it was consumed through respiration.
Every atom that was synthesized must have been carried away faster than it was produced on the wings of tempestuous winds. Can anyone imagine the utter dismay with which the bio-units must have watched that oxygen drift away before they could jump into the air to catch their first breath of life? But that is not all. The day must have ended at last, however bright, sunny and calm it might have been.
On the issue of prehistoric days and nights, let us turn to the Old Testament to catch a glimpse through Divine Scriptures as to what was happening in that remote period:
'And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day'. 8
It must have been a bright day, like the one described, during which the early bio-units emerged for the first time with a fighting chance for them to survive on earth. But that day must have ended at last and, before the beginning of the second day, photosynthesis must have ceased altogether.
How could the poor bio-units completely destitute in the supply of oxygen have survived the first night of their precarious existence? Even the most competent yogis cannot hold their breath for that long. For the poor bio-units it was not the sun of light, but the sun of life which must have set!
Different scenarios are proposed indeed and natural selection is casually mentioned while no practical solution is offered. Natural selection has become a cliché for the scientists who want to escape into obscurism when confronted with the challenge of explaining how by chance complex things took place in precise sequence. Dickerson has enumerated some of the problems confronting them, which they have not as yet been able to resolve.
We present, in our own words, the five stages mentioned by Dickerson.
- The formation of the planet, with gases in the atmosphere that could serve as raw material for life is not as simple as it appears to be.
The formation of gases in their right proportion throughout the early history of the planet Earth in itself comprises many problems which demand particular attention. But that is not all. In every change of atmospheric complexion and proportion of the gases, the question of the how and the why arises. For the earth's atmosphere to remain oxygen-free for around three and a half billion years, cannot be dismissed as merely accidental. Add to that the constant bombardment of the earth by powerful radioactive blasts from the cosmos and their devastating effect on early organisms, the problems contingent upon that would become clear. Unless countermeasures were taken against this threat no ancient organisms could survive on earth.
- The synthesis of biological monomers such as amino acids, sugars and organic bases took place for around five hundred million years. All that occurred during this phase was actually fraught with enormous problems.
- The polymerization of such monomers into primitive protein and nucleic acid chains in an aqueous environment is a very crucial stage in the early years of the preparation of life. This stage in itself would require generations of scientists to spend many a lifetime to fully comprehend all the intricacies involved in this seemingly simple proposition. Despite more than fifty years of exploration and in-depth research, scientists have not yet been able to settle even the elementary chicken and egg problem in relation to the evolution of proteins.
- The segregation of Haldane's soup into protobionts with a chemistry and an identity of their own during the early period of life in the making, was again a gigantic problem.
- Last but not least, is the challenge of conceiving how the development of some kind of reproductive machinery took place when the first bricks of life evolved. This was highly essential for the daughter cells to have all the chemical and metabolic capabilities of the parent cells.
Before closing this chapter, we should like to add a few more examples of how scientists are baffled by the dilemma of life as though originating by itself. There are millions of stages involved, of tiny invisible steps, through which the chemical evolution must have carved its course. It is not just the enormity of the challenge to comprehend how these chemical steps were taken in a certain direction and under what natural influences. There are also immense problems to visualize and discover the rationale of how these steps were sequenced in a well-designed and worked out chain—linking each ring with the other at the right place—the only place where it should have been linked. How easy it sounds for a scientist to declare that the age of bionts, drawing their energy from fermentation, came to an end and at that point began the new era of photosynthesis. But how difficult indeed it is to visualize and solve the problems attendant upon this transition from one age to another.
The presence of phosphorus in every living cell must also be justified in view of the fact that phosphorus is a rare element. Add to this the case of molybdenum and some other even rarer elements, essentially used in life building processes, and the dilemma is further compounded. Some scientists attempting to explain this have even been driven to believe that life must have come from the cosmos, because phosphorus and molybdenum are found in comparative abundance there. But they still cannot answer the question as to how life, having been shaped and designed in outer space, once transported to the planet Earth could continue to be uniformly fed by phosphorus and molybdenum all over the globe. How could it continue to prosper unhindered in an unfriendly climate where phosphorus and molybdenum, the two essentials, were no longer freely available?
Another intriguing problem confronting the scientists relates to two coexisting phenomena responsible for the maintenance and continuity of life. A living cell has two central talents—a capacity for metabolism and a capacity for reproduction. But the problem is that the nucleic acid cannot replicate without enzymes and enzymes cannot be made without nucleic acid. According to Watson and Crick, DNA cannot do its work, including forming more DNA, without catalytic proteins or enzymes. In short, proteins cannot form without DNA but neither can DNA form without proteins. To those pondering over the origin of life, it is another classic chicken and egg problem—which came first the proteins or the DNA?
To wriggle out of this dilemma some propose that both DNA and proteins developed separately, in parallel, until somehow they started a new phase of interdependence. A brilliant stroke of genius it seems, to some, but when examined more closely they will find neither an element of brilliance nor a trace of genius in this proposition. They shut their eyes to the question of how they could have developed and run parallel to each other while at every step their survival depended on the other.
It could not have happened merely by the chance interplay of all the necessary factors which could make this apparent impossibility possible without the supervision of experienced scientists. Such scientists needed a most advanced laboratory apparatus without which they could not have achieved any success, while the paradox quoted above is known to have happened outside any controlled conditions. Those who conducted the said experiments did so with reference to a similar paradox, which concerns self-replication of RNA without the essential presence of proteins and enzymes which it has to produce itself. But they had to admit that their success was no success indeed, in relation to the paradox which they attempted to resolve. Horgan confesses that these scientific experiments are too complicated to represent a plausible scenario for the origin of life.
'You have to get an awful lot of things right and nothing wrong' 9
is the admission of Orgel who conducted these experiments. What he and Horgan agree upon is that their success under strict laboratory conditions does not prove anything happening under open conditions which prevailed before the origin of life. J. Szostak separately conducted similar experiments successfully but again under strictly controlled laboratory conditions.
Harold P. Klein of Santa Clara University expresses his doubt in the following words:
'... it is almost impossible to imagine how it happened.' 10
We only object to the word almost. Instead he should have clearly confessed it was absolutely impossible without the existence of God.
According to Dickerson existence of mutual recognition is most essential. Mentioning many attempts to find a complimentary process between protein sequences and nucleic acid sequences he admits that none of them have been satisfactory.
Further elaborating the complexities of a coexistence of two parallel mechanisms in which each gives birth to the other, he again likens this impossible situation to the chicken-and-egg paradox. But the solution he proposes to solve this problem is absolutely untenable. He proposes that both egg and chicken should have separately developed and evolved independent of each other.
All those who hold Dickerson in high esteem for his priceless pioneering work in attempting to solve the riddle of life would certainly be astounded by this naive statement. The only concession one can give Dickerson is that he must have been dead tired after his long laborious pursuits to find a way out of this dilemma without admitting to the existence of God. But there is no way out for anyone without Him! With Him at the command of things, there is no paradox in nature. The omission of scientists to see the hand of the Supreme, All-Knowing, All-Powerful Creator behind the intricacies of creation is un-understandable without suggesting they are wilfully turning a blind eye to manifest realities. The so-called paradoxes become unreal when one admits the existence of God.
So declares the Quran:
Who has created seven heavens in stages. No incongruity can you see in the creation of the Gracious God. Then look again: Do you see any flaw?
Aye, look again, and yet again, your sight will only return to you tired and fatigued. 11
The problem with Dickerson and other scientists who take pride in their secular stance is simply their determination never to permit God to play any creative role in the scheme of things. Of course there is no dilemma in nature. But the dilemma begins the moment the idea of God is tossed out of the realms of His own creation. An example of the exasperation that naturally follows can be found in the solution hinted by Dickerson mentioned above. This in reality is tantamount to the admission of utter frustration.
We repeat that RNA molecules are understood to work as messengers for the transfer of information and instructions given by DNA to be carried across to other specific intended sites where the command is precisely delivered and responded to. When scientists endeavour to unveil the methodology adopted by nature for the performance of this task, they are not only amazed at the complexity of the exercise but also find themselves facing another paradox. A charging enzyme is required to attach a specific amino acid to a transfer RNA molecule, which must be received at the other end by an anticodon. But the problem is that the charging enzyme which triggers off this translation mechanism is itself synthesized by the very mechanism it produces—another egg and chicken paradox.
A perusal of the above would imply that DNA is the mother of RNA. The replication of RNA is encoded in the genetics of DNA yet scientists are positive that in some cases, at least, RNA proceeded DNA. Call it yet another chicken and egg problem, call it by any name, the existence of RNA prior to the existence of DNA will always remain an enigma.
Thus every avenue the scientists explore leads them to the same age-old dilemma. It seems as if a stone wall is obstructing the passage of research from any further development beyond it. Dickerson, however, has attempted to extricate himself out of this tight corner by suggesting that both must have developed in parallel. If so, then we shall have to envisage a scenario of eggs giving birth to eggs and chickens giving birth to chicks separately on parallel lines for millions of years. Thus they lived on without interdependence, when one fine morning the chicken thought of laying eggs instead, and the eggs decided to break open into chicks and so the story came to a mutually advantageous conclusion. Together they both lived happily ever after, producing each other!
We profoundly respect Dickerson for his tremendous service in the cause of science and laud him for his balanced unbiased attitude in resolving scientific problems. Yet for Dickerson to suggest this, leaves one absolutely astounded! Perhaps it was not a well-calculated conclusion of the scientist but merely a cry of an anguished soul that Dickerson possessed, frustrated by the impossibility of a situation which could only be resolved by paying homage to the existence of God.
E HAVE JUST MENTIONED the confession of great scientists that despite their best efforts they have not been able to resolve the enigma of life. But nowhere will the reader find any reference by them to the complexities of chlorophyll which they simply dismiss by referring to it as 'a green pigment'. Nor has ever an attempt been made to visualize its evolution like they have visualized the evolution of complex organic compounds. It is so because chlorophyll never evolved. Not a trace of its evolution can be detected on land, air or sea.
As life began on earth, all vegetative growth which contains a green pigmented material—chlorophyll—entrapped the incident sunlight, converting it to chemical energy to synthesize organic compounds from inorganic compounds. During this process they manufactured carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water releasing oxygen simultaneously:
6CO2 + 6H2O C6H12O6 + 6O2
Chlorophyll is of two types, chlorophyll a (C55H72MgN4O5) and chlorophyll b (C55H70MgN4O6). The composition of these formulae has the exact placing of each element in a certain sequence which is reminiscent of the composition of haemoglobin—being no less wonderful in its complexity. Thus writes Steven Rose in his book The Chemistry of Life:
'Although chlorophyll is by no means the only photosynthetic pigment, it is the only essential one. ... The polar head part of the molecule is in fact very similar in design to that of the haem of the cytochromes and haemoglobin. Like haem it consists of a linked series of four carbon-and-nitrogen containing rings ('pyrrole rings') joined together to form a sort of doughnut with a hole in the middle. This hole is filled in haem by the metal iron: in chlorophyll on the other hand the jam in the doughnut is made of magnesium. The ring structures contain a series of alternating double and single bonds, and the absorption of a given small amount of light (a quantum) of a particular wavelength causes a sort of vibration, or resonance around these bonds. Because of the close packing and stable orientation of the pigment molecules within the lamellae, this resonance energy can be transferred from one pigment molecule to another until it is eventually channelled into a slightly different chlorophyll molecule from which it cannot escape. This final energy-trapping type of chlorophyll can receive an input from as many as 300 of the standard chlorophyll molecules. The energy from the light is thus very highly concentrated at a single site, giving the second molecule the ability to transfer an electron to a non-pigment receptor which in turn passes it, via an intermediate set of carriers, to NADP...
But the essential point to note is that, with the exception of the chlorophyll-containing apparatus responsible for the splitting of water and hence providing the primary energy source, all the reactions of photosynthesis, fixation of carbon dioxide, and synthesis of sugars follow pathways with which we are already familiar in the biochemistry of the animal cell.' 12
In the most complicated huge molecule of chlorophyll, there is an immensely long chain of atoms precisely arranged in a sequence which if altered, at even a single link, will completely destroy the very function and significance of chlorophyll. Life in every form owes its existence to this fundamental trap of energy, but carbohydrates thus produced cannot be utilized by life directly. The chain of all chemical reactions that follow depend on ATP and ADP, chemicals which essentially contain three or two phosphate groups. In both these chemicals the phosphorus groups play the central role. It is this most important ingredient which is present in every living cell of both plants and animals. It runs the immensely vast factory which provides a multitude of organic chemicals needed by the living.
In the preceding discussion we have in fact touched upon three mysteries of creation which the routinely familiar eyes of the scientists do not register. But all the great scientists who have tried to unravel the mysteries of the origin of life register these facts and attempt to resolve them. Chlorophyll is an exception to the rule. Instead of attempting to solve the enigma presented by this pigment, they bypass the issue altogether and proceed on to discuss some other hurdles regarding which they have at least some partial solutions to offer.
They bypass the issue of chlorophyll because they must have fully realized that this extremely complex pigment could not have suddenly jumped into existence out of nowhere. If on the other hand it had evolved, it must have left behind a very long trail of its evolution. Most certainly it should not have begun to exist out of nothing. But it does exist, and hurls a challenge to all the atheists, philosophers and scientists to explain its sudden emergence and existence. It is easier to conceive the haemoglobin to have evolved. But it is next to impossible to justify the existence of this little pigment.
- BARBIERI, M. (1985) The Semantic Theory of Evolution. Harwood Academic Publishers: p.86
- OLOMUCKI, M. (1993) The Chemistry of Life. McGraw-Hill, Inc. France, p.55
- CARINS-SMITH, A.G. (June, 1985) The First Organisms. Scientific American: p.100
- Translation of 21:31 by the author.
- Translation of 55:15 by the author.
- Translation of 15:27 by the author.
- CARINS-SMITH, A.G. (June, 1985) The First Organisms. Scientific American: p.100
- The Holy Bible (1900) King James, Eyre and Spottiswoode Ltd., London, Genesis 1:2–5
- HORGAN, J. (February, 1991) In The Beginning. Scientific American: p.119
- HORGAN, J. (February, 1991) In The Beginning. Scientific American: p. 120
- Translation of 67:4–5 by the author.
- ROSE, S. (1991) The Chemistry of Life. Penguin Books Ltd., London, pp.353–355