Chapter 2: Manfred Eigen

Who is Manfred Eigen? What has he discovered? - Manfred Eigen has been Director of the Max-Planck-Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, West Germany, since 1964. In 1967, he received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. He was won world-fame through his "glass-pearl game of chance". His theory is supposed to explain, how life on Earth has come into being. He is one of the world’s foremost evolutionists. Nobel-Prize winner Manfred Eigen is also a member of the Papal Academy of Sciences.

In December 1983, while doing research in the Soviet Union, a Professor for Microbiology at the Institute of Philosophy in Moscow, told me: "Professor Oparin’s theories are out of date now in the Soviet Union. Most of the Soviet scientists now do accept the new theory of Professor Manfred Eigen." - Why has Professor Manfred Eigen’s theory now replaced even those of the foremost evolutionists in the Soviet Union? How has the first living cell on Earth arisen? How have the genes of this first cell come into being?

Manfred Eigen and his co-workers William Gardiner, Peter Schuster, and Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch state: "How the first genes developed, how they improved through competition, and how they interacted with primitive enzymes, can now be completely retraced. Not chance, but the natural laws have controlled the origin of life. The fossil tracks of that time have crumbled to dust or were wiped out by later generations of life. The information contained in the preserved ‘immaterial’ fossils - the genetic code, the heritage of biochemistry -, is so fragmentary that the prebiotic evolution can, perhaps, never be reconstructed as exactly as, for example, that of the primates." (1981:37).

How, then, is the first cell on Earth supposed to have evolved in the primordial chemical soup? When is it supposed to have evolved? Where?

Prof. Manfred Eigen and co-workers: "The stage was located somewhere on the primitive Earth. In most areas, the temperatures were like those of today. ... Lightning, shock-waves, ultra-violet radiation and hot volcanic ash were everywhere sources of energy; they were all able, as experiments have shown, to produce chemical changes, whereby the materials on the surface of the early Earth were changed into large amounts of what one would classify today as organic. In the early solar system, there was a vast amount of material, that had come from comets and meteorites and of which a large part was deposited on the Earth’s surface. When the sunlight was shining upon the ultra-cold matter, out of which those remains of the condensation of the solar system consisted, organic molecules of the size of biological polymers were able to form." (1981:39).

What did the "primordial soup" look like, out of which life is supposed to have evolved?

Prof. Manfred Eigen and co-workers: "There is a common agreement that, beside the special sugars, amino-acids and other substances, that today are indispensable biochemical elements, it contained many molecules, which in our time are only pure laboratory curiosities. The first ‘organizing principle’, from the beginning onward, had to be highly selective; for it had to prevail against a predominance of small molecules, that were biologically ‘wrong’. Out of this huge supply, it had to pick out those molecules, out of which finally the routinely synthesized standard-building blocks of all biological polymers would come into being. And they had to combine them in a reliable manner, so that a certain volumetric configuration came into existence.

"The supply of organic matter was indeed enormous. When the carbon, one finds today in the coal, in the carbonate rocks, and in living matter, is evenly spread out in all the present oceans, this would give us a carbon solution, that would be as thick as a rich meat-broth. ... Also then already, geophysical processes, like weathering, evaporation, and sedimentation, must have been operative and must have produced different environments. One of them evidently must have had the right temperature and composition for the process, poetically described as the ‘primitive procreation of life’.

"Also in the primordial soup, there was an energy crisis. The early forms of life had to withdraw in their environment energy from molecules. How they have done this, is unimportant for the story, we have to tell. One can assume that some system for the storing and producing of energy existed, that was based presumably on phosphates. This energy-reserve had to be refilled on a non-metabolic (independent of metabolism) path (perhaps by some form of change from solar energy into chemical energy), till a mechanism had evolved, that was fermenting certain components of the primordial soup, which were otherwise ‘useless’. This fermentation would have supplied enough energy, till with the photo-synthesis finally, a steadily bubbling source of energy was available." - Eigen, M. et al. (1981:39, 40).

How is the first living cell then supposed to have evolved in this primordial chemical soup?

Manfred Eigen and co-workers: "The prebiotic soup was a suitable medium for a Darwinian evolution-process: Populations of molecular species (RNA-chains with different sequences) competed for the supply of ‘food’ (energy-rich monomers). The steady production of mutant-sequences, of which a few possessed advantageous qualities, forced a continuous evolutionary new-assessment of the best-fitted species."

"The search for the fittest genes then soon led to the nucleotide-sequences of RNA. One can say with certainty that along the primordial paths of synthesis and differentiation in very small amounts, short nucleotide-sequences were formed, which one would call today in the sense of modern biochemistry as ‘correct’. They had the same bases, the same covalent bonds, and the same stereochemistry, that is, the same special arrangement of the chemical groups." (1981:41, 42).

And then?

Manfred Eigen and co-workers: "The primitive RNA-chains with the right spine and the right nucleotides had a second decisive advantage: They alone were able to replicate permanently. They were (because of the base-coupling rules), their own blueprint. On a non-biological path, plenty of molecules had come into being, covering a rich palette of functions. Such functioning molecules may have been an important part of the primordial soup and might have influenced the chemical processes, going on there, considerably. But they had a serious defect: They were not able to evolve further and to optimize." Eigen, M. et al. (1981:43).

Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch and Manfred Eigen try to prove that the first cell on Earth has evolved by itself from inorganic matter, "by tracing the phenomena of life back to the laws of physics and chemistry." (1982:99). - Is that true? Can one really trace the "phenomena of life" back to the laws of physics and chemistry? Has Manfred Eigen’s new theory of evolution been proved by his "glass-pearl game of chance" and by fossil and experimental evidence? Is it really scientific?

What I do find rather strange here, is: How can Nobel-Prize winner Manfred Eigen - the new spiritual leader of the world’s foremost atheists and materialists in East and West (at least, as far as the origin of life is concerned), - be at the same time a Member of the Papal Academy of Sciences, thus serving as a scientific advisor to the Pope in Rome, the "Representative of God on Earth"? How is that possible?

Fact or Fiction?

Could all of those machines and instruments, which the first cell needed, really have evolved by themselves in the primordial chemical soup from lifeless matter in a Darwinian type of evolution, in a dialectic struggle, or through chance mutations? Could at least the first genetic code, the first set of RNA of the first cell have evolved in this dead chemical soup? And could the rest of the first cell then have evolved from this first set of RNA? - What have other workers found out about this? -

Prof. Klaus Dose: "The prebiotic selection and conservation of optically pure compounds and the spontaneous formation of perhaps an appropriately structured decanucleotide appear to be extremely unlikely at the present." - Why is that extremely unlikely? - Prof. Klaus Dose: "The problem is that polynucleotides are not self-reproducing. They need enzymes for self-reproduction. The chances for a prebiotic formation of polynucleotides and specific polynucleotide replicase are extremely small. Simulation experiments do by no means support the above proposition." (1981:380; 1983:923).

Why could the genes of the first cell on Earth not have been there first, as Manfred Eigen assumes in his new evolution theory? - Prof. Klaus Dose:

1.    As already stated, there is no self-replication of nucleic acids in contemporary cells. A catalyst is needed. In contemporary cells, the catalyst is a specific nucleic acid replicase. Like the synthesis of all other enzymes, also the synthesis of this enzyme is coded by DNA and RNA.

2.      Even if there existed an (as yet only suggested nonenzymatic, but sufficiently efficient catalysis of polynucleotide replication), where did the first replicable polynucleotide come from? To be replicable, the polynucleotides- D-2-desoribose or D-ribose in 3- and 5-position esterified with phosphoric acid and in l-position, ß-glycosidically must be linked to a specific N-atom of a purin or pyrimidine base.

"However, because of these specific stereo-chemical requirements the spontaneous (abiotic) formation of perhaps decanucleotides appears extremely unlikely at present. The same applies to the spontaneous formation of other biopolymers with highly ordered structures, such as polysaccharides (cellulose, glycogen, starch and others)." - Dose, K. (1983:923).

Has Manfred Eigen’s new "genes first" evolution theory been proved by new research?

Prof. Klaus Dose: "As stated earlier, some molecular biologists and theorists have postulated that the genetic information of living systems has ab inition evolved in polynucleotides. The problem is that nucleotides are not self-reproducing. They need enzymes for ‘self-replication’. The chances for a practically simultaneous formation of stereochemically appropriate polynucleotides and specific polynucleotide replicases are extremely small, if not zero according to the experimental data available." (1983:380).


Prof. Klaus Dose: "There is no self-replication of nucleic acids in contemporary cells or in cell-free systems. Catalysts are required. In contemporary cells the catalysts are highly specific nucleid acid replicases. Like the synthesis of all other enzymes, the synthesis of these enzymes is coded by DNA and RNA.... The interactions of the amino acids and peptides ... are very complex. A simple correlation between the stereochemistry of a set of amino acids and their chance to compete for incorporation in a growing peptide chain, is as yet not evident." (1982:200; 1983:380).

R. Shapiro, at New York University, Dept. of Chemistry, says about the "chemical soup" and the "genes first" theory: "Any nucleic acid components which were formed on the primitive earth would tend to hydrolyze by a number of pathways. Their polymerization would be inhibited by the presence of vast numbers of related substances which would react with them. ... It appears likely that nucleic acids were not formed by prebiotic paths..." (1984).

"No report has appeared on the synthesis of a natural nucleoside from a simulated primitive atmosphere exposed to an energy source, nor has one been reported that started with a simple chemical mixture, such as one-carbon compounds and inorganic reagents. Nucleosides have generally been prepared from the appropriate base and sugar. And the synthesis of the base and sugar have been considered separately, as if they were independent problems. Even so, each of the procedures is seriously flawed.

"Bases, nucleosides are unstable in aqueous solutions and hydrolyze slowly by a number of pathways. ... The slow instability of bases and nucleosides put additional constraints upon any plausible prebiotic synthesis of nucleic acids, as no slow build-up in concentrations or monomers over geologic periods of time would be expected to occur."

"Many substances, capable of polymerization, would be present in the prebiotic soup: alcohols, hydroxyethers, aminoalcohols, hydroxyacids, cyanohydrins, etc. ... Nucleosides would react with them in preference to combining with one another, precluding the formation of an RNA chain. Consideration of the existing chemistry of nucleic acid components leads to the conclusion that the spontaneous formation of even a short nucleic acid under prebiotic conditions was a highly improbable event." - Shapiro, R. (1984).

Mr. Colin Patterson of the British Museum (Natural History), Dept. of Paleontology, in London, England, states: "So far, it has proved difficult to find plausible reactions which will combine purine and pyrimidines with ribose sugar and phosphates to produce nucleotides, the building blocks of nucleic acids, subject to natural selection, to the unique and complex co-operative system of protein (built up from L-amino acids) and nucleic acids (built up from D-sugars) that characterize life as we know it. At the moment, we cannot even guess how that step was taken." (1978:160).

Roman Catholic Church

I was wondering, how the Pope in Rome feels about life on Earth and it origin. So, on April 14, 1975, I wrote to Pope Paul VI at the Vatican and asked him: "What is the position of the Catholic Church today on the question: ‘Has life (the plants, animals and man) evolved, or has God made them, as the Holy Scriptures state? What do you believe personally?’"

The Pope’s Assessor E. Martinez at the Secretariat of State at the Vatican then replied on April 23, 1975: "The Secretariat of State acknowledges receipt of the letter sent by Mr. Hans Krause and would recommend that for information on the question Mr. Krause could consult the pertinent articles and bibliographies in reference works such as the ‘New Catholic Encyclopedia’ or consult a priest in his area." - Who has published the New Catholic Encyclopedia? And where? - The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967) was prepared by the Catholic University in Washington D.C. And it has the Imprimatur of Patric A. O’Boyle, D.D., Archbishop of Washington, August 5, 1966. - What does it say about life on Earth and its origin?

About the "Fossil Record" the New Catholic Encyclopedia says in Volume 5 pages 687, 688: "The best evidence for evolution is drawn from the science of Paleontology, the study of the fossil record of life deposited in the rocks on the earth’s surface. From the first well-marked fossil beds of the Cambrian period (ca. 600 million years ago) to the present, a picture of progressive development from simple organic forms in the early stages to the complex forms of more than 1 ¼ million species of organisms today can be drawn. ... Mammals then arose, and among them the primates were the last to appear, perhaps about 75 million years ago. Finally, about 1 million years ago, man emerged from this last order of mammals."

About "Anthropology, physical", the New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967) Vol. 1, p. 606 says: "The greatest influence in the development of modern physical anthropology has been that of Charles Darwin (1809-82), who revolutionized biological thought in 1852 by presenting overwhelming evidence that evolution has taken place and by offering a plausible explanation of its most important basis: natural selection."

About "Man’s place in the animal kingdom", the New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967) Vol. V. p. 676 has this to say: "Since his (Darwin’s) time, however, the organic connection of man with other living things has been amply and definitely established. ... Accepting as incontrovertible the evidence that the body of man is the product of biological evolution and that man participates in the same complex processes of organic derivation that affects all the rest of the living world."

Volume 1 p. 606: "That Homo sapiens is unique in his psychological capacity (his intellect and free will) does not gainsay the converging evidence from physical anthropology and the other biological sciences that man is joined to the other primates in his physical origins."

"That life appeared upon this planet about 2 billion years ago is founded upon backward extrapolation from general evolutionary facts. ... The hypothesis of biopoesis seems a good one, and the results of the experiments of men such as Stanley Miller and Harold Urey cause many to believe that the discovery of the natural origins of life is imminent." - "General evolutionary theory has given rise to extremely valuable hypotheses concerning the origin of life that one day may assist in bringing to science a unity and continuity of the inorganic and organic worlds." - New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967) Vol. 1 p. 689. - "Biopoesis" = hypothesis that life arose by natural evolution of organic materials under the influence of natural cosmic agents.

About "Evolution, organic", the New Catholic Encyclopedia, to which the Pope’s assessor referred me, says in Volume 1 p. 689: "Evidence from paleontology, genetics, natural selection, biogeography, taxonomy, comparative anatomy, general biology, physiology, biochemistry, embryology, and physical anthropology have been brought to bear on the problem of origins. Each in its own way converges upon and supports the general conclusion of the fact of organic evolution. The best judges of the matter are the specialists who, over a period of 100 years, have assembled the necessary evidence. For them the fact of evolution has been established as thoroughly as science can establish facts of the past not witnessed by human eyes."

The Hypercycle

Why do M. Eigen and P. Schuster assume in their "hypercycle", in their Darwinian type of evolution, that the first cell could have arisen from the first RNA-string?

Prof. H. Follmann: "In it the selection principle and Darwinism are being reduced to the inherent laws of the thermodynamics of irreversible processes, the reaction kinetics and statistical physics..." (1981:135).

Hence, Eigen and Schuster do assume in their "hypercycle", that the chemical soup was far from its thermodynamic equilibrium, that the important steps, leading to the first cell, were irreversible. But that is not true, as we shall find out later on. All chemical reactions in chain growth are reversible, that is, they will split apart again.

According to Eigen’s hypercycle and glass-pearl-game of chance, the first cell is supposed to have evolved by itself from the first genetic code, an RNA-string. This first set of RNA is supposed to have been able to evolve by itself, because its building blocks, the nucleic acids, are able to double or replicate themselves, when a correct enzyme-protein is helping them. Without this correct enzyme-protein, the nucleic acids of the RNA-chain could not have doubled themselves. How, then, has this first enzyme-protein come into being, through which the RNA-chain is only able to replicate itself? What have other workers found out about this?

Dr. Klaus Dose, Professor for Biochemistry at the Johannes-Gutenberg-University in Mainz, West Germany, is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the hypothesis of chemical evolution. Dr. Horst Rauchfuß is Professor for Chemistry at the Pedagogic University Ruhr, Section Hagen, also in West Germany. They write about Manfred Eigen’s new evolution theory, and the assumptions, on which it is based:

Eigen concludes: "The self-organization of a mixture of macro molecules, that evolved in the course of chemical evolution, would have led to a system, that has self-reproducing mechanisms. But the ability for self-reproduction, though, is not enough for the characterization of living systems. But it is one of the most outstanding qualities of life. In the reaction kinetics, one calls such processes, like the self-reproduction, ‘autocatallytic processes’. ... But that will only function properly, if the system is far from equilibrium, and if the reaction is irreversible, that is, if it runs only in one direction."

And how does the first protein come into being, the first string of RNA, which it would have needed, to double itself?

Professors Dose and Rauchfuß: "The question about the construction of ‘primitive proteins’ or prestages of proteins seems to be unanswerable, if one thinks about the complicated architecture of recent enzyme-proteins, or if one looks at the high efficiency of these bio-catalysators." (1975:118).

This means: The first genetic code could not have evolved by itself. It needed a correct enzyme-protein for its self-replication. But without the coding of the RNA- or DNA-chain, no protein can be made, since the protein’s structure is encoded in the genetic RNA or DNA.