Manfred Eigen, won the Nobel Prize in 1967 for his work measuring extremely fast chemical reactions brought about by energy pulses. Though proud to use the term evolution, his models of the origin of life are not based on chance but on self-organizing chemical reactions that cycle to higher and higher levels. He is also the author of Eigens Paradox that explains a critical problem in positing cycles of RNA that lead to DNA.
Mr. Benedict has this problem; he doesn’t have any idea of what “random” or “chance” or “random chance” mean in probability theory, chemistry, or how they might apply in evolutionary theory, or studies of the origin of life. When I have taught statistics and probability at the college level, I had the advantage of very intelligent students committed to learning. I doubt that this is currently the situation.
One of the greatest philosophical advances of all time was the notion that real life should be the basis for our understanding of the universe. This was in direct contradiction of Platonic ideas of some “perfect” reality which was beyond the perception of humanity. But, this appeal to reality is what makes science ‘work.’ In this specific context of the “Eigen’s Paradox,” we can default to real physical data which trumps philosophical speculation. The particular result I have in mind is;
Ádám Kun, Mauro Santos & Eörs Szathmáry
2005 “Real ribozymes suggest a relaxed error threshold” Nature Genetics 37, 1008 - 1011 Published online: 28 August 2005 | doi:10.1038/ng1621
Abstract: The error threshold for replication, the critical copying fidelity below which the fittest genotype deterministically disappears, limits the length of the genome that can be maintained by selection. Primordial replication must have been error-prone, and so early replicators are thought to have been necessarily short. The error threshold also depends on the fitness landscape. In an RNA world, many neutral and compensatory mutations can raise the threshold, below which the functional phenotype, rather than a particular sequence, is still present. Here we show, on the basis of comparative analysis of two extensively mutagenized ribozymes, that with a copying fidelity of 0.999 per digit per replication the phenotypic error threshold rises well above 7,000 nucleotides, which permits the selective maintenance of a functionally rich riboorganism with a genome of more than 100 different genes, the size of a tRNA. This requires an order of magnitude of improvement in the accuracy of in vitro–generated polymerase ribozymes. Incidentally, this genome size coincides with that estimated for a minimal cell achieved by top-down analysis, omitting the genes dealing with translation.