Monday, April 29, 2019

A late added note: James Tour and the Disco'tutes have made a lot of new lies, and directed at me. For the reply, see Prof. James Tour and the Disco’Tutes: Still Lying, Part 1.

James Tour: The Mystery of the Origin of Life

James Tour is a professional chemist. His principle work area was synthetic organic chemistry directly focused on building nano machines. He is published, and a tenured professor at Rice University, Texas.

Years ago he experienced a religious conversion and joined the “Jews for Jesus” faction. More recently he also began a second career of giving public lectures denying evolutionary biology, and particularly implying that life cannot exist without supernatural intervention by the Biblical God.

A recent example hosted by the Discovery Institute is a classic of its kind. It is both revealing that the Intelligent Design movement is just plain vanilla creationism, and that James Tour lies his ass off for money, adulation, and I suppose his hopes for salvation. The talk was presented at the 2019 Dallas Science and Faith Conference at Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas and was sponsored by Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

There are too many falsehoods, and misrepresentations to review in detail. However, at about 43 minutes into the video, James Tour starts a rant accusing Harvard University professor, and Nobel Laureate Jack Szostak of lying. The Szostak article that Tour falsely claimed was "part of the primary literature" was a 2 1/2 page sketch published 9 May, 2018 titled How did Life Begin? It was not in the main section of Nature magazine, nor was it part of the "primary scientific literature." The Nature website makes this adamantly clear at the end of this short little intro to prebiotic sugar and the origin of life, quote, "This article is part of Innovations In The Biggest Questions In Science, an editorially independent supplement produced with the financial support of third parties."

This popularized, simplified item is just an outline, a sketch from the actual “primary literature.” The lead cartoon of an imaginary molecule hatching a bird sets the tone.

So who is lying?

James Tour shows a slide at 45:20 that was a clip from Szostak's little paper. The molecule structures are presented in a very simple manner. The core atoms are represented as colored dots, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, and Phosphorus. Hydrogen atoms are not shown, and all chemical bonds between atoms are represented by simple lines. The actual professional publication of this chemical reaction pathway is “Prebiotic synthesis of simple sugars by photoredox systems chemistry”


Highlighting the upper left molecules, Tour shouts, "Those are not sugars!" blah blah "That is fictitious! I don't know of any sugars that have that chemical composition. You don't know that! He is lying to you! That's not real!" 

The truth is that the illustration showed the structure of glyceraldehyde. This is the core of all sugar on Earth. This is undergraduate chemistry. This is the molecular structure James Tour insisted did not exist. This undergraduate level chemistry!

Seriously- undergraduate level chemistry.

Who is lying? 

Moving on we see another undergraduate level chemistry error that Tour made. At 45:58 of his little rant about Szostak, he insisted that there was no cyanide in the illustration above. There isn't any. The graphic clearly states "Cyanide derivatives."

In fact, the structural formulas are of cyanide derivatives. The one on the left is CN2, or cyanonitrene.

On the right is Cyanoethynyl

Create Date: 2005-08-08 

At 46:10 Tour starts to yap that the right most stick drawing is "not a nucleotide." From 46:10 to 46:20 Tour shouts “it is not the right structure, he could have at least used the right structure … “ In fact it is cytosine bound to ribose and the phosphate to the ribose. This is RNA's nucleoside cytidine. It is directly and spontaneously formed in nature from the starting chemistry.  It is the “right structure.”

And again showing the addition of the phosphate;

Above are two excellent graphic presentations that expose the failure of James Tour's grasp of basic biochemistry. They were prepared, and shared to me by the blogger "Evograd"

Who is lying?
There are multiple reaction pathways that would have been supported in the ancient Earth environment. I find that James Tour is badly mistaken.

In fact he is a liar.

The actual primary literature that Szostak used for his sugar origin illustration was “Prebiotic synthesis of simple sugars by photoredox systems chemistry” (Ritson, D. and Sutherland, J.D., 2012 Nature chemistry, 4(11), p.895).

There is in fact a large literature on the prebiotic origin of sugars essential for the origin of life that demonstrates many different reaction pathways. Here is a small sample;

Vázquez-Mayagoitia Á, Horton SR, Sumpter BG, Šponer J, Šponer JE, Fuentes-Cabrera M. 2011 "On the stabilization of ribose by silicate minerals" Astrobiology. 2011 Mar;11(2):115-21. doi:10.1089/ast.2010.0508. 

Weber AL. 1997 "Prebiotic amino acid thioester synthesis: thiol-dependent amino acid synthesis from formose substrates (formaldehyde and glycolaldehyde) and ammonia" Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere 28: 259-270.

Matthew W. Powner, Béatrice Gerland & John D. Sutherland, 2009 "Synthesis of activated pyrimidine ribonucleotides in prebiotically plausible conditions" Nature 459, 239-242 (14 May 2009)

Springsteen G, Joyce GF. 2004 "Selective derivatization and sequestration of ribose from a prebiotic mix" J Am Chem Soc. 2004 Aug 11;126(31):9578-83

Ricardo, A., Carrigan, M. A., Olcott, A. N., Benner, S. A. 2004 "Borate Minerals Stabilize Ribose" Science January 9; 303: 196

It is very important to recognize that this chemistry even happens in outer space as demonstrated by this finding;

Cooper, George, Novelle Kimmich, Warren Belisle, Josh Sarinana, Katrina Brabham, Laurence Garrel 2001 "Carbonaceous meteorites as a source of sugar-related organic compounds for the early Earth" Nature 414, 879 – 883.

From 43:04 to 46:51, James Tour told 9 individual lies (not counting repeats, or what could be charitably attributed to his gross ignorance). 15 lies in under 4 minutes counting repeated lies. That is Trumpian. And, his lies are exposed by undergraduate level chemistry. They are not even sophisticated lies. They are stupid obvious lies.

Edit to add:  In a new development 3 May 2019, James Tour claimed he personally has apologized to Jack Szostak.

Dear Peter, thank you for writing to me. That was a strong word (“lying”) which I regret saying. I have already apologized to Jack Szostak by phone, and he very graciously accepted the apology. If given a chance, I would likewise apologize to any of those cited in that talk to whom I said such a thing. My behavior was inappropriate.

Like many things that I do and say in life, there are elements upon which I have regrets and wish that I had done differently. My life is filled with those occasions. In fact, I can literally claim almost daily I do something or say something which I wish I had not. Those closest to me get the brunt of it, but thankfully they have also been gracious in forgiving me. And for that I am thankful.

“O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 7:24-25a.

I do not read or write on blogs-- or almost never. So if you wish, you may post this on Peaceful Science, though my words were far from peaceful, to my shame.

God bless,
James Tour

(He did not post this to his YouTube rant slandering Prof. Jack Szostak and others. So, this slander is still ongoing).

Of course there are new questions that are suggested. I learned that at least one person emailed to Szostak about the Disco'tute YouTube. They also included a link to this blog post. Prof. Szostak replied that he would leave a personal message for Prof. Tour.

He said he might send Tour a personal message, but that publicly responding would be pointless because these people don't respond to facts.

The intermediary (They asked to be left anonymous. Why???) sent a similar email to James Tour suggesting he take down the Disco'tute YouTube to avoid "embarrassment," and also included the link. Tour's reaction was far different. He sent emails to the university where the intermediary teaches. His emails were to the Dean of the School of Medicine, and the Uni HRS. Tour accused that I was a stooge of the 'intermediary' and hinted we were merely trying to extort Tour, and the Disco'tute.


Well, things have certainly escalated.  I had also contacted Tour about this issue, and mentioned that your video might be coming out so he should consider getting ahead of the curve and taking down the video to reduce the damage that might be done to his professional reputation.  He has interpreted this as a threat and seems to think I am now the head of some vast conspiracy to extort him.  He has gone so far as to forward my emails to the dean of my department as well as other adminstrators.
What a drama queen.
So, the new questions added to all the others above;

Did Tour really apologize? After all, he lies his ass off for applause lines.
Will Tour post the "new facts" to the YouTube?
Will Tour insist that the creationists take down the Disco'tute video slandering Szostak, and others?

Inquiring minds...

The events are proceeding (July 2019). James Tour and Disco'tute John West have attempted to forgive themselves for lying. I have written a reply to John West, and James Tour;

Prof. James Tour and the Disco’Tutes: Still Lying, Part 1.


Joe G said...

Your entire position is a lie based on falsehoods.

Gary S. Hurd said...

That was your one, and only post Joe.

Azirahael said...

You mean Tour, right?

Gary S. Hurd said...

We got a push back from James Tour, and the Disco'tutes.

I have not even read it yet.

Gary S. Hurd said...

So, I read the Disco'tute whine.

It deserves a full force reply. Now I have a plan for tomorrow.

Azirahael said...

I look forward to reading it.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gary S. Hurd said...


Thanks for the content of you recent comment. However, I do not allow anonymous posting.

A minor quirk of mine.

Hill Strong said...

Mr Hurd,

I have only come to this post of yours because it is referenced on the Youtube video by Mr Tour. It is a part of the update relating to the comments about Mr Szostak and what is now available on Mr Tour's own website.

As you are a phychiatrist/anthropologist/archeologist, one would expect you to be somewhat more detailed in your criticisms. In your comment above as per "From 43:04 to 46:51, James Tour told 9 individual lies (not counting repeats, or what could be charitably attributed to his gross ignorance). 15 lies in under 4 minutes counting repeated lies. That is Trumpian. And, his lies are exposed by undergraduate level chemistry. They are not even sophisticated lies. They are stupid obvious lies.", you have not in any way detailed what lies Mr Tour has stated, nor why undergaduate level chemistry would show them as such. You do need to keep in mind that undergraduate chemistry doesn't really get into the complex organic chemistry that Mr Tour does in his normal day job.

In doing so, you have left yourself open to quite severe criticism. Unless you are willing to detail each occurrence and what in point of fact was the specific lie, one could take from this that you are simply offended and have decided that ad hominem attacks are an appropriate methodology.

I find this kind of thing distastful when non-experts engage in this, but it is even more so when those purporting to be experts in their respective fields carry this out.

As far as I am concerned, Mr Tour has his points to make and you have your points to make. However, his points about the lies being perpetrated by the Origin of Life researchers holds more weight based on the facts as presented and from my own study into the matter over the last forty years. Unless you can demonstrate that Mr Tour has deliberately and consistent lied about the matter, you are in a less tenable position.

So, again, detail the "lies" that you claim Mr Tour has made in the segemnt you mentioned and why they are lies.

I put this as a challenge to your scholarship.

Azirahael said...

"However, his points about the lies being perpetrated by the Origin of Life researchers holds more weight based on the facts as presented and from my own study into the matter over the last forty years." Then where is your case? Where is your evidence?

Unknown said...

Mr Strong,
I believe the lies are detailed clearly, particularly in the section "Who is lying?"

One obvious lie is that this is not the primary literature, as is explained in "In fact he is a liar." The primary literature is cited right at the top of this section. Another is that what Tour claims "isn't even a nucleotide" is. The textbook diagrams are on the right for comparison. If you don't see how they are the same, perhaps you could elaborate so I can better clarify your confusion.

Hope that helps.

mrWhiskers said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gary S. Hurd said...

mrWhiskers, who is apparently too lazy to read all the way to the end of a short blog, wanted to post a link to James Tour's BS "notpology." I have already linked that steaming pile of self adoration and lies often enough.

Ron Van Wegen said...

Tour - an unpleasant kind of speaker details 99% factual stuff pointing out how ludicrous OOL is currently; makes stupid wrong comments; gets some minor stuff wrong; kinda apologizes sort of but badly in parts; and the whole argument since is "Look, a creationist lied so disregard everything else he said and let's talk about this and this only!"

Have I got it about right?

Gary S. Hurd said...

Ron, you leave me confused. What James Tour lied about, he is still lying about.

He knows chemistry, so when he said false things, he lied. He spouted on for around ten minutes about how smart he was at the start of his talk. So, the obvious conclusion is that he is lying about being smart, or lying about being able to "scientifically deny" the origin of life.

parkerd said...

Have you read this .pdf?

I think this is the latest reply by Tour.

Gary S. Hurd said...


Yes, I have replied to Tour's newer lies here;

Abe M said...

According to Evolution News, Dr. Tour's 'lies' have all been proven to be false. =).

Gary S. Hurd said...

The truth is, Abe M, that James Tour and the head of the Disco'tute journalist John West have merely compounded their lies, and added new ones.

I have replied to Tour's newer lies starting here; said...

Come on, Hurd, be intellectually honest and contain Tour's entire reply on the issue.

I'm sure part of Tour's style comes from the cheap shot sarcasm that evolutionists like you always bring to the table. Overall, Tour did just fine and I'm reasonably outcredentials you by a mile plus.

Gary S. Hurd said...,

I have replied to Tour's newer lies starting here;

o-chemist said...

Mr. Hurd:

Dr. Tour is correct that drawing glyceraldehyde as pictured in your article (all single bonds and no hydrogen atoms on the oxygen atoms) is certainly breaking convention if not correct structure. Also, I think it might be more correct to label compounds with C(H2O) ratios as carbohydrates (as the formula indicates) rather than sugars which have a more specific meaning in biochemistry. Like Tour, I also wouldn't have classified radiator antifreeze (HOCH2CH2OH)as a sugar. Nor would I classify formaldehyde (CH2O) as a sugar even though they both fulfil the carbohydrate ratio.

But all that is just petty quibbling (even on my part).

Have you addressed Tour's main point that the origin of life is impossible without intelligent intervention? If he is wrong, surely it is a simple matter for you to come to my lab and whip up a viable protocell. After all, according to you, this happened by chance with no intelligent intervention so recreating this event on purpose with intelligence, instrumentation etc should be a breeze. But if you were unsuccessful...don't you owe an apology to Dr. Tour who is correctly pointing out what we all know to be true?

Azirahael said...

@o-chemist Why yes, yes he did.

Sorry, but just because we as a species know how [X] works, does not mean that we know how to do it.

Fusion is quite well understood, but actually DOING fusion is hard.

And just because we have a number of viable paths for non-life to life, does not mean that w can do it.

Give us a lab the size of a planet, and a few billion years, and sure.

But viable protocells?

Might wanna check the other pages there.
The science is quite advanced now.

Gary S. Hurd said...

My father was Mr. Hurd. He isn't available to reply.

gary0033 said...

Gary - was surprised to read about you in Evolution News. (

Really sad to see this. You are not the LEAST bit qualified to critique Dr. Tour and the errors you make when attempting to do so clearly demonstrate this. What is sad is your almost myopic hatred for God which causes you to make error after error as is well documented.

Dr. Tour is a well-recognized world-class authority on all things chemistry. You don't even have a basic degree in chemistry. So why would you challenge him? It appears that you simply cannot handle the truth that you are accountable to the God whose existence and activity in His world is completely beyond rational challenge. So you err over and over demonstrating your irrationality and genuine ignorance of the hard sciences. But your fear and pride drives you on. And for what? Might want to consider that.

I've prayed for you for years and will continue to do so. For the hard mathematical fact is that your existence on this planet is only a nanosecond relative to eternity. I doubt you ever consider that. And you are accountable to the God who demonstrated His love for you in Christ - while you were His enemy. I don't want to see you spend eternity in hell as punishment for your sins. Jesus offers you a pardon. But you will spend eternity in hell unless you face it - you're driven to challenge world-renowned experts without the qualifications to do so because it seems that all you can think about is God.

Better ban my comments now because I'm telling you the truth. Better yet, don't post this because again, I'm telling you the truth. Doesn't matter, in the end, you're only accountable to God.

Gary Brown

Gary S. Hurd said...

To Mr. Brown,

Your appeal to authoritarianism is not original, or interesting.

My comments regarding the continued personal attacks made by John West, and James Tour are on this blog starting with "Prof. James Tour and the Disco’Tutes: Still Lying, Part 1."

gary0033 said...

Love it! "Appeal to authoritarianism" as a deflection from the fact that you are not the least bit qualified to critique Dr. Tour and this is clearly demonstrated by the mistakes you consistently make.

But go ahead and deflect. Interesting that you post another blog defending yourself WITHOUT acknowledging the many scientific errors you've already made. Will you acknowledge your errors or not? Gary, you're not a scientist. Just another atheist upset when the overwhelming evidence that God exists challenges your worldview and tells you unmistakably that you're living a lie.

I'm not a Christian because of what Christianity offers me. I'm a Christian because it is true. But on that note, I do have to ask: what has atheism provided for you? Has it given you happiness? Peace? Love for others? A great marriage? Lifelong friends? Children who you're proud of and cherish?

What Gary?

Gary S. Hurd said...

Mr. Brown,

That was you last post on this post. Go read "Prof. James Tour and the Disco’Tutes: Still Lying, Part 3." I again review the undergraduate level errors about chemistry made by Tour. I also share (with his permission) comments by Nobelist Jack Szostak on Jack Tour's false claims.

You can post more drivel there if you feel you must.

gary0033 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gary S. Hurd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gary S. Hurd said...

Mr. Brown is apparently too lazy to read the very information he keeps demanding I provide. Lazy or stupid? I deleted his piffle. Again, I detailed all about my academic and professional experience in chemistry;

Azirahael said...

"I'm not a Christian because of what Christianity offers me. I'm a Christian because it is true." Weird how all of you claim that it's true, but can never demonstrate it.

all you can demonstrate is your ignorance of science, and how basic logic and evidence work.

Notice how not one word of what you said, has anything to do with the actual topic?
Yeah. that's a clue there.

gary0033 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gary S. Hurd said...

Mr Brown, I told you that you could post at:

Prof. James Tour and the Disco’Tutes: Still Lying, Part 1.