RNA world and pig-monkey chimera

Thomas R. from USA wrote to us asking if an RNA world hypothesis might explain how life evolved on Earth, while J.B. asked about the recent media frenzy over a pig-monkey chimera.

Hello CMI team,

I have a question concerning this article from 2009,1 on the formation of ribonucleotides in conditions that supposedly emulated a “primordial soup”.

In the book Evolution’s Achilles Heels, under the RNA world section on page 98, it says:

Even the RNA building blocks (nucleotides) are themselves quite complex molecules, and could not have been produced in a primordial soup.

This response now appears to be outdated, or my understanding is faulty. What is CMI’s response to this article claiming that ribonucleotides were generated in what those researchers say was a plausible simulation?

Thanks for your time.


Dear Thomas R.,

Thanks for writing in. It is incorrect to say that our article is outdated. It is actually the other way around. Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels (EAH) was written five years after the paper you mentioned, and that paper had already been taken into account when the book was written.

There were some space limitations for EAH, so the author of the chapter did not want to overlap too much with his other books. In fact, his The Greatest Hoax on Earth? (2010, only a year after the paper) had a section explicitly addressing this Sutherland work (Entitled: Can nucleotides be formed in a primordial soup after all? pp. 238–241).

As explained in the book, there are numerous problems with the RNA world hypothesis. An RNA world faces all the same problems as a DNA world, except that it is even more unstable than DNA.

It faces the same chirality/racemic problem, and the same difficulty of forming bigger molecules in the presence of water. That is, proteins break down in the presence of water, yet water was added during the experiment you cited. In other words, the experiment is really the opposite of what you would expect to see in a primordial soup. It did not replicate the conditions evolutionists claim to have given rise to the first living cell. It doesn’t help evolution if the process used to form RNA ends up destroying everything else needed for the first cell, including the machines needed in the three-way chicken-egg problem.

The three-way chicken-egg problem may be understood this way: DNA requires decoding machines, but the instructions to make those decoding machines are themselves written on the DNA. Most of the machines involved in DNA decoding need to be powered by the energy that comes from Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is made by the ATP synthase motor. But the motor is built from instructions on the DNA, read by decoding machines, using ATP. So you have a three-way chicken and egg problem. This problem is equally applicable to the RNA world hypothesis.

In fact, the three-way problem is an understatement. None of the replication or decoding of DNA could occur unless there were topoisomerases to prevent tangling up, some of which require ATP. But the instructions to build a topoisomerase are on the DNA, but they can’t be decoded without pre-existing topoisomerases.

Besides, how did random processes write their own software on the DNA or RNA? Without encoded information, RNA is useless gunk. DNA is so unstable that without pre-existing DNA repair mechanisms in place, it cannot last a few generations. See: New DNA repair enzyme discovered. Yet this problem is even worse for RNA since it is even more unstable than DNA. Evolutionists do not have a convincing solution around this problem.

So why do evolutionists appeal to RNA if it has all the problems of DNA and worse? It is because RNA has a weak potential of acting as a ribozyme, but we have already explained why this does not help the RNA world hypothesis at all. All the major problems with the DNA world are still there, except that now, it is even more unstable. If a DNA world hypothesis is problematic for evolution, the RNA world is even more improbable. We have more information in the ’Related Articles’ section below the article.



There is a new article out that says scientists have made a pig embryo and fertilized it with monkey cells. [link deleted as per feedback rules] Could you guys do an article on it and whether it proves evolution?

Scientists in China now claim to have created the first full-term pig-monkey chimera.2 The researchers injected monkey stem cells into fertilized pig embryos, before implanting them in a sow. Two piglets were born with a small proportion of monkey cells scattered within its heart, lungs, skin, spleen and liver. In this case, since the monkey cells were implanted early in its development, the resulting pig-chimera had some monkey cells distributed over several different organs at a ratio of around one monkey cell for every 1,000 to 10,000 cells. Out of 4000 implanted embryos, only 10 survived to term, and from these, only two had monkey cells and both died within a week after birth.

Many of the main principles about this issue were explained about two years ago in the article Monkeying around with cloning.

The dominion mandate in the Genesis 1:26–28 gave mankind the permission to subdue the created order for his own benefit. As such, there is nothing wrong with animal-animal chimera technology if it is used in a responsible manner. However, just as fire may be either useful or destructive depending on how it is used, chimera technology opens a can of worms: assuming that it is technologically possible, what are we to do with human-animal chimeras?

The dominion mandate in Genesis does not extend to other human beings, and the Bible is also clear that life begins at conception. In other words, the Bible prohibits any experiment that would lead to the intentional destruction or disablement of human embryos. The pig-monkey chimera resulted in the destruction of 4,000 embryos. If these had been human embryos, it would be murder.



Published: 10 March 2020

References and notes

  1. Keim, B., Life’s first spark re-created in the laboratory, wired.com, 15 May 2009. Return to text.
  2. Fu, Rui. and 13 others, Domesticated cynomolgus monkey embryonic stem cells allow the generation of neonatal interspecies chimeric pigs, Protein & Cell, 28 Nov 2019. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

The Stairway to Life
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Evolution's Achilles' Heels
by Nine Ph.D. scientists
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