Considering the Origins of Life from a scientific perspective, Nick Lane


@Dad1 makes many dismissive claims towards science, which I happen to know are empty nonsense. I know this because I’m fairly well read on the topic, meaning that I know there is scientific evidence capable of explaining ORIGINS, not complete, mysteries remain, but heck it’s infinitely complex, how dare we presume we can understand every last detail. Still the over arching understanding is there and stands up as well as can be. Though, you’ll never know about those amazing studies if you don’t take the time to poke around and do your homework.

Nick Lane is a scientist who’s not only paid his dues with some awesome original science, he’s also a gifted storyteller, so over the years he’s been writing succeeding books starting with his own specialty and then branching out into other fields. His books are wonderfully accessible and illuminating to any intelligent interested student or enthusiast, such as myself.

This is actually Part Two of the Origins story - part one has to do with the evolution of the minerals required for life to take hold and proceed. That’s why Robert Hazen will be my next featured scientist here at CFI. @Dad1, this is an invitation for you to explore and learn a little.


Nick Lane is Professor of Evolutionary Biochemistry in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London.

Prof Lane’s research is on the way that energy flow has shaped evolution over 4 billion years, using a mixture of theoretical and experimental work to address the origin of life, the evolution of complex cells and downright peculiar behaviour such as sex. He was a founding member of the UCL Consortium for Mitochondrial Research, and is Co-Director of the UCL Centre for Life’s Origin and Evolution (CLOE). He was awarded the 2009 UCL Provost’s Venture Research Prize, the 2011 BMC Research Award for Genetics, Genomics, Bioinformatics and Evolution, the 2015 Biochemical Society Award for his outstanding contribution to molecular life sciences and 2016 Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize and Lecture, the UK’s premier award for excellence in communicating science.

Nick Lane is the author of four acclaimed books on evolutionary biochemistry, which have sold more than 150,000 copies worldwide, and been translated into 25 languages.

____ Nick’s first book, Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World (OUP, 2002)

is a sweeping history of the relationship between life and our planet, and the paradoxical ways in which adaptations to oxygen play out in our own lives and deaths. It was selected as one of the Sunday Times Books of the Year for 2002.

____ His second book, Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life (OUP, 2005)

is an exploration of the extraordinary effects that mitochondria have had on the evolution of complex life. It was selected as one of The Economist’s Books of the Year for 2005, and shortlisted for the 2006 Royal Society Aventis Science Book Prize and the Times Higher Young Academic Author of the Year Award.

____ Nick’s third book, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution(Profile/Norton 2009)

is a celebration of the inventiveness of life, and of our own ability to read the deep past to reconstruct the history of life on earth. The great inventions are: the origin of life, DNA, photosynthesis, the complex cell, sex, movement, sight, hot blood, consciousness and death. Life Ascending won the 2010 Royal Society Prize for Science Books, and was named a Book of the Year by New Scientist, Nature, the Times and the Independent, the latter describing him as “one of the most exciting science writers of our time.”

____ Nick’s most recent book is entitled The Vital Question: Why is Life the Way it Is?(Profile/Norton, 2015).

The subtitle in the US is more prosaic but more self-explanatory: Energy, Evolution and the Origins of Complex Life.

Apart from that, the book is the same. It attacks a central problem in biology – why did complex life arise only once in four billion years, and why does all complex life share so many peculiar properties, from sex and speciation to senescence? The book argues that energy has constrained the whole trajectory of evolution, from the origin of life to the properties of complex organisms including ourselves. It was named a book of the year by the Times, Economist, Wall Street Journal, Sunday Times, Independent, Financial Times and New Scientist, and was ‘highly commended’ by the Royal Society of Biology. Bill Gates wrote “this book blew me away”.

Nick Lane has published more than 80 peer-reviewed papers in top international journals,…

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Nice that you post stories from a story teller. Now if you can defend any point as anything more than a story and fable, well, we wait. Ha


I think that 3rd word in the quoted paragraph threw him

Glad to see you’re back!!


I just saw a show (on Amazon?) about the origins of the understanding of the flow of energy - that’s kind of where my “ice cube coalescing on a hot sidewalk” comment came from in another thread.

I’ve always been a disciple of energy. “Go with the flow” … for the most part.

Though I’ve usually been on the “hard science” side of things and not so much the science of biology.

@mrmhead, I think that 3rd word in the quoted paragraph threw him

Since Daddio doesn’t seem to know about Google, I’ll help him out a little. (think it’ll do any good? :wink: )


Nick Lane (born 1967) is a British biochemist and writer. He is a professor in evolutionary biochemistry at University College London.

Educated at Imperial College, London, he earned his PhD at the Royal Free Hospital Medical School in 1995 with a thesis entitled In vivo studies of ischaemia-reperfusion injury in hypothermically stored rabbit renal autograft. He then worked as Medical Writer at Oxford Clinical Communications for a year before joining Medi Cine International a medical multimedia company, also as a writer. In 1999 he became strategic director at what was, by then, Adelphi Medi Cine, a post he held until 2002.[1]

He became an Honorary Researcher at University College London in 1997, has held the post of Honorary Reader since 2006 and was the first Provost’s Venture Research Fellow there 2009–2012. Since October 2013 he has been Reader in Evolutionary Biochemistry in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at UCL.[1][2]

He is the author of popular science books and many articles and is the winner of the 2015 Biochemical Society Award.[3] and the 2016 Michael Faraday Prize.[4]

Lane, N. (2002). Oxygen: The molecule that made the world. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0198508038.
Lane, Nick; Fuller, Barry; Benson, Erica, eds. (2004). Life in the Frozen State. CRC Press. ISBN 978-0415247009.
Lane, Nick (2005). Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0192804815. (Second, Kindle edition, 2018)
Lane, Nick (2009). Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution. Profile Books. ISBN 978-1861978486.
Lane, Nick (2015). The Vital Question: Why Is Life The Way It Is?. Profile Books. ISBN 978-1781250365, (UK); W. W. Norton, ISBN 978-0393088816 (US)


Dad1, what have you accomplished?

And, pray tell, what is your story?

Max Tegmark put it in a clear manner.

Q: What is the difference if I scribe my name inside my wedding ring or in a puddle of water?
A: One is permanent, the other is fleeting.

We’re still waiting for him to defend his story. That said though, I think he was banned.

Don’t hold your breath… :hot_face:

Although Nick Lane would certainly be interesting for many of us wanting to discover more of the details about chemical evolution to life, I don’t think it does anything but intimidate those who have no direct logical link to how evolution works. Authoritarian references mean nothing unless one already respects the institutes or other credits. I certainly loathe authority as a means to argue. People need logic with premises from their own background to work from.

I found that you have to use a different approach by arguing using analogies that are more common to everyday life. I don’t know Dad1 but if someone can link me to his own arguments I might be able to see how he interprets things and maybe could possibly help?

He has none. There is only negativity and derision. It’s not worth your time.

I quickly forget about people like this as soon as they go away, but if you click his user name, then look for a tab for “Activity” you can see he was briefly very prolific. He didn’t have much to say, but he said it over and over. He made liberal use of insults, which just shows he had no real arguments. I tried to reason with him, but I don’t believe “a different approach” would have had changed anything.

I give people as many chances as I can without allowing them to disrupt the forum. I know it’s hard to change your mind in the middle of a heated debate. People do change, if not, we’d still be arguing over who’s cave painting is the best.

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I can really recommend Robert Hazen lectures. His lectures are clear and readily understandable to anyone with just a fundamental understanding of science.

Start watching @ 12:00 to avoid lengthy introduction

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I suggest people contrast what Lane has to say by listening to what James Tour has to say, this lecture begins with him summarizing his and his team’s work and achievements, before jumping into a reality that might surprise some.

Skip to 08:50 though if you want to jump into the lecture proper.

At 10:00 after he finished summarizing the complexity of an eukaryotic cell. Then he says ~ if you want to study origin of life you have to start there, not the complete body that we possess.

That’s very wrong and silly, if you want to understand origins you need to start with the origins and that would be the Kreb Cycle. What on earth would one to seek to understand origins by looking at the human organism? It’s outlandish. Oh, yeah, I forgot some actual do believe in a six day magical Creation. It’s beyond my fathoming.

Home Metabolomics Research The Krebs Cycle — Harnessing Chemical Energy for Cellular Respiration

The Krebs Cycle — Harnessing Chemical Energy for Cellular Respiration



Krebs H, Johnson W. 1980. The role of citric acid in intermediate metabolism in animal tissues . [Internet]. Volume 117, Supplement : FEBS Letter. Available from:

10:19 - “If you have been taught that simple life has been made that is a lie.”

Well that’s not so clear either, I know of amazing things being done, for example:

Scientists Create an Artificial Cell With Synthetic Genome

Meet the Xenobot, the World’s First-Ever “Living” Robot

10:50 - “molecules never build toward life”

What kind of idiotic remark is that?
Molecules are tiny. No one ever lives in a brick either. Same difference!
What’s the point?!?

Molecules build components.
But since were speaking of molecules why doesn’t he mention the Krebs Cycle? That’s where the molecules are, but that requires being serious about those molecules! James obviously isn’t too serious about that, he’s too focused on delivering dramatic oratory. Amen


I’ve run out of time, but it’s a start. And actually it’s enough to recognize that we are dealing with an entertainer, a guy selling a story.
That is very different from someone like Nick Lane, who explains (to those who actually listen) how the science was done, how the dots were connected and the various implications of those dots and connections. You can also run off after a Nick Lane talk and spend all the time you want, digging up supporting information that fills in some blanks, reinforces some lessons, openly acknowledging and discussing weakness and missing information, etc., but that is basically real - a consilience of evidence

hugo, “James Tour” is right, he’s doing a show, totally different from what Lane had to offer!
I wonder, have you actually listen to that Nick Lane YouTube talk? I mean sit down and actually simply listen and try to understand what he is saying, save all your rebuttals till after you’ve given him his due.

Then listen to this James guy, tell me there isn’t a huge glaring difference between their stories and they unfold, and what they expect of their audience.

Or offer me some ‘red flags’ that you think Nick Lane is guilty of. That would be interesting. Not sure if I’ll get back to the rest of the James Tour, I’ve got a crowded life and I’ve seen enough to know I wouldn’t trust him with a buck of mine.

Yet he’s a renowned peer reviewed scientist, you can email him if you like, he’s easy to get hold of. I mean please, so many people routinely dismiss theists and imply creationists don’t make legitimate scientists yet here we are with a pretty obviously leading thinker:

Professor Tour has 750 research publications, over 130 granted patents and over 100 pending patents. He has an h -index = 161 with total citations over 120,000. In 2021, he won the Oesper Award from the American Chemical Society which is awarded to “outstanding chemists for lifetime significant accomplishments in the field of chemistry with long-lasting impact on the chemical sciences.” In 2020, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and in the same year was awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Centenary Prize for innovations in materials chemistry with applications in medicine and nanotechnology. Based on the impact of his published work, in 2019 Tour was ranked in the top 0.004% of the 7 million scientists who have published at least 5 papers in their careers. He was inducted into the National Academy of Inventors in 2015. Tour was named among “The 50 Most Influential Scientists in the World Today” by in 2019; listed in “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” by Thomson Reuters in 2014; and recipient of the Trotter Prize in “Information, Complexity and Inference” in 2014; and was the Lady Davis Visiting Professor, Hebrew University, June, 2014. Tour was named “Scientist of the Year” by R&D Magazine , 2013. He was awarded the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching, 2012, Rice University; won the ACS Nano Lectureship Award from the American Chemical Society, 2012; was the Lady Davis Visiting Professor, Hebrew University, June, 2011 and was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2009. Tour was ranked one of the Top 10 chemists in the world over the past decade, by a Thomson Reuters citations per publication index survey, 2009; won the Distinguished Alumni Award, Purdue University, 2009 and the Houston Technology Center’s Nanotechnology Award in 2009. He won the Feynman Prize in Experimental Nanotechnology in 2008, the NASA Space Act Award in 2008 for his development of carbon nanotube reinforced elastomers and the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award from the American Chemical Society for his achievements in organic chemistry in 2007. Tour was the recipient of the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching in 2007. He also won the Small Times magazine’s Innovator of the Year Award in 2006, the Nanotech Briefs Nano 50 Innovator Award in 2006, the Alan Berman Research Publication Award, Department of the Navy in 2006, the Southern Chemist of the Year Award from the American Chemical Society in 2005 and The Honda Innovation Award for Nanocars in 2005. Tour’s paper on Nanocars was the most highly accessed journal article of all American Chemical Society articles in 2005, and it was listed by LiveScience as the second most influential paper in all of science in 2005. Tour has won several other national awards including the National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award in Polymer Chemistry and the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award in Polymer Chemistry.

This is the man you disparagingly refer to as an “entertainer” who makes “idiotic remarks” and “very wrong and silly” , your own prejudices shine through very clearly when you write like that.

Clearly Nick Lane might disagree with Tour and I’m hardly expert enough to critique the science in detail, I simply want people, visitors to the thread, to see for themselves that there is controversy and form their own opinions.

It’s hard to understand this critique, when the person you are talking about does a whole lot of “disparaging” throughout his presentations. Since you admit you are not an expert, and I am also not, then how about letting the experts respond:

Good, all good healthy controversy, we need more of this. Enough of the “it’s a done deal, just a matter of time” pseudoscience that’s all too often peddled in the forums. People need to see that there is serious controversy in science.

I don’t think Nick Lane has given Tour any thought.
Unless you can show me differently, please don’t imply Lane has any opinion about Tour.

In 2001, Tour was one of a small number of nationally prominent researchers among the five hundred scientists and engineers whose names appeared on the Discovery Institute’s controversial petition, “A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism”.[59]

The petition states "we are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation

{It’s not random mutations!}

and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."[60]

The two-sentence statement has been widely used by its sponsor, the Discovery Institute, and some of their supporters in a national campaign to discredit evolution and to promote intelligent design.

Tour was born into a Jewish family becoming a born-again Christian in his first year at Syracruse.[42] He identifies as a Messianic Jew,[61] which is considered a form of evangelical Christianity by the State of Israel and major Jewish movements.[62]

He feels that religion plays no part in his scientific work.[42] :rofl: :joy:
Oh course he doesn’t, that would require a hint of self-skepticism, and sense of objectivity.
And he never tells a lie, I suppose.

Fair enough. If you could watch that Response video and think about it - please do share weaknesses or reflags in Professor Dave Explanations - it would be interesting to see what you take issue with.
I think it’s pretty solid, though only half way through, If you open it in it’s own window you can open the transcript too.