(click here for full schedule)


The Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution will hold a distinctive conference on the "Origins of Life" in Atlanta Georgia, at the Georgia Tech Conference Center. Seeking to resolve paradoxes remaining in models for the origin of life under an "RNA first" model, it will feature talks by experts doing origins research in biology, chemistry and planetary science.

However, and distinctive, it will have each session a dialog that will include, as panelists, speakers as well as attendees, with open microphones on the floor for attendees to participate. A preliminary list of dialog topics is also listed below.

Registration is inexpensive ($99), and closes September 15, 2018. The conference begins with registration on Sunday, October 14, and ends mid afternoon Wednesday, October 17, in time to catch the later flights from Atlanta Hartsfield Airport. Accommodations may be arranged through our website. It also includes a copy of the book "Life, the Universe, and the Scientific Method", and admission on Tuesday night to the Fernbank Planetarium, which will be showing a premier of "The Origin of Life and the History of Earth".

Workshop materials will be delivered to registrants a month before the event. An outline of these is provided below.





With a limited budget, the 3-year project that forms the background for this workshop made specific choices and assumptions:

1. It assumed that and terran life emerged here on Earth, not elsewhere in the cosmos.
2. It assumed that the first Darwinian biopolymer on Earth was RNA, making its focus the biological assembly of RNA.
3. It assumed that all of the needed organic chemistry occurred on Earth. Therefore, it is set aside astrochemistry and meteorites as a source of organic materials.

Questioning these choices may be an important part of this workshop.

Next, successful applicants to the program were required to present a paradox a paradox, a conclusion that life could not possibly have arisen via an RNA first model, based on, sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises. Each session will have one or two successful applicants presenting the paradoxes that they examined, and what contributions they have made towards resolving them.

 A paradox is not another way of saying "a difficult problem", and only a few research problems are appropriately approached by constructing paradoxes. Such problems are those that are not directly approached by hypothesis based research, observation, or other tools of normal science.

The paradoxes that will open the workshop are these:

1. All compounds normally proposed as necessary for the prebiotic synthesis of RNA require a reducing atmosphere to form. However, early Earth did not seem to have a reducing atmosphere. Therefore, life could not have emerged on Earth via an RNA-first model.

2. Even if the prebiotic precursors for RNA did manage to be formed on early Earth, they (like all organic matter given energy) would have devolved to asphalt; theory as deep as the second law precludes Darwinism having emerged from asphalt. Therefore, life could not have emerged on Earth via an RNA-first model.

3. Even if the prebiotic precursors for RNA did survive this devolution, they could not have assembled in water to give oligomeric RNA, and even if they did, could not have survived in water. Therefore, life could not have emerged on Earth via an RNA-first model.

4. Even if oligomeric RNA formed on early Earth, it must have remained short, too short to have done anything useful. Therefore, life could not have emerged on Earth via an RNA-first model.

5. Even if long RNA molecules were formed on early Earth, they are more likely to have catalyzed destructive reactions than constructive reactions. Therefore, life could not have emerged on early Earth. Therefore, life could not possibly have emerged on Earth via an RNA-first model.

Anyone planning to attend who believes that they have an experiment-based solution to any of these paradoxes should contact the organizers, who will arrange for them to present. At the workshop, one dominant theme might well be to question whether these are the appropriate paradoxes to focus on. Above all, the goal of this workshop is to have the attendees leave feeling that important advances were made during the course of the workshop through its discussions.




Andrew Ellington, University of Texas
Elisa Biondi, The Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution
Charles Carter, UNC Chapel Hill
George Fox, University of Houston
Niles Lehman, Portland State University
Andrej Luptak, UC Irvine
Steven Benner, The Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution
Clemens Richert, University of Stuttgart
David Fialho, Georgia Institute of Technology
Hyo-Joong Kim, Firebird Biomolecular Sciences
Jennifer Heemstra, Emory Unversity
Matthew Powner, University College London
Ram Krishnamurthy, The Scripps Research Institute
Thomas Carell, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität
Tuomas Lönnberg, University of Turku
Planetary Science and Geochemistry
Dustin Trail, University of Rochester
Elizabeth Bell, UCLA
Robert Hazen, UCLA
Matthew Pasek, University of South Florida
Ramon Brasser, ELSI Tokyo
Stephen Mojzsis, University Colorado
Panel-Audience Dialog: How will we finally solve the RNA building block problem?
Panel-Audience Dialog: Will we ever get oligomeric RNA under prebiotic conditions?
Panel-Audience Dialog: Why is it difficult to get robust function from oligo libraries?
Panel-Audience Dialog: What are the next steps in origins research?
SPECIAL PANEL-AUDIENCE DIALOG. Biases and disparities in origins research.
Nobel laureate Jack W. Szostak (Massachusetts General Hospital) has been invited to join Prof. Kim Cobb (Georgia Institute of Technology) and Prof. Jennifer Glass (Georgia Institute of Technology) to discuss bias and disparity in origins research.



Dates: Sunday evening, October 14 - Wednesday, October 17, 2018 (see full schedule)
Where: Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center, 800 Spring St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30308
Registration: $99.00 (including meals and light refreshments). Click here to register.
*Lunch provided Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, dinner provided Monday only. Light refreshments will be provided during morning and afternoon breaks.
Accomodations: Arrange with conference center. Click here to make reservations.

For further information, contact us at