On the chemical journey from non-life to life
there are several important milestones. Proponents of abiogenesis must show, at a minimum, that organic compounds such as amino acids, nucleic acids and fatty acids could form naturally under the conditions that existed on primordial Earth.
Furthermore, it must be demonstrated, again at a minimum, that these classes of compounds could undergo polymerization or (in the case of fatty acids), at least some form of self-organization, under the conditions believed to exist on the primordial Earth.
Any number of experiments using only compounds found on primordial Earth, and mainly in the atmosphere, such as water, methane, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and hydrogen, with energy sources such as electrical discharge (lightening) ionizing radiation, or even UV, and catalytic substrates such as iron sulfides, and various clays, have shown that organic molecules, including amino acids, small fatty acids and even nucleic acids, are formed (mainly in aqueous solutions). http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0273117703010457
Another supportable hypothesis is that much of the organic material on the primordial Earth arrived from extraterrestrial bombardment of the Earth by carbonaceous chondrites (meteorites), dirty comets, etc. during "late bombardment" period.
Once here and formed, these compounds needed to somehow form polymers or self-organize to relatively stable and long-lived structures that could eventually replicate themselves, pass on genetic information and evolve.
The spontaneous formation of micelles (or even vesicles) by fatty acids in aqueous solution is well known and well understood. Fatty acid micelles will spontaneously grow in solution, and when large enough, become unstable and divide to form two smaller micelles that will continue the process so long as there are fatty acids that can be taken up from the surrounding solution. So we have a crude but workable protocell membrane. http://www.elmhurst.edu/~chm/vchembook/558micelle.html
It has now been shown that RNA monomers and polymers can also from naturally under the conditions that were believed to exist, for example, in down slope water pools on or near volcanoes that would periodically undergo evaporation. This is an important finding of which creationists appear to be completely unaware, so here is a complete citation:
Synthesis of activated pyrimidine ribonucleotides in prebiotically plausible conditions Matthew W. Powner, Beatrice Gerland & John D. Sutherland. Nature, Vol. 460, May 13, 2009.
These RNA polymers can be catalytic, and can thus be self-replicating. These catalytic polymers are called ribozymes, and strangely enough, can stitch together strands of RNA monomers to form longer polymers, which themselves can be good catalysts. Since some ribozymes are better catalysts than others, the basis for genetic competition is already in place. (Science. 323: 1229–1232, 2009).
Like the nucleic acids, amino acids can spontaneously form small oligomers (peptides) under the conditions that existed on the primordial Earth. (Science 117 pp. 528-529, 1953)
In an award winning essay in Science in 2006 (Science 314, pp1558-1559), Irene Chan describes wholly synthetic protocells comprised of fatty acids and RNA that can grow, replicate, and pass on genetic information. Not yet life - but well along the chemical road between non-life and life. Here s a link to a graphic from the essay in Science. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/314/5 ... nsion.html
There is a lot more that could be brought up and discussed by way of explanation, but this would seem like a good place to stop for now. I have described the most basic types of organic compounds required for life, explained how these could have arisen on the primordial Earth, shown that they can form polymers under these same conditions, and provided an example of a simple protocell that exhibits many of the characteristics of simple archaea.
As I mentioned on another thread, I am expecting that we will be able to add respiration to the capabilities of artificial cells during my lifetime. This goal is being approached from top down and from bottom up. Synthetic protocells are a bottom up approach.
The top down approach is to selectively remove components from simple cells until they no longer function and then see what a really minimal living cell might look like. Not sure if you remember this, but scientists have already removed the genome from a living cell and replaced it with a totally artificial genome. The re-engineered cell kept chugging along, because after all, it is only chemistry.
The main thing I hope you realize, my friend, is that it is all chemistry - and only chemistry. No magic is involved.