What do you make of the idea of protocells as a way of overcoming the problem of abiogenesis?


If someone can explain how genetic information can self-assemble in these proto-cells, sure, but that is the problem.  The concept of proto-cells does not solve any of the major problems of abiogenesis.  In order for life to form spontaneously from non-living substances, three levels of complexity must be achieved:
monomers:   The spontaneous generation of the precursor molecules to life:  amino acids, saccharides, lipids and nucleotides.       There is reason to believe that these monomers can be formed spontaneously (although what chemical environment would produce them simultaneously and in the same location has never been successfully proposed, never mind solved).
polymers:  The model for abiogenesis needs to propose the spontaneous assembly of very large polymers of saccharides, amino acids and nucleotides from the monomers.  The possibility that small polymers of amino acids could form under anhydrous conditions (not very suitable to life!) is a reasonable  proposal, although there are difficulties there.  As for the spontaneous formation of DNA, this has never been shown and, in my opinion, this is very unlikely.
information:  The polymers of amino acids, DNA, and RNA that self-assemble must have the information which allows them to either synthesize useful proteins or to be useful proteins.  This is the impossible step in the supposed abiogenesis.  Nature does not produce information from non-information.  Ever.  Period.  Both experiment and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics all point to the impossibility of information self-assembling.  Besides, the proteins that are spontaneously generated must be the ones that would have been formed from the DNA that also spontaneously self-assembles itself inside the same protocell!  This chicken-and-egg problem is simply insurmountable according to known laws of nature.
Whether some sort of proto-cell can form (and I think a lipid bilayer can possibly self-assemble, as there is no information in such a thing) does not solve any of the signficant problems.  Any sort of protocell would only contain some sort of “soup” of simple molecules.  Even the word proto-cell is a misleading term, designed to create a false impression that a lipid bilayer bubble with a random soup of chemicals is anything like a living cell at all.  Proposing the formation of a proto cell is to abiogenesis is kind of like discovering a nail equaling the design of a skyscraper.
John Oakes

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