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Byline: DANIEL CONOVER
PHOTOS:Christian Schwabe, a professor of biochemistry at the Medical University of South Carolina, gestures in his lab while explaining the mechanisms by which organic molecules form new compounds. For more than 20 years, Schwabe has been proposing that these mechanisms gave rise to life on Earth - and that each life form arose from its own independent origin. Schwabe wants other scientists to test his idea, yet despite its radical implications the theory has been generally ignored for decades. "If (other scientists) think it's no good, they have the obligation to disprove it."
Schwabe and lab technician Bob Bracey converse in Schwabe's suite of laboratories on the seventh floor of the Basic Sciences Building on the MUSC campus. Though his theory of biogenesis and evolution has attracted little attention, Schwabe has accounted for millions of dollars in research grants over the course of a career spent studying protein chemistry. "I think he deserves a hearing," said Ron Landes, a scientific publisher in Texas.
In the beginning, it was just the proteins.
The way biochemist Christian Schwabe saw it, Darwinian evolution should have given closely related animals similar sets of proteins. It was a simple idea, really, just a way to prove the cellular legacy of millions of years of common ancestry.
Only it didn't work.
The mismatched proteins were just a stray thread in the grand tapestry of life, yet the flaw gnawed at the back of the professor's mind - until one day at Harvard University in 1970, when a new idea struck him in the middle of a lecture. "That's not going to work that way," Schwabe said aloud, and his students watched in bewilderment as their instructor spent the rest of the class working out the first bits of his idea on the blackboard.
What Schwabe began that day would become, by 1984, something he called the "genomic potential hypothesis:" the idea that life on Earth arose not from a single, random-chance event, but from multiple, predictable, chemical processes.
As bold as that idea seemed, it was tame compared with the second part of his theory: that evolution by natural selection - a cornerstone of Darwinian thought - was a …