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Chemist Harry Lonsdale and the secret of life

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Harry Lonsdale (1932–2014)/danwalter, 2012

Readers may remember Harry Lonsdale, a self-made millionaire who privately funded origin of life research via a prize contest. Suzan Mazur interviewed him for her new book, The Origin of Life Circus.

It’s an interesting interview because he defines life according to a hoary NASA definition that has come under serious attack from within the discipline: “a self-sustaining chemical system capable of undergoing Darwinian evolution.” That latter point aims, clearly, to appease Darwinists. What if a life form evolved by horizontal gene transfer (non-Darwinian evolution). Is it then not alive?

But while Mazur learns a number of interesting things in her interviews with Lonsdale, who has more than 100 papers to his credit as well as various patents, she cannot get him to discuss whether so narrow an approach is wise.

His approach favours RNA World (RNA preceded DNA because it is “a much simpler molecule.”)

He also acknowledges,

Even the experts I drew together a month or so ago, even they don’t have a single, clear model of how life began.

If we lack a model, what can we test? Origin of Life Circus

Incidentally, Lonsdale’ s purpose in discovering the origin of life was

My goal in supporting Origin of Life research is to help scientists solve one of the great remaining problems in biology. A solution will give every science teacher in the world, from high school to college, a fundamental understanding of how life probably began on the Earth. In time, the world will learn that the laws of chemistry and physics, and the principle of evolution by natural selection, are sufficient to explain life’s origin. – Harry Lonsdale

The metaphysical naturalist basis of his quest may have precluded his examining the “cash value” of Darwinism in the project.

See also: Welcome to “RNA world,” the five-star hotel of origin-of-life theories

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3 Replies to “Chemist Harry Lonsdale and the secret of life

  1. 1
    MrCollins says:

    Watch this video with Stephen Fry on how easy it is to get a unique order of a set of cards.
    http://youtu.be/SLIvwtIuC3Y

    IF it’s that easy with cards, then random life should be a piece of cake

  2. 2
    Mung says:

    Sets are unordered.

  3. 3
    News says:

    Yes, I see what you mean, MrCollins: THere are only 52 pre-ordered values in life’s deck. 😉

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