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NASA recreates the origin of life and it’s totally shocking


In the plain Jane story, NASA is studying the origin of life in order to narrow down where to look for it off the planet. But then we read:

A new NASA study has recreated the origins of life, building the ocean’s floors from 4 billion years ago as humanity attempts to understand how life started on Earth and where else it might be found.

The study, conducted by astrobiologists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looks at how life began in hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. …

While it’s important to note NASA has not created life itself in the experiment, it does raise the possibility that the hydrothermal vents could appear elsewhere in the universe and be a building block for life.

“If we have these hydrothermal vents here on Earth, possibly similar reactions could occur on other planets,” said JPL’s Erika Flores, co-author of the new study … Chris Ciacia, “NASA was able to recreate the ‘origins of life’ and the results are shocking” at [publication]

What’s shocking is the hype. Essentially, the team created some amino acids and “Some researchers believe these could combine (like Legos) and create further complex molecules which could then be a precursor to life.”

As a friend said: Oh.

Another friend wonders whether science news is now neck and neck with Daytime TV.

No wonder some software firms are developing AI to write news stories. Critical thinking is not sought in either the writer or the reader so it’s all good, right?

Paper. (paywall)

See also: NASA is investing more in prebiotic chemistry (Suzan Mazur interview)


Origin of life: Could it all have come together in one very special place?

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Did NASA recruit Humpty Dumpty for their silly OOL nonsense project? Also they should consult all the king’s horses and all the king’s men who couldn’t put Humpty together again. Note that this is not my original idea, I borrowed it from somebody else. PeterA
US taxpayers may want to write to their US senators and representatives to demand that this waste of federal funds is stopped and the funds get reassigned to more beneficial projects for improving science education, healthcare, security, defense, immigration,... yes, even the controversial border wall with drones flying around could be better use of federal funds than this OOL nonsense. PeterA
BA77 @15: Yes, that’s it. PeterA
KF @14: Yes, exactly. PeterA
Here are a few overlooked problems in their research:
Suzan Mazur: Origin of life shifting to “nonmaterial events”? - December 15, 2013 Excerpt: The first paradox is the tendency of organic matter to devolve and to give tar. If you can avoid that, you can start to try to assemble things that are not tarry, but then you encounter the water problem, which is related to the fact that every interesting bond that you want to make is unstable, thermodynamically, with respect to water. If you can solve that problem, you have the problem of entropy, that any of the building blocks are going to be present in a low concentration; therefore, to assemble a large number of those building blocks, you get a gene-like RNA — 100 nucleotides long — that fights entropy. And the fourth problem is that even if you can solve the entropy problem, you have a paradox that RNA enzymes, which are maybe catalytically active, are more likely to be active in the sense that destroys RNA rather than creates RNA. https://uncommondescent.com/origin-of-life/origin-of-life-shifting-to-nonmaterial-events/ RNA world: Chemists Propose a Seemingly Unlikely Environment for the Origin of Life - February 27, 2013 Excerpt: Benner and his colleagues consider three major problems with the RNA-world model: *The "asphalt problem": Organic reactions often produce unreactive byproducts. These byproducts are a mixture of pieces of the product or polymerization of the product, but are chemically insignificant and otherwise unpromising. Hence the metaphor of "asphalt." Typically, avoiding the production of such byproducts requires very specific and controlled conditions, or post-reaction purification steps. *The "water problem": Many of the bonds in RNA will undergo hydrolysis. This occurs when water reacts with the bond, causing it to break apart. In a lab, the problem is easily addressed by using a different solvent. However, the environment of the early Earth could not draw on the resource of various organic solvents. *The "impossible bond problem": The authors refer here to the difficulty in forming certain bonds in RNA. Usually this follows from thermodynamic issues that prohibit bonds from spontaneously forming. Conspicuously missing from the authors' list of critiques are the "chirality problem" and the "information problem." Later in the paper, however, they concede that their model does not solve the enigma of chirality, and they allude to a potential "fatal flaw" in their proposition, namely that the kinds of RNA molecules that catalyze the destruction of RNA are more likely to emerge than RNA molecules that catalyze the synthesis of RNA. - http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/02/death_valley_da068661.html Chemistry by Chance: A Formula for Non-Life by Charles McCombs, Ph.D. Excerpt: The following eight obstacles in chemistry ensure that life by chance is untenable. 1. The Problem of Unreactivity 2. The Problem of Ionization 3. The Problem of Mass Action 4. The Problem of Reactivity 5. The Problem of Selectivity 6. The Problem of Solubility 7. The Problem of Sugar 8. The Problem of Chirality The chemical control needed for the formation of a specific sequence in a polymer chain is just not possible through random chance. The synthesis of proteins and DNA/RNA in the laboratory requires the chemist to control the reaction conditions, to thoroughly understand the reactivity and selectivity of each component, and to carefully control the order of addition of the components as the chain is building in size. http://www.icr.org/article/chemistry-by-chance-formula-for-non-life/
as to this comment from the article,,
"Some researchers believe these could combine (like Legos) and create further complex molecules which could then be a precursor to life."
Okie Dokie, they imagine a world of 'self assembling Legos' that can eventually produce life?,, :) First off, they have no evidence for prebiotic chemistry. i.e. for their hypothetical 'self assembling Legos', on early earth:
"We get that evidence from looking at carbon 12 to carbon 13 analysis. And it tells us that in Earth's oldest (sedimentary) rock, which dates at 3.80 billion years ago, we find an abundance for the carbon signature of living systems. Namely, that life prefers carbon 12. And so if you see a higher ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 13 that means that carbon has been processed by life. And it is that kind of evidence that tells us that life has been abundant on earth as far back as 3.80 billion years ago (when water was first present on earth).,,, And that same carbon 12 to carbon 13 analysis tells us that planet earth, over it entire 4.5662 billion year history has never had prebiotics. Prebiotics would have a higher ratio of carbon 13 to carbon 12. All the carbonaceous material, we see in the entire geological record of the earth, has the signature of being post-biotic not pre-biotic. Which means planet earth never had a primordial soup. And the origin of life on earth took place in a geological instant" (as soon as it was possible for life to exist on earth). Dr. Hugh Ross - Origin Of Life Paradox (No prebiotic chemical signatures)- video (40:10 minute mark) https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=UPvO2EkiLls#t=2410 Origins of Life - Hugh Ross - video (7:00 minute mark: late heavy bombardment and extremely early origin of life, 19:00 minute mark: diversity of first life, 21:00 minute mark no life from Mars, 24:00 minute mark: no sugars or complex amino acids in space, 27:00 minute mark: impossibility of transporting complex organic molecules to earth on comets, 31:00 minute mark: chemists at a OOL convention each defending various origin of life scenarios and humorously debunking each other's models) - video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTI5mEiz4O0
Secondly, even if every possible atom on the early earth were hypothetically dedicated to nothing but prebiotic chemistry, then still the chance of 'self assembling Legos' ever finding even one functional protein molecule by chance would still exceed the age of the universe many times over:
Origin: Probability of a Single Protein Forming by Chance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1_KEVaCyaA
That humorous 'self assembling Legos' comment reminds me of this more realistic comment from Dr. James Tour, where he hypothetically gives a 'dream team' of scientists all the "Legos" for prebiotic chemistry they could possibly want, and then tells them, using all their intelligence. to assemble the 'Legos' into a living cell,,, Tour remarks, "The members scratch their heads and walk away, frustrated,,, The Dream Team will not know where to start."
Origin of Life: An Inside Story - Professor James Tour – May 1, 2016 Excerpt: “All right, now let’s assemble the Dream Team. We’ve got good professors here, so let’s assemble the Dream Team. Let’s further assume that the world’s top 100 synthetic chemists, top 100 biochemists and top 100 evolutionary biologists combined forces into a limitlessly funded Dream Team. The Dream Team has all the carbohydrates, lipids, amino acids and nucleic acids stored in freezers in their laboratories… All of them are in 100% enantiomer purity. [Let’s] even give the team all the reagents they wish, the most advanced laboratories, and the analytical facilities, and complete scientific literature, and synthetic and natural non-living coupling agents. Mobilize the Dream Team to assemble the building blocks into a living system – nothing complex, just a single cell. The members scratch their heads and walk away, frustrated… So let’s help the Dream Team out by providing the polymerized forms: polypeptides, all the enzymes they desire, the polysaccharides, DNA and RNA in any sequence they desire, cleanly assembled. The level of sophistication in even the simplest of possible living cells is so chemically complex that we are even more clueless now than with anything discussed regarding prebiotic chemistry or macroevolution. The Dream Team will not know where to start. Moving all this off Earth does not solve the problem, because our physical laws are universal. You see the problem for the chemists? Welcome to my world. This is what I’m confronted with, every day.“ James Tour – leading Chemist https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/origin-of-life-professor-james-tour-points-the-way-forward-for-intelligent-design/
And to show just how preposterous their 'self assembling Legos' conjecture actually is, here is a quote from Michael Denton that puts the actual situation with 'simple life' into a bit more proper perspective,
"To grasp the reality of life as it has been revealed by molecular biology, we must magnify a cell a thousand million times until it is twenty kilometres in diameter and resembles a giant airship large enough to cover a great city like London or New York. What we would then see would be an object of unparalleled complexity and adaptive design. On the surface of the cell we would see millions of openings, like the portholes of a vast space ship, opening and closing to allow a continual stream of materials to flow in and out. If we were to enter one of these openings with find ourselves in a world of supreme technology and bewildering complexity. We would see endless highly organized corridors and conduits branching in every direction away from the perimeter of the cell, some leading to the central memory bank in the nucleus and others to assembly plants and processing units. The nucleus of itself would be a vast spherical chamber more than a kilometer in diameter, resembling a geodesic dome inside of which we would see, all neatly stacked together in ordered arrays, the miles of coiled chains of the DNA molecules. A huge range of products and raw materials would shuttle along all the manifold conduits in a highly ordered fashion to and from all the various assembly plants in the outer regions of the cell. We would wonder at the level of control implicit in the movement of so many objects down so many seemingly endless conduits, all in perfect unison. We would see all around us, in every direction we looked, all sorts of robot-like machines. We would notice that the simplest of the functional components of the cell, the protein molecules, were astonishingly, complex pieces of molecular machinery, each one consisting of about three thousand atoms arranged in highly organized 3-D spatial conformation. We would wonder even more as we watched the strangely purposeful activities of these weird molecular machines, particularly when we realized that, despite all our accumulated knowledge of physics and chemistry, the task of designing one such molecular machine – that is one single functional protein molecule – would be completely beyond our capacity at present and will probably not be achieved until at least the beginning of the next century. Yet the life of the cell depends on the integrated activities of thousands, certainly tens, and probably hundreds of thousands of different protein molecules. We would see that nearly every feature of our own advanced machines had its analogue in the cell: artificial languages and their decoding systems, memory banks for information storage and retrieval, elegant control systems regulating the automated assembly of parts and components, error fail-safe and proof-reading devices utilized for quality control, assembly processes involving the principle of prefabrication and modular construction. In fact, so deep would be the feeling of deja-vu, so persuasive the analogy, that much of the terminology we would use to describe this fascinating molecular reality would be borrowed from the world of late twentieth-century technology. What we would be witnessing would be an object resembling an immense automated factory, a factory larger than a city and carrying out almost as many unique functions as all the manufacturing activities of man on earth. However, it would be a factory which would have one capacity not equaled in any of our own most advanced machines, for it would be capable of replicating its entire structure within a matter of a few hours. To witness such an act at a magnification of one thousand million times would be an awe-inspiring spectacle.” Michael Denton PhD., Evolution: A Theory In Crisis, pg.328
The elephant in the living room problem that materialistic OOL researchers are constantly overlooking is the 'information problem':
How we could create life: The key to existence will be found not in primordial sludge, but in the nanotechnology of the living cell - Paul Davies - 2002 Excerpt: Instead, the living cell is best thought of as a supercomputer – an information processing and replicating system of astonishing complexity. DNA is not a special life-giving molecule, but a genetic databank that transmits its information using a mathematical code. Most of the workings of the cell are best described, not in terms of material stuff – hardware – but as information, or software. Trying to make life by mixing chemicals in a test tube is like soldering switches and wires in an attempt to produce Windows 98. It won’t work because it addresses the problem at the wrong conceptual level. - Paul Davies http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2002/dec/11/highereducation.uk
Since immaterial information can only come from a immaterial Mind, then perhaps that explains exactly why OOL researchers constantly overlook the 'elephant in the living room' information problem in their research?
Life’s Irreducible Structure Excerpt: “Mechanisms, whether man-made or morphological, are boundary conditions harnessing the laws of inanimate nature, being themselves irreducible to those laws. The pattern of organic bases in DNA which functions as a genetic code is a boundary condition irreducible to physics and chemistry." Michael Polanyi - Hungarian polymath - 1968 - Science (Vol. 160. no. 3834, pp. 1308 – 1312) “an attempt to explain the formation of the genetic code from the chemical components of DNA… is comparable to the assumption that the text of a book originates from the paper molecules on which the sentences appear, and not from any external source of information.” Dr. Wilder-Smith The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity - David L. Abel - 2009 Excerpt: "A monstrous ravine runs through presumed objective reality. It is the great divide between physicality and formalism. On the one side of this Grand Canyon lies everything that can be explained by the chance and necessity of physicodynamics. On the other side lies those phenomena than can only be explained by formal choice contingency and decision theory—the ability to choose with intent what aspects of ontological being will be preferred, pursued, selected, rearranged, integrated, organized, preserved, and used. Physical dynamics includes spontaneous non linear phenomena, but not our formal applied-science called “non linear dynamics”(i.e. language,information). http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/pdf
H'mm, Let's clip a bit more, with highlights:
A new NASA study has recreated the origins of life, building the ocean's floors from 4 billion years ago as humanity attempts to understand how life started on Earth and where else it might be found. The study, conducted by astrobiologists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looks at how life began in hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. "Understanding how far you can go with just organics and minerals before you have an actual cell is really important for understanding what types of environments life could emerge from," said Laurie Barge, the lead investigator, in a statement. "Also, investigating how things like the atmosphere, the ocean and the minerals in the vents all impact this can help you understand how likely this is to have occurred on another planet." . . . . "We've shown that in geological conditions similar to early Earth, and maybe to other planets, we can form amino acids and alpha hydroxy acids from a simple reaction under mild conditions that would have existed on the seafloor," Barge added in the statement. While it's important to note NASA has not created life itself in the experiment, it does raise the possibility that the hydrothermal vents could appear elsewhere in the universe and be a building block for life. "If we have these hydrothermal vents here on Earth, possibly similar reactions could occur on other planets," said JPL's Erika Flores, co-author of the new study . . . . "We don't have concrete evidence of life elsewhere yet," said Barge. "But understanding the conditions that are required for life's origin can help narrow down the places that we think life could exist." The implications of the research are vast, especially as new celestial bodies are discovered, with some having the components to host life. In 2018, researchers discovered that Saturn's moon, Enceladus, has the "building blocks for life," after complex organic molecules were found on the natural satellite.
Notice, again:
Barge and her team were able to recreate the seafloor by filling beakers with mixtures that were similar to the primordial ocean, including water, minerals and ammonia and pyruvate that are generally located near hydrothermal vents. The mixture was heated to 158 degrees Fahrenheit, the oxygen was removed and they added iron hydroxide, or "green rust," which was abundant in the early days of the planet. The green rust reacted with the traces of oxygen that were left, which produced the amino acid alanine and the alpha hydroxy acid lactate. Some researchers believe these could combine (like Legos) and create further complex molecules which could then be a precursor to life.
Nor is this framing an imposition by Fox News. What was actually achieved, per the:
Abstract Iron oxyhydroxide minerals, known to be chemically reactive and significant for elemental cycling, are thought to have been abundant in early-Earth seawater, sediments, and hydrothermal systems. In the anoxic Fe2+-rich early oceans, these minerals would have been only partially oxidized and thus redox-active, perhaps able to promote prebiotic chemical reactions. We show that pyruvate, a simple organic molecule that can form in hydrothermal systems, can undergo reductive amination in the presence of mixed-valence iron oxyhydroxides to form the amino acid alanine, as well as the reduced product lactate. Furthermore, geochemical gradients of pH, redox, and temperature in iron oxyhydroxide systems affect product selectivity. The maximum yield of alanine was observed when the iron oxyhydroxide mineral contained 1:1 Fe(II):Fe(III), under alkaline conditions, and at moderately warm temperatures. These represent conditions that may be found, for example, in iron-containing sediments near an alkaline hydrothermal vent system. The partially oxidized state of the precipitate was significant in promoting amino acid formation: Purely ferrous hydroxides did not drive reductive amination but instead promoted pyruvate reduction to lactate, and ferric hydroxides did not result in any reaction. Prebiotic chemistry driven by redox-active iron hydroxide minerals on the early Earth would therefore be strongly affected by geochemical gradients of Eh, pH, and temperature, and liquid-phase products would be able to diffuse to other conditions within the sediment column to participate in further reactions.
In short, little more than the ultimately futile Miller-Urey results that were so breathlessly headlined from 1953 on, except that vents may make a more chemically plausible context for synthesis of a few AAs etc. Missing in action: an account of how one moves from chemicals in an environment that also contains disruptive forces to a self-assembled, complex and coherently organised, integrated, encapsulated system that uses alphanumerically coded algorithmic information and nanotech execution machinery to effect a self-replicating, metabolic reaction set automaton. The eye of evolutionary materialistic faith and its substances of things hoped for, not seen, are very much at work here, KF kairosfocus
ET @6: Apparently you and I don’t agree on what Dr Behe meant by “puffing up very modest results”? Remember the Galapagos finch beak issue? Such an microevolutionary adaptation was puffed up (extrapolated) to amazing MACROevo!!! There’s little (serious) evo (if any at all) in evo-devo literature. It’s mostly devo stuff. Maybe sprinkled with evo terms here and there. PeterA
ET- Oh Dr Tour has asked the question of life`s origin of Nobel prize winners, National academy of science members and so on and they did not know either but Nick Lane knows. All I know is that any time anyone starting from scratch tries to start the origin of life process all they end up with is a very small quantity of racemic amino acids in a goo and without an intelligent intervention in removing these amino acids this is as far as it ever goes , and even with said intelligent intervention it does not go much further. Most of us would never be gullible enough to swallow the how life got started type sales pitch in any other area of our lives and would see this guy is only stating the 3 of 4 positives and not mentioning the 3 or 4 hundred negatives., but alas our world view blinds us. Marfin
ET -Nick Lane should take James M Tour up on his offer of a free lunch and explain to Dr Tour how life came from non life through some evolutionary process, as Dr Tour has no idea how this could happen. Marfin
they can't show us how a cell self-assembled by series of lucky events (by unguided natural process).... Much bigger problem is, they can't assemble a simple cell from pre-existing components !!! martin_r
"Some researchers believe these could combine (like Legos) and create further complex molecules which could then be a precursor to life." alright ... so why after 200 years of OOL research scientists can't show us how it self-assembled ? Show us the LEGOS... Show us how !! I would like to see... after 200 years of research.... in 2014, Jack Szostak a Noble price laureate and very famous OOL researcher wrote: "Life in lab in 3-5 years....most likely in 3 years" (google it) ....and that was in 2014.... and they are still nowhere close... Moreover, Jack Szostak retracted his paper on OOL research.... ”Definitely embarrassing:” Nobel Laureate retracts non-reproducible paper in Nature journal" https://retractionwatch.com/2017/12/05/definitely-embarrassing-nobel-laureate-retracts-non-reproducible-paper-nature-journal/ So, please, stop telling just-so stories... show us how!!! We all are stupid creationists ... so show us how! martin_r
Second of all I’m not exactly sure how ID would be destroyed because the laws of physics still dictate how those work, And what were the laws of physics created by what was the first mover? So yeah yeah the chemistry is very cool but that’s my point the chemistry is very cool and very precise and very amazing too amazing to be honest. it’s hard for me to believe that our universe just happen to come with that set of rules that allowed that type of chemistry to just work AaronS1978
OK I am greatly confused here. So they created the origin of life yet they did not create life? Am I missing something here? This is an honest question Creating amino acids have been happening for years we’ve been able to do that in the lab under many different conditions organic molecules and amino acids. This has been a thing a thing for some time. So I am very confused at why this is re-creating the origin of life and it was somehow successful AaronS1978
Yes and no. Yes, of course there will always be the puff because all they will have is a narrative. No, the results are not modest, the chemistry is pretty cool and it is always good to know what the other guys are up to. ET
ET, I would repeat what Dr Behe said: They’re puffing up very modest results. PeterA
PeterA- If life arose from physio-chemical processes, then Dr. Behe's claims are destroyed. ID is destroyed. However, the books don't quite get there. He just Jedi handwaves ATP synthase into existence. But the chemistry of the alkaline vents is where I would put my $$$ if I was a materialist. It is interesting stuff regardless of whether or not it has any bearing on the origin of life ET
ET, Do those books destroy or at least weaken Dr Behe’s arguments? PeterA
This is all covered in Nick Lane's books The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life and Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution Both books are highly recommended for understanding the evidence for the materialistic version. Which makes me wonder if Dr. Behe has read them - Nick Lane is also a biochemist- so the evidence comes across on the level Dr. Behe discusses in his 3 books, ie the molecular biochemical level. ET
As Dr Behe said: They’re puffing up very modest results. Poor things. However, isn’t that taxpayer-funded? Are taxpayers aware of that waste? Can we get serious now? PeterA

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