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Netherlands sponsors major origin of life research project


From Suzan Mazur at HuffPost:

The Dutch Origins Center, a virtual project, has been led by Nobel laureate Ben Feringa (2016, Chemistry)—-keynote speaker of this week’s two-day conference. The project is a Dutch national initiative involving 17 of the country’s universities and institutes.

Curiously, Steve Benner’s $5.4M Templeton-funded Origins project isn’t represented, but inorganic chemist Lee Cronin—-who’s developing a “Universal Life Detector” with big bucks from Templeton—- will address this week’s gathering. Cronin, based at the University of Glasgow, has been attempting to make matter come alive.

One of most notable presenters at the event is astrobiologist Bob Hazen, who told me he is “very sympathetic to people who see echoes of biology in mineralogy”. Hazen explained his perspective to me at length in a 2008 book interview: More.

Some of us think that the principal problem is an impasse: Some researchers believe that life just had to emerge from physics. That is a very old idea. It was called spontaneous generation, and it made so much sense that people accepted it for millennia, absent a modern standard of evidence. Incidentally, spontaneous generation did not pose a problem for religion; people of all religions accepted it. The idea died only when scientists started to insist on a demonstration, which somehow never happened. That is usually a clue to the fact that an idea is mistaken.

The other idea is chance: Somehow, somewhere, the cascade of needed events happened and somehow survived entropy. But as ever more complexities are discovered, the bigger The Fluke would need to be, possibly beyond the resources of the current universe.

The reason origin of life will be a pleasant summer watering hole for academics for the foreseeable future is that we do not know much about information or how it relates to matter and energy. We thus do not know how huge amounts of complex, specified information become incorporate in life forms (and not anywhere else).  We do not want to grapple with that root problem by studying information as such. Everyone has his own Big Law or Big Fix to promote instead.

Harry Lonsdale.jpgMazur wonders what Harry Lonsdale would think of it all. Readers may remember Lonsdale (1932–2014), a self-made millionaire who privately funded origin of life research via a prize contest.

Origin of Life CircusNote: Suzan Mazur is also the author of Origin of Life Circus (2013), a useful introduction to the main approaches on offer.

See also: Chemist Harry Lonsdale and the Secret of Life

Is origin of life a fluke, physics… or just not a science question at present?


What we know and don’t know about the origin of life

I have spent many happy hours riding bikes in the Netherlands
Good for you. You should do it more often. Andrew asauber
asauber, I have spent many happy hours riding bikes in the Netherlands, Amsterdam (very bike friendly), Rotterdam, Den Hague, Brabant etc. Yes asauber the Netherlands is indeed, 'SO?????? rvb8
Let's see how they solve the problem of Spiegelman's monster. Or will they just hand-wave it away like most others have done... ET
Bob O'H- In your comment (10) you said "we": Multicellularity is a long way from OoL, so why would we work back from that? Perhaps you should ask someone working on the OoL, eh? ET
The Netherlands is SO COOL. It doesn't matter what stupid stuff they do. Andrew asauber
ET - ask someone working on Ool! Bob O'H
Bob O'H- Inanimate matter is a long way from the OoL too, so where would you start? Heck even replicating macro-molecules are a long way from the OoL. ET
Dionosio @ 4 - Eh? Multicellularity is a long way from OoL, so why would we work back from that? Bob O'H
rvb8- If they are as you say then they bare a bunch of gullible ignoramuses. Not one of the people you list has anything to do with the OoL, evolutionism nor global warming. You must be one desperate imbecile. BTW I seriously doubt the entire country is as ignorant and gullible as you claim. You are not the country's spokesperson. So perhaps you need to grow up ET
ET, I'm not sure if you are aware of what you have written. You have just insulted an entire country, of around 20 million people, by calling them a, 'bunch of gullible ignoramuses'. Did you intend this? My family came originally from Brabant. The Netherlands herself gave the world, Rembrandt, Vermeer, van Gogh, van Leeuwenhoch (described the single cell),Erasmus (the bane of the Church), Spinoza (the bane of religion), Delft China, the microscope etc etc etc. Your own ignorance is plain, and childish. The name calling, that is ID's typical stock. Can I guess your own nationality? Perhaps I could. rvb8
They support abortion, by a strong majority, support global warming research by a large majority (Holland is sinking), and they strongly support Evolution, and naturalistic OOL.
So they are a bunch of gullible ignoramuses. Got it. What next? A natural origin of Stonehenge research project? They would have a better chance at confirming that than they will for the OoL ET
The 'vb' in rvb8, is 'van Bakel', my ancestory is Dutch and I still have many, many relatives there. Most are practicing Catholics, but a few are practicing Protestants. Make no mistake however, these relatives bare little resemblance to the Catholocism of NEWS, or the Protetantism of mainstream Baptist, and other Protestant denominations in the US or UK. They are most accurately described, I feel, as humanist Catholics and Protestants. They support abortion, by a strong majority, support global warming research by a large majority (Holland is sinking), and they strongly support Evolution, and naturalistic OOL. Indeed UK, and US, Catholics and Protestants would feel most ill at ease in these very, very open churches. That this project is being sponsored by the Netherlands makes me very proud of my ancestory. rvb8
While they are at it why don't they sponsor an origin of matter project :-) bill cole
Why don't they try reverse engineering like they do in biology research? Figure out how to get the multicellular systems then go back to OOL? :) Dionisio
Nonsense upon nonsense. What a shame. Dionisio
OOL discussions are filled with pseudoscientific hogwash. Dionisio
OOL research seems like a waste of precious time, energy and resources that could be used to advance our understanding of how the biological systems function. Dionisio

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