Intelligent Design Self-Org. Theory

Origin of life: A meatier theory?” Or just another theory?

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Over at Access Research Network, British physicist David Tyler asks, “Did meteorite impacts help to spawn life?”, as per the theory of the week:

The Scientific American report emphasized the tentative nature of the research: meteorites “may have helped spawn life” and “Did heat, pressure and carbon from meteorite impacts create biological precursors?” An astrobiologist is said to fear “that theories of life’s origin may never move beyond the hypothetical”. Astronomer Donald Brownlee found the research interesting but added: “If the body is too large, generated materials are probably destroyed by impact processes.” One of the authors of the paper cautioned that the meteorite-impact theory “is not ready to supplant the vaunted Miller-Urey experiment”.

Tyler notes,

It is one thing to generate organic molecules but quite another to label them as “precursors of life”. Life does not exist without biological information, and until abiogenesis research takes information seriously, it will continue to explore cul-de-sac avenues.

(Biomolecule formation by oceanic impacts on early Earth Yoshihiro Furukawa, Toshimori Sekine, Masahiro Oba, Takeshi Kakegawa & Hiromoto Nakazawa Nature Geoscience, Published online: 7 December 2008 doi:10.1038/ngeo383)

Yes, that is the point precisely. Current research models are looking for something that probably never happened and never could have happened: Random swish of chemicals gradually produces Altair that later evolves through natural selection acting on random mutations into a dual core processor. At some point, I am going to make a list of all the origin of life scenarios I have heard along these lines, but I’d have to take time off …

To me, the fundamental insight of the intelligent design theorists has been to apply insights from information theory to biology. The results were disastrous for Darwinian theory, of course – and especially ruinous for the New Atheism movement (Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, et al.) that depends so heavily on Darwinism as its creation story.

The New Atheists should have stuck to Francis Crick’s “Maybe space aliens seeded life”, if you ask me. That’s not disprovable. After all, I can be pretty certain that life didn’t happen by chance but I can’t prove space aliens weren’t involved.

It’s kind of like finding a dead guy with six knives sticking out of his back. The random origin of life people want me to believe it was an accident and the self-organization people want me to believe it was a suicide. Yeah really. But dismissing impossible hypotheses like that doesn’t tell me whose hands were on those six knives, or why. Depending on the circumstances, I might never find out, actually. It might be a cold case. But if I were on a coroner’s jury I could sleep soundly after returning a verdict of: wilful murder by person or persons unknown.

See also:

Origin of life: Oldest Earth rocks may show signs of life, in which case …

Origin of life: Positive evidence of intelligent design?

Origin of life: But is being greedy enough?

Origin of life: Ah, that “just so happens” intermediate series of chemical steps

Why should the search for Darwin’s “warm little puddle” be publicly funded?

23 Replies to “Origin of life: A meatier theory?” Or just another theory?

  1. 1
    apollo230 says:

    Francis Crick’s Panspermia proposal is the best origin-of-life proposal advanced by science to date because of all conjectures put forth it alone has a grain of commmon sense: life coming from life, not through spontaneous generation – a notion that was trashed by Louis Pasteur in the last century.

  2. 2
    GilDodgen says:

    The origin-of-information problem in the origin of life is ignored in all hypotheses for an obvious reason. It is insoluble in materialistic terms.

  3. 3
    Domoman says:

    What exactly is the problem of information for the origin of life?

    Is it that amino acids are ordered in such a precise way as to be extremely unlikely to form into any meaningful protein?

    Or is that even if you could get a protein there is no reason that the information within the protein should mean anything meaningful?

    I’m assuming it’s a problem as information (or life for that matter) doesn’t just pop out of thin air, but I’m not sure on the specifics of the problem.

    If O’Leary or GilDodgen, or anybody, could explain, that’d be awesome. πŸ™‚

  4. 4
    Barb says:

    “…the vaunted Miller-Urey experiment”? You have got to be kidding me.

    The validity of Miller’s explanation for the spontaneous generation of life from nonliving matter rests on the presumption that the Earth’s primoridal atmostphere was “reducing”, that is, it contained the smallest amount of free (chemically uncombines oxygen).

    The book “Mysteries of Life’s Origin: Assessing Current Theories” (which I believe was published in 1984) noted that if a great deal of free oxygen were present, none of the amino acids could even be formed.

    Two years post-experiment, Miller admited that “…we do not know that the Earth had a reducing atmosphere when it was formed…no direct evidence has yet been found.” (Journal of the American Chemical Society, May 12, 1955).

    Twenty-five years post-experiment, little evidence had been found to support Miller’s presumption of a reducing atmosphere.

    The reason for scientists holding to this presumption is explained in the book “Molecular Evolution and the Origin of Life”: “The atmosphere must have lacked oxygen because, for one thing, laboratory experiments show that chemical evolution…would be largely inhibited by oxygen” and because amino acids “are not stable over geological times in the presence of oxygen.”

    Circular reasoning at its finest. The atmosphere was reducing because spontaneous generation of life could otherwise not have taken place.

    The problem with the origin of life is not just explaining how the first protein and nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) molecules came into existence; it’s also explaining how they work together. If intelligence and advanced education are required to explain life at the molecular level, is is really reasonable to believe that such complicated steps occurred in some prebiotic soup, undirected, spontaneously, and by chance?

  5. 5
    Collin says:

    Domoman,
    I don’t think I can totally answer your question, but I can tell you that the information is not in the proteins, but in the RNA or DNA. One of the biggest problems facing OoL is how proteins seem to need the RNA to organize, and RNA seem to need proteins to reproduce. So which came first, the protein or the RNA?

  6. 6
    jlid says:

    The vaunted Miller-Urey experiment? See here.

  7. 7
    apollo230 says:

    If I were to choose between Francis Crick’s Panspermia theory and abiogenenis, I would choose Panspermia in a heartbeat. I would much sooner believe that the first life on Primordial Earth was deposited by meteorites bearing bacterial spores or by aliens than spontaneously generated from organic goo. I thought that Louis had Pasteurized science of the notion of spontaneous generation in the last century!

  8. 8
    Patrick says:

    While it’s nice to talk about generating information there’s a much simpler chemistry barrier: overcoming the chirality problem. Just this past week I read some research on this problem and everything found so far is still limited to producing a small excess, not the 100% required.

  9. 9
    Domoman says:

    Domoman,
    I don’t think I can totally answer your question, but I can tell you that the information is not in the proteins, but in the RNA or DNA. One of the biggest problems facing OoL is how proteins seem to need the RNA to organize, and RNA seem to need proteins to reproduce. So which came first, the protein or the RNA?

    Ah, that would seem to be a problem! lol For those wishing for RNA to come first it seems to have a very large problem. Stephen C. Meyer says this about RNA when talking about the origin of life, “[F]or a single strand of RNA to replicate, there must be an identical RNA molecule close by. To have a reasonable chance of having two identical RNA molecules of the right length would require a library of ten billion billion billion billion billion billion RNA molecules – and that effectively rules out any chance origin of a primitive replicating system.”

    So it sounds like OoL can’t hope for chance to solve its problem, at least as far as RNA is concerned (and I would have to say proteins as well).

    I guess there’s always self-organization. πŸ˜›

  10. 10
    TheYellowShark says:

    “I thought that Louis had Pasteurized science of the notion of spontaneous generation in the last century!”

    What Pasteur showed was that maggots didn’t grow spontaneously from rotting meat and lice didn’t grow spontaneously from sweat.

    He had absolutely nothing whatsoever to say about the evolution of extremely simple self-replicating chemical systems capable of maintaining themselves through environmental energy.

    Spontaneous generation != abiogenesis

  11. 11
    TheYellowShark says:

    “Just this past week I read some research on this problem and everything found so far is still limited to producing a small excess, not the 100% required.”

    Not true.

    Shibata et al. (1996) showed that it was possible to get a 93% enantiomeric excess from a 49.8:50.2 racemate. That was over a decade ago.

    Noorduin et al. (2008) got a 100% single-chirality solid yield from an initial enantiomeric excess of 2%.

  12. 12
    Patrick says:

    Sorry, I apologize for not qualifying my statement: I was referring to scenarios which occur in nature, not in lab conditions. Although I haven’t seen the second reference before, which can be found here. It’ll be interesting to see whether it’s relevant to OOL scenarios and thus this discussion.

  13. 13
    TheYellowShark says:

    Thanks for your reply. Since I have access to JACS, I will post the first and last sentences of the article in question.

    “The evolution of a single chiral solid state is reported for an amino acid derivative starting from a nearly racemic mixture of solid left- and right-handed crystals.”

    “Thermodynamics dictates that single chirality may ultimately be achieved over eons of time, as in a prebiotic scenario, even in the absence of accelerating influences. Our results demonstrate for the first time that the concept of attrition-enhanced solid-phase enantioenrichment may be extended from simple achiral salts to include biologically relevant enantiomeric molecules such as those responsible for recognition, replication, and ultimately for the chemical basis of life.”

  14. 14
    Joseph says:

    Neither DNA nor RNA are self-replicators.

    DNA replicates as part of the cell reproducing system.

    Also both molecules require oxygen. Yet free oxygen would prevent the formation of organic molecules:

    OoL 5th paragraph-

    In a reducing atmosphere, hydrogen is present but oxygen is absent. For the Miller-Urey experiment to work, a reducing atmosphere is a must. An oxidizing atmosphere makes producing organic compounds impossible.

  15. 15
    apollo230 says:

    Hello, Yellow Shark!

    Pasteur researched the origin of life. His research question was: did life come from inert matter, or from prior life? His answer was the latter.

    Now origin-of-life researchers come along and say, that life did indeed come from dead matter. Something about Pasteur’s blunt and clear verdict seems to elude them.

    Best regards,
    apollo230

  16. 16
    TheYellowShark says:

    “Neither DNA nor RNA are self-replicators.”

    Strange. Assuming you are replying to me, I don’t remember mentioning either DNA or RNA in my post.

    Besides, Johnston et al. (2001) found that RNA can catalyse the polymerization of other short RNA strands to 1088/1100 (=98.9%) fidelity.

    RNA precursors (adenine & other purine precursors) have also been shown to form spontaneously in aqueous solutions from ammonia and hydrogen cyanide (Oro 1961) and to be polymerized through phosphodiester bond formation by montmorillonite (Ferris & Ertem 1993, among many others).

  17. 17
    TheYellowShark says:

    Pasteur researched the origin of life. His research question was: did life come from inert matter, or from prior life? His answer was the latter.

    ==

    My last reply seems not to have been approved by the editors.

    All I said was that Pasteur showed that *individuals of modern (usu. parasitic) species are not borne of inert material*.

    This has absolutely nothing to do with the development of a simple system of replicating chemicals early in earth’s history.

    Abiogenesis has nothing to do with spontaneous generation.

    (There was more in my original reply, but I don’t feel like typing it out again.)

  18. 18
    Patrick says:

    Are you talking about comment #10? There was a delay but nothing has been deleted AFAIK.

  19. 19
    tribune7 says:

    Abiogenesis has nothing to do with spontaneous generation.

    Very true. Abiogenesis is not involved the spontaneous generation of life. What abiogenesis is about is the generation of life spontaneously.

  20. 20
    TheYellowShark says:

    Are you talking about comment #10? There was a delay but nothing has been deleted AFAIK.

    ==

    No, there was an additional reply to Apollo at post 15. I postfixed it with a comment that “There is a list of arguments that evolutionists are not supposed to use on this website, and there should also be one that ID proponents should not use. Abiogenesis = Spontaneous generation is one of them.”

    I would assume that’s why it was rejected.

  21. 21
    TheYellowShark says:

    “Very true. Abiogenesis is not involved the spontaneous generation of life. What abiogenesis is about is the generation of life spontaneously.”

    That’s a nice equivocation fallacy.

    “Spontaneous generation” has a specific meaning in the field of biology. It has nothing whatsoever to do with abiogenesis, even if you do (incorrectly) define it as “the generation of life spontaneously”.

    Scientists would stress that the line between early “life” and early “non-life” is blurry, so it is wrong to say that it developed “spontaneously”.

  22. 22
    Domoman says:

    Stephen C. Meyer stated, β€œ[F]or a single strand of RNA to replicate, there must be an identical RNA molecule close by. To have a reasonable chance of having two identical RNA molecules of the right length would require a library of ten billion billion billion billion billion billion RNA molecules – and that effectively rules out any chance origin of a primitive replicating system.”

    Even if one RNA molecule could form by chance I don’t see life forming from it.

  23. 23
    TheYellowShark says:

    Stephen Meyer’s assertion is incorrect.

    RNA molecules that replicate *other* RNA molecules have been found. They need not be identical.

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