Friends mention that David Deamer wrote a book, First Life: Discovering the Connections between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began (2009), whitewashing the many conflicting narratives in origin of life studies, to create a general impression of progress. It was preceded by an article, “Calculating The Odds That Life Could Begin By Chance” (Science 2.0, April 30th 2009, claiming that a chance origin of life is statitically probable. It would be smart to read Robert Shapiro’s “A Simpler Origin for Life” (Scientific American Feb. 2007) for balance. Earlier this year, Casey Luskin offered a rebuttal:
The closest Deamer gets to admitting there are problems with prebiotic synthesis comes with his acknowledgement that “amino acids and other soluble compounds required for life have finite life spans in water solutions” and “the half-time of degradation is strongly related to the temperature” and thus “the high temperatures associated with the [hydrothermal] vents (300̊C and higher) would cause amino acids to break down into smaller fragments of little use for the origin of life.” (p. 34)
But then comes the sweetness and light again: he suggests that a cold origin of life could have solved many of these problems. However, Deamer never mentions that this would drastically reduce the number of chemical reactions that could otherwise increase the odds of the origin of life. Deamer instead paints a rosy picture, where Step 1 could occur under natural earth conditions.
Indeed. The difficulty with origin of life studies is somewhat like this: Scenarios A, B, and C are mutually exclusive, and each of them explains about 75% of the problem before stepping off a cliff. Scenario D may come along and solve the entire problem. Maybe. But the tangled pile of litter below the cliff is not clear progress toward Scenario D, as often assumed.
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