Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Over the years, many claims have been made for arsenic and the origin of life


Arsenic is a chemical element as well as folklore for murder. Here’s another riff on the idea that it may have been a feature in the origin of life:

The researchers studied sulfur and arsenic-rich waters feeding into the salt lake called Laguna La Brava in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, which has many similarities to early Earth. Both environments were characterized by high amounts of ultraviolet irradiation, huge temperature variations, a lack of oxygen, and water produced by precipitation as well as volcanic exhalations.

The microbial mats that Visscher analyzed are purple in color, suggesting that they formed before oxygen levels rose dramatically on Earth about 2.3 billion years ago. The mats may help us understand the metabolic pathway microbes relied on to survive before cyanobacteria pumped huge amounts of oxygen into Earth’s oceans and atmosphere. Visscher’s team showed that the microbes in these mats metabolize both arsenic and sulfur. In fact, arsenic (in the form of arsenates) is actually better in terms of the energy it supplies.

Dirk Schulze-Makuch, “Arsenic and (Very) Old Life” at Air & Space

Good thought. But it’s unlikely that origin of life can be properly understood without taking into account the role of underlying intelligence.

See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips – origin of life What we do and don’t know about the origin of life.


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