Suzan Mazur’s The Origin of Life Circus continues with an interview with David Deamer, a serious origin of life researcher. One gets the sense that previous interviewee chemist Harry Lonsdale, founder and funder of the eponymous origin of life prize, was wedded to the idea that life must come about via Darwinian means. And that the second interviewee, physicist Larry Krauss— the go-to man for the Lonsdale origin of life prize—is something of a showman, though Darwin’s man at heart. In Mazur’s third chapter, we meet a genuine origin of life research scientist in UCal Santa Cruz David Deamer, president of ISSOL (origin of life society):
Suzan Mazur: Freeman Dyson told me that the garbage bag world scenario probably went on for a billion or more years before replication kicked in. Do you agree?
Note: Here’s “garbage bag world” (metabolism without replication)
David Deamer: That’s his guess. I’m not even sure I would want to try to guess, but it probably took longer than a week. In the next 10 years of my research career I’m hoping to achieve in the laboratory what we would call a self-assembled replicating system. That would be a convincing version of something emerging from Dyson’s garbage bag ideas. At the start of the experiment there’s nothing there but a mixture of monomers and lipid, but after we put them through the anhydrous cycling process there are polymers present. The next step is to see whether the polymers can function as catalysts, and perhaps even replicate in some way. (pp 50–51)
Suzan Mazur:What is the importance of computer simulations in studying origin of life?
David Deamer: For one thing they’re so much fun to look at. Have you seen the great molecular animations on Jack Szostak’s website?
Suzan Mazur: No I haven’t viewed those. I’ll have a look.
David Deamer: Computer simulations stimulate the imagination. My brain, at least, can visualize things in the simulations that otherwise are just lines and letters on a printed page. Viewing three dimensional models moving around, obeying the laws of chemistry, Newtonian physics and the law of force fields really does help. I use them in my lectures, they’re a tremendous teaching tool. (pp 50–51)
And much more. One keeps coming back to this conundrum: If all that is needed is stuff that moves around, “obeying the laws of chemistry, Newtonian physics and the law of force fields,” why isn’t life coming into existence from non-life all around us? If that were the answer, we would certainly have discovered it before now.
Anyway, don’t pay for a course in origin of life studies; read this book. See also: Can we solve the mystery of the origin of life by creating life in the lab?
Suzan Mazur to Larry Krauss: Darwinism now marginalized In his response Krauss does not mention information, the vast amounts of which chiefly distinguish life from non-life.
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