In a recent edition of The Scientist , we were told that the last universal common ancestor was “a sophisticated cellular organism.” Yet many OOL researchers hold that life’s origin depends on eruptions, gushes, smokers, floating pumice, flowing mud, orbiting dust, or crashed comets. Need one be an ID sympathizer to see a disconnect between the process and the product? Would even a windup alarm clock be produced this way?
My latest essay on origin of life at Evolution News & Views focuses on specific unusual places where life might possibly have originated:
There are also black smokers to consider. Fossils of deep-sea microbes (1.43 billion years old) have been found around their chemical-rich “chimneys,” which host microbes today. Chemist Günter Wächtershäuser and others argue that the exotic conditions near such volcanoes once hosted life midwifed by metal catalysts, rather than by the substances or environments that we regard as natural today.
Some dispute the details, arguing that volcanic sulfur, floating pumice, or thermal hot springs played a key role. Critics argue that hydrothermal vent fields are too hot and too acid for a promising soup of free-floating amino acids. A critic (who advocates ancient mud volcanoes instead) charges, “It’d be like trying to make life evolve from hot Coca-Cola.”
Stanley Miller of Miller-Urey experiment fame told Discover Magazine in 1992 that overall, “The vent hypothesis is a real loser. I don’t understand why we even have to discuss it.” One difficulty is that the oldest known fossils are stromatolites, clumps of bacteria from 3.5 billion years ago, which suggests that life began in shallow seas, not deep ones.
But what if element-rich comets struck a location deemed favorable for other reasons? … More.
The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (origin of life)
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