A friend writes to tell us of NASA-funded Astrobiology Magazine’s account of the ruminations around Harry Lonsdale’s Origin of Life challenge.
(See also: Winners of Harry Lonsdale’s $50,000 Origin of Life Challenge announced )
For one thing, scientists can’t actually work backward. McKay explained that Darwinian evolution, the dominant process on the planet, involves self-replication, a process only found in living things, and thus can’t be responsible for the original creation of life.
The other problem is that life itself has destroyed the evidence. As the planet has evolved over the years, living creatures have significantly changed their environments.
“What led to life has been lost in the long stretch of eons,” McKay said. “It’s been trampled on by small animals and children.”
Finding clues on the active Earth remains a challenge, which is why McKay is so enamored of searching on more stagnant planets. Mars, for instance, has changed very little over the last four billion years, so if life evolved there, evidence of its origin might still be present.
Maybe, but the case would be more compelling if we had evidence that there ever was life on Mars.
Why don’t these people invent their own life form from scratch and then see if it could possibly happen by chance in this universe? If not, they can take their pick, as to origins, between space aliens, a self-organizing principle still to be researched, or a higher power using resources beyond this universe – and plan their further research accordingly.
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