Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Charles Darwin and modern science on life’s origins

You may think that considering life to have come about when lightning struck a swamp (or, plump this up with the impressive sounding scientific language of your choosing) is the stuff of the Victorian Era—oh my, why, I’ve never! That’s, like, so 141 years ago!

Well, no, no, no, no one believes that anymore as it was just a product of the thinking of days gone by. We no longer believe in life from a “warm little pond.” No, indeed, 141 year later we are considering whether life came into being in “hot little puddles.”

BBC’s science reporter, Rebecca Morelle, reports, “Darwin's warm pond idea is tested”:
Life on Earth was unlikely to have emerged from volcanic springs or hydrothermal
vents, according to a leading US researcher. Experiments carried out in volcanic pools suggest they do not provide the right conditions to spawn life.

As a side note; note what John Horgan noted about what Stanley Miller (yes, that Stanley Miller) noted about the vent hypothesis:
[Stanley Miller] calls the…the vent hypothesis 'garbage'….Miller does not like
vents-at least, not as the original seats of life. He notes that modem vents
seem to be short-lived, lasting only for a few decades before they are plugged
Moreover, he and Jeffrey L. Bada…at the University of California at San Diego, have done experiments that suggest the superheated water inside the vents-which sometimes exceeds 300 degrees Celsius (572 degrees Fahrenheit)-would destroy rather than create complex organic compounds. If the surface of the earth is a frying pan, Miller says, a hydrothermal vent is the fire…

And while we are at it…sure why not?:
[Stanley Miller] calls the…pyrite theory 'paper chemistry'…

[Miller] calls the organic-matter-from-space concept 'a loser'…

Miller…agrees that the field needs a dramatic finding to constrain the
rampant speculation…

Miller replies. 'I think we just haven't learned the right tricks yet,' he says…

'Running equations through a computer does not constitute an experiment,' sniffs Stanley L. Miller…

Miller…'You have a chorus of people with mathematical models saying there is no methane,' he says, 'but they have absolutely no real evidence'…

'I'd love to see the experimental evidence,' Miller says…

From John Horgan, "In the Beginning…" Scientific American (Vol. 264, February 1991, pp. 116-125)—see here.

Back to the BBC report:
David Deamer, emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of California at
Santa Cruz, said ahead of his presentation: "It is about 140 years since Charles Darwin suggested that life may have begun in a 'warm little pond'.
"We are now testing Darwin's idea, but in 'hot little puddles' associated with the volcanic regions of Kamchatka (Russia) and Mount Lassen (California, US)."
"The results are surprising and in some ways disappointing. It seems that hot acidic waters containing clay do not provide the right conditions for chemicals to assemble themselves into 'pioneer organisms.'"
Professor Deamer said that amino acids and DNA, the "building blocks" for life, and phosphate, another essential ingredient, clung to the surfaces of clay particles in the volcanic pools.
"The reason this is significant is that it has been proposed that clay promotes interesting chemical reactions relating to the origin of life," he explained.
"However," he added, "in our experiments, the organic compounds became so strongly held to the clay particles that they could not undergo any further chemical reactions."

The report also reports on reported life from Mars:
"It is presumed that life arose in a soup rich in carbon compounds, but where
did these organic molecules come from?" said Dr Max Bernstein from the US-based Seti Institute.
He believes the answer may lie in interstellar dust, and will be talking about the possibility that a comet or asteroid may have provided Earth with the raw ingredients needed for life…
Professor Monica Grady, from the UK's Open University, will explore the possibility of a Martian existence at the meeting.
She will discuss whether a Martian biosphere once existed by examining research into the carbon chemistry of Mars…"One possibility is that life really did begin in a 'warm little pond', but not in hot volcanic springs or marine hydrothermal vents," he added.

In light of the ongoing attempts to force the atheist Darwinian evolution origins of life the video below is quite timely. It is titled, “Atheist Darwinian Evolution Origins of Life.”

Kick back and enjoy the show: you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll slap your forehead repeatedly at some of the stuff that is still being put forth as science.

Dawkins is all up in there, PZ Myers, Peter Atkins, Dr. Seuss, and many more:

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