What’s New in the Primordial Soup?

Posted on April 19, 2013 in Astronomy, Cell Biology, Darwin and Evolution, Dumb Ideas, Origin of Life, Philosophy of Science

The bubbling froth percolates with ideas about how life “emerged,” each new notion trying to outdo the last in vacuity.

Feel the power:  Wham! goes the meteorite.  From this, we are told by Science Daily, life got a helping hand to spring out of lifeless rock.  “While it is generally accepted that some important ingredients for life came from meteorites bombarding the early Earth, scientists have not been able to explain how that inanimate rock transformed into the building blocks of life,” reads the teasing caption, leading us to the University of Leeds, where the “power behind the primordial soup” has been “discovered,” according to the headline.  With bated breath, readers learn that “a chemical, similar to one now found in all living cells and vital for generating the energy that makes something alive,” (i.e., phosphorus) “could have been created when meteorites containing phosphorus minerals landed in hot, acidic pools of liquids around volcanoes, which were likely to have been common across the early Earth.”  That alleviates “The mystery of how living organisms sprung out of lifeless rock [that] has long puzzled scientists.”  Life surely would have taken that phosphorus to make ATP, right?

Replace the fantasy with a bigger one:  Evolutionists have this yearning for a universal tree of life that would unite all organisms in a Darwinian banner, Live Science explains, but we may need to abandon that “fantasy” for “a time before Darwinism” when multiple organisms “emerged,” giving birth to life “in a collective state.”  Sounds politically correct for the far left, but we don’t know the political leanings of the idea’s advocate, Professor Nigel Goldenfeld (U of Illinois).  “I like to think of early life as being more like an undifferentiated slime mold,” Goldenfeld said. “Such a communal form of life would have no meaningful family tree, because it is the community that varies in descent, not individual organismal lineages.”  If the probability for a chance emergence of one viable cell is astronomically small, Goldenfeld did not explain how to get many separate ones all sharing together.

What is it?  Before finding how life emerged, evolutionists need to know what it is.  It’s hard to define, Space.com said.  Astrobiologist Chris McKay doesn’t worry about definitions; anything made of “complex, organic molecules” interests him.  Like ricin? tailpipe soot?

The search for what is it:  The new UK Centre for Astrobiology launched this month, asking “Is there life out there?”  Already 40,000 students are excited about this new initiative, the BBC News says.  As is typical, the article points to Earth life and its tenacity for surviving extreme environments as evidence for life out there, but since no extraterrestrial life has been found, astrobiologists have to consider a negative answer.  “The discovery of many lifeless planets across the Universe, the discovery that the Earth might be unique as a place for life, would be an astonishing discovery in itself,” said professor Charles Cockrell. “It would be a very lonely discovery, but it would be an astonishing discovery.”  Clearly he was not speaking for the many theists, who expect an afterlife with their Maker and the redeemed to be anything but lonely.

Life older than Earth:  Taking Moore’s Law from transistors to genes and “doing the math,” two geneticists decided that life is older than the Earth, according to Live Science.  This, of course, implies panspermia brought life to our planet, displacing the problem of life’s origin even further from empirical study.  One of them is “99% sure it’s true” that life did not start on Earth but reserves that 1% to prove him wrong.

Hope in the dead salty soup:  A photo of the salty Dead Sea adorns a story in Science Daily about a Florida astrobiologist who blabs that 10 amino acids could have folded into protein-like structures in a high salt environment.  See picture of the Blaber on PhysOrg.  His notion, however, contradicts the “RNA World” hypothesis popular among other astrobiologists.  The headline brags, “How Life May Have First Emerged On Earth.”

Bleached Martians:  Hopes for life on Mars have been pretty much bleached by the discovery of “pesky perchlorates” all over the surface, from the poles to Gale Crater where rover Curiosity now rolls (see Science Magazine article by Richard Kerr).  New Scientist quoted the rover chief saying, “The odds of rolling up to a rock on Mars and finding organics are vanishingly small, but we’re still going to try.”  Your tax dollars at work.

 

Astrobiological enthusiasm is rising with the news that Kepler found several more “Earth-like planets” around other stars (see BBC News).  But another consideration is the number of factors that must be satisfied for life, as explained in the documentary The Privileged Planet.  Could those come together by chance?  Science Daily took a closer look at one curious example of fine-tuning: the requirements for carbon and oxygen.  “Now a team of physicists, including one from North Carolina State University, is looking at the conditions necessary to the formation of those two elements in the universe,” the article began.  “They’ve found that when it comes to supporting life, the universe leaves very little margin for error.”  They found that “more than a 2 or 3 percent change in the light quark mass would lead to problems with the abundance of either carbon or oxygen in the universe.”

Astrobiology (n.): government welfare for storytellers.  Requirements: know some some scientific jargon and possess the ability to look busy.  Mastery of the words emerged, could have, might have, may have, and possibly is a must.  The government is an equal-opportunity employer that does not discriminate on the basis of evidence, observation, or logic.  Darwin card accepted; applicants may sign up for one, but absence of a current Darwin card may trigger a background check.  Prior possession of intelligent design beliefs is grounds for expulsion.  This rule is enforced in order to foster the culture of storytelling astrobiologists have come to expect.

 

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