April 12, 2017 | David F. Coppedge

OOL Foolishness Is Out of Control

Most scientists working on origin of life (OOL) have lost all semblance of respect for empiricism.

Welcome to OOL Fantasyland! In this magic kingdom, you can make up stories out of thin air, and science reporters will praise you for your unfettered imagination. Life is so simple to these scientists and reporters, it just pops into existence where you find heat, water, or chemicals (see the Poof Spoof in the Darwin Dictionary). The very forces that kill life are actually its creators, to these people. In their dreams, life can emerge anywhere: deep underground, in a volcano, on a cold moon, or even in the vacuum of space. Need proof? Look at these recent examples of what the media puts out on a regular basis:

Volcanic Activity on Ancient Mars May Have Produced Organic Life (Elizabeth Howell on Seeker). Mix a little poison carbon monoxide with some poison sulfur, and presto! Life! Howell didn’t get this on her own. She got it from a working OOL pro:

“This is important from an astrobiology standpoint because these reducing anoxic conditions have been hypothesized as being important to the origin of life on the early Earth,” said lead author Stephen Sholes, a Ph.D. candidate in earth and space sciences and astrobiology at the University of Washington, said in an e-mail to Seeker.

This science-fiction article was reproduced verbatim on Space.com  and Live Science.

Astrochemistry: How life may have begun in space (Science Daily). To German researchers, the building blocks of life came to earth in the vacuum of space aboard comets. And those building blocks had building blocks: atoms! “Besides hydrogen and oxygen, the icy core of comets usually also contains nitrogen and carbon — all the elements needed for an amino acid.” An amino acid is about as far from life as rust is from an iron skyscraper.

Suns UV Light Helped Spark Life (Elizabeth Howell on Astrobiology Magazine). There was a time when OOL researchers were honest enough to worry about UV radiation destroying the building blocks of life. They worried about how to protect hopeful molecules in the primordial soup from the deadly rays. Now, “High energy, ultraviolet radiation from the Sun is a known to hazard to life, yet the energy provided by our star has played an important role as the essential driver of life on Earth,” Howell says. Seeing hundreds of copies of this article on the web, it looks like we might be the only one seeing the problems with it. All the other reporters just copy & paste it blindly as if it is “breaking news.”

First Oceans May Have Been Acidic (Weizmann Institute). What would Moses say? His promised land has become a hotbed of materialist imagineers. A “model” rigged by Israeli scientists “suggests that the early oceans, right around the time that life originated, were somewhat acidic, and that they gradually became alkaline.” Today’s animals would suffer in the conditions of their model, but they believe that primitive organisms just trying to emerge did just fine. For how long? “Millions of years,” the moyboys say, not the First Day. Any evidence for this? No; it’s all in models in their heads, with numerous free parameters they can tweak to taste. For cred in Big Media, they mix anthropogenic climate change into their soup recipe.

“We had an early ocean more acidic than today in which primitive life thrived and chemical cycles were balanced; but if we want to apply this insight to today, we have to remember that this balance of acids and bases was maintained over geological timescales — millions of years,” he adds. “Today’s acidification from CO2 is much more rapid, so this model does not apply to the short-term problem. Hundreds of thousands of years from now, the oceans will have found a new balance, but between now and then, marine organisms and environments may suffer.

A new idea connects the synthesis of clays and the origin of metabolism (Phys.org). Clays are like magic tablets on which the forces of nature draw life. Ever since the clay theory was put forth by Graham Cairns-Smith, certain OOL groups have pondered their powers. Now, some wizards at MIT and in Canada are just trying to get the clay to form with some zinc that they think will help the molecules gather that a cell will need for metabolism. “The outcome of this work has direct implications to understand the origin of life on the early Earth and other rocky planets,” they mumble, waving their divining rods over the clay. Getting DNA and RNA to take over their mythical metabolism — that’s somebody else’s problem.

Hunt for Why We Exist Turns to Weird Atomic Decay (Live Science). Before you can have life, you need a universe of matter. Fortunately, our universe fits that bill. Explaining the absence of antimatter has been a problem for decades. It’s weird, all right: “A never-before-seen type of radioactivity could explain why matter, including humans, exists today.”

Having documented some of the rampant speculation that passes for empirical science in this field, with its astronomical perhapsimaybecouldness index, let’s examine one paper that tries to seriously account for the origin of important building blocks hitherto difficult to originate. Eight Czech scientists write the following paper in PNAS: “Formation of nucleobases in a Miller–Urey reducing atmosphere.” Ah, yes: that old spark-discharge apparatus comes to the aid of the wizards!

The study shows that Miller–Urey experiments produce RNA nucleobases in discharges and laser-driven plasma impact simulations carried out in a simple prototype of reducing atmosphere containing ammonia and carbon monoxide. We carried out a self-standing description of chemistry relevant to hypothesis of abiotic synthesis of RNA nucleobases related to early-Earth chemical evolution under reducing conditions. The research addresses the chemistry of simple-model reducing atmosphere (NH3 + CO + H2O) and the role of formamide as an intermediate of nucleobase formation in Miller–Urey experiment. The explorations combine experiments performed using modern techniques of large, high-power shock wave plasma generation by hall terawatt lasers, electric discharges, and state-of-the-art ab initio free-energy calculations.

Impressive. But wait; didn’t critics decide that the Earth did not have a reducing atmosphere? They realize this; “The existence of a global reducing atmosphere on early Earth has been debated during the almost 60 y after the famous Miller–Urey experiment,” they say. Sixty years. “So far, the most accepted theories are inclined toward a neutral atmosphere containing an excess of CO2 with N2 and water vapor.” OK, so why are they proposing a reducing atmosphere against the consensus? Because they need one. In an oxidizing atmosphere, nothing worthwhile for OOL happens; and even if it did, UV energy and lightning would likely destroy the precocious material as fast as it formed. Free oxygen is also deadly to ‘prebiotic’ chemistry. And isn’t carbon monoxide a deadly poison?

Under carefully designed, unrealistic conditions, applying their minds to the purposeful goal of showing no minds existed, they did get “all of the RNA canonical nucleobases—uracil, cytosine, adenine, and guanine—together with urea and the simplest amino acid, glycine” in parts per million. This result came with a caveat: “However, we should note that the sub-parts per million level reached in laser experiments for pyrimidine bases is a threshold detection limit of the used method.” Maybe there was no signal in the noise. Of course, no ribose was formed, without which these molecules would be useless for life.

One more little problem. They did something that earned Miller and Urey a fair amount of criticism. All of the “discharge products” were protected and “concentrated in liquid-nitrogen trap.” No such traps would have been available on the primordial Earth. The parts-per-million desired products would quickly have become parts per trillion and parts per septillion as they diffused freely in water, and would have been exposed to the destructive effects of UV radiation, oxygen, and cross-reactions with  undesirable molecules formed in greater numbers by the same mechanisms that formed the desirable ones. And it wasn’t a reducing atmosphere, anyway.

“But at least they’re doing experiments!” we can hear from the screaming atheists. “What experiments are YOU doing?” Just applying some simple logic. If the experiments have nothing to do with the real world, aren’t they engaging in fake science? If reporters run with the fake science and report it, aren’t they engaging in fake news? Are atheists telling us that engaging in fake science and fake news is better than doing nothing at all? We hope not. Doing some things is worse than doing nothing at all. Bad logic is a great falsifier for pseudo-scientists going the wrong way. We wish to pull them back to square one, change their assumptions, and open their minds to consider logical alternatives that might actually be a productive use of their time. We wish to save them additional decades of irrelevant games in fantasyland. Think of it as tough love.

 

 

 

 

 

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