February 8, 2009 | David F. Coppedge

Panspermia Discounted: Life Had to Start Here

Some prominent biologists have pointed to a back door on the stage of life’s origin.  They have argued that even if the probability for the first cell was unlikely on Earth, life could have been brought here from space.  Francis Crick promoted this view; so did Fred Hoyle.  Most recently, even the ardent atheist Darwin promoter Richard Dawkins allowed room for this view.  In the movie Expelled, he told a surprised Ben Stein that biologists might be able to detect the presence of intelligent design in Earth-based life as a sign it was brought here by aliens – but he reassured him that it would have had to originate on another world by a Darwinian means.  Is there really a back door entrance for life on Earth?
    Leslie Mullins wrote on this for Space.com.  Her article includes a picture of Louis Pasteur; she described how he had disproved spontaneous generation.  The challenge facing molecules-to-man evolution is to get life started in spite of Pasteur’s Law of Biogenesis (life begets life).  Mullins pointed out that Pasteur and Darwin came to opposite conclusions.  Pasteur had experiments to back up his belief; Darwin’s theory only “implied” something that Pasteur’s results forbade:

Pasteur’s experiments and Darwin’s theory led to opposing conclusions regarding the origin of life on Earth.  Pasteur claimed that his work lent support to the belief that God created life.  Just as life could not arise spontaneously from inanimate matter, the first life on the early Earth could not have arisen without the aid of a divine creator.  Yet Darwin’s theory of life evolving over time implied that the first life on Earth could have evolved naturally from inanimate matter.

For those committed to following Darwin’s implication, Mullins explored the options.  You may not have known that there are several flavors of Panspermia.  She described the work of Iris Fry who had written on the history of the idea.  The 19th-century Panspermia proposed that packages of life were pushed to the planets by radiation.  Transpermia is the more modern version that arose after it was discovered that the universe had a beginning.  A third option hypothesizes that only the building blocks of life (e.g., amino acids) were delivered from space.
    Mullins ended up discounting these ideas: “life would have to endure quite a lot to get here,” she said.  “The conditions in space are extremely hostile to Earth-based life, which tends to die when exposed to an airless vacuum and extremes of temperature and radiation.”  What’s more, tests by European scientists have cast doubt that the material, alive or not, could survive the fiery entry through the atmosphere.
    That leaves one option: life began here.  She finds that not so implausible.  “Some scientists even question whether organic material delivered by comets and meteorites was necessary for life’s origin, since the early Earth may have had plenty of organic material of its own.”  Iris Fry takes that position: “I don’t see why life couldn’t have started here.”

Iris and Leslie don’t see why because they haven’t read our online book.  If they were regular readers of CEH, they would be filled with despair trying to keep hope alive that life could arise on this planet (or anywhere in the universe) without a Creator.  The gig is up.  It’s time to face reality.

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Categories: Origin of Life

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