Is This Any Way to Learn About the Origin of Life?
Pollute, freeze, zap. Goal: “to better understand how life arose on Earth.”
With pride instead of shame, Science Daily promoted the idea that modern scientists in high-tech labs, brewing organic molecules on ice and zapping them with lasers, are poised to announce to the world “How Life Arose On Earth.” They can’t be faulted with inventing the story, because it came right out of a press release from Jet Propulsion Laboratory that was promptly picked up the NASA astrobiology publicity crew at NASA-Ames in their Astrobiology Magazine.
The convoluted tale goes something like this:
In a new study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, the research team provides the first direct look at the organic chemistry that takes place on icy particles in the frigid reaches of our solar system, and in the even chillier places between stars. Scientists think that the basic ingredients of life, including water and organics, began their journey to Earth on these lonesome ice particles. The ice and organics would have found their way into comets and asteroids, which then fell to Earth, delivering “prebiotic” ingredients that could have jump-started life.
The number of personifications in that story is astonishing: carbon soot molecules “found their way” onto comets, which fell to earth “delivering” ingredients that could have “jump-started life.” While true that organic (carbon-based) molecules have been found in comets and meteorites and interstellar dust, they are as far from life as alphabet letters from software.
The remainder of the scenario provides neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for life. It also contradicts all the other scenarios from many others in the origin-of-life field about where the molecules came from (e.g., volcanoes, deep sea vents, shallow pools); only a minority consider special delivery from space a valid option. Nevertheless, that paragraph was followed by an understatement of the year, spun as a float in the scientific parade of progress:
The various steps needed to go from icy organics to slime molds are not clear, but the new findings help explain how the process works.
What is the empirical basis, if any, for the experiments? The “organic molecules” hyped are nothing more than poisons:
The organics looked at in the study are called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs for short. These carbon-rich molecules can be found on Earth as combustion products: for example, in barbecue pits, candle soot and even streaming out of the tail pipe of your car.
PAHs were described as “strong, stubborn molecules” later in the press release. It appears they are doing their best not to come alive, but by zapping them with lasers, the evolutionists coaxed some of them to break up and become other non-living carbon molecules. The article never did get around to explaining what any of this has to do with the origin of life.
NASA-JPL and NASA-Ames are well known for pushing the poison-to-life myth – a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars. What have they learned in the 60 years since MIller and Urey entranced the logically illiterate with visions of Frankenstein sparks creating the “building blocks of life” in a completely unrealistic apparatus with unrealistic ingredients leading to irrelevant products? (5/02/2003) Nothing! How much more time do these modern alchemists deserve to be on the public dole?
If you don’t believe it, listen to Robert Hazen wax eloquent about the vision in the Teaching Company’s lecture series, “Origins of Life.” Hazen’s skill as a teacher and his enthusiasm for the subject cannot rescue him from the obvious conclusion after the last lecture that evolutionists remain absolutely clueless how life got here. He describes several competing groups whose theories each falsify one another, none of them confirming one another. A circular firing squad does not lead to progress.
What the purveyors of the OOL follies consistently fail to address in their haste to find the “building blocks” is the specified complexity these ingredients must produce. To visualize the problem, imagine jetliners dropping tons and tons of children’s ABC blocks into a hurricane. Building blocks (a misleading phrase pregnant with personification) are nothing without a builder. A builder can take a pile of building blocks and make something meaningful out of them. Random chance and natural law cannot. The meaning (semantics) of a sentence made out of ABC blocks is not inherent in the blocks; the sentence could just as well be written with chalk or with electrons on a cathode-ray tube. Without semantics, all this effort zapping icy soot with lasers is quite literally MEANINGLESS.
In the new book The Magician’s Twin about C. S. Lewis’s ideas on evolution (highly recommended; you can download chapter 7 for free), Lewis comments on the logic of causes. He argues that the cause for a railroad train like England’s Rocket requires a greater cause than itself: “You have to go outside the sequence of engines, into the world of men, to find the real originator of the Rocket. Is it not equally reasonable to look outside Nature for the real Originator of the natural order?” As applied to OOL, one has to look not at the ingredients of life, but for the superior cause outside the ingredients that organized them into life. Otherwise, one has explained nothing at all – except the ability of human minds to use their intelligently-designed bodies to zap ice with intelligently-designed lasers.