OOLishness: The Imaginary World of Origin-of-Life Studies
Why aren’t philosophers of science shaming origin-of-life researchers out of the science department? OOL theories depend on imagination, not empirical evidence, for their broad-brush conclusions.
Astrobiology Magazine promised “New Insights into the Origin of Life” but delivered only imaginary inferences. Researchers studied living archaea, assuming them to be ancient, then used “could” and “may have” to conclude that DNA came late in the evolution of cells. But then the article mentioned 526 genes essential to life in a simple archaeal cell, and 121 essential proteins the scientists knew nothing about (see online book for the probability of getting even one gene by chance). Added to that, one of the OOL researchers admitted that DNA without all its complex machinery is useless. “DNA by itself is a rock,” he said. “You need all these other systems to make the DNA become a living cell.” He provided zero evidence that those systems could have arisen from a primordial soup.
Another entry in Astrobiology Magazine promised “Evidence that Comets Could Have Seeded Life on Earth” (the word could being the tip-off for imagination). But the reader will not find the word evidence in the body of the article–only talk of a simulation in contrived lab conditions. Even so, the Berkeley team manufactured nine amino acids and a couple of dipeptides at best, not specifying if the amino acids were used by living cells or were one-handed (see online book). Amino acids by themselves are as far from life as individual letters are from a sophisticated book.
A third Astrobiology Magazine article asks, “How Did Primordial Cells Evolve?” (not “did” primordial cells evolve). This article used could 7 times and may have 3 times, with a smattering of other escape words like possible or plausible. The guts of the story, about whether bacteria can switch between walled and unwalled states, was the least of the worries facing the researchers’ imaginary thesis.
Science Daily teased its readers with the headline, “Untangling Life’s Origins,” confessing a tangled mess exists or has existed till now. The untangling operation, though, required postulating a “protein big bang” at the beginning. The researchers, additionally, used bioinformatics (an intelligent design method) to infer how proteins might have evolved. One researcher confessed, “The complexities of the biological functions of molecules are still poorly understood.” Maybe they should focus on understanding function before speculating about origin.
Could is the first word in a Space.com article, “Could Life Have Evolved on Mars Before Earth?” The imagination is sent whirring with such suggestions. As for evidence, all that was proposed was some prior wetness in a certain crater on Mars where the Curiosity rover happens to be digging. No signs of Martian microbes were presented. Speaking of a “tantalizing possibility that life may have evolved on the Red Planet before it took root on Earth,” this article again used its suggestion wand: “New observations by NASA’s Curiosity rover suggest that microbial life could have survived on Mars in the distant past.”
A story on PhysOrg borders on divination with test tubes acting as crystal balls. Many of us remember from chemistry class the mineral “gardens” one can make by pouring certain solutions into a test tube of liquid. The original source article at Chemical and Engineering News now claims that these non-living, abiotic structures “could hold the key to understanding the origins of life on Earth.” An editor of C&EN advocates “using them as “inspiration for origin-of-life research at hydrothermal vents.” Why? Because “Some scientists regard hydrothermal vents as places where life may first have originated on Earth.” Maybe staring at the minerals long enough will bring forth the desired visions.
If you are still dazzled by the “tantalizing possibilities” told in these kinds of articles, you must get over it! Deprogram yourself. Stop being duped. Science is supposed to deal with objective reality—that which can be observed, repeated, and demonstrated. All the “possibility thinking” you see (may have, could have, might have possibly, probably, likely, sheds light, insight) has to be jettisoned. It’s not science till it’s demonstrated. Yet how can one possibly demonstrate the origin of life? OOL divination practitioners need to invoke bizarre, unobserved conditions in some mythical “distant past” where processes that could never happen in today’s world “could have” happened. This is pure wizardry, shamanism, shame. Its fOOLishness built on the foundation of sand that evolution cannot be questioned. Do not be deceived. Be angry that such fluff passes for science these days.
Astrobiology Magazine is one of the most useless, stupid boondoggles in the federal government. It merely regurgitates press releases from other sources with “possibility thinking,” putting out garbage like this day after day with your tax dollars. Don’t forget that NASA’s Astrobiology Institute began in the 1990s with the hype over alleged microorganisms in a Martian meteorite, a claim soundly debunked in the years since. Like other useless federal programs, this one is hard to dismantle, but should have been first on the chopping block with the government as broke as it is. Astrobiology is a sham, with no evidence to validate its existence. Let the astrobiologists turn in their junk badges and go get a real job that can actually do something useful to help their fellow humans, like finding a cure for cancer.