August 1, 2015 | David F. Coppedge

Origin of Life for Dummies

Readers can decide if these news stories on the origin of life represent smart science or not.

Finding the origins of life in a drying puddle (Science Daily): “Anyone who’s ever noticed a water puddle drying in the sun has seen an environment that may have driven the type of chemical reactions that scientists believe were critical to the formation of life on the early Earth.” Wait; didn’t they tell us life formed at hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean? Doesn’t work; “the high temperatures are beyond the point at which most life could survive, and the robust availability of activating chemicals on the early Earth is questionable,” the article says. So watch that pothole on the rock carefully. Shazam! It works! Every spring, bugs and shrimp spring to life!

Making organic molecules in hydrothermal vents in the absence of life (PhysOrg): “Finding out how methane and other organic species are formed in deep-sea hydrothermal systems is compelling because these compounds support modern day life, providing energy for microbial communities in the deep biosphere, and because of the potential role of abiotically-formed organic compounds in the origin of life,” some Woods Hole researchers think. We can toss this idea out, though; the earlier guys just told us it doesn’t work. Think puddles.

Origins of life: New model may explain emergence of self-replication on early Earth (Science Daily): A subtitle reads, “Waiter, there’s an RNA in my Primordial Soup — Tracing the Origins of Life, from Darwin to Today.” Theme: everyone has a creation myth, so why not scientists? “Scientists, too, have long searched for our origins story, trying to discern how, on a molecular scale, the earth shifted from a mess of inorganic molecules to an ordered system of life,” the article says, admitting, “The question is impossible to answer for certain — there’s no fossil record, and no eyewitnesses. But that hasn’t stopped scientists from trying.” Some people say there was an Eyewitness who told what He did.

Trending science: Vitamin B3 may have been delivered from space (PhysOrg): Some carbon-rich meteorites have traces of vitamin B3 (niacin) at parts-per-billion levels. These “biologically important molecules” are normally found in sunflower seeds, peanuts, and fish. Could this mean that meteors brought these living things to Earth? or at least their building blocks? “[T]he results have implications for the origins of life on Earth, because many structures essential to metabolism rely on vitamin B3.” That reliance, however, depends on complex biological systems that know how to use this relatively simple derivative of pyridine (a carbon ring). Soot has more complex carbon compounds than niacin, but they don’t lead to life.

Building blocks of life found among organic compounds on Comet 67P – what Philae discoveries mean (The Conversation): Any body in the solar system that has H2O in any form becomes a target of hydrobioscopy. Now, it’s Rosetta’s turn, where the Philae lander found some organic molecules on Comet 67P (see special section in Science Magazine this week). “[N]ow we have learnt for certain that the ingredients for life have been sown far and wide through the 4.567 billion years of solar system history,” Monica Grady says with great faith. “The challenge now is to discover where else it might have taken root.” Science Daily, though, says that the molecules are only “precursors” of other molecules important for life, and the results were “surprising” to theories about the origin of comets.

Antarctic Offers Insights Into Life on Mars (Astrobiology Magazine): There are hardy germs in Antarctica, the thinking goes, so this tells us how they could exist on Mars. But Earth is jam-packed with life in every crevice; no life has ever been found on the red planet.

Why is life left-handed? The answer is in the stars (The Conversation): This overconfident piece makes it sound simple to explain why all proteins in life are composed entirely of left-handed amino acids. The answer? Simple, dummy; stars have deuterium, and some of those isotopes might make it into glycine (a non-chiral molecule), making them chiral. Then, some of those might catalyze other amino acids. We must hold the reader back from too much excitement. “It is an exciting idea, but many questions still remain,” the article ends. “It could be that the dust grain structure favours left or right handedness,” the author speculates as the perhapsimaybecouldness index rises. “Alternatively, both types could form but one might be more easily destroyed.” Anyway, we’re here, aren’t we?

There are atheists who, when confronted with the silliness that goes on in Darwinian just-so stories and in origin-of-life theories, respond that “Well, science is messy sometimes, but it’s a lot better than saying ‘God did it’ by some kind of magic.” If you are concerned about such responses, please read chapters 3-7 in our online book and ask who really believes in magic. And when the materialistic mythmakers misuse science with misleading terms like ‘prebiological chemistry’, ‘primordial soup’ or ‘the building blocks of life’ when they know darn well how complex the simplest life form is, should they not be called dishonest hucksters of a non-scientific mythology? Indeed; their cute slogans should be called by a more accurate phrase: the building blocks of lie. Give them the ‘f’.

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  • lux113 says:

    The articles coming out are great comedy – It’s too bad so many aren’t in on the joke. They literally are willing to accept ANY possible story for the origin of life except the way it actually occurred.

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