September 4, 2015 | David F. Coppedge

Confusing Building Blocks with Life

Astrobiologists and their uncritical reporters continue to commit a logical fallacy regarding necessary and sufficient conditions.

Do ingredients necessitate products? If you have building blocks, can you assume they will assemble into buildings? They might just decay and rust. Building blocks are necessary—but not sufficient—conditions for buildings. In our common experience, intelligence is another necessary condition for a building, but even that may not be “sufficient”—you might need machines and muscle power, too. Yet over and over, the secular science news assume that “building blocks of life” will yield life without intelligence or directed work.

Fluid mixing and the deep biosphere of a fossil Lost City-type hydrothermal system at the Iberia Margin (PNAS). This paper examines a hydrothermal system empirically, but includes the hydrobioscopic suggestion, “it has been suggested that mixing of serpentinization fluids with Archean seawater produced conditions conducive to abiotic synthesis and the emergence of life on Earth.” An uncritical report on Live Science talks about “brewing up some life” at hot vents, continuing the power of suggestion: “the new study hints at how life could form from a nonliving chemical soup.”

Evidence of ancient life discovered in mantle rocks deep below the seafloor (Science Daily): More hydrothermal hope hype. Searching for the word “life” brings up the usual: building blocks of life, potential for life, ingredients to support life, prospects for life, hydrothermal systems on early Earth where life may have emerged, etc. Worst quote of all:

BM-DarwinBaloney-smThe study reinforces the idea that life springs up anywhere there is water, even in seemingly hostile geological environments — a tantalizing prospect as scientists find more and more water elsewhere in the solar system.

NASA Mulling Life-Hunting Mission to Saturn Moon Enceladus (Space.com): Are you ready to spend half a billion dollars looking for life at Enceladus or Europa (or both)? This article describes the imaginative missions NASA scientists have cooked up to travel a billion miles to Enceladus for the purpose of looking for life there, just because there is water coming out of geyser vents.

Using traces of ancient comet to explore the history of the Solar System (PhysOrg): Here you find not only the phrase “building blocks of the solar system” but the sales pitch that studying comets is important because “comets could reveal extraordinary insights into the origins of the solar system and life itself.

Comet impacts cook up soup of life (BBC News): With absolutely no evidence of skill in the kitchen, the waiter hands the reader this glorious menu:

BM-Darwine-smNew results show how collisions between comets and planets can make molecules that are the essential building blocks of life.

This suggests that the chemistry needed to gather the molecular ingredients for life could be more common than previously recognised.

Comet impacts may have led to life on Earth — and perhaps elsewhere (Science Daily): More suggestive phrases: building blocks of life, genesis of life, Early Earth at the time life first appeared, delivering the seeds of life to the early Earth, kick-start the whole process of life, etc.—based on what? The amino acid glycine in comet dust. Glycine is the simplest of the amino acids, yet they refer to it as one of the “complex molecules” necessary for life.

Meteorite impacts can create DNA building blocks (Astrobiology Magazine): Tohoku University astrobiologists claim to create “two kinds of nucleobases and nine kinds of proteinogenic amino acids” in “simulations” of a meteor hitting the ocean. “The results suggest a new route for how genetic molecules may have first formed on Earth.” Too bad they would have been so diluted in the ocean as to vanish out of sight, assuming they survived for more than a day anyway.

This is so tiring. It’s analogous to Soviet propaganda, played over loudspeakers day after day without let-up or contradiction. Glycine or a nucleobase is to life as a piece of PVC pipe or a brick is to a skyscraper. Can we please get some rationality back into science? Please read our book.

 

 

 

 

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