Animists in Modern Dress: Origin-of-Lifers
The spirits of the molecules give rise to
animated complex systems,
goes the new false religion
‘Origin-of-Lifers’ is our new term for the myth-mongers in the so-called “origin of life” community. Like convicted lifers, these captives are imprisoned in a worldview they cannot escape. They will spend the rest of their days in their mental jail cells. Dr. James Tour of Rice University has a key to let them out, but they don’t want his help. They’re content as Origin-of-Lifers and feel no need for remorse regarding their scientific sins.
For amusement in their prison yards, known as labs, they make up stories about dead things coming to life—not by a transcendent Creator, but by the innate spirits residing in molecules. The spirits animate their dead physics into imaginary worlds where molecules arise and dance around the fire.
Animism is perhaps the oldest non-theistic religion in the world. It used to be scorned in science, but has enjoyed a revival since the Bearded Buddha set an example. He envisioned molecules organizing themselves in a warm little pond. A narrative was set that sent the Origin-of-Lifers speeding toward Fantasyland, leaving Louis Pasteur shouting Wrong Way! in their dust.
For Origin-of-Lifers, the spark of life emerges in their imaginations. Unwilling to see the light outside, they make their own. Inside their skulls, their imaginations “shed light on evolution” causing images of the Bearded Buddha to emerge, cooking proteins and salts in warm little ponds. Life “may have” happened in this way; to them, that is sufficient motivation for their passionate faith.
Lightning during volcanic eruptions may have sparked life on Earth (New Scientist, 4 Feb 2024). Michael LePage starts us off with his new take on the Miller Myth. He doesn’t get amino acids from sparks; instead, he gets nitrogen. Don’t complain about his sermon, he says; without nitrogen, there could be no life. “Lightning strikes during volcanic eruptions could have provided nitrogen in a form that was needed by early life forms.” They needed it. The spirit of the Volcano arrived forthwith to provide it.
An analysis of volcanic rocks has revealed large quantities of nitrogen compounds that were almost certainly formed by volcanic lightning. This process could have provided the nitrogen required for the first life forms to evolve and thrive.
In this myth, life forms pre-existed and sought embodiment. They wanted to evolve and thrive. Fortunately for them, volcanoes emerged to spew out lava with which to embody the life forms.
How did life get started on Earth? Atmospheric haze might have been the key (Universe Today via Phys.org, 1 Feb 2024). Laurence Tognetti finds life in the spirit of haze. He calls on Dr Ben K. Pierce from Johns Hopkins to conjure up the spirits for him out of the mists of Hades (but a hell not too hot for comfort):
In the end, the team discovered that nucleobases could exist in “warm little ponds” on Earth during the Hadean geologic eon.
His imagination whisks him 800 million miles away to Titan, where he observes cold little ponds ripe for cooking. He hops into his mental time machine to observe snowflakes of life emerging:
“After all, early Earth was a hazy place, much akin to Saturn’s moon Titan,” Dr. Pearce tells Universe Today. “This is because over 4 billion years ago, Earth had an atmosphere rich in hydrogen, methane, and nitrogen, similar to Titan! What’s interesting about these haze particles, is that they are essentially biomolecule snowflakes, i.e., big aggregates of life’s building blocks bonded together. When these particles settled onto Earth’s surface, over 4 billion years ago, and fell into ponds, the bonds would break, and you could get a pond rich in life’s building blocks.
A shallow lake in Canada could reveal how life on Earth began (Space.com, 24 Jan 2024). A tincture of soda, a dash of methane, and some magic water heated just right: Robert Lea imagines how “Soda lakes may resemble Darwin’s ‘warm little ponds’ where life on Earth got started.” Indeed, the spirits are active in Canada. No one knew they had a taste for soda.
Scientists have discovered a lake that could be a good match for Darwin’s “warm little ponds” where life got started on the primordial Earth.
A team of scientists from the University of Washington made the discovery when they found a shallow “soda lake” in western Canada that seems to have the chemistry and conditions that a small body of water would have needed to facilitate the spontaneous synthesis of complex molecules that led to the emergence life on Earth around 4 billion years ago.
A press release from the University of Washington reveals that the lake is named Last Chance Lake. It’s not as good as nearby Goodenough Lake, where bacterial mats are thriving. This may be their last chance to solve the Phosphate Problem: how did the early Earth cook up phosphate needed for DNA, RNA and metabolic molecules? Just add soda. So, duh!
Messenger comets might be why Earth has life, asteroid Ryugu samples suggest (Space.com, 26 Jan 2024). Two days after that report, Robert Lea found the life delivery truck! It was an asteroid. “Messenger comets might be why Earth has life, asteroid Ryugu samples suggest.” The spirit of Ryugu had a message for Earth. Divination on the asteroid dust was required to tease out the message.
The team of scientists behind the new developments in the quest to find life’s origins found 5 to 20-micrometer-wide “melt splashes” created when cometary dust in particular pelted the surface of Ryugu. And within these melt splashes, the researchers found small carbonaceous materials similar to primitive organic matter.
Not just any organic matter will do, you see. It has to be primitive organic matter. The spirits drive the universe from primitive to advanced.
Energy yields for acetylenotrophy on Enceladus and Titan (Icarus, 15 March 2024). Most life wants to stay away from acetylene (picture an acetylene torch aimed at you). But not the Origin-of-Lifers. They like acetylene in their religious rituals. If it is found on a distant cold moon, there might be bacteria eating it!
Saturn’s moons Titan and Enceladus appear to satisfy three key criteria for life: presence of liquid water, nutrient availability, and metabolic energy sources. Consequently, these ocean worlds are the focus of astrobiology research investigations that aim to assess the potential for life beyond Earth. One plausible source of metabolic energy on these moons is acetylene (C2H2), a simple organic compound that is the second most abundant photochemical product in Titan’s atmosphere and has been identified as a likely constituent of Enceladus’ ocean. Acetylenotrophy, or the microbial fermentation of acetylene, is utilized by microbes on Earth in a number of environments. Here, we have calculated the energy yield of acetylenotrophy to be 69–78 kJ/mol C within the oceans of Titan and Enceladus, greater than the widely considered, hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis, at 25–65 kJ/mol C. Therefore, we propose acetylenotrophy as a potential metabolism on these moons that should be considered in future astrobiology studies on worlds with abundant acetylene.
Send your donations to NASA with the message, “contribution to help find acetylene-eating microbes at Saturn.” Actually, don’t. It’s quicker to just burn the money.
Cryo-microscopy reveals nano-sized copy machine implicated in origin of life (Aarhus University, 2 Feb 2024). With their intelligence and direction, Origin-of-Lifers at Aarhus made little doll-like molecules that resemble complex RNA copying machines. In their mind’s eye, they could see their molecule dancing in a warm little pond, ready to take on the world of biology.
The study provides an exciting first glimpse of an RNA replicase thought to reside at the very root of the tree of life. The currently developed RNA-based replicases are however very inefficient (as compared to protein-based polymerases) and cannot yet sustain their own replication and evolution. The structural insight provided by the reported study may help in designing more efficient replication mechanisms and thus get us closer to developing RNA world scenarios in the test tube.
Sing together, Hi-Ho scenario, the Darwin in the tale.
Impact Craters: Can they help us find life elsewhere? (Universe Today via Phys.org, 11 Jan 2024). The spirits are not placid, docile beings. They love drama. Wham! Bam! That really gets the action going for the Origin-of-Lifers. Prophetess Sarah Stewart at UC Davis explains,
“Our views on the relationship between life and impacts have changed dramatically over the past two decades,” Dr. Stewart tells Universe Today. “When I was a student, I was taught that impacts would sterilize a planet’s surface and inhibit the rise of life. Today, the origin of life community is calling upon impacts to provide chemical and thermal perturbations that would aid pre-biotic chemistry. Since collisions are so common during planet formation, the view has shifted to increase the role of collisions and possible frequency of life as we know it.”
Collisions form collusions with the spirits to generate the Building Blocks of Lie.
Read Colossians instead. Good for exorcising demonic spirits.