Darwin's warm pond theory tested, BBC, 13 February 2006, Rebecca Morelle ...
[Continued from part #1]
"It is presumed that life arose in a soup rich in carbon compounds, but where did these organic molecules come from?" said Dr Max Bernstein from the US-based Seti Institute. [The theory "that life arose in a soup rich in carbon compounds" had already been discredited ~40 years ago in respect of an ocean (which presumably is what Bernstein is talking about), since that would be too dilute (see Bernal quote in part #1). This makes Horgan's point that "The origin of life ... abounds with ... exotic theories, which are never entirely abandoned or accepted, but merely go in and out of fashion":
"If I were a creationist, I would cease attacking the theory of evolution-which is so well supported by the fossil record-and focus instead on the origin of life. This is by far the weakest strut of the chassis of modern biology. The origin of life is a science writer's dream. It abounds with exotic scientists and exotic theories, which are never entirely abandoned or accepted, but merely go in and out of fashion." (Horgan J., "The End of Science," Little, Brown & Co: London UK, 1997, p.138)
He believes the answer may lie in interstellar dust, and will be talking about the possibility that a comet or asteroid may have provided Earth with the raw ingredients needed for life. [Apart from the fact that Bernstein's "life arose in a soup rich in carbon compounds" theory won't work (see above), the provision of "the raw ingredients needed for life" is not the main problem (although it is a major problem). As biophysicist Harold F. Blum pointed out over 50 years ago, the problem is not just "the raw ingredients needed for life" but the naturalistic assembly of those ingredients into a "living machine":
"The living machine is clearly not just a mixture of chemicals, yet there seems to be widespread belief that, once the proper molecular compounds were there, life would appear, whether on the earth, on Mars, or elsewhere in the universe. This no more follows, I may point out at the risk of being thought overly facetious, than that an automobile, 1962 model, might spring spontaneously from a mixture of all the chemical species from which it is composed. " (Blum H.F., "Time's Arrow and Evolution," , Harper Torchbooks: New York NY, Second Edition, 1955, Revised, 1962, p.178G)]
which would have to be immediately self-replicating (i.e. a Von Neumann machine) if it was not to die without offspring. But then that "poses problems that are ... difficult to formulate in our imagination":
"As the late John von Neumann pointed out, a machine that replicates itself ... offers a baffling problem which no one has as yet solved. In the present case, we are trying to understand how a self-replicating machine came into existence; this poses problems that are indeed difficult to formulate in our imagination, and should not be passed over too lightly." (Blum, "Time's Arrow and Evolution," 1962, pp.178G-178H)
which is presumably why most (if not all) origin of life researchers just ignore it!]
The researchers will also be asking whether life could exist elsewhere in the Universe. Professor Monica Grady from the UK's Open University will explore the possibility of a Martian existence at the meeting. She will discuss whether a Martian biosphere once existed by examining research into the carbon chemistry of Mars. [I have no problem if it turns out that Mars or once had (or even still has) life. However, as I have posted before, "I predict that if there is, or has been, life on Mars it will have been a single common origin that came from Earth (or vice-versa)."]
Professor Ian Smith, from the University of Cambridge, the organiser of the conference said: "Understanding how life emerged on Earth within 1,000 million years of its formation is both a fascinating scientific problem and an essential step in predicting the presence of life elsewhere in the Universe." [Indeed! But as Simon Conway Morris observed, "it still remains the case that the notion of an infinitesimally unlikely series of chemical reactions - ... a 'near miracle' remains the unbidden and silent observer at much of the discussion of how life originated" (yet "such terminology is effectively that of creationism"!), and that would mean that "what .... did happen in our Solar System may ... be either a very rare occurrence, or ... unique"!:
"In this context, it is surely interesting that Francis Crick can write 'An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.' [Crick F., "Life Itself," 1981, p.88] Crick is careful to continue by pointing out that the time available ... the diversity of habitats, and combinatorial possibilities of chemistry do not exclude life originating 'by a perfectly reasonable sequence of fairly ordinary chemical reactions'. [Ibid] More than two decades on from Crick's ruminations, however, it still remains the case that the notion of an infinitesimally unlikely series of chemical reactions -that from our perspective can be described only as a 'near miracle' remains the unbidden and silent observer at much of the discussion of how life originated. Yet, as Iris Fry ... reminds us, such terminology is effectively that of creationism. [Fry I., "Are the Different Hypotheses on the Emergence of Life as Different as they Seem?," Biology and Philosophy, Vol. 10, 1995, pp.389-417, p.405] Put this way, nearly everyone will ask that the now unwelcome guest should vanish through the adjacent wall, and agree that for all their differences (soup, clay, clouds ...) they share the common hypothesis that the steps from inert to vital must be those of an unbroken continuity. It would be an uncomfortable corollary if the series of meetings, interactions, and reactions of those few chemicals that led to the origin of life were little more than a series of fortuitous and happy flukes. If so, a scientific campaign for understanding the origin of life is not, to put it mildly, going to be straightforward. It is hardly surprising that George Wald wrote, 'One has only to contemplate the magnitude of this task [of making life] to concede that the spontaneous generation of a living organism is impossible. Yet here we are as a result, I believe, of spontaneous generation.' [Wald G., "The origin of life," Scientific American, Vol. 191, August 1954, pp.45-53] This quotation has become justifiably famous, but it is sometimes forgotten that in its original context there was a very strong underlying assumption that such a process of spontaneous generation could be possible only if there were enough aeons of time. As we shall now see, there probably were not, and to make matters worse what obviously did happen in our Solar System may itself be either a very rare occurrence, or, dangerous thought, possibly unique." (Conway Morris S., "Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe," Cambridge University Press: New York NY, 2003, pp.67-68)]
Professor Deamer said that his research, which is not yet published, will help to narrow down the theories about how life on Earth emerged. [Indeed! But what happens when all naturalistic "theories about how life on Earth emerged" have been eliminated? Would metaphysical (or even methodological) naturalists accept Intelligent Design or Creationism? Not according to Iris Fry (mentioned above by Conway Morris, `The decision to adopt the continuity thesis [there are no unbridgeable gaps between inorganic matter and life] is a philosophical one...and does not depend on the success of a specific experimental program, nor can it be revoked on the basis of its failure":
"What does one need to assume, as a bare philosophical minimum, to conduct research on the naturalistic origin of life? Iris Fry (Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science, Tel Aviv University) contends that one cannot assume that life came to be as a cosmic accident or near-miracle, a view held by Jacques Monod, Karl Popper, Ernst Mayr, and Richard Dawkins, among others. `Biologists and chemists who claim today that the origin of life borders on the miraculous,' she writes, `...suspend the scientific study of the origin of biological organization and create a barrier between biological evolution and the preceding stages of evolution, as well as between physics and biology' (p. 399). In short, she continues, they open the door to `Hoyle's teleological option' (p. 400), and despite their philosophical commitment to naturalism, imply `in fact, a creationist position.' Scientific progress towards a naturalistic explanation of the origin of life is only possible, Fry argues, if one assumes `the continuity thesis,' according to which (a) there are no unbridgeable gaps between inorganic matter and life, and (b) the emergence of life was highly probable. The continuity thesis is entirely a philosophical assumption, Fry notes. `The decision to adopt the continuity thesis is a philosophical one...and does not depend on the success of a specific experimental program, nor can it be revoked on the basis of its failure' (p. 393). To abandon the continuity thesis is simultaneously to abandon the search for a naturalistic explanation of the origin of life. Thus, philosophical assumptions and arguments, Fry concludes, go `to the core -- to the very 'right of existence'' (p. 414) of the naturalistic research program in the origin of life." (Nelson P., "Happy Biochemical Accidents Won't Do." Review of Iris Fry, "Are the Different Hypotheses on the Emergence of Life as Different as they Seem?," Biology and Philosophy, Vol. 10, 1995, pp.389-417. Literature Survey, Origins & Design 17:2, Access Research Network, November 14, 1996)
In other words a false naturalistic theory of the origin of life is always to be preferred over a true non-naturalistic one! That is as good an example of naturalistic "invincible ignorance," i.e. "a cast of mind which seems peculiarly closed to evidence. ... no amount of evidence seems to be clinching. ... the facts are simply ignored or brushed aside as somehow deceptive, and the principles are reaffirmed in unshakable conviction":
"There does remain, nonetheless, a cast of mind which seems peculiarly closed to evidence. When confronted with such a mind, one feels helpless, for no amount of evidence seems to be clinching. Frequently the facts are simply ignored or brushed aside as somehow deceptive, and the principles are reaffirmed in unshakable conviction. One seems confronted with what has been called `invincible ignorance.'" (Fearnside W.W. & Holther W.B., "Fallacy the Counterfeit of Argument," Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs NJ, 1959, reprint, p.113)]
"One possibility is that life really did begin in a 'warm little pond', but not in hot volcanic springs or marine hydrothermal vents," he added. ... [This sounds like a token sop to the Darwinists. What "warm little pond" would there be, that had a supply of all the necessary organic building blocks and did not have the same acidic and clay problems of "hot volcanic springs or marine hydrothermal vents"? And if there were any such ponds, why doesn't Deamer identify what and where they are and test them also?
I have added the Royal Society press release (with links to the BBC, The Times and The Australian articles) to my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, PE 22.214.171.124" Problems of origin of life locations ... Ponds, pools, lakes, etc. ... Volcanic pools"]
Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"
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