Why Look for Life on Mars?

The Mars Polar Lander cost the average American the price of half a cheeseburger. A human lander would cost the average American more — perhaps even ten cheeseburgers! So be it. That is no great sacrifice.

-JONAH GOLDBERG, National Review Online, May 3, 2000

This week, Seed Magazine is doing a special on extraterrestrial life in the Universe. They cover a lot of ground, including whether life would necessarily look like life on Earth, where the likely places are to find it, and endeavors towards that end.

And they approached me to write an article for them about Mars. An excerpt is below:

But the closest reasonable place to look for life outside Earth? That has to be Mars. Today, Mars is dry, desolate, and frozen. Its atmosphere is so thin that it would take 140 Martian atmospheres all stacked atop one another to give you the same pressure we find here on Earth. Why would we even consider a place like this to be hospitable to life? There are three pieces to the argument: imaging from space, exploration of the soil, and the theory of Mars’ history.

[...]

So finally, we come to the theory side, where we try to put these observations together. Clearly, from the observations of riverbeds, discoveries of unusual minerals on the surface, and frozen water just beneath the soil’s surface, Mars wasn’t always like it is now. It used to have liquid water, which means it used to have a thicker atmosphere. Like all planets at the beginning of the solar system, Mars probably had a molten core that produced a strong magnetic field, shielding it from solar radiation and keeping the atmosphere intact. That means water, water everywhere! On Earth, everywhere there’s water, there’s life. Was the same true on Mars?

You can read the full article here, and don’t worry, I’m not hiding anything. I don’t know whether there was life on Mars or not, but based on what I know about abiogenesis and early Martian conditions, I think there’s a good chance there once was.

So read the articles, and let me know your opinions! What do you think we’ll find when we finally do go and look for life on Mars?

Comments

  1. #1 Mark
    November 9, 2009

    Link broken for the article?

    Getting a 404 on the site and searching doesn’t find it either…

    Government conspiricy I think! ;)

    Mark

  2. #2 mad the swine
    November 9, 2009

    lol, radical liberal Jonah Goldberg, so eager to spend other people’s money on useless crap.

    Quite frankly, if there is life on Mars, given the innate human propensity to destroy and pervert other lifeforms for our own selfish desires, the best thing we can do for it is stay as far away from it as possible. We’ve already nearly destroyed this planet – the universe would be far better off if we worked on reducing our impact here and living in harmony with Gaia, than metastasizing our cancerous species throughout the solar system and destroying the environments of other planets, moons and asteroids in the name of ‘progress’.

  3. #3 Ethan Siegel
    November 9, 2009

    Mark,

    The SEED articles were supposed to go up at 8:30 this morning. They were a little late; sorry if it caused you grief.

    Mad,

    That’s sarcasm about “radical liberal Jonah Goldberg,” right?

  4. #4 Nemo
    November 9, 2009

    My feeling is that life is tough, life adapts, and so if life was ever there, it should still be, in some form.

  5. #5 mad the swine
    November 9, 2009

    Ethan Siegel:

    Yep, sarcasm. I thought it was hilarious that Goldberg, who spends so much time complaining about liberals stealing money from taxpayers to fund their pet projects, wouldn’t see the cognitive dissonance involved.

    (Then again, IIRC, this was around the time that Bush was promoting a manned mission to Mars, so I suppose IOKIYAR.)

    (Then again again, space ‘exploration’ has always been a conservative pet cause – recall prototypical neocon JFK and his insistence that putting men on the moon would somehow strike a blow against the Soviets. So much time and energy and money wasted that could have otherwise gone to helping people…)

  6. #6 Treppenwitz
    November 9, 2009

    Assuming we don’t find anything currently living, I’m not sure how informative finding evidence of life on Mars would really be. I mean, it would obviously be breathtakingly huge news, but how much would morphological data alone really tell us, especially if we’re talking about microfossils and the like?

  7. #7 NoAstronomer
    November 9, 2009

    What do I think we’ll find when we look for life on Mars?

    Nothing.

    Life may tough and certainly appears to very adaptable, but it has to develop first. I seriously doubt that conditions on Mars were ever favorable for the formation of self-replicating proteins.

  8. #8 Sweetwater Tom
    November 9, 2009

    I am skeptical that there was life on Mars. Earth had its primordial soup with water, carbon, nitrogen, minerals (sulfur, phosphorus, etc.) and lots of energy (heat, UV light, etc). Did those conditions exist on Mars?

    I am looking forward to more robotic excursions of Mars.

  9. #9 Richard
    November 9, 2009

    You’re line about Olympus Mons and the photo of Marvin on the surface of Mars totally made me imagine an episode of Loony Toons where Bugs might have poked Mars with a giant pin and it deflated and flew away from the Sun like a party balloon.

  10. #10 Andrew
    November 9, 2009

    I am skeptical that there was life on Mars. Earth had its primordial soup with water, carbon, nitrogen, minerals (sulfur, phosphorus, etc.) and lots of energy (heat, UV light, etc). Did those conditions exist on Mars

    To me, this skepticism is what makes the prospect of such a mission so exciting. Even if those “ideal” conditions [i]didn’t exist[/i] on Mars, to find that it was not a barrier to the emergence of simple life-forms would be even more exciting than finding life on another Earth-like planet.

    It’s a little like the sorts of logic puzzles where in order to find the correct answer, you need to try to disprove your assumptions instead of trying to confirm them. (http://www.skepdic.com/refuge/ctlessons/lesson3.html)

    At any rate, my answer (as is usually my answer to anything of the form “Should we do X in space?”) is “Yes, immediately, if it’s not possible to do it even sooner.”

  11. #11 Thomas
    November 9, 2009

    If we find life on Mars the most interesting question IMHO is whether or not it is related to us. It is possible that life can survive in rocks ejected by meteorite impacts and thus be transported between planets.

    For a given amount of money I also think we will get more results if we use them on unmanned probes. If we are looking for life this is even more true since the risk of contamination is a lot lower.

  12. #12 José
    November 9, 2009

    I think there’s probably life on mars eking out a meager existence, and it’s the same stuff we find on earth. I’m guessing that since earth is peppered with martian meteorites, mars is probably peppered with many earth meteorites, and it seems unlikely that no microbes could have ever survived the journey and taken a foothold.

  13. #13 daedalus2u
    November 9, 2009

    Everyone needs to remember that there is lots of life on Earth that is many km underground. There are many chemoautotrophic organisms that utilize inorganic chemicals as sources of energy, H2, Fe (metal), Fe2+, S, NH3, CH4, nitrite, and so on. Many of these compounds are present on Mars, CH4 has been measured in the atmosphere, nitrates have been found in the soil, and ground water with nitrate will be reduced to ammonia by hot basalt. The biomass of organisms using chemoautotrophic metabolism may even exceed that of organisms utilizing photosynthesis. The chemoautotrophic biosphere extends in depth to where the temperature is ~120 degrees C or even slightly hotter. The first organisms on Earth were most likely chemoautotrophic. Photosynthesis is quite complex and difficult and had to occur later.

    The most interesting aspects of Martian life (if there is any), is how is it related to Earth life (if it is). All life on Earth has a last common ancestor.

    We really need to be extremely careful to not contaminate Mars before we find out if there is non-Earth-derived life there. If we contaminate it before we exhaustively study it, then the opportunity to do so will be lost forever. We might never have the opportunity to study a second example of independent abiogenesis. Maybe there is another example on Europa, or maybe one on Enceladus.

  14. #14 andy
    November 9, 2009

    Perhaps a more interesting option would be to go search for life on Venus. Nice match to Earth’s temperature, pressure and gravity if you stay 50 km above the surface, easier to get to than Mars… plus you’ve got a rather more substantial atmosphere to defend against space radiation and meteorites. It’s the only planet in the inner solar system other than Earth where you’ve got sunlight and liquid in the same place (admittedly the liquid is in the form of droplets of sulphuric acid, but nowhere’s perfect). There’s also lightning and ultraviolet to drive interesting chemistry in the atmosphere. Definitely worth a balloon mission or two I think. And hey, if you don’t find life you can always claim you were testing the feasibility of balloon missions to other worlds, like Titan for instance.

  15. #15 Anonymous Coward
    November 9, 2009

    Like #8, I’d bet against there having been life on mars (assuming even odds on the bet. But I’m certainly with Ethan (and #’s 10, 11, etc) that we should look for it.

    But as Bob Park always points out, the possibility of discovering life on Mars makes it all the more important that we DON’T send manned missions, what with the increased risk of contaminating our measurements / the planet.

  16. #16 doug l
    November 9, 2009

    Nice article, Ethan. Well put.
    My suspicions, which are shared by a number of exo-biologists such as that guy from NASA or JPL Chris McKay who seems to be on almost every serious TVshow, and quoted in almost every magazine article about the potential for life on Mars, is that if it is there, it is likely to be found living interstitially underground as chemo-syntesizing lifeforms, which according to some is where the most of the life on earth is actually located, if we’re talking strictly volume.
    I can’t recall exactly how it was determined exactly or in just what order, but I life’s sheer ubiquitous quantity presented to me once,volumetrically, sorta like: if you could take all the life on the planet that we can see with our eyes, and put it into one bucket, it would have to be a pretty big bucket the dimensions of which I’ve forgotten but which were gigantic compared to the human scale of things, but that bucket would be dwarfed by the volume of life we can’t see (microbials)on land in the ocean, which in turn would be dwarfed by viruses in the ocean, which in turn would be dwarfed by a bigger bucket of all the aeolean plankton living dispersed in our atmoshpere, which in turn would be further dwarfed by the living material that lives growing on all the hot wet chemically rich surfaces along all the cracked rocky material of the crust down to tens of thousands of feet in the most incredibly hostile (to us) environments, metabolizing chemically active fluids filled with nutrients that had been moving as it interacted with water, whick wells up in the cracks of the crustal rocks in an environment which has remained almost unchanged for billions of years, having adapted (some say originated in) what for them is the ideal stable environment, surviving even major impact events over the eons..or something to that effect, with numbers that, when laid out like that, simply stagger our human understanding of what we even mean when we are discussing living matter as we experience it all around us.
    One of Freeman Dyson’s suggestions was that we might wish to examine the Oort cloud sings of life as indicated by some organized patterns of dust looking for speculative/hypothetical life-forms that might subsist in colonies using minute but abundant crystalline reflective surfaces to act like focusing lenses to concentrate what scant energy is out there so that it would be dense enough to support some kind of as yet unimagined life process, similar to the way some little organisms actually are seem to do in the Antarctic Dry Valleys where ice crystals themselves, lodged in with quartz crystals and such, during the relatively brief but constant sunlight of summer there, act as tiny lenses to warm a few little spaces between translucent grains and that create just enough moisture to support these little alge’s brief metabolic and reproductive activity.
    So, should we look for life on Mars? For that matter, should we be looking in comets and their dust for evidence of Panspermia? Or old chunks of crust from some ancient rocky planet that once held life but has since been torn apart by impacts billions and billions of years ago and now wait in the near zero Kelvin temps of space? And what difference would it make anyway? We’re curious monkeys and the curiousity about it seem almost like an instinct that just will not be ingored for long and so it has compelled us to become the human civilization we are for better or, depending on your perspective, for worse. I hope we do, and really can’t imagine us not doing it, and think we inevitably will, but until we move from launch systems based on archaic balistic missiles technology and move towards some kind of other launch system such as electromagnetic mass driving sleds that will put massive stuff like fuel, water, shielding that can stand the high g-forces when accelerated fast enough to fall into low earth orbit where cost efficient space taxis, like Bert Rutan’s recent sub-orbital space plane concepts are already being considered as a viable alternative to the shuttle for human transport to the space station or to service obiting satellites, then remotely operating vehicles seem to be the way to get the baseline of information relevant to our current notions of potential life, as well as the other realms, like geology, atmoshperics, impact history, and any other interesting systems that we already know a planet like Mars has.
    OK…back to my meds.

  17. #17 David Mathews
    November 9, 2009

    * “I don’t know whether there was life on Mars or not, but based on what I know about abiogenesis … ”

    Given that science hasn’t yet explained or experimentally verified any theory regarding abiogenesis, I suspect that you really don’t know enough about abiogenesis to claim that life originated on Mars.

    Desperation and blind faith aren’t sufficient reasons to accept abiogenesis as legitimate. If the origin of life was a simple, natural thing it would follow quite reasonably that scientists could reproduce the event within the controlled environment of a lab.

    Until science verifies that abiogenesis can occur once it is just as reasonable to conclude that abiogenesis is impossible.

  18. #18 Nathan Myers
    November 10, 2009

    My prediction: there is life on Mars, but it’s miles beneath the surface and leaves no accessible trace at the surface.

    People will get tired of NASA always hyping life this, life that, and sour on the whole exploration business. If we’d gone to the asteroids, instead, and talked about what was really there (cubic miles of purified metal!) instead of bullshit pipe dreams, the public would stay with us on the project.

  19. #19 Treppenwitz
    November 10, 2009

    If the origin of life was a simple, natural thing it would follow quite reasonably that scientists could reproduce the event within the controlled environment of a lab.

    Until science verifies that abiogenesis can occur once it is just as reasonable to conclude that abiogenesis is impossible.

    Well, we’ve got three options:
    1. Life has always existed
    2. Life was created by something that has always existed
    3. Life can arise from a nonliving starting point
    Option 1 is ruled out by what we know about the conditions of the early universe. Option 2 is some flavor of creationism, the implausibility of which has been thoroughly covered on ScienceBlogs and elsewhere. That leaves us with option 3. Occam’s razor makes short work of this problem.
    As for the objection that we have not yet created life from scratch in the lab, you need to maintain a sense of scale. An event that is unlikely at the scale of an entire planet over the course of a billion years is all but impossible at the scale of a laboratory over the course of a research grant. Nevertheless, we have observed what were likely important milestones in abiogenesis, like the formation of amino acids from simpler compounds and organic molecules that can catalyze their own synthesis.

  20. #20 David Mathews
    November 10, 2009

    Hello Treppenwitz,

    * “Option 1 is ruled out by what we know about the conditions of the early universe. Option 2 is some flavor of creationism, the implausibility of which has been thoroughly covered on ScienceBlogs and elsewhere. That leaves us with option 3. Occam’s razor makes short work of this problem. ”

    The above isn’t a legitimate scientific argument. Perhaps it might constitute a legitimate philosophical argument for those who desperately need to justify their blind faith by an appeal to their own atheism, but it is not a valid example of scientific reasoning.

    * “As for the objection that we have not yet created life from scratch in the lab, you need to maintain a sense of scale. An event that is unlikely at the scale of an entire planet over the course of a billion years is all but impossible at the scale of a laboratory over the course of a research grant. ”

    Here is a silly and obviously flawed argument. An analogy: It is extremely unlikely for 200 pounds to travel from a planet to its moon within the scale of a billion years yet somehow NASA did land a man on the moon.

    Which is to say, scientific experiments don’t rely exclusively upon blind chance. Scientific experiments are directed by intelligence and for this reason scientists can verify and validate otherwise unlikely processes.

    The problem with abiogenesis is much bigger than the failure of blind chance producing life from non-life within a laboratory. Abiogenesis also fails when intelligent scientists attempt to create life from non-life in a lab.

    Since this is the case abiogenesis is a matter of blind faith among those who believe that it has occurred not merely once but many times throughout the Universe.

    * “Nevertheless, we have observed what were likely important milestones in abiogenesis, like the formation of amino acids from simpler compounds and organic molecules that can catalyze their own synthesis. ”

    Amino acids aren’t life. Abiogenesis’s problem is that scientists don’t know how it began, how it ended, nor any of the steps in between.

  21. #21 Anita
    November 10, 2009

    David:

    Desperation and blind faith aren’t sufficient reasons to accept abiogenesis as legitimate.

    I agree. But most people use neither desperation nor blind faith as reasons for accepting abiogenesis as a legitimate possibility for the origin of life. The reason for accepting it as a possibility is simple: It is a hypothesis of a mechanical, natural process which has physical plausibility.

    Until science verifies that abiogenesis can occur once it is just as reasonable to conclude that abiogenesis is impossible.

    This depends on what you class as reasonable. I don’t think it’s reasonable to conclude that anything’s impossible unless you’ve got solid theories or evidence that contradict it. If you conclude that it’s impossible, then you’ll be unlikely to try and find out if it is possible. The trick is to start off with no preconceived notions of whether it’s possible or not.

    Abiogenesis also fails when intelligent scientists attempt to create life from non-life in a lab. Since this is the case abiogenesis is a matter of blind faith…

    This doesn’t make any sense at all. Scientists have not managed to find the exact right combination which according to the hypothesis happened to come together once to create life. This means that those who still accept that a right combination could be out there are doing so on blind faith? We’re not talking about a detailed, fleshed-out story here. Accepting abiogenesis as possible is merely accepting that the right combination could exist. If it does, the number of possible combinations is huge, and it hardly seems surprising that scientists haven’t found the right one yet.

    What you need to understand is that there is a difference between accepting something as true (based on insufficient evidence, or blind faith as you like to call it) and accepting something as possible (based on that same insufficient evidence). The first is unreasonable, the second is perfectly acceptable for the purposes of science. In the same way, accepting something as false or impossible based on insufficient evidence is also unreasonable.

    Abiogenesis’s problem is that scientists don’t know how it began, how it ended, nor any of the steps in between.

    This is not a problem of the hypothesis, this is an invitation to find out more.

  22. #22 David Mathews
    November 10, 2009

    Hello Anita,

    * “But most people use neither desperation nor blind faith as reasons for accepting abiogenesis as a legitimate possibility for the origin of life. The reason for accepting it as a possibility is simple: It is a hypothesis of a mechanical, natural process which has physical plausibility. ”

    It is a hypotheses lacking a beginning, middle and end. To consider such a process “natural … plausible” differs very little from blind faith.

    * “I don’t think it’s reasonable to conclude that anything’s impossible unless you’ve got solid theories or evidence that contradict it. If you conclude that it’s impossible, then you’ll be unlikely to try and find out if it is possible. ”

    You seem to forget that science has spent the last 150 years investigating this question, beginning with Darwin’s warm little pond. Science has investigated the origin of life issue and has found only dead ends.

    My objection to abiogenesis relates to this failure of science.

    * “Scientists have not managed to find the exact right combination which according to the hypothesis happened to come together once to create life. This means that those who still accept that a right combination could be out there are doing so on blind faith? ”

    Science hasn’t merely failed to find “the exact right combination” … it has failed to find any combination at all. Abiogenesis is a scientific theory without beginning, middle or end. Science has went searching and found nothing.

    * “What you need to understand is that there is a difference between accepting something as true (based on insufficient evidence, or blind faith as you like to call it) and accepting something as possible (based on that same insufficient evidence). ”

    Okay, let me cut through all the philosophical mumbo-jumbo contained in the above:

    From the standpoint of observation and experimentation, abiogenesis remains impossible. Until science provides either observations or experimental verification, abiogenesis must always remain impossible.

    Blind faith in abiogenesis is about as rational as blind faith in God. Philosophical necessity compels both beliefs, not science.

  23. #23 Anita
    November 10, 2009

    David, my main problems with what you’re saying is your use of ‘blind faith’ and ‘impossible’. My point is that accepting abiogenesis as a possibility is nothing to do with blind faith. Blind faith is to do with belief, hypothesis has nothing to do with belief.

    I will rewrite the philosophical mumbo-jumbo to make it easier for you to read:
    What you need to understand is that there is a difference between accepting something as true and accepting something as possible.

    What exists is a lack of evidence (and not a complete lack, as Treppenwitz said: the formation of amino acids from simpler compounds and organic molecules that can catalyze their own synthesis). There doesn’t exist any contradictory evidence.

    The 150 years of investigation is not contradictory evidence. After all, we’re talking about something which has happened once to our knowledge in 14 billion years. 150 is to 14 billion as 1 minute is to 180 years.

    To class something as impossible before you’ve got sufficient reason to do so (as I said, solid contradictory evidence or theory) is a mistake, because it stifles further investigation.

  24. #24 David Mathews
    November 10, 2009

    Hello Anita,

    * “I will rewrite the philosophical mumbo-jumbo to make it easier for you to read:
    What you need to understand is that there is a difference between accepting something as true and accepting something as possible. ”

    Well, that’s just ironic, because I’m presently watching a documentary about ancient aliens on the so-called History Channel. Do you accept such stories as possible? The evidence on behalf of ancient aliens is much more abundant than evidence on behalf of abiogenesis.

    * “What exists is a lack of evidence (and not a complete lack … ”

    You seem to completely overlook the Grand Canyon scale gap between amino acids and life. It is sort of like pointing to silicon dioxide and claiming that Nature could generate intergrated circuit chips by natural means without the intervention of intelligence.

    Except, of course, it is possible to verify that an intelligence can create integrated circuit chips whereas abiogenesis remains impossible even with the intervention of scientists.

    * “The 150 years of investigation is not contradictory evidence. After all, we’re talking about something which has happened once to our knowledge in 14 billion years. ”

    You are comparing apples to oranges. It takes Nature a long time to make a diamond but not quite so long for scientists to create a diamond in the lab.

    Time is an irrelevant factor when intelligence intervenes. The problem with abiogenesis is that intelligent intervention hasn’t produced scientific validation so the proponents of the theory appeal to time as their escape clause from the demand for actual physical evidence of possibility.

    * “To class something as impossible before you’ve got sufficient reason to do so (as I said, solid contradictory evidence or theory) is a mistake, because it stifles further investigation. ”

    If you want to grant science an infinite amount of time to validate your own blind faith you are very similar to the theists who continue to wait for Jesus to return in order to prove to everyone that their faith is actually correct.

    There’s no time scale for science to validate abiogenesis because abiogenesis has been and shall always remain an impossibility. Needless to say, it is terribly difficult to accomplish an impossibility even in the lab much less in an uncontrolled dangerous environment such as a newly-formed planet.

    Abiogenesis has failed the scientific test.

  25. #25 Chris
    November 10, 2009

    David, what are you proposing instead of abiogenesis?

    Did God do it?

  26. #26 Bruce
    November 10, 2009

    Hi David,

    You have a good point that abiogenesis needs more detail and evidence before we can think of it as a complete and viable theory of how life began. But it is not clear what you are suggesting we do about that.

    Are you suggesting that we have proved that life cannot arise out of non-life, and therefore we should stop studying the possibility? Or is it just that when studying the possibility we should be very careful to remind ourselves that we don’t know very much and we may well be going down a dead end path? If it’s the second one then I imagine that everyone here agrees with you on that. The only disagreement would be on your characterization of using the abiogenesis framework to study the issue as equivalent to blind faith that the framework is true.

  27. #27 Anita
    November 10, 2009

    Do you accept such stories as possible?
    Yes, of course I do. Did you expect me to say different? Would you say I have blind faith in ancient alien civilizations because I accept them as possible? What if I tell you I don’t believe it, but I still accept it as a possibility? Blind faith?

    You seem to be saying that the reason there’s little evidence is because it’s impossible and that it’s impossible because there’s little evidence.

  28. #28 David Mathews
    November 10, 2009

    Hello Chris,

    * “David, what are you proposing instead of abiogenesis?

    * “Did God do it?

    Here, Chris, is a perfect example of blind faith motivated by philosophical necessity substiting for a scientific manner of thinking.

    Your devotion to atheism requires you to accept abiogenesis just as surely as a fundamentalist’s devotion to theism requires an acceptance of creationism.

    I’m interested in the scientific question and don’t imagine that all this philosophical mumbo-jumbo is relevant.

    If abiogenesis is impossible and you are compelled to believe in God … that’s not my concern. My concern is whether or not abiogenesis is at all possible. My conclusion based upon my own investigation of scientific comments regarding abiogenesis is that it is quite literally impossible.

  29. #29 David Mathews
    November 10, 2009

    Hello Bruce,

    In answer to your questions:

    1. “Are you suggesting that we have proved that life cannot arise out of non-life, and therefore we should stop studying the possibility? ”

    I’m suggesting that science has proven conclusively that abiogenesis is impossible. I’m not suggesting that scientists stop experimenting … they could easily devote another 10,000 years to this question and reach the same conclusion as they have already. Further scientific investigation isn’t going to change the outcome so I’m inclined to encourage scientists to continue.

    2. “Or is it just that when studying the possibility we should be very careful to remind ourselves that we don’t know very much and we may well be going down a dead end path? ”

    What I’d like to see is actual honesty from origin of life researchers and exobiologists. There’s a bunch of science fiction happy talk fantasy which is being used to alleviate the public’s doubts about an extremely doubtful subject.

    When a scientist claim that life originated on Mars because they know so much about abiogenesis as to make this conclusion likely that scientist is engaging in science fiction just as certainly as Isaac Asimov and Arther C. Clarke.

    The public, unfortunately, accepts such blind assertions on faith because they haven’t actually bothered to learn anything about abiogenesis and scientists actually aren’t inclined to reveal that their conclusions are dictated by philosophy rather than science.

  30. #30 David Mathews
    November 10, 2009

    Hello Anita,

    * “Yes, of course I do. Did you expect me to say different? Would you say I have blind faith in ancient alien civilizations because I accept them as possible? What if I tell you I don’t believe it, but I still accept it as a possibility? Blind faith? ”

    Good. So it follows quite reasonably that God and creation are also possible, including all of those young earth creationist stories which fundamentalist assert are factual.

    Everything is possible but most possible things don’t actually exist. This principle is proven by comparing all of the promises of lunar bases and Mars colonies by the dawn of the 21st century. Decades ago people could entertain these fantasies but reality hasn’t quite turned out as the optimists predicted.

    In the same way, scientists during the 1950’s really thought that they had discovered the key to abiogenesis but actual scientific investigation of their theories hasn’t treated those promising expectations well. Instead of answers the scientists found a bunch of dead ends and gaps wider than the Grand Canyon.

    This is significant because science has made a lot of progress over the last fifty years and scientists know a lot more about how cells function. The more scientists learn the more hopeless abiogenesis becomes.

    This is the reason why abiogenesis stories have become science fiction fantasies divorced from scientific reality. Scientists hide massive blind leaps within the narrative because the general public simply doesn’t know any better.

    As such, these stories are little more than scientific mythology of the same order as any other creation myth.

    * “You seem to be saying that the reason there’s little evidence is because it’s impossible and that it’s impossible because there’s little evidence. ”

    You are describing my argument as if it is a circular argument. However, what I’m suggesting is that science has accumulated a massive amount of knowledge regarding how cells work and how non-biological chemistry operates and they haven’t found any means of bridging the gap between these two. For that reason abiogenesis narratives sound more like stepping off the South Rim of the Grand Canyon onto the North Rim without the miles of strenuous hiking up and down in between.

    Scientific evidence on behalf of abiogenesis is nonexistent because abiogenesis is impossible.

    That’s what I’m saying.

  31. #31 Treppenwitz
    November 10, 2009

    I’m suggesting that science has proven conclusively that abiogenesis is impossible.

    Please cite at least one peer-reviewed paper demonstrating the impossibility of abiogenesis.

    As you have yet to state this clearly, I’ll repeat the question: what are you proposing as an alternative to abiogenesis?

  32. #32 David Mathews
    November 10, 2009

    Hello Treppenwitz,

    * “Please cite at least one peer-reviewed paper demonstrating the impossibility of abiogenesis. ”

    Are you unfamiliar with the impossibility of proving a negative? This is the reason why you cannot find a single peer-reviewed paper disproving the presence of ancient aliens visiting the Earth. Herein lies the reason why people can continue believing irrational nonsense.

    What I am demanding is postive, objective, experimental evidence of abiogenesis occurring in the lab. Such a demonstration would at least provide an argument on behalf of abiogenesis’ possibility though it certainly couldn’t prove that such an event actually occurred from a historical standpoint.

    If such evidence actually existed you could easily bring it up and thereby bring an end to our argument.

    * “As you have yet to state this clearly, I’ll repeat the question: what are you proposing as an alternative to abiogenesis? ”

    I am proposing no alternative. I am suggesting that abiogenesis is impossible. Where this knowledge leads you, from a philosophical or religious standpoint, isn’t of any concern to me.

  33. #33 Treppenwitz
    November 10, 2009

    Are you unfamiliar with the impossibility of proving a negative? This is the reason why you cannot find a single peer-reviewed paper disproving the presence of ancient aliens visiting the Earth.

    You are the one who claimed that a negative had been proven: “I’m suggesting that science has proven conclusively that abiogenesis is impossible.” Upon what are you basing this assertion?
    From what I can tell, your argument is based on two points: abiogenesis has not been achieved in the lab, and cells are much more complex than inorganic molecules.
    Out of curiosity, are you imagining abiogenesis as the spontaneous formation of cells from nonliving compounds?

  34. #34 David Mathews
    November 10, 2009

    Hello Treppenwitz,

    * “You are the one who claimed that a negative had been proven … ”

    Yes, indeed, but this isn’t a scientific journal. Abiogenesis isn’t refuted in peer-reviewed papers for the same reason that theism isn’t refuted in peer-reviewed papers. Richard Dawkins refutes theism, in his own mind at least, via the popular press.

    * “Upon what are you basing this assertion? ”

    As I have already said, I am basing the assertion upon science’s failure to accomplish abiogenesis within the context of a lab under the guidance of a higher intelligence (i.e., the scientist). Failure of this sort doesn’t lend any sort of credence to the idea that abiogenesis occurred throughout the Universe, on the Earth and Mars, willy-nilly everywhere.

    If abiogenesis isn’t happening in the lab it also isn’t happening 4 billion years ago on the Earth.

    * “From what I can tell, your argument is based on two points: abiogenesis has not been achieved in the lab, and cells are much more complex than inorganic molecules. ”

    That’s not precisely my argument but it is close enough … so I won’t object.

    * “Out of curiosity, are you imagining abiogenesis as the spontaneous formation of cells from nonliving compounds? ”

    Life without a cell seems like an impossibility to me. Are you familiar with death? It takes a lot of biological nanotechnology equipment working in a coordinated manner to prevent a living cell from dying. If you take all of the cell’s equipment and remove the cell wall, death occurs quite quickly.

    Imagining life without a cell makes about as much as imagining a functioning human without skin.

    But if there is some abiogenesis scenario you have in mind you might as well describe it so that everyone might consider its merits and faults.

  35. #36 Sab
    November 10, 2009

    @34: “Life without a cell seems like an impossibility to me.”

    So what about viruses?

    Its interesting to hear your perspective David but I respectfully disagree that there is no point investigating abiogenesis any further. You seem to be making the mistake that many popular science/science fiction novels make, which is the myth of the infallible scientist. Just because scientists haven’t discovered something yet doesn’t make its potential discovery in the future impossible. However that is not to say that science is automatically going to achieve everything, and it is fair to comment that a specific discovery doesn’t seem likely in your opinion.

    As a thought exercise and scientific endeavor abiogenesis is extremely interesting regardless of the outcome. With such observations as self-assembly of viral protein coats and hydrothermal vents acting like PCR machines to replicate molecules there is clearly plenty of room to keep asking about why and how life might have arisen.

  36. #37 Treppenwitz
    November 10, 2009

    Abiogenesis isn’t refuted in peer-reviewed papers for the same reason that theism isn’t refuted in peer-reviewed papers.

    This is a false equivalence. Abiogenesis is a field of scientific study based on the same principles as any other subfield of biology/chemistry, and specific abiogenesis hypotheses are falsifiable; that’s why it appears in journals. Theology tends not to end up in scientific journals because it tends not to produce falsifiable hypotheses.

    As I have already said, I am basing the assertion upon science’s failure to accomplish abiogenesis within the context of a lab under the guidance of a higher intelligence (i.e., the scientist).

    By this reasoning, everything that has not yet been accomplished has conclusively been proven impossible.

    Imagining life without a cell makes about as much as imagining a functioning human without skin.

    I think this may explain much of why you find abiogenesis so difficult to swallow. Remember that modern cells are the product of over three billion years of evolution; they are indeed quite complex, and nobody worth taking seriously thinks that cells spontaneously arose as they are today.

    What we’re really looking for is the formation of molecules capable of self-replication with occasional copying errors. If any of those variants have heritable differences in their ability to replicate themselves, you’ve got the conditions necessary for natural selection. The level of complexity at which you want to consider such a replicator “alive” is up to you, but I don’t think anything turns on that question.

  37. #38 David Mathews
    November 10, 2009

    Hello Sab,

    * “So what about viruses? ”

    Viruses cannot live with cells, either. This is the reason why viruses generate diseases.

    * “Just because scientists haven’t discovered something yet doesn’t make its potential discovery in the future impossible. ”

    You completely miss the point of my argument. I am suggesting that science has learned a whole bunch about the cell, life and prebiotic chemistry over the last fifty years and all of this has turned out quite negative to the abiogenesis idea.

    The problem with abiogenesis isn’t what science doesn’t know. The problem is what science has actually discovered. Cells are complex machines which demand the careful interaction of nanotechnological tools to maintain their survival long enough to reproduce. To simplify a cell sufficiently to make abiogenesis possible is to simplify the cell so much as to make survival impossible.

    * “As a thought exercise and scientific endeavor abiogenesis is extremely interesting regardless of the outcome. ”

    I’m not opposed to research. I’m opposed to the wild science fiction speculation which is accepted as scientific reality because believers in abiogenesis have no other option.

    Scientific research should continue. The conclusion will remain the same, though: abiogenesis is impossible.

  38. #39 David Mathews
    November 10, 2009

    Hello Treppenwitz,

    * “This is a false equivalence. Abiogenesis is a field of scientific study based on the same principles as any other subfield of biology/chemistry, and specific abiogenesis hypotheses are falsifiable; that’s why it appears in journals. Theology tends not to end up in scientific journals because it tends not to produce falsifiable hypotheses. ”

    If abiogenesis is falsifiable consider abiogenesis falsified. Science hasn’t yet experimentally verified the possibility of abiogenesis for a reason. From a historical standpoint, it is impossible to verify that life originated via abiogenesis. Therefore abiogenesis is falsified and refuted.

    * “By this reasoning, everything that has not yet been accomplished has conclusively been proven impossible. ”

    Here is a silly argument. The problems associated with abiogenesis render the theory impossible. The failure of experiments to produce abiogenesis in the lab merely demonstrates that even under the direction of intelligence abiogenesis remains impossible.

    * “I think this may explain much of why you find abiogenesis so difficult to swallow. Remember that modern cells are the product of over three billion years of evolution; they are indeed quite complex, and nobody worth taking seriously thinks that cells spontaneously arose as they are today. ”

    Again, you are not arguing in a serious manner. There is fossil evidence of the existence of fully formed modern cells billions of years old. So the modern cell didn’t have three billion years in which to form and perfect itself. The cell appeared suddenly, full formed and functional enough to survive and conquer the entire planet. The window of opportunity for a cell to originate and perfect itself is measured in the millions of years not three billion years.

    * “What we’re really looking for is the formation of molecules capable of self-replication with occasional copying errors. If any of those variants have heritable differences in their ability to replicate themselves, you’ve got the conditions necessary for natural selection. The level of complexity at which you want to consider such a replicator “alive” is up to you, but I don’t think anything turns on that question. ”

    The origin of self-replicating molecules is precisely the subject of our dispute. Science hasn’t yet verified that such molecules could originated in the early Earth environment or any other environment, including carefully controlled lab settings.

    For any prospective self-replicating molecule the prospect of death still looms large, especially if such a molecule were naked, exposed to the environment, and without any of the tools which cells use to prolong their life against Nature’s harshness.

    How would such a molecule originate? Science doesn’t know. How could such a molecule survive? Science doesn’t know.

    So abiogenesis remains impossible even under your own preferred scenario.

  39. #40 Sab
    November 10, 2009

    @37:
    Hello David,
    “The problem with abiogenesis isn’t what science doesn’t know. The problem is what science has actually discovered. Cells are complex machines which demand the careful interaction of nanotechnological tools to maintain their survival long enough to reproduce. To simplify a cell sufficiently to make abiogenesis possible is to simplify the cell so much as to make survival impossible.”

    Actually science has not discovered that cells are machines, although the analogy does come up a lot when trying to explain how cells work and this is presumably because most people interact with machines regularly and don’t understand chemistry (especially organic chemistry) without higher education. Molecular compounds can self assemble and they can also replicate, making them rather different to the machine analogy. Perhaps part of the problem with research into abiogenesis is that lab conditions are not particularly suitable. After all in the real world there are any number of environmental factors that can contribute to the outcome, so its quite presumptuous to expect that science has exhaustively explored all the possible conditions.

    “I’m not opposed to research. I’m opposed to the wild science fiction speculation which is accepted as scientific reality because believers in abiogenesis have no other option.

    Scientific research should continue. The conclusion will remain the same, though: abiogenesis is impossible. ”

    Whoa, I thought you were being fairly reasonable in your objections until I saw this. You have decided that abiogenesis is impossible so it must be impossible? That’s just an argument from incredulity, at least admit that there should be an IMHO in that sweeping statement. Humans are curious animals, hence the obsession with exploring origin ideas. At least the groups looking at the potential for abiogenesis are coming up with and trying out testable hypotheses.

  40. #41 David Mathews
    November 10, 2009

    Hello Sab,

    * “Actually science has not discovered that cells are machines, although the analogy does come up a lot when trying to explain how cells work and this is presumably because most people interact with machines regularly and don’t understand chemistry (especially organic chemistry) without higher education. Molecular compounds can self assemble and they can also replicate, making them rather different to the machine analogy. ”

    I’m afraid that the above sentences constitute nothing more than nonsense. The entire question of whether or not these molecules can self-assemble and replicate is the subject of our argument and also the very think which science has failed to experimental verify.

    Supposing that organic molecules actually did possess this seemingly miraculous property of self-assembly for the sake of originating self-reproduction it should be the easiest thing to verify. Mix a bunch of sterile organic molecules in a test tube and they couldn’t help but perform their magic and become alive.

    * “Perhaps part of the problem with research into abiogenesis is that lab conditions are not particularly suitable. After all in the real world there are any number of environmental factors that can contribute to the outcome, so its quite presumptuous to expect that science has exhaustively explored all the possible conditions. ”

    This is quite mystifying. Are you actually claiming that it is easier for life to originate in the wild, harsh, destructive environment of Nature rather than in the controlled, mild, safe environment of a lab?

    Even if that was the case it would be easy to verify abiogenesis by direct observation of it occurring in Nature. However this does not occur so perhaps you are mistaken.

    * “You have decided that abiogenesis is impossible so it must be impossible? ”

    Yes, I have concluded that abiogenesis is impossible but certainly not based upon the spurious circular argument in the sentence above.

    I’ve already explained why abiogenesis is impossible. There are numeroud dead ends and Grand Canyon wide gaps in all abiogenesis narratives.

    Abiogenesis amounts to nothing more than a modern scientific-sounding creation myth.

    Abiogenesis must always remain so until science actually succeeds in accomplishing the act.

  41. #42 Simbol
    November 10, 2009

    David: As I have already said, I am basing the assertion upon science’s failure to accomplish abiogenesis within the context of a lab under the guidance of a higher intelligence (i.e., the scientist).

    Well, Alchemists failed for centuries tryng to get gold from lead. Not knowing about the atom structure this cannot be done.

    I can imagine David telling the alchemists “you will never get what you want”, and the alchemists tellig David “prove that”. At this point David tells the alchemists: Don’t you
    know that you can’t prove a negative?

    As all of us already know, you can get gold from lead.

    What this story teachs us is: don’t bet the farm unless you have one or two very important natural laws on your side.

    Abiogenesis is not forbidden by any known natural Law.
    Abiogenesis is not implausible.
    The alternative explanation, god, is not plausible, at least in the form it is usually postulated. And there is not other alternative explanations.

    But David is right in one point: the problem is huge. But this is not the first time that science has been against the wall (see physics and string theory). It takes time to build a ladder and there is not a garantee tha you will be able in the future to build this ladder with the right heigt.

    English is not my language and it is an ordeal for me even to write this post, and that is why I don’t discuss some of the David’s arguments. But this I can tell him: your information about abiogenesis is quite small and not up to date. Which is not a crime if you are not a biologist, and if you are not a biologist, then don’t speak with your sublime authority.

  42. #43 David Mathews
    November 10, 2009

    Hello Simbol,

    * “Well, Alchemists failed for centuries tryng to get gold from lead. Not knowing about the atom structure this cannot be done. ”

    This is a desperation argument, Simbol. You are attempting to draw an analogy between non-analogous things.

    * “Abiogenesis is not forbidden by any known natural Law.
    * “Abiogenesis is not implausible. ”

    The above arguments are properly termed “begging the question” and at best they constitute a desperate philosophical argument made necessary by the lack of scientific evidence on behalf of abiogenesis.

    * “The alternative explanation, god, is not plausible, at least in the form it is usually postulated. And there is not other alternative explanations. ”

    You correctly describe your own philosophical conundrum which is of sufficient power to justify blind faith in abiogenesis in your own mind.

    Atheism demands abiogenesis so you have no choice but to accept it regardless of the evidence or lack thereof.

    * “But this is not the first time that science has been against the wall (see physics and string theory). It takes time to build a ladder and there is not a garantee tha you will be able in the future to build this ladder with the right heigt. ”

    Actually, we’re not talking about a ladder. We’re talking about an alleged natural process which is allegedly so common as to have occurred at least twice in the Solar System (on the Earth and Mars) and innumerable places elsewhere in the Universe.

    Unless, of course, you concede that the origin of life is so unlikely that it is essentially a unique event in the history of the Universe, in which case (of course) there isn’t any possibility at all for abiogenesis to have occurred on Mars.

    * “But this I can tell him: your information about abiogenesis is quite small and not up to date. Which is not a crime if you are not a biologist, and if you are not a biologist, then don’t speak with your sublime authority. ”

    I can speak with absolute authority about this subject. Science’s failure to answer the question is made abundantly evident even in all the responses to my criticism.

    If science has resolved the abiogenesis question someone would have pointed out the solution by now. Instead what I hear is philosophical arguments, arguments from necessity, and just-so mythological stories.

  43. #44 Sab
    November 10, 2009

    @40:

    Fine, I’ll respond in kind. David, you are being an arse.

    Calling cells machines is just plain wrong. We *do* know that complex molecules arise through natural processes, and we also know that the replication of said molecules is possible (in for example the temperature gradients around a hydrothermal vent). I’ll happily agree that my use of ‘self-replicating’ was incorrect, I should have instead said that complex molecules ‘can be replicated through natural processes’. Mix the components of viral protein coats together and guess what? They assemble into viral protein coats.

    “This is quite mystifying. Are you actually claiming that it is easier for life to originate in the wild, harsh, destructive environment of Nature rather than in the controlled, mild, safe environment of a lab?”

    Wild, harsh and destructive for humans you mean. Clearly you have no experience with ecology and particularly microbial ecology. There are vast numbers of species that simply will not grow in culture in safe controlled lab environments. We’re talking about micro-organisms here, not humans. Why would a ‘mild, safe, controlled lab environment’ have the same conditions as earth several billion years ago? Answer: it wouldn’t. So why would we expect to be able to approach abiogenesis without taking account of this? Answer: we wouldn’t, and this is part of the problem that researchers are trying to deal with.

    I’m saying that what *you* have assumed to be an easy place for abiogenesis to occur is not necessarily an easy place for abiogenesis to occur. I’m saying that the real world is far more complex than a lab setting, and that assuming that life must form under the conditions in a lab neglects the information we have about i) the early conditions on earth, ii) the problems inherent in getting microbal life to do what you want in a lab setting, iii) the difficulty in accounting for all possible variables in a single experiment.

    “Even if that was the case it would be easy to verify abiogenesis by direct observation of it occurring in Nature. However this does not occur so perhaps you are mistaken.”

    Oh really? Why would expect to see abiogenesis occurring in nature *now* when the world is teeming with life-forms, in almost every conceivable environment, ready to make use of any complex molecules they can get themselves into contact with? Perhaps we don’t see it because the conditions are wrong now (see above) and perhaps all of those tasty organic compounds get used up by something, like all those teeming microorganisms.

    The last little tirade in your reply is particularly telling. You have not provided good evidence for the impossibility of abiogenesis, you have repeatedly said that you think it is impossible because it hasn’t been replicated in a lab, and then gone on to say that because it hasn’t been replicated in a lab it must be impossible.

  44. #45 Sab
    November 10, 2009

    @42: From mild bollocks to total bollocks.

    “I can speak with absolute authority about this subject. Science’s failure to answer the question is made abundantly evident even in all the responses to my criticism.

    If science has resolved the abiogenesis question someone would have pointed out the solution by now. Instead what I hear is philosophical arguments, arguments from necessity, and just-so mythological stories.”

    How can you speak with absolute authority on this subject?! Are you claiming to be some sort of god? What an insane thing to say. You couldn’t just stick with ‘I don’t know, but I don’t think its possible’ eh? Had to get in the ‘I’m right because I say so’ bit.

    Science continues to examine possible mechanisms and conditions for abiogenesis. Science continues to admit ‘we don’t know’ but follows this up with ‘however, we are going to keep looking for plausible explanations’. That is what research into abiogenesis is doing at the moment, looking for potential solutions. Your argument is ‘no one has done x yet, so x is impossible’.

  45. #46 Sab
    November 10, 2009

    Post 44 should of course read:

    “I can speak with absolute authority about this subject. Science’s failure to answer the question is made abundantly evident even in all the responses to my criticism.”

    I stupidly left out the second quotation mark, I am a wretched human being.

  46. #47 Sab
    November 10, 2009

    Oh no, its worse, the first post was right after all… carry on ;)

  47. #48 David Mathews
    November 10, 2009

    Hello Sab,

    * “Calling cells machines is just plain wrong. We *do* know that complex molecules arise through natural processes, and we also know that the replication of said molecules is possible (in for example the temperature gradients around a hydrothermal vent). I’ll happily agree that my use of ‘self-replicating’ was incorrect, I should have instead said that complex molecules ‘can be replicated through natural processes’. Mix the components of viral protein coats together and guess what? They assemble into viral protein coats. ”

    The above argument is absolutely erroneous. Abiogenesis isn’t occurring by hydrothermal vents. I’m not certain that you even know what you are talking about. If you have something in mind perhaps you can provide a legitimate scientific reference to the processes that you are describing … but I don’t suppose you can because such processes aren’t occurring.

    * “Why would a ‘mild, safe, controlled lab environment’ have the same conditions as earth several billion years ago? Answer: it wouldn’t. So why would we expect to be able to approach abiogenesis without taking account of this? Answer: we wouldn’t, and this is part of the problem that researchers are trying to deal with. ”

    This is pure nonsense. Diamonds form deep within the crust in Nature but this doesn’t prevent scientists from forming diamonds in a lab. If there is any sort of environment in which abiogenesis can occur it is possible for scientists to model that environment in a lab.

    But you are talking nonsense or mythologizing. To claim that abiogenesis can occur in a particular environment without any sort of scientific verification is to claim nothing at all.

    * “I’m saying that what *you* have assumed to be an easy place for abiogenesis to occur is not necessarily an easy place for abiogenesis to occur. I’m saying that the real world is far more complex than a lab setting, and that assuming that life must form under the conditions in a lab neglects the information we have about i) the early conditions on earth, ii) the problems inherent in getting microbal life to do what you want in a lab setting, iii) the difficulty in accounting for all possible variables in a single experiment. ”

    I’m going to assume that the scientists who have spent the last fifty years thinking about this problem and performing experiments would take all of these things into account, otherwise perhaps your Nobel Prize is in the mail …

    * “Oh really? Why would expect to see abiogenesis occurring in nature *now* when the world is teeming with life-forms, in almost every conceivable environment, ready to make use of any complex molecules they can get themselves into contact with? ”

    If abiogenesis is an inevitable natural process it will continue to occur even on a planet already filled with life. But if it is the presence of life which prevents abiogenesis from occurring it would seem quite easy for scientists to create an abiogenesis-friendly environment which would be free from competing forms of life.

    * “The last little tirade in your reply is particularly telling. You have not provided good evidence for the impossibility of abiogenesis, you have repeatedly said that you think it is impossible because it hasn’t been replicated in a lab, and then gone on to say that because it hasn’t been replicated in a lab it must be impossible. ”

    Well this is very different from your viewpoint which evidently is that abiogenesis is possible even though it is impossible to replicate in a lab.

    I’d say your viewpoint is irrational. You are claiming scientific support for something which you deny science the ability to experimentally verify.

  48. #49 David Mathews
    November 10, 2009

    Hello Sab,

    * “Science continues to examine possible mechanisms and conditions for abiogenesis. Science continues to admit ‘we don’t know’ but follows this up with ‘however, we are going to keep looking for plausible explanations’. That is what research into abiogenesis is doing at the moment, looking for potential solutions. ”

    I don’t know but I’m still looking … might constitute a good response to looking for lost keys but it isn’t quite a satisfying answer for scientific questions.

    But if this is actually how science answers the abiogenesis question it does demonstrate that those who assert that abiogenesis is true are exercising blind faith.

  49. #50 Sab
    November 11, 2009

    David:

    Or have you considered the possibility that you could be wrong? Perhaps you are too busy being god-like and all-knowing. Still ask and ye shall receive oh bullshitting one. I was talking about the natural accumulation of complex molecules, try looking at some research:

    Baaske et al. 2007. Extreme accumulation of nucleotides in simulated hydrothermal pore systems. PNAS, 104: 9346-9351.

    Oh look, no talking nonsense or mythologizing. Terribly sorry Mr Troll.

    I see you completely ignored the points about your lack of knowledge in the field of microbiology, probably a good idea. For the record I am disagreeing with you that abiogenesis should be easy to recreate in the lab. I am certainly not saying that I believe it is completely impossible, I am saying that it would probably be extremely difficult. Difficult does not equal impossible. You also seem to be arguing that scientific knowledge is complete, which is utterly absurd, we have barely begun to understand how many well-studied ecosystems work yet we should already have solved abiogenesis?

    Feel free to assume that scientists working 50 years ago were precient enough to know everything that we know today, but I’m going to feel free to call you deluded. Much of our microbiological advances have come about over the last 20 years as a result of improving molecular based techniques.

    I don’t know but I’m still looking is an entirely honest way of approaching a scientific problem, tough luck if it doesn’t satisfy your godlike intellect. The history of science is full of this very concept. If every scientist and/or engineer gave up when an experiment didn’t work out the way they thought it might we wouldn’t be having this ‘conversation’ on the internet.

    In what way is it blind faith to suggest that life may have arisen via natural processes rather than by a supernatural event?

    Finally I’ll be sure to let you know when the Nobel prize arrives ;) If you want in on the action perhaps you could spill the beans on the easy way in which scientists should be approaching abiogenesis research in the lab.

  50. #51 MadScientist
    November 11, 2009

    10 cheeseburgers? Sure – maybe if you don’t really care about the human explorers returning to earth, much less returning alive. Machines have numerous requirements which are far easier to meet than human requirements – and if anything goes wrong it’s really sad that so much effort was lost but you haven’t killed anyone. For example, we can use smaller rockets to launch a machine to Mars and take a year or so to get there. The requirements for supporting humans for an entire year to get to Mars are beyond current technology (if it is ever possible) so we’re forced to use MUCH bigger rockets. You’ll never cram humans, supplies, and a return vehicle into anything the size of an unmanned vehicle, which means even bigger rockets. I’d wager on a few thousand cheeseburgers, not 10.

    Now back to what we’ll find – since the orbiters (and rovers) don’t show any signs of large colonies of life forms (such as algal blooms on earth, or forests …) I’m betting the best chances are to get a horde of atomic force microscopes onto Mars to look for complex organic structures – and even then we can easily miss evidence because the irradiation by the sun over many millions of years may have broken down most molecules, leaving too few large organic structures which we may associate with life. So – perhaps crush ancient rock and look for the molecules in the crushed rock. Even then we have the possibility that an oxidative atmosphere may have broken down molecules and we still see nothing. It’s one of those annoying problems where no one has been clever enough to offer a proof that there could never have been life on Mars, one single discovery can prove that there was life on Mars, and yet we expect evidence to be extremely difficult to come by at best.

  51. #52 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Sab,

    * “I was talking about the natural accumulation of complex molecules … Extreme accumulation of nucleotides in simulated hydrothermal pore systems ”

    I hate to point out the obvious. Nucleotides aren’t life. But if the scientists actually believe that nucleotide concentration leads to abiogenesis, such an environment can be modelled in a lab and the scientists can wait and see whether abiogenesis occurs.

    * “For the record I am disagreeing with you that abiogenesis should be easy to recreate in the lab. I am certainly not saying that I believe it is completely impossible, I am saying that it would probably be extremely difficult. Difficult does not equal impossible. ”

    What the hell? Are you suggesting that abiogenesis might occur more easily in a hydrothermal vent than in a lab? Your defense of abiogenesis is absurdly self-contradictory.

    Oh … you do know that when speaking about abiogenesis we’re talking about prebiotic chemistry *not* microbiology? Microbiology cannot occur until *after* abiogenesis.

    * “You also seem to be arguing that scientific knowledge is complete, which is utterly absurd, we have barely begun to understand how many well-studied ecosystems work yet we should already have solved abiogenesis? ”

    Again, ecosystems are things which cannot exist until after abiogenesis has occurred. In regards to abiogenesis the problem is that after many decades of research science still doesn’t know the beginning, middle or end of the process.

    * “Feel free to assume that scientists working 50 years ago were precient enough to know everything that we know today, but I’m going to feel free to call you deluded. Much of our microbiological advances have come about over the last 20 years as a result of improving molecular based techniques. ”

    Science has learned so much but abiogenesis has advanced so little. This is evidence of a failed scientific idea.

    * “In what way is it blind faith to suggest that life may have arisen via natural processes rather than by a supernatural event? ”

    It is blind faith to assert that abiogenesis occurred when there is no scientific evidence that abiogenesis could ever occur.

    * “Finally I’ll be sure to let you know when the Nobel prize arrives ;) If you want in on the action perhaps you could spill the beans on the easy way in which scientists should be approaching abiogenesis research in the lab. ”

    Sure as hell there isn’t any easy way. Abiogenesis is difficult to the point of impossibility. It would be easier for Nature to fashion intergrated circuit chips than for Nature to mix together a grab bag of chemicals and have life arise from the mix.

  52. #53 Treppenwitz
    November 11, 2009

    David, since you’ve thus far sidestepped this question I’ll ask again: what known natural laws rule out the possibility of abiogenesis?

  53. #54 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Treppenwitz,

    * “David, since you’ve thus far sidestepped this question I’ll ask again: what known natural laws rule out the possibility of abiogenesis? ”

    The same sort of natural laws which prevent Nature from creating integrated circuit chips.

    Abiogenesis is beset by two major problems: Life and death.

    Life: Scientists don’t have a clue has to how life could originate.

    Death: Supposing that life could originate by some fortunate coincidence, death would occur immediately since the survival of cells demands the protection of a cell wall and the existence of marvelous cellular machinery which protects and repairs the cell from damage.

    For these two reasons abiogenesis is nothing more that a scientific creation myth and nothing else.

  54. #55 Treppenwitz
    November 11, 2009

    David, that is nothing more than an argument from incredulity. If you want to claim that life is irreducibly complex, you need to indicate how the possibility of abiogenesis stands in contradiction to our present understanding of the natural world. “Cellular life has not been produced from scratch in the lab” and “I can’t imagine how bare replicators could survive” are non-answers.

  55. #56 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Treppenwitz,

    * “David, that is nothing more than an argument from incredulity. If you want to claim that life is irreducibly complex, you need to indicate how the possibility of abiogenesis stands in contradiction to our present understanding of the natural world. ”

    You cannot counter the argument from incredulity by the argument from blind faith and philosophical necessity.

    There’s a reason why scientific experiments haven’t resulted in abiogenesis occurring in the lab. There’s a reason why abiogenesis in the natural world would immediately lead to death to the newly-formed naked self-reproducing molecules.

    You dismiss these problems as if they are irrelevant because you cannot argue on behalf of abiogenesis.

    How would a bare replicator survive? That question isn’t a mystery. It has an answer: Bare replicators wouldn’t survive.

    The failure of scientists to generate abiogenesis in the lab should cause you to doubt your own blind faith. Things which cannot occur under the direction of intelligence in a lab are probably impossible outside the lab.

  56. #57 Treppenwitz
    November 11, 2009

    There’s a reason why scientific experiments haven’t resulted in abiogenesis occurring in the lab.

    Those reasons are: the limits of our present understanding of organic chemistry, incomplete knowledge about the conditions on Earth four billion years ago, and the miniscule time and resources spent on the problem compared to the planet-wide, billion-year experiment that was the early Earth.

    “If it happened, it should be easy to reproduce” and “if it hasn’t been reproduced yet, it must be impossible” are both specious arguments. As has been pointed out several times, even perfect knowledge of how life originated on Earth would not imply that it is an easily reproducible event.

    There’s a reason why abiogenesis in the natural world would immediately lead to death to the newly-formed naked self-reproducing molecules. … How would a bare replicator survive? That question isn’t a mystery. It has an answer: Bare replicators wouldn’t survive.

    On what evidence do you base this claim? Do you have any justification for any of your assertions beyond “I don’t see how it could happen”? I’ll ask again: what, specifically, is the insurmountable chemical hurdle?

  57. #58 DaveH
    November 11, 2009

    “You cannot counter the argument from incredulity by the argument from blind faith and philosophical necessity.”

    That one’s a classic!

  58. #59 Treppenwitz
    November 11, 2009

    I don’t know what’s up with my margins in that last post.

  59. #60 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Treppenwitz,

    * “Those reasons are: the limits of our present understanding of organic chemistry, incomplete knowledge about the conditions on Earth four billion years ago, and the miniscule time and resources spent on the problem compared to the planet-wide, billion-year experiment that was the early Earth. ”

    None of these particulars matter because the theory of abiogenesis presupposes that life could originate anywhere in the Universe. Would you like to argue that the origin of life occurred only once in the Universe and only because of the very specific conditions present on the early Earth?

    You can argue in this manner if you wish but it would automatically exclude from consideration any thought of life originating on Mars or anywhere else in the Universe.

    * “On what evidence do you base this claim? Do you have any justification for any of your assertions beyond “I don’t see how it could happen”? I’ll ask again: what, specifically, is the insurmountable chemical hurdle? ”

    I suspect that most abiogenesis proponents vastly underestimate the complexity of life even in its most simple manifestation. Self-sustaining self-repairing self-reproducing machines aren’t the sort of things which you would expect to merely appear by mixing chemicals together and waiting for the magic to happen.

    Science hasn’t yet provided any evidence that the insurmountable chemical hurdle is anything but insurmountable. If science wanted to determine how likely it is for abiogenesis to occur the scientists would have to accomplish the task at least once in the lab otherwise all this talk is just empty speculation like a dog chasing after its own tail.

  60. #61 DaveH
    November 11, 2009

    “I suspect…” , “…aren’t the sort of things you would expect…”

    And on it blithely goes. I see now that “You cannot counter the argument from personal incredulity…” was a statement akin to “The Terminator will not stop…”

    A new term: PFG. Perpetual Fallacy Generator. Perhaps the wind of these entities can solve the energy crisis.

  61. #62 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello DaveH,

    * “A new term: PFG. Perpetual Fallacy Generator. Perhaps the wind of these entities can solve the energy crisis. ”

    If abiogenesis possessed any factual scientific basis there wouldn’t be any need to use any of this speculative language. However, if you would like to present an argument on behalf of abiogenesis please do bring it up.

    Treppenwitz has repeatedly asserted that science is ignorant about most everything involved in abiogenesis. If you have some knowledge to impart you can do so easily enough.

  62. #63 Thomas Neil Neubert
    November 11, 2009

    The cover jacket tells me that of the approximately 100 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy; less than 10,000 have planets inhabited by intelligent life. Nevertheless the finding of non intelligent life past or present upon Mars will be of staggering philosophic importance for scientists of Earth.

  63. #64 Steve F
    November 11, 2009

    “Science hasn’t yet provided any evidence that the insurmountable chemical hurdle is anything but insurmountable.”
    How many times has this been uttered throughout history only to be proven wrong? The primary problem is that we lack a usable time machine. We would need to obtain an uninterrupted series of samples beginning around the time that the first permanent oceans formed on earth until now, cataloging every single molecular step in the initial formation in proto-life through the evolution of modern life to satisfy his challenge. Unfortunately, even then most creationists would simply deny the evidence and stick with their dogma. The honest ones will at least tell you that no amount of evidence will change their minds. There is virtually no hope in overcoming the level of arrogance, ignorance, and intellectual inflexibility in an adult as displayed here. There is still hope for their children.
    The level of certainty that he displays in his claim of the impossibility of abiogenesis is only seen scientifically illiterate, religious minds.

  64. #65 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Steve F,

    * “How many times has this been uttered throughout history only to be proven wrong? ”

    You are comparing non-analogous things. There’s a big difference between whatever it is you have in mind (if you have anything in mind at all) and abiogenesis.

    * “The primary problem is that we lack a usable time machine. We would need to obtain an uninterrupted series of samples beginning around the time that the first permanent oceans formed on earth until now, cataloging every single molecular step in the initial formation in proto-life through the evolution of modern life to satisfy his challenge. ”

    This is a silly argument … unless you are arguing that abiogenesis occurred only once in the Universe, on the Earth, and only as a result of a specific unique sequence of fortunate historical events.

    If abiogenesis occurs routinely throughout the Universe the specific conditions on the early Earth are irrelevant.

    * “Unfortunately, even then most creationists would simply deny the evidence and stick with their dogma. The honest ones will at least tell you that no amount of evidence will change their minds. ”

    Considering that you haven’t displayed * any * evidence at all your complaint seems a bit pointless. If you or anyone had provided any evidence we could discuss it and reach a conclusion.

    Abiogenesis is mythology and science fiction. This is demonstrated easily enough by the vacant arguments of its proponents.

    I want science, evidence and experiments on behalf of your viewpoint.

    * “The level of certainty that he displays in his claim of the impossibility of abiogenesis is only seen scientifically illiterate, religious minds. ”

    If you had any actual evidence to present on behalf of abiogenesis you wouldn’t need to use these empty rhetorical arguments.

    My argument on behalf of the impossibility of abiogenesis was provided above and it has two components: Life and Death.

    If you want to prove the possibility of abiogenesis you will have to address both of those. Please do.

  65. #66 Treppenwitz
    November 11, 2009

    Would I be correct in assuming that, if it were announced tomorrow that some super-duper Miller-Urey experiment had ended with ants marching out of the flask, you would assert that this merely demonstrated that intelligence can create life, not that life can arise without the intervention of a creative intelligence?

  66. #67 DaveH
    November 11, 2009

    An argument on behalf of abiogenesis? Sure: Big bang a bit harsh for life, replicators do exist, some steps towards finding the building blocks of life have been made already (in a remarkably short period of time), no evidence for supernatural creator (in or out of lab!), life exists.

    Try Google Scholar. Or even wikipedia. Or your local library. In the words of Tim Minchin:

    “Does the idea that one afternoon
    On Wiki-fucking-pedia might enlighten you
    Frighten you?
    Does the notion that there may not be a supernatural
    So blow your hippy noodle
    That you would rather just stand in the fog
    Of your inability to Google?”

    Take your thinly veiled God-trolling to some blog that I *don’t* read, preferably not a science blog.

  67. #68 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Treppenwitz,

    * “Would I be correct in assuming that, if it were announced tomorrow that some super-duper Miller-Urey experiment had ended with ants marching out of the flask, you would assert that this merely demonstrated that intelligence can create life, not that life can arise without the intervention of a creative intelligence? ”

    Seriously … are you offering a science-fiction fantasy argument on behalf of abiogenesis?

    Here is a demonstration of the extreme unscientific desperation of the abiogenesis believers. Without any sort of scientific evidence you cling desperately to your own dreams.

    Science doesn’t work like that, though. Abiogenesis hasn’t happened in the lab. Abiogenesis won’t happen in the lab.

  68. #69 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello DaveH,

    * “An argument on behalf of abiogenesis? Sure: Big bang a bit harsh for life, replicators do exist, some steps towards finding the building blocks of life have been made already (in a remarkably short period of time), no evidence for supernatural creator (in or out of lab!), life exists. ”

    You haven’t produced an argument. You’ve strung together a bunch of disconnected bits into an incoherent mess of an idea.

    Evidently the god idea is so threatening to you that it has forced you into your own sort of irrational blind faith in an unscientific science fiction fantasy idea.

    Abiogenesis is impossible.

    Your opinions regarding god’s existence simply aren’t relevant.

    Science hasn’t resolved this question. So you are left only with your own unhappiness, empty rhetorical arguments, and a self-imposed philosophical necessity.

    If abiogenesis actually is impossible would that fact destroy your world view? Too bad, so sad … but such is life.

  69. #70 DaveH
    November 11, 2009

    What opinions? Can’t you read?

    Science doesn’t make me unhappy, quite the contrary. The willfully ignorant do, sometimes. Sometimes I can just laugh.

    *If* abiogenesis were impossible, that would genuinely be intriguing… I don’t think Yahweh would exactly be the next rational hypothesis, but there you go.

  70. #71 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello DaveH,

    * “Science doesn’t make me unhappy, quite the contrary. The willfully ignorant do, sometimes. Sometimes I can just laugh. ”

    You post came across as irrational, emotional and unhappy.

    * “*If* abiogenesis were impossible, that would genuinely be intriguing… I don’t think Yahweh would exactly be the next rational hypothesis, but there you go. ”

    Again, you are appealing to a religious argument to justify your blind faith in abiogenesis.

    Abiogenesis is a philosophical necessity for you. It need not have any more scientific verification than creationism for a fundamentalist.

  71. #72 Mr T
    November 11, 2009

    David Mathews:
    I hate feeding trolls, and you’re one well-fed troll by this point. I just want to make sure you understand something: no one has ever shown that abiogenesis is impossible — not you, not Jesus, not the Raelians. I’ve read your nauseating rants (and many others like it), and you’ve simply provided no good reason to believe it’s impossible, nor any plausible alternative.

    Please just get over it. You won’t win any arguments here by repeating the same ridiculous fallacies. In fact, please stop trying to “win” arguments, particularly when you’re this clueless; instead, simply try to be honest and understand more of the truth.

    Since you feel so strongly about it, honestly evaluate your position. Perhaps you just don’t understand the meaning of the word “impossible”, or perhaps you’re just dishonest; either way, it’s your problem. Abiogenesis is certainly possible — you don’t have to rule out other possibilities to admit that, even though the others are absurd and entirely speculative. Go ahead and keep your religion, or worldview, or whatever-the-f$ck causes this sort of fallacious, mind-numbingly oblivious preaching. Please just have the honesty and decency to admit your mistake.

  72. #73 DaveH
    November 11, 2009

    *If* abiogenesis were impossible, if scientists, via empirical analysis, rule out all reasonable hypotheses of abiogenesis (which is at least a priori possible) that genuinely would be intriguing. It really would. Like the null result of the Michelson-Morley experiment, or like not finding the Higgs boson would be.

  73. #74 Treppenwitz
    November 11, 2009

    Seriously … are you offering a science-fiction fantasy argument on behalf of abiogenesis?

    Not at all; I was asking a question, not making an argument of any kind. I am simply asking whether you would consider human-prompted abiogenesis to have any bearing on the question of whether abiogenesis is possible in the absence of a creative intelligence.

  74. #75 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Mr T,

    * “I just want to make sure you understand something: no one has ever shown that abiogenesis is impossible — not you, not Jesus, not the Raelians. ”

    You aren’t making a scientific argument, Mr T. I’d say that you are appealing to atheism as a justification for believing in abiogenesis.

    * “Please just get over it. You won’t win any arguments here by repeating the same ridiculous fallacies. In fact, please stop trying to “win” arguments, particularly when you’re this clueless; instead, simply try to be honest and understand more of the truth. ”

    Well, the abiogenesis proponents seem to want to win their argument by mere bluster without evidence, reasoning, experiments or even any legitimate just-so stories to justify their faith in abiogenesis.

    * “Abiogenesis is certainly possible — you don’t have to rule out other possibilities to admit that, even though the others are absurd and entirely speculative. ”

    Cutting through all of the emotional weeping in your last paragraph leaves only the above sentence which contains only an assertion without any scientific support whatsoever.

    Abiogenesis is impossible until science demonstrates experimentally it is possible.

  75. #76 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello DaveH,

    * “If* abiogenesis were impossible, if scientists, via empirical analysis, rule out all reasonable hypotheses of abiogenesis (which is at least a priori possible) that genuinely would be intriguing. ”

    Abiogenesis is impossible. The gulf between prebiotic soup and life is as vast as the gulf between sand on the beach and the space shuttle.

    Yet you provide yourself enough escape clauses to justify blind faith in abiogenesis. As such you are little different from the creationists. They can escape the conclusions of science by a thousand and one escape clauses. The moment one fails there are a thousand left to maintain blind faith until the bitter end.

  76. #77 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Treppenwitz,

    * “Not at all; I was asking a question, not making an argument of any kind. I am simply asking whether you would consider human-prompted abiogenesis to have any bearing on the question of whether abiogenesis is possible in the absence of a creative intelligence. ”

    Well, this is specifically what I have demanded from the very beginning. You can verify that easily enough by returning to the beginning of the thread.

    What I’ve said, over and over again, is that abiogenesis is impossible even when guided by an intelligence, i.e. scientists performing controlled experiments in a lab.

    Given that human-induced abiogenesis is impossible it follows directly that abiogenesis is equally impossible within the uncontrolled, unstable, destructive environment of nature.

  77. #78 DaveH
    November 11, 2009

    DM,
    When you show you have made the effort to have the slightest superficial understanding of how science works, or at least stop repeating the argument from credulity as if it meant something other than your ignorance, then perhaps we’ll continue this conversation. But probably not.

    /oxygen.

  78. #79 DaveH
    November 11, 2009

    *incredulity.*

  79. #80 Mr T
    November 11, 2009

    Abiogenesis is impossible until science demonstrates experimentally it is possible.

    Oh really? By the logic, nuclear fission was impossible until Rutherford split the atom.

  80. #81 Treppenwitz
    November 11, 2009

    You have not answered my question, David. If—note that this is a hypothetical question—for the sake of argument (am I qualifying this question enough?), if abiogenesis were achieved in the lab, would that achievement have any bearing on your assessment of the possibility of abiogenesis in the absence of a creative intelligence?

  81. #82 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello DaveH,

    * “When you show you have made the effort to have the slightest superficial understanding of how science works, or at least stop repeating the argument from credulity as if it meant something other than your ignorance, then perhaps we’ll continue this conversation. But probably not. ”

    The task is too big for you, DaveH. That much is certain. There is a reason why actual scientists gloss over or tiptoe gently around this subject.

    How does science work? Not by mere guesswork and philosophical necessity. You’ll need to educate yourself and stop appealing to atheism as a justification for your belief in abiogenesis.

  82. #83 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Mr T,

    * “Oh really? By the logic, nuclear fission was impossible until Rutherford split the atom. ”

    Yes, Mr T, nuclear physicists did have to verify and validate their theories by successful experiments.

    I do apply the same standard to abiogenesis. That’s why abiogenesis fails.

  83. #84 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Treppenwitz,

    * “You have not answered my question, David. If—note that this is a hypothetical question—for the sake of argument (am I qualifying this question enough?), if abiogenesis were achieved in the lab, would that achievement have any bearing on your assessment of the possibility of abiogenesis in the absence of a creative intelligence? ”

    Sure as hell it would, Treppenwitz. How many times have I demanded experimental verification of abiogenesis? How many times do I have to demand such evidence?

    The abiogenesis believers seem to exempt their faith from that standard … see Mr T’s question above.

  84. #85 Mr T
    November 11, 2009

    Yes, Mr T, nuclear physicists did have to verify and validate their theories by successful experiments. I do apply the same standard to abiogenesis. That’s why abiogenesis fails.

    Sure you do, except that the proper standard is not that it’s “impossible” before it’s validated by experiment.

    If you went back to the 19th century and told everyone that nuclear fission was impossible, I’m sure many would’ve believed you, but even then you would’ve been wrong. It was possible then and did happen countless times before that, whether you knew it or not.

    You’re making the wrong claim. Abiogenesis has not been experimentally demonstrated. On the other hand, abiogenesis has also not been demonstrated to be impossible, experimentally or otherwise, by you or anyone else.

  85. #86 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Mr T,

    * “Sure you do, except that the proper standard is not that it’s “impossible” before it’s validated by experiment. … You’re making the wrong claim. Abiogenesis has not been experimentally demonstrated. On the other hand, abiogenesis has also not been demonstrated to be impossible, experimentally or otherwise, by you or anyone else.”

    Scientists have spent the last fifty years performing experiments on behalf of the abiogenesis theory and these experiments have all failed to successfully produce abiogenesis. They have also failed to provide any reasonable theoretical scenario explaining how abiogenesis could have occurred on the early Earth, Mars and everywhere else.

    My conclusion that abiogenesis is impossible is established upon the failure of all these experiments. Here is a great contrast between nuclear fission and abiogenesis: experiments verified and validated the nuclear fission idea.

    Abiogenesis failed. You might want to wait around forever until scientists experimentally verify abiogenesis but you must keep in mind that the longer it takes for scientists to accomplish the task in the lab the more unlikely it becomes that abiogenesis could have occurred in the harsh uncontrolled environment of Nature.

  86. #87 Treppenwitz
    November 11, 2009

    The existence of the Higgs boson was theorized 45 years ago, but attempts to observe it have been unsuccessful, and physics is pretty complicated. Therefore the Higgs Boson cannot possibly exist.

  87. #88 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Treppenwitz,

    * “The existence of the Higgs boson was theorized 45 years ago, but attempts to observe it have been unsuccessful, and physics is pretty complicated. Therefore the Higgs Boson cannot possibly exist. ”

    You aren’t making an argument in the above. You are seeking to exempt abiogenesis from the same strict standards which apply to nuclear physics.

    The built the Large Hadron Collider specifically to investigate the existence of the Higgs Boson. The theory will succeed or fail upon its own merits.

    Abiogenesis must succeed or fail based upon the same standard. Abiogenesis has failed experimentally. Abiogenesis has failed because abiogenesis is impossible.

  88. #89 Treppenwitz
    November 11, 2009

    Nope. It hasn’t been verified experimentally, therefore it is impossible. Current lack of success means that it is never going to happen. You are underestimating how hard physics is and insisting on blind faith that the Higgs boson exists. Don’t you know such mythologizing is ridiculous?

    I do not understand how such a thing could exist, therefore it does not.

  89. #90 David Mathews
    November 12, 2009

    Hello Treppenwitz,

    * “Nope. It hasn’t been verified experimentally, therefore it is impossible. Current lack of success means that it is never going to happen. You are underestimating how hard physics is and insisting on blind faith that the Higgs boson exists. Don’t you know such mythologizing is ridiculous? ”

    Poor poor Treppenwitz! When a physics experiment fails the theory which inspired the experiment fails. Should the Large Hadron Collider fail to find a Higgs Boson that theory will fail and nuclear physicists will have to start over again in the hope of finding a successful theory.

    The nuclear physicists won’t waste their time explaining away their failure and proffering philosophical arguments on behalf of the Higgs Boson.

    The abiogenesis proponents don’t adhere to such a high standard. The abiogenesis proponents continue to have their experiments fail yet they deny the implications of failure while claiming that abiogenesis is the only option (because otherwise they might have to believe in a god!).

    Abiogenesis is mythology. Abiogenesis is a creation myth. The Higgs Boson is science. There is a difference.

  90. #91 Treppenwitz
    November 12, 2009

    You really don’t understand the difference between “X has not been experimentally observed” and “X is impossible,” do you? That would go a long way toward explaining why you find an argument from ignorance compelling. If you can’t learn to make that distinction, there really isn’t much more to say.

  91. #92 David Mathews
    November 12, 2009

    Hello Treppenwitz,

    * “You really don’t understand the difference between “X has not been experimentally observed” and “X is impossible,” do you? That would go a long way toward explaining why you find an argument from ignorance compelling. If you can’t learn to make that distinction, there really isn’t much more to say. ”

    Eh … I suppose it is possible that Noah’s flood carved out the Grand Canyon. Do you agree that it is possible that UFOs are buzzing around in the sky and picking up poor dupes in order to perform scientific experiments?

    Abiogenesis is impossible because of the failure of scientific experiments. Just as the failure of the Higgs Boson experiments would result in the failure of the theory, the failure of abiogenesis experiments to produce abiogenesis results in the failure of the theory.

    Everything else is pure unscientific speculation.

  92. #93 Canada Guy
    November 13, 2009

    The future of human space exploration looks bleak. After making great leaps 50 years ago, stagnation has taken over. No human has left Earth orbit in 37 years, and NASA’s current unambitious goals look to be further delayed or scaled back.

    http://www.watchinghistory.com/2009/11/future-of-space-exploration.html

  93. #94 dude
    September 30, 2010

    i like lony tunes and i am 41

  94. #95 dude
    September 30, 2010

    this is a good web site i heard they found water on other planets and think there is life their we should talk about it watch movies like amargeneon matrix contact cigns sci-fi aliens vs. predetor etc

  95. i think there was because mars has surface gravity, an atmosphere, abundant water, carbon dioxide and essential minerals. Yes its true i am smarter than all of you combined!

  96. #97 Ken Cunningham
    January 2, 2011

    Clearly I can’t provide the well-groomed insight provided in this forum, however if you could indulge me for a moment I would like to share a quick estimation of the innate banality of said banter. In my humble opinion the planet earth is not nearly as fragile as one might think. When you talk of survival you clearly address “survival of the human race” not planet earth. When planet Earth is done with us it will shake us off like a bunch of fleas off a hound’s back. It is again our arrogance that lets us believe we have the power to destroy this celestial body. Yeah I know Hydrogen bombs yada…yada…yada.
    I have no doubt earth could face and survive such an event

  97. #98 casper
    January 24, 2011

    just to give my opinion on some of the things that have been written,

    ANCIENT ALIENS? the possibility is quite big, since there is almost infinite (or infinite!?) space that it could have occurred, but if also considering that it should be in range of us (if having some kind of nuclear jet, Russia is almost having it)and it should be possible for it to reach us in one of their lifetimes, they would need to be less than
    25 light year (depends on the time it would take for their planet to go around their sun, or if they had invented a cure for longer life, it is possible, right now it has been tested on flies and they live at-least 3x longer!). Also there is many religions being alike, basic it is; a shining creature creates the beast and human, give them some rules to follow, and then leaves to newer be seen again, (or something like that) and many ancient buildings is built with extreme accuracy.

    LIFE ON MARS? could be possible life has many meanings, and might be something unsuspecting, like we may have originated on MARS! could be possible and then we reached technology high enough to let us come to earth, but something goes wrong and,,, we loose the knowledge, or maybe a other intelligent race made us! in their labs, like some kind of experiment, maybe they didn’t like the outcome and left us on our own in a planet they could have tera-formed in a other experiment, or we could have been found be a ALIEN!? race that saw a potential in us and made us smarter? (human brain power increased a lot in a short period)ups got away from the LIFE ON MARS, but it should be possible in some form, maybe a creature extremely small

    MAKING LIFE OUT OF DEATH!? well cells is made of atoms and atoms is technically dead, so if scientists make a big group of atoms of different kinds to make cells and then connecting them with other atomic cells, so it is possible the part of making it “think” will be a bit harder

    SCIENCE EVOLUTION,? and yeah when we make a better microscope new materials is discovered (there have to be something smaller than a atom since a atom is made of something) we will get smarter but end up confusing us self,
    like this; you have a drawing ,you have a box that is the basic of your drawing, then you make a triangle on top then a circle then a rectangle then a star, the effect is that the drawing gets more complicated and then more confusing you may be looking for the box but it will be hidden by a lot of lines to confuse you brain

    that´s all, have a nice day :D

  98. #99 Kourtney
    February 16, 2011

    i dont think there is life on Mars. It loks like an attachment on the picture above.

  99. #100 Fatahillah
    February 27, 2011

    If mars can really live in, means that our world can be saved from most human. But that becomes a problem later on Mars is Warming

  100. #101 factoria pt
    May 5, 2011

    what i think is that the is life somewhere it can’t be earth only that has life ,if we relate this to math is must be balace.

  101. #102 Just a Kid
    December 9, 2011

    Why are we humans lookin on the planet itself? Life could unerneath their ground

  102. #103 Just a Kid
    December 9, 2011

    Why are we humans lookin on the planet itself? Life could underneath their ground