When I make an assumption…

Yesterday, I talked about why we should look for a history of life on Mars, and had an article for SEED magazine to that effect. After all, we’ve made some recent geological finds that are surefire indicators of past liquid water on Mars, and possible indicators of past life.

While most of the article was about Mars’ history as a planet and the argument that in the past, it was much more Earth-like than it is today, I had one sentence that appears to have touched off a firestorm in the comments:

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.

Abiogenesis, the process and theory of life arising from non-life, is a very touchy issue for a lot of people, and it isn’t my specialty. So what am I doing talking about it?

Because this is a fundamental assumption that we make about the natural world. In all instances that we’ve observed, life only originates from pre-existing life. Yet at some point, there was certainly no life. It’s hard to imagine having life when your Universe is so hot you can’t even form atoms, isn’t it? So if we go back 13.7 billion years, close to the big bang, we know there was no life.

So there are a whole plethora of possibilities for its origin. The primordial soup on Earth, in the atmosphere, in space, on another planet, from a pre-existing star, etc. Abiogenesis is simply the idea that when life arose, it did so from non-life, through natural processes.

We have no idea how long it took (the oldest evidence for life on Earth points back at least 3.5 billion years), whether Earth started with life or not, or whether that life originated somewhere else. But we know that we have life now, and we know that at some point in the past, there wasn’t life in the Universe. So yes, I’ve made an assumption of abiogenesis. But is that unreasonable? Other than life originating supernaturally, is there any alternative? I suppose you could say it was brought here from another Universe, but then it had to originate in that Universe somehow. Unless it’s turtles all the way down, I don’t see it.

And as scientists, we operate under the assumption that the laws of nature govern the observable phenomena in the Universe. Including the origin of life. So this is an open scientific question, as to how life originated. That’s why people still study it. We can get to complex organic molecules from non-life, and we can get to a huge amount of complexity starting with simple life, but we don’t know how to go from complex organic molecules to life, yet. But I think it’s reasonable to assume that we must. Do you?

Comments

  1. #1 Mr T
    November 10, 2009

    Can’t we all just agree that, until scientists create life from organic molecules, the most parsimonious explanation is that life on Earth was started by infinitely super-duper alien turtles from another universe?

    What’s that, you say? We can’t agree? Hmm… now that I think about it, I will concede that they may not be entirely super-duper.

  2. #2 ChrisZ
    November 10, 2009

    How could life just spontaneously start from non-life? What an absurd notion!

    The only reasonable position to take is that life still does not exist in this universe.

  3. #3 Brian
    November 10, 2009

    … and therefore any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination?

  4. #4 Helioprogenus
    November 10, 2009

    You’re not going to please all people, and it would be futile to try. Some will hold to their illogical ideas of life originating form some supernatural phenomenon. That’s fine if you want to sit around composing your view of the world through irrational filters of imagination, but when it comes to actually investigating life, then it’s important to probe into the abiogenic phase. I personally believe that life originated within the confines of our planet.

    Speaking of abiogenic theories of life, most neglect to include the thick atmospheric conditions in pre-biotic Earth. As we’ve come to realize, early earth’s atmosphere was mostly composed of carbon dioxide, and the pressures at the surface were about 100 times what they are now. Under those crushing conditions, certain theories we’ve held fall apart. The Miller-Urey experiments that we’ve accepted as a possible tool to biogenesis is unlikely under the atmospheric conditions of the Early earth. Methane was not a significant atmospheric gas to account for replicating the lab experiments on a global level. A good recent hypothesis is called the Zinc-world (http://www.physorg.com/news171263002.html), and it accounts for the atmospheric conditions.

  5. #5 Rob Jase
    November 10, 2009

    Ah, but what if Terra’s life evolved from parasites that crawled up the turtles????

  6. #6 Sam K.
    November 10, 2009

    Interesting and timely story:

    “NASA Reproduces A Building Block Of Life In Laboratory”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091110070320.htm

  7. #7 NewEnglandBob
    November 10, 2009

    All this talk of abiogenesis is silly.

    It is the Higgs Boson that went back 3.75 billion years and created life, so that it could eventually evolve in Homo Sapiens who created the LHC so that the Higgs Boson can go back into the past to sabotage the LHC so that the Higgs Boson could travel back…

  8. #8 Nathan Myers
    November 10, 2009

    The most parsimonious explanation is not that life doesn’t actually exist, or that it does exist and was created by miraculous means, or that it does exist and came about naturally and incrementally.

    Rather, it is simply that David Mathews doesn’t exist. By Occam’s razor, I’m going with that one.

  9. #9 Mr T
    November 10, 2009

    David Mathews has not commented on this thread.

    It would require blind faith in David Mathews without scientific verification of his existence (as a commenter on the laboratory which is this thread).

    Therefore, David Mathews does not exist.

    Yep. I can accept that. Now, can we get back to the important stuff, like super space turtles? Who wants to bet Hubble or the LHC will find them within a year?

  10. #10 Ian Musgrave
    November 11, 2009

    Helioprogenus wrote:

    As we’ve come to realize, early earth’s atmosphere was mostly composed of carbon dioxide, and the pressures at the surface were about 100 times what they are now./blockquote>

    Actually, this is a low probability atmosphere, more like are weakly reducing CO2 dominated atmospheres of 1-10 Barr. See for example Warming early Earth and Mars
    Kasting JF. Science. 1997 May 23;276(5316):1213-5, Tian F, Toon O.B, Pavlov A.A, De Sterck H 2005 A hydrogen rich early Earth atmosphere. Science. 308, 1014–1017. These atmospheres are reasonably productive of organics, with Miller-Urey type discharge and even more productive when exposed to coronal discharge.

    This doesn’t mean that reduction on Zinc (or other metal sulphate particles) played no role, it is likely that many independent mechanisms, including infall from interplanetary dust, comets and meteorites, contributed to the organics on the the early Earth.

    Considering the abundant extraterrestrial amino acids and other organics in carbonaceous chondites, material that was produced in the crust of protoplantes with atmospheres not dissimilar to that of early Earth and Mars before their disruption, there must be some effective mechanism for generating these complex organics on early planetary surfaces.

    The very fact that complex organics are found in the remnants of protoplanets suggests that ancient warm, wet Mars would have been equally, if not more, conductive to assembly of life as Earth (there may have been fewer planet sterilizing impacts on early Mars for example). Indeed Paul Davies suggests that life may have arisen first on Mars and then been transferred to Earth.

    There is a heack of a lot we still don’t know about the origin of life, but given what we know about the early conditions on Mars, Earth and protoplanets, Mars has to be a reasonable bet for having life arise there.

  11. #11 Sab
    November 11, 2009

    Just spotted your blog today and I’m really enjoying it :)

    Until supernatural forces become observable and quantifiable we have to operate with the natural ones, so it makes sense to use them in constructing hypotheses about how life may have first arisen. I find it a really interesting question to explore.

    So about that David Mathews chap…random insane bloke or regular forum troll?

  12. #12 Ethan Siegel
    November 11, 2009

    Sab, glad you’re enjoying it! You seem to know a lot more than I do about abiogenesis, which is absolutely awesome!

    A lot of the commenters in this thread are regulars here. You’d have to ask them about the other forums on the site…

  13. #13 Dunc
    November 11, 2009

    Usually, we start by defining our terms… What is “life”, what is “non-life”, and how do you tell the difference?

  14. #14 Rob Knop
    November 11, 2009

    There is, of course another option: closed timelike curves. Life never originated in the first place. Life from the future goes back in time to be the source of life in the past.

    This is my favorite model, because it’s hardest on the brain. :)

    When I advanced this as a theory as to who wrote Shakespeare (a time traveller goes back in time to find out who wrote Shakespeare’s plays, and brings with him a “Complete Works of Shakespeare”. He accidentally leave it behind; Will finds it, thinks it’s good stuff, and decides to write it out in his own and and pass it off as his own), a professor of literature in my online theater group said that it was the first anti-Stratfordian theory he’d heard that he thought might have something going for it… :)

  15. #15 simbol
    November 11, 2009

    Dunc
    To my best knowledge and i’m a layman in the matter, what is needed for life is basically Replication. But replication implies inheritance and metabolism, and metabolism requires catalysis.

  16. #16 Cody
    November 11, 2009

    I used to think it we may never know the story of abiogenesis–it just seemed so long ago and so well covered by all the life we have now, it seems reasonable that it may remain a mystery for long after I’m gone. But then I saw this video. (“Are you ready to have your minds blown!?“) And that satisfies my curiosity plenty.

    I’m sure many people who take a stronger interest in abiogenesis have many more questions (and maybe this isn’t even the right story yet), but all I was looking for was a plausible hypothesis (which I believe this is).

    Also, if you like that video, you should check out his other ones too, lots of great science in them.

  17. #17 daedalus2u
    November 11, 2009

    Replication and inheritance don’t necessarily involve “metabolism” per se. For example proteases only catalyze the hydrolysis of polypeptides. That is an equilibrium issue and so depends on the concentrations of water and the peptides. Changing the concentration of water, via hydration and dehydration would cause peptides to be unmade and then remade. There can be significant specificity in proteases, which means that they catalyze the cleaving and remaking of peptide bonds between specific amino acids better or worse.

    Since proteases are also peptides, the “right” proteases could be selected for in a puddle that alternately dried during the day and became hydrated at night due to dew or via rain or the tides or from erupting geysers like Old Faithful.

    Non-peptides can act as catalysts too, different clays with different cations and different adsorbed species can be catalysts too.

    Your assumption was that the readers of your blog want to learn something and are being intellectually honest. The troll David Mathews was neither. The argument that “no one has observed abiogenesis in the laboratory so it can’t happen” applies to supernatural events too. No one has seen a human made out of mud and animated by having air breathed into them, so that can’t happen either.

  18. #18 Tom_23
    November 11, 2009

    @2 I know a lot of people (including myself) that do not have a life. :)

    (I will be here all week)

  19. #19 Anita
    November 11, 2009

    I felt like I was shouting into a storm. This entry and the comments made me remember that most people here can follow a reasonable argument. Thank you.

  20. #20 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Ethan,

    I spent all my time on the other thread — the thread in which you haven’t responded — and have just now noticed that you wrote this post. Needless to say, I’m not at all impressed by your argument …

    * “We have no idea how long it took (the oldest evidence for life on Earth points back at least 3.5 billion years), whether Earth started with life or not, or whether that life originated somewhere else. But we know that we have life now, and we know that at some point in the past, there wasn’t life in the Universe. So yes, I’ve made an assumption of abiogenesis. But is that unreasonable? Other than life originating supernaturally, is there any alternative? ”

    In answer to your questions:

    1. Abiogenesis is not reasonable at all.

    2. Appealing to atheism as a justification for abiogenesis is simply begging the question.

    Abiogenesis still remains impossible, experimentally unverified, theoretically unexplained, a mystery wrapped in a mystery, a question which science hasn’t yet answered.

  21. #21 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello daedalus2u,

    * “The argument that “no one has observed abiogenesis in the laboratory so it can’t happen” applies to supernatural events too. No one has seen a human made out of mud and animated by having air breathed into them, so that can’t happen either. ”

    If abiogenesis is possible there isn’t any reason to suppose that it cannot occur in a lab. Nonetheless, abiogenesis proponents seem to claim that abiogenesis cannot possible occur in a lab … but by some change it happened to occur in a warm little pond or a hydrothermal vent or some other dangerous unstable uncontrolled environment.

  22. #22 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Sab,

    * “Until supernatural forces become observable and quantifiable we have to operate with the natural ones, so it makes sense to use them in constructing hypotheses about how life may have first arisen. I find it a really interesting question to explore. ”

    I find it quite amusing how often abiogenesis proponents appeal to their own atheism as a philosophical justification for their blind faith in abiogenesis. Such an argument is inherently circular.

    As for myself, I can assure you … I don’t care whether you believe in God or not. Your philosophical and religious opinions aren’t relevant to the scientific question.

    The scientific question is:

    Is abiogenesis possible?

    I have already provided my answer to the question: Abiogenesis is impossible. I have also justified my answer by the two paradoxes of abiogenesis: Life and Death.

    If you want to scientifically justify your belief in abiogenesis you must resolve those two paradoxes. I’m waiting patiently for you to do so.

  23. #23 Mr T
    November 11, 2009

    You’re still being dishonest, Mathews. There’s no reason to think it’s impossible. In your “two paradoxes”, you conveniently neglected to mention that when something is alive, and before it dies, it can replicate or reproduce. Thus, there’s no paradox.

  24. #24 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Mr T,

    * “You’re still being dishonest, Mathews. There’s no reason to think it’s impossible. In your “two paradoxes”, you conveniently neglected to mention that when something is alive, and before it dies, it can replicate or reproduce. Thus, there’s no paradox. ”

    Well, I’ve already explained why abiogenesis is impossible. Self-sustaining self-repairing self-reproducing machines aren’t the sort of machines that you’d expect to originate from simply mixing chemicals together and waiting for the magic to happen.

    Experiments have failed to produce such a result even when under the careful guidance of intelligent scientists. Experiments have actually revealed a bunch of dead-ends and insurmountable gaps.

    The entire question revolves around the origin of replication and reproduction so your last sentence doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

  25. #25 Mr T
    November 11, 2009

    David Mathews:

    I don’t take a lot of pleasure out of berating ignorant people. I strongly recommend watching the video @#16, which I’ll link again HERE. It illustrates most of the basic concepts behind abiogenesis clearly, without a lot of technical details. I think it addresses all of the issues you’ve brought up so far, so it should get you on the right track.

    For example, it is possible for nucleotides to spontaneously replicate, and it is possible for primitive cells to form spontaneously. It’s up to you whether you just want to go on repeating yourself with no supporting evidence.

  26. #26 Steve F
    November 11, 2009

    David, abiogenesis is a scientific hypothesis based on the extrapolation of our understanding of cosmology, stellar nucleosynthesis, inorganic/organic/astro/biochemistry, geology, geochemistry/physics, and biological evolution backward much like the Big Bang theory is a reverse extrapolation of cosmic expansion. Abiogenesis is not a well defined scientific “theory” or set of sientific “laws”. Any lab experiments that reproduce steps of abiogenesis will not prove that abiogenesis occurred here or anywhere. There may be multiple possible chemical paths to life in the universe with ours being only one example. That is why we need to explore Mars and the universe for that matter. We can prove that life has evolved on this planet without difficulty but unless there are fossil clues in ancient rocks that we someday learn to extract, abiogenesis will remain a logical extrapolation of the available data. Your claim to the contrary is nothing more than logical fallacy in the form of an argument from incredulity/ignorance. Your argument also exposes your ignorance of science in general. The resources currently and historically committed to astrobiological research are very small. You fail to appreciate how vast and long lived a chemical laboratory the pre-life earth was and how efficient extant life would be at resource utilization and suppression of further abiogenesis. The early earth would have been an energized chemical soup devoid of life. In this environment, even highly inefficient/improbable chemical reactions would have had a chance because there was nothing to compete with except alternative chemical reactions. As resource/energy depletion occurs, selection and evolution begin, even of nonliving chemical processes just as we see in biological evolution today.
    So, we assume that abiogenesis occurred based on what we see today and historically in the universe, our solar system, and especially our planet. That does not mean it started here on earth, although, that is logically the most likely answer. Can we prove it? No, but on the other hand, can you prove any alternative? Is anyone here claiming any of this with absolute certainty other than you? Can you provide a statistically more likely scenario?
    Other than the obvious conflicts with a strict interpretation of Genesis 1-2, why do you conflate abiogenesis with atheism?

  27. #27 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Mr T,

    * “It illustrates most of the basic concepts behind abiogenesis clearly, without a lot of technical details. I think it addresses all of the issues you’ve brought up so far, so it should get you on the right track. ”

    You’ve not actually produced any evidence on behalf of abiogenesis. If such evidence existed you wouldn’t need to direct my attention to a YouTube video … you would only have to mention a successful scientific experiment which resulted in abiogenesis.

    * “For example, it is possible for nucleotides to spontaneously replicate, and it is possible for primitive cells to form spontaneously. It’s up to you whether you just want to go on repeating yourself with no supporting evidence. ”

    To begin with, nucleotides aren’t life. Secondarily, cells don’t form spontaneously.

    If abiogenesis was so easily accomplished the author of this blog would not have to rely upon an * assumption * regarding abiogenesis.

  28. #28 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Steve F,

    * “Abiogenesis is not a well defined scientific “theory” or set of sientific “laws”. Any lab experiments that reproduce steps of abiogenesis will not prove that abiogenesis occurred here or anywhere. There may be multiple possible chemical paths to life in the universe with ours being only one example. ”

    It is not necessary to know * everything * about abiogenesis in order to scientists to experimentally verify that abiogenesis is possible. Physics advanced tremendously during the 19th century although scientists didn’t yet have a clue about subatomic particles.

    The problem with abiogenesis doesn’t relate to what is unknown. Abiogenesis fails because of what is already known.

    * “We can prove that life has evolved on this planet without difficulty but unless there are fossil clues in ancient rocks that we someday learn to extract, abiogenesis will remain a logical extrapolation of the available data. ”

    A logical extrapolation doesn’t amount to a legitimate scientific theory without any experimental support. A logical extrapolation is nothing more than a philosophical argument cloaked in scientific-sounding clothing.

    * “Your claim to the contrary is nothing more than logical fallacy in the form of an argument from incredulity/ignorance. ”

    No, my entire argument is based upon what science knows. Scientists have spent fifty years investigating abiogenesis and the inner workings of living cells and all of this effort has resulted in multiple dead ends for all abiogenesis theories. Such is an unfortunate outcome for a theory which presupposes that abiogenesis has occurred numerous times throughout the Universe, on the Earth and perhaps also on Mars.

    * “You fail to appreciate how vast and long lived a chemical laboratory the pre-life earth was and how efficient extant life would be at resource utilization and suppression of further abiogenesis. The early earth would have been an energized chemical soup devoid of life. In this environment, even highly inefficient/improbable chemical reactions would have had a chance because there was nothing to compete with except alternative chemical reactions. As resource/energy depletion occurs, selection and evolution begin, even of nonliving chemical processes just as we see in biological evolution today. ”

    Experiments have tested the above theory and it has failed. Life is more than prebiotic soup. Life is actually much more than even biotic soup. Life requires the careful coordination of biological nanotechnology. The failure of the cell’s equipment leads directly to death.

    * “Can we prove it? No … ”

    You cannot prove it because it cannot happen.

    * “Other than the obvious conflicts with a strict interpretation of Genesis 1-2, why do you conflate abiogenesis with atheism? ”

    Because numerous people here, including the blog’s author, have appealed to atheism as a defense of their belief in abiogenesis.

  29. #29 Andrew
    November 11, 2009

    Because numerous people here, including the blog’s author, have appealed to atheism as a defense of their belief in abiogenesis.

    But not as a justification or as evidence.

    You’re either unwilling to understand the difference, or you’re incapable of it. A large number of people here are being very charitable to you and are trying to explain the difference, operating under the assumption (there’s that word again) of the former, hoping to convince you with evidence and logic. Do them the favor of arguing with them in good faith, won’t you?

  30. #30 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Andrew,

    * “Because numerous people here, including the blog’s author, have appealed to atheism as a defense of their belief in abiogenesis.

    * “But not as a justification or as evidence. ”

    That’s quite funny considering how many times atheism and theism has already come up in the discussion. For whatever reason the blog’s author and many other people associated the abiogenesis idea with religion or the lack thereof.

    I could document all of these statements but you can re-read through the entire argument and find them all by yourself. Atheism has come up plenty of times and God-theism-the Bible as well.

    * “You’re either unwilling to understand the difference, or you’re incapable of it. A large number of people here are being very charitable to you and are trying to explain the difference, operating under the assumption (there’s that word again) of the former, hoping to convince you with evidence and logic. Do them the favor of arguing with them in good faith, won’t you? ”

    I can only read what people write. If numerous people bring up atheism numerous times I must assume that abiogenesis and atheism are closely related, necessarily so.

  31. #31 Mr T
    November 11, 2009

    David,
    I didn’t refer to that video as if it were the empirical evidence necessary. The video itself is just a helpful tool to explain, to people like yourself, why you are wrong. There are mountains of evidence supporting all of the points listed in the video. Do you just deny this, or do you have any way to refute it?

    I didn’t say “nucleotides are life”, which raises the important question: what do you think “life” is? You can’t simply assert “cells don’t form spontaneously” without evidence — where’s your contradicting evidence?

    Other than religious indoctrination, I can’t imagine how you’ve come to think it is “impossible”. If the universe has a finite age, then it is logically necessary for life to have begun at some point or another. Life exists. Therefore, some mechanism started it, whether it was chemistry and physics, aliens, YHWH, or the FSM. That’s about all there is to it. I’ve never met aliens, YHWH, or the FSM, so for now I’m sticking with chemistry and physics.

    If not abiogenesis, then what? How do you know? Please show your work. Until then, you’ll get no more responses from me.

  32. #32 Andrew
    November 11, 2009

    I can only read what people write. If numerous people bring up atheism numerous times I must assume that abiogenesis and atheism are closely related, necessarily so.

    Only insofar as abiogenesis is the only possibility if supernatural creation is ruled out. However, obviously, abiogenesis occurring does not eliminate the possibility of a supernatural event, merely its involvement.

    But the point is this: pointing to the proximity of those words is what is called arguing in bad faith, because in order to make the connection you are making, you must first ignore all the other words in the posts you are reading.

    By all means, continue pleading ignorance, but you really have passed the point where you can be plausibly ignorant. At this point, you are either deliberately not understanding, responding only to “trigger words” in posts in order to springboard into your next “argument”, or you’re actually dense enough to be unable to understand.

    I believe it is the second. Prove me wrong by changing your tune and actually addressing the content of the posts you’re responding to.

  33. #33 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Mr T,

    * “I didn’t refer to that video as if it were the empirical evidence necessary. The video itself is just a helpful tool to explain, to people like yourself, why you are wrong. There are mountains of evidence supporting all of the points listed in the video. Do you just deny this, or do you have any way to refute it? ”

    The video isn’t accepted as scientific evidence on behalf of abiogenesis. If the video successfully accomplished that task the blog’s author wouldn’t have to make an * assumption * regarding abiogenesis.

    YouTube videos are automatically excluded from consideration as scientific evidence. There are hour-long YouTube videos explaining how the Grand Canyon formed during Noah’s Flood. Needless to say, YouTube isn’t a reliable source to resolve scientific disputes.

    * “I didn’t say “nucleotides are life”, which raises the important question: what do you think “life” is? You can’t simply assert “cells don’t form spontaneously” without evidence — where’s your contradicting evidence? ”

    The above question is an confusing conflation of contradictory ideas. I suspect that you are not well acquianted with the complex machinery which allows cells to function and remain alive long enough to reproduce.

    Life is more than nucleotides. Yes, absolutely!

    What is life? Here is a mystery as of yet unresolved by science.

    * “Other than religious indoctrination, I can’t imagine how you’ve come to think it is “impossible”. If the universe has a finite age, then it is logically necessary for life to have begun at some point or another. Life exists. Therefore, some mechanism started it, whether it was chemistry and physics, aliens, YHWH, or the FSM. That’s about all there is to it. I’ve never met aliens, YHWH, or the FSM, so for now I’m sticking with chemistry and physics. ”

    Poor Andrew wrote that post above denying any association between atheism and abiogenesis and it was refuted so quickly. Poor, poor Andrew!

    * “If not abiogenesis, then what? How do you know? Please show your work. Until then, you’ll get no more responses from me. ”

    Abiogenesis is impossible. That’s all I can say. Beyond that you’ll have to follow your own thoughts to their own conclusion since I waste no time worrying about the religious or non-religious opinions of others.

  34. #34 Andrew
    November 11, 2009

    Poor Andrew wrote that post above denying any association between atheism and abiogenesis and it was refuted so quickly. Poor, poor Andrew!

    As anyone can plainly see, I did not deny “any association”. I clarified the association’s boundaries.

    Given that you have clearly and wilfully misinterpreted my very concise and simply stated point, I can now safely conclude that you are not worth responding to further. I leave you in the hands of those more patient than I.

  35. #35 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Andrew,

    * “Only insofar as abiogenesis is the only possibility if supernatural creation is ruled out. However, obviously, abiogenesis occurring does not eliminate the possibility of a supernatural event, merely its involvement. ”

    The abiogenesis does not exclude theism that means that the author of this blog and many of the posters here are seriously confused about abiogenesis’ implications.

    The atheism argument on behalf of abiogenesis has failed. So we can exclude it from consideration and concentrate upon the scientific failure of abiogenesis.

    * “But the point is this: pointing to the proximity of those words is what is called arguing in bad faith, because in order to make the connection you are making, you must first ignore all the other words in the posts you are reading. ”

    What the hell? If I exclude consideration of what people say that would render their comments completely vacant.

    * “By all means, continue pleading ignorance, but you really have passed the point where you can be plausibly ignorant. At this point, you are either deliberately not understanding, responding only to “trigger words” in posts in order to springboard into your next “argument”, or you’re actually dense enough to be unable to understand. ”

    If you have some argument on behalf of abiogenesis you might as well bring it up so that it might be considered. These others, including the blog’s author, haven’t yet done so.

    This might explain why they bring up atheism and God so often. The lack of scientific evidence leads to philosophical speculation.

  36. #36 Steve F
    November 11, 2009

    David, your claim that abiogenesis has been proven impossible is scientifically unsupported. You may have religious reasons to wish it impossible but there are a growing number of active scientists with active research grants that would argue otherwise. If you think there is data to the contrary, why don’t you provide appropriate peer reviewed references/citations for the education of us all. Proclaiming it impossible without supporting evidence is another logical fallacy; argument from authority. Argument from authority is ,of course, the foundation of religion and the antithesis of scientific investigation.
    I get the sense of another type of cognitive failure I see in the creationists; that of concrete ideology. You seem to see life as only a modern complex cell with all of the highly evolved molecular gadgetry already in place. Most scientists that I know would have a much fuzzier view. A view that would make it difficult to point to an exact time in the history of earth when the last protocell became the first “cellular life” just as it is difficult to point to an exact point in time when a single species becomes 2 during speciation events. A view life as an unbroken chain back to the very first associated ancestral chemical replicators. No distinct point in time when “life” started.

  37. #37 Sab
    November 11, 2009

    I see the troll has a burning desire to always get the last word, and a continuing need to describe cells as machines, which is just plain wrong.

    @Mr Troll: There is no mention of atheism in my post above. It is you who keep bringing up atheism so clearly its a favourite topic for you. Whatever.

    Anyway, its nice to read/meet the rest of you :)

  38. #38 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello SteveF,

    * “David, your claim that abiogenesis has been proven impossible is scientifically unsupported. You may have religious reasons to wish it impossible but there are a growing number of active scientists with active research grants that would argue otherwise. ”

    Arguments and assumptions would not be necessary if scientific experiments succeeded in verifying abiogenesis. Science’s failure makes philosophical arguments necessary.

    * “If you think there is data to the contrary, why don’t you provide appropriate peer reviewed references/citations for the education of us all. Proclaiming it impossible without supporting evidence is another logical fallacy; argument from authority. Argument from authority is ,of course, the foundation of religion and the antithesis of scientific investigation. ”

    Another example of rhetoric attempting to compensate for a lack of scientific verification.

    * “I get the sense of another type of cognitive failure I see in the creationists; that of concrete ideology. You seem to see life as only a modern complex cell with all of the highly evolved molecular gadgetry already in place. ”

    What the hell? I haven’s said any such thing.

    * “Most scientists that I know would have a much fuzzier view. A view that would make it difficult to point to an exact time in the history of earth when the last protocell became the first “cellular life” … ”

    This is pure nonsense. You cannot define life away so that nonlife becomes life.

    If the boundary between life and non-life is so fuzzy, though, it should be easy for scientists to produce abiogenesis in the lab. Unfortunately they haven’t.

    I guess that boundary isn’t quite as fuzzy as you wish.

    * “A view life as an unbroken chain back to the very first associated ancestral chemical replicators. No distinct point in time when “life” started. ”

    You are attempting the define the problem out of existence.

  39. #39 David Mathews
    November 11, 2009

    Hello Sab,

    * “I see the troll has a burning desire to always get the last word, and a continuing need to describe cells as machines, which is just plain wrong. ”

    How would you describe the cell, Sab? If you prefer some alternative terminology no one is preventing you from using it.

    * “There is no mention of atheism in my post above. It is you who keep bringing up atheism so clearly its a favourite topic for you. Whatever. ”

    Eh, I’m not certain what you are complaining about. You aren’t the only person talking.

  40. #40 Sab
    November 12, 2009

    Cells are complex biochemistry, they are not machines, its quite simple to differentiate the two.

    And you made the comment about atheism directly following a quote from my post, so its reasonable to complain about your sweeping generalisation.

    Its interesting that you still can’t let go of having the last word. Perhaps you could direct your infinite wisdom to actually trying to understand why microbiology is just as important as organic chemistry when thinking about the possibility of abiogenesis. You might also want to expose yourself to a lab and try to learn something about microbial ecology before you start coming out with pathetic appeals to ignorance about how you just know it must be easier to do something in a lab than in nature.

    Anyway, since you know it to be impossible you are really wasting your time bothering people who are actually interested in discussing the possibility. Go away troll.

  41. #41 MadScientist
    November 12, 2009

    That life developed from non-living molecules is the only reasonable hypothesis we can come up with at this stage. Claiming that we are ignorant and therefore there must be a supernatural ‘first cause’ is not only unreasonable (I am ignorant and therefore the answer must be this one which I have no evidence for) but self-contradicting, self-referential and infinitely regressing – in other words, something which we can imagine but as far as human experience has shown throughout history, does not actually ever happen. On a philosophical level, the mathematician’s conclusion is that a self-contradicting statement is nothing but nonsense.

    We have no idea how long it was before life eventually developed from a primordial soup somewhere in the vicinity of our solar system. Let’s say for argument’s sake that it only took 100 million years. That is such a phenomenal length of time – I have great difficulty trying to imagine even the span of recorded history – think that when the oldest of the pyramids were built, the patterns of stars in the skies were noticeably different and the seasons did not occur in the months which we currently associate them with. Anyway it’s a span of time that folks like me have incredible difficulty trying to imagine. In the laboratory it typically takes me 2 years to accomplish something simple which I know from principle should work. Living organisms are not simple; even with chemical reactions which are deliberately directed to showing various steps which may have occurred as life developed, the effort will easily exceed the lifespan of any human. I would be very happy if, in my lifetime, someone could demonstrate an acellular organism capable of replication (not even self-replication – just replication in any reasonable chemical environment).

  42. #42 David Mathews
    November 12, 2009

    Hello Sab,

    * “Cells are complex biochemistry, they are not machines, its quite simple to differentiate the two. ”

    Changing terminology does not make abiogenesis any more possible, Sab. Yes, of course, cells contain complex biochemistry. Without the complex biochemistry working in a coordinated manner the cell would die.

    Outside the cell wall, the complex biochemistry would also die.

    In other words: Abiogenesis is impossible.

    Life requires a level of complexity and coordination which isn’t available in a warm little pond or hydrothermal vent. How then did life originate?

  43. #43 David Mathews
    November 12, 2009

    Hello MadScientist,

    * “That life developed from non-living molecules is the only reasonable hypothesis we can come up with at this stage. ”

    Reasonable to whom?

    * “Claiming that we are ignorant and therefore there must be a supernatural ‘first cause’ is not only unreasonable (I am ignorant and therefore the answer must be this one which I have no evidence for) but self-contradicting, self-referential and infinitely regressing – in other words, something which we can imagine but as far as human experience has shown throughout history, does not actually ever happen. On a philosophical level, the mathematician’s conclusion is that a self-contradicting statement is nothing but nonsense. ”

    Philosophical mumbo-jumbo in defense of a scientifically unproven idea. Please see Andrew’s post above regarding the Atheism Argument for Abiogenesis.

    * “We have no idea how long it was before life eventually developed from a primordial soup somewhere in the vicinity of our solar system. Let’s say for argument’s sake that it only took 100 million years. ”

    Life didn’t originate in 100 million years. Sure as hell there isn’t any living thing which lives 100 million years. Nor are there any prebiotic chemical processes which could have functioned for 100 million years.

    Life had to originate suddenly because prebiotic chemicals are unstable and prone to destruction. Abiogenesis had to occur numerous times because naked self-replicating chemicals are more prone to death than living cells.

    The 100 million years is irrelevant. It is sort of like saying, “No one knows how the Atlantic ocean formed because it took so many millions of years to happen.”

    * “Anyway it’s a span of time that folks like me have incredible difficulty trying to imagine. In the laboratory it typically takes me 2 years to accomplish something simple which I know from principle should work. Living organisms are not simple; even with chemical reactions which are deliberately directed to showing various steps which may have occurred as life developed, the effort will easily exceed the lifespan of any human. ”

    A prebiotic chemical reaction didn’t have decades or centuries to attain life. So all this talk of time is mystical silliness.

    * “I would be very happy if, in my lifetime, someone could demonstrate an acellular organism capable of replication (not even self-replication – just replication in any reasonable chemical environment). ”

    Here is a level of desperation which I would associate with scientists in pursuit of an impossibility. If it takes scientists decades or centuries or millennia to accomplish self-replication in a lab this alone would exclude the possiility that such an immense accomplishment could have occurred by chance billions of years ago on the Earth and billions of times throughout the Universe.

    Abiogenesis has failed although scientists have tried so desperate to succeed. Abiogenesis failed because abiogenesis is impossible.

  44. #44 Deen
    November 12, 2009

    @David Mathews: simple question: is a virus alive?

  45. #45 David Mathews
    November 12, 2009

    Hello Deen,

    * “simple question: is a virus alive? ”

    Here is a controversial question but it is also quite irrelevant because no one is suggesting that abiogenesis resulted in a virus.

    I’m actually more concerned about something much more simple than even a virus: a naked self-replicating molecule.

    Science hasn’t a clue how such a thing could ever originate nor how it could survive.

  46. #46 Deen
    November 12, 2009

    @David: feast your eyes on this then: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/01/chemical_replicators.php

    Although I predict that you’ll come up with some lame excuse for why this example doesn’t count.

  47. #47 David Mathews
    November 12, 2009

    Hello Deen,

    I don’t actually have to come up with some lame excuse for why that doesn’t count … because the article itself says:

    * “Again, don’t have illusions that this is an example of a resurrected chemical function from the dawn of time — it’s a demonstration of the feasibility of one part of the process of chemical evolution. ”

    Abiogenesis didn’t occur in the experiment, either. It is a dead-end.

    Oh, did you notice what else the article said …

    * “People often wonder why these kinds of prebiotic reactions aren’t going on all the time in the world around us, and the authors agree that this is not something that can occur naturally right now. Why? The answer is simple: the world around us is swarming with the ravenous, finely-honed products of billions of years of evolution, creatures like bacteria, that would readily swoop down on any accumulation of nucleotides and consume them before these kinds of reactions could even start. Nowadays, it takes a sterile lab and many precautions to put these chemicals into the kind of coddled environment where they can evolve. ”

    The reaction needs a coddled environment in which to occur. Given that the early Earth wasn’t a coddled environment by any means the reactions would never have occurred.

    Abiogenesis failed. Better luck next time.

  48. #48 Deen
    November 12, 2009

    David: Something wrong with your reading comprehension? Or are you just dishonest? Your first quote only says we can’t be sure that this reaction actually took place in the distant past. But the article definitely shows that such molecules can in fact exist, which is what you claimed to be “impossible”.

    And the “coddled environment” clearly referred to shielding these molecules from life, which would otherwise have cobbled up the nucleotides instead. That would hardly have been a problem on a pre-biotic earth, now wouldn’t it?

    This is not evidence of abiogenesis, indeed, but it does answer your demand for self-replicating molecules. It does show such processes are possible, under certain conditions. At the very least, it should mean that self-replication is not impossible, but merely unlikely. Then again, this is just one single example of a self-replicating system. Who knows how many other examples exist out there? Who knows how many of those might also work under less controlled circumstances? Your assertion that abiogenesis is “impossible” is therefore clearly not justified.

  49. #49 daedalus2u
    November 12, 2009

    I vote for just dishonest.

  50. #50 Dave
    November 12, 2009

    daedalus2u, my vote is willfully stupid, but a textbook example of effective trolling. Ethan gave him this whole thread as a response to earlier posts, and many insist on continuing to feed him. Since he is demonstrably a troll, appropriate troll food would be to ask if he sees any polyps while he’s got his head so far up his ass.

    And a question for Mr. Matthews:
    Why are all your songs in the same damn key? It gets monotonous after a while. Oh, wait, that Dave Matthews may actually have a brain.

  51. #51 Mr T
    November 12, 2009

    I vote for dishonest, stupid, annoying, and arrogant.

    I want to note to Andrew (and others) that I agree, and that in no way did I refute the distinction Andrew made. Atheism isn’t necessary for abiogenesis, nor is abiogenesis necessary for atheism.

    Some religious believe life started from nonliving material. Duh. Some think it happened by supernatural means, but others do not. Sometimes you feel like a nut…

    Some atheists do not believe in abiogenesis. Duh again. For example, Raelians and Scientologists do not (when limited to the Earth, at least, and beyond that I don’t care enough to research).

    Thus, there’s no necessary logical connection between atheism and abiogenesis. It’s simply that there’s no reason or evidence that they must be incompatible (unlike many religious beliefs), and alternative explanations for life’s origins are much less plausible.

  52. #52 Steve R
    November 12, 2009

    Show me two instances of abiogenesis and I’ll agree that a third is justified, but showing me one (whichever one led to life on Earth) and using that to justify a second is unreasonable. We have no idea of just how probable such an event is. By the anthropic principle we’re obviously here to observe it so we see one instance. For all we know, the instance of abiogenesis which led to us could be the only one which has happened so far in the universe.

    Besides that, if we do find life on Mars then interplanetary panspermia is also possible. Abiogenesis isn’t the only answer.

  53. #53 David Mathews
    November 12, 2009

    Hello Deen,

    * “Something wrong with your reading comprehension? Or are you just dishonest? Your first quote only says we can’t be sure that this reaction actually took place in the distant past. But the article definitely shows that such molecules can in fact exist, which is what you claimed to be “impossible”. ”

    The article said no such thing. A similar chain of reasoning would result in concluding that natural forces could create integrated circuit chips because scientists can do so in a lab. In realistic early Earth circumstances these molecules wouldn’t exist, wouldn’t concentrate, wouldn’t self-replicate, and wouldn’t attain life.

    * “And the “coddled environment” clearly referred to shielding these molecules from life, which would otherwise have cobbled up the nucleotides instead. That would hardly have been a problem on a pre-biotic earth, now wouldn’t it? ”

    Of course … except, well, everything else about the early Earth environment. Even in a sterile exposed environment these molecules wouldn’t survive. However, scientists can perform the experiment under more realistic circumstances and they can tell us exactly how it turns out.

    * “This is not evidence of abiogenesis, indeed, but it does answer your demand for self-replicating molecules. It does show such processes are possible, under certain conditions. At the very least, it should mean that self-replication is not impossible, but merely unlikely. ”

    The experiment did not prove that self-replicating molecules are merely unlikely under early Earth circumstances. I’d say that the experiment proved that such molecules are impossible. The very need for careful control and other forms of intelligent intervention rule out this method as an avenue for abiogenesis.

    * “Who knows how many other examples exist out there? Who knows how many of those might also work under less controlled circumstances? Your assertion that abiogenesis is “impossible” is therefore clearly not justified. ”

    If abiogenesis were possible under uncontrolled circumstances scientists undoubtedly would have documented it by now. If nature is inclined to invest prebiotic chemicals with life experiments would have demonstrated this by now.

    The longer it takes for scientists to accomplish the task under controlled, guided circumstances the more evident it becomes that abiogenesis is impossible under all realistic early Earth circumstances.

  54. #54 David Mathews
    November 12, 2009

    Hello Dave,

    * “daedalus2u, my vote is willfully stupid … ”

    Wipe away your bitter tears, Dave, as I sacrifice your sacred cow and demonstrate the irrationality of your creation myth.

    If science actually supported your opinions the author of this blog wouldn’t have to call abiogenesis an assumption and all of these futile rhetorical arguments wouldn’t be necessary.

  55. #55 David Mathews
    November 12, 2009

    Hello Mr T,

    * “Thus, there’s no necessary logical connection between atheism and abiogenesis. It’s simply that there’s no reason or evidence that they must be incompatible (unlike many religious beliefs), and alternative explanations for life’s origins are much less plausible. ”

    Andrew already proved that these two topics (religion and abiogenesis) aren’t at all related so there isn’t any point in you wasted any more words on an irrelevancy.

    Abiogenesis must stand or fall based upon its own merits. Abiogenesis fails based upon its own merits. Abiogenesis is impossible.

  56. #56 David Mathews
    November 12, 2009

    Hello Steve R,

    * “Show me two instances of abiogenesis and I’ll agree that a third is justified, but showing me one (whichever one led to life on Earth) and using that to justify a second is unreasonable. We have no idea of just how probable such an event is. By the anthropic principle we’re obviously here to observe it so we see one instance. For all we know, the instance of abiogenesis which led to us could be the only one which has happened so far in the universe. ”

    The above is properly identified as begging the question.

    The existence of life on the Earth isn’t subject to dispute.

    We’re arguing about whether or not abiogenesis is possible. The evidence is quite contrary to that opinion.

    So science has an unresolved mystery and life goes on. Some unanswered questions must always remain unanswered.

    Abiogenesis is a scientific speculative idea which has failed. It works very well as a myth, though, as is evident by the many emotional outbursts exhibited by its proponents.

  57. #57 Dave
    November 12, 2009

    David, you’re fallacious ‘reasoning’ hasn’t sacrificed anything but your own credibility.

    And you failed to answer my question about your songs all being in the same key.

  58. #58 David Mathews
    November 12, 2009

    Hello Dave,

    * “David, you’re fallacious ‘reasoning’ hasn’t sacrificed anything but your own credibility. ”

    You haven’t offered a single argument or any evidence … so you are left with empty bitter words.

    * “And you failed to answer my question about your songs all being in the same key. ”

    Are you done weeping?

    Abiogenesis remains impossible. Perhaps if you pray to Richard Dawkins he’ll perform the miracle …

  59. #59 SLC
    November 12, 2009

    Re David Mathews

    Mr. Mathews engages in two of the favorite logical fallacies that creationists of his ilk are wont to, namely the argument from personal incredulity and god of the gaps.

    1. The argument from personal incredulity basically says that someone doesn’t understand how X could have happened through natural processes, therefore god did it.

    2. God of the gaps says that scientists have not yet explained how X could have happened through natural processes, therefore god did it.

    Both of these arguments, as biologist Ken Miller (no atheist he) is wont to say, are science stoppers, as, if god did it, there is no further need to research the subject. This is the easy way out as, if the god did it explanation is accepted, no further effort on the part of scientists is necessary.

    However, sometimes even the greatest of scientists are subject to these logical fallacies. Take the case of Issac Newton and the stability of the solar system. Newtons’ laws of motion and the inverse square law of gravity provided a natural explanation for the observations of Kepler relative to the planets moving in elliptical orbits around the sun. However, the planets also interact with each other through their gravitational fields. Newton was concerned that these interplanetary interactions would, over time, cause the solar system to become unstable. His explanation as to why this didn’t happen was that, every so often, god intervened as necessary to maintain the stability of the system. That’s a combination of the argument from personal incredulity and god of the gaps. Thus, Newton was stopped from doing science. However, about 100 years later, the French mathematician Laplace computed the interplanetary interactions, using a technique known as perturbation theory, and showed that the solar system was stable over long time periods. Famously, when asked by Napoleon as to what role god might play, Laplace replied that he had no need of that hypothesis. The moral of the story is that Laplace was not stopped from applying scientific naturalism by taking the easy way out and attributing something to divine intervention.

    Similarly, research biologists will not be stopped from investigating the origin of life because Mr. Mathews’ doesn’t understand how such a phenomena could happen through natural processes and that the failure to provide an explanation supported by experiments up to the present moment means that such an explanation will never occur.

  60. #60 David Mathews
    November 12, 2009

    Hello SLC,

    * “1. The argument from personal incredulity basically says that someone doesn’t understand how X could have happened through natural processes, therefore god did it. ”

    Sure as hell you are using a rhetorical argument to explain away the failure of scientific experiments to verify that abiogenesis is possible. Unlike all of the other sciences, abiogenesis is exempt from scientific verification and safe from scientific refutation.

    The fact that you can entertain a blind faith in abiogenesis does not in any sense validate abiogenesis from a scientific standpoint.

    * “2. God of the gaps says that scientists have not yet explained how X could have happened through natural processes, therefore god did it. ”

    Again … the Atheism Argument for Abiogenenesis. As Andrew has pointed out above, abiogenesis doesn’t relate in any way, either positively or negatively, to the God controversy.

    * “Both of these arguments, as biologist Ken Miller (no atheist he) is wont to say, are science stoppers, as, if god did it, there is no further need to research the subject. This is the easy way out as, if the god did it explanation is accepted, no further effort on the part of scientists is necessary. ”

    Who suggested that scientists should stop investigation this subject? Scientists have spent the last 50 years investigating and they have come up with nothing. You might prefer some other outcome but in all the rest of the sciences failed experiments of this magnitude lead to the rejection of failed theories.

    * “Famously, when asked by Napoleon as to what role god might play, Laplace replied that he had no need of that hypothesis. ”

    Atheism appears again! Atheism and abiogenesis, abiogenesis and atheism … evidently philosophical and religious reasons motivate the believers in abiogenesis against all the contrary evidence of actual scientific experiments.

    * “The moral of the story is that Laplace was not stopped from applying scientific naturalism by taking the easy way out and attributing something to divine intervention. ”

    Fear of divine intervention might actually provoke an irrational blind faith in abiogenesis against all of the contrary evidence accumulated by science. Atheism crops up so often in these discussions that I sense objectivity has become compromised by philosophical necessity.

    * “Similarly, research biologists will not be stopped from investigating the origin of life because Mr. Mathews’ doesn’t understand how such a phenomena could happen through natural processes and that the failure to provide an explanation supported by experiments up to the present moment means that such an explanation will never occur. ”

    I’ve never suggested that scientists should stop experimenting. I’m suggesting that scientific experiments have thoroughly refuted abiogenesis as a legitimate scientific explanation for how life might have originated on the ancient Earth, Mars or anywhere else in the Universe.

    If scientific experiments actually supported abiogenesis none of these philosophical arguments and question begging would be necessary.

  61. #61 Thomas Neil Neubert
    November 12, 2009

    I must admit that until this blog post; “abiogenesis” was not a word in my day to day vocabulary. Though I understood the concept.

    Well yes Ethan, I do agree with you. Abiogenesis is a very good working hypothesis. More important than testability; the abiogenesis hypothesis suggests a wide range of physics, chemistry and biology phenomenon to explore. Even if such exploration never “proves” abiogenesis; it yields a wide range of physical, chemical and biological understanding. “Proof” of abiogenesis, would be a repeatable experiment: do A, B, C and D and voila you get L Life. I don’t expect “proof” of abiogenesis any time soon; but I do expect abiogenesis to be a very fruitful working hypothesis for a long time.

    “Abiogensis” is like the physics hypothesis of the “vacuum”. Noboby has ever observed a “perfect” “vacuum”; and in fact the idea of the “vacuum” has continued to change (today the vacuum is more like a “quantum solid”). Nevertheless, despite lack of “proof” and changes to the basic idea, the physics hypothesis of the “vacuum” continues to be a very fruitful working scientific hypothesis.

    By “fruitful”, I do not mean to laymen like myself; but to working experimental, observational and theoretical scientists. To criticize myself, I think that the “3-sphere” hypothesis of our visible universe is an excellent hypothesis; but it isn’t a fruitful hypothesis unless some working physicist or astronomer thinks it useful in guiding where to put his or her limited resources for experiment, observation and theory.

  62. #62 David Mathews
    November 12, 2009

    Hello Thomas,

    * “Well yes Ethan, I do agree with you. Abiogenesis is a very good working hypothesis. More important than testability; the abiogenesis hypothesis suggests a wide range of physics, chemistry and biology phenomenon to explore. Even if such exploration never “proves” abiogenesis; it yields a wide range of physical, chemical and biological understanding. “Proof” of abiogenesis, would be a repeatable experiment: do A, B, C and D and voila you get L Life. I don’t expect “proof” of abiogenesis any time soon; but I do expect abiogenesis to be a very fruitful working hypothesis for a long time. ”

    What an astonishing demonstration of abiogenesis’ special status as a scientific theory which does not need any actual observational or experimental support.

    If abiogenesis was an actual legitimate scientific principle * and * if abiogenesis is so likely that it occurred on the Earth and also possibly on Mars and throughout the Universe as well … there isn’t any reason at all why abiogenesis should * not * occur in a lab.

    So here we have a supposedly scientific theory applicable to the entire Universe * except * the lab. Abiogenesis must be one of those things which can only occur while a human is not watching.

    * “”Abiogensis” is like the physics hypothesis of the “vacuum”.

    Well, abiogenesis is very much like a vacuum. But, as such, abiogenesis is not at all like the vacuum concept. Scientists can actually create a vacuum in a laboratory and observe a vacuum in space.

    Abiogenesis is a mysterious evolutionary gap-filler. The scientists are left saying, “Abiogenesis occurred … somehow. Abiogenesis occurred … throughout the Universe. The only place abiogenesis cannot occur is in a lab.”

  63. #63 Sab
    November 12, 2009

    Mr Troll is once again being dishonest and idiotic. Mr Troll clearly has no concept of why the lab environment might be a wee bit different to the conditions on an early earth that abiogenesis is attempting to deal with. Mr Troll believes that anything is possible in a lab due to the infallibility of scientists, and that all of the possible conditions have already been explored. Apparently it also believes that anything that can ever possibly be invented/observed has already been invented/observed.

    Anyway, enough feeding of the Troll, instead I’m going to politely ask that it cease posting its mind-numbing gibberish seeing as it has nothing to contribute to the discussion (due to already making up its godlike mind about the impossibility of abiogenesis).

    Clearly there are some people here who are actually interested in discussing the topic of abiogenesis. The Troll is not. If the Troll would kindly stop derailing the thread with its stupidity it would be most appreciated. Thanks.

  64. #64 Anita
    November 12, 2009

    I told myself I would leave this alone, but seeing all the logical leaps and diversive arguments makes me itch in the same way an unsolved sudoku puzzle does.

    David, since you refuse to watch the youtube video (which has at least the scientific weight of some guy posting comments on a blog thread), let me lay it out for you.

    Universe started. No Life. Now, universe still is. Life! Therefore, sometime in the past, life arose. How? Two choices – natural or supernatural. Before we know anything for sure (which we can’t, ever) we must admit that either is possible. Can science say anything about supernatural? No. Can science say anything about natural? Let’s find out. We’ll call this working hypothesis abiogenesis.

    Note the use of the word hypothesis. There are a number of puzzle pieces that have been found, but as you point out, not many, and certainly not enough to call it a theory. There is simply not enough evidence to either reject the hypothesis, or put it all together and start calling it a theory.

    You argue that scientists still cling to abiogenesis despite not having a working model or being able to replicate it. But this is normal of a hypothesis. The hypothesis will not be thrown out until there is enough evidence which contradicts it.

    Now, from what I have written here, you can either pick a few sentences to take issue with, and argue against them with the arguments we’ve all heard before (in which case I will bid you good day), or you can read the entire thing a couple of times, understand what I am trying to say, and if you disagree with my main point, you can explain why.

  65. #65 Anita
    November 12, 2009

    Sab, I agree with what you’re saying, but I still think that it’s important to stand back every now and again and look at the assumptions we’re making and be careful about the names we give the current ideas. All of science, even maths, is based on assumptions and it’s important to keep track of them.

    In a format like this, trolls keep us honest. :)

  66. #66 SLC
    November 12, 2009

    Re David Mathews

    Mr. Mathews is really a schmuck of the first order. His basic argument is that scientists have not yet produced abiogenesis in the lab and therefore it will never happen. I have a flash for Mr. Mathews. Scientists have not yet produced a black hole in the lab so apparently they don’t exist by his moronic reasoning. Scientists haven’t yet found a universal cure for cancer so I guess one will never be found. Scientists haven’t produced an HIV vaccine so I guess one will never be found. Oh ye of little faith.

    Since Mr. Mathews apparently didn’t like the stability of the solar system example, let’s present a couple more.

    1. In 1889, Michelson and Morley performed an experiment to measure the absolute speed of the earth in space. To their great astonishment, they found a value of zero, i.e. the earth appeared to be stationary. Scientists were for some 16 years unable to explain this observation. If they had been content to accept the David Mathews approach, they would have posited that god diddled with Michelsons’ equipment so as to prevent him from measuring the absolute speed of the earth in space. Fortunately, a rather obscure employee of the Swiss Patent office did not follow the Mathews approach and posited a different explanation. I think the readers of this blog know who that obscure employee was and the name of his theory.

    2. After several discoveries indicated that the atom was not indivisible but consisted of a nucleus surrounded by electrons, the orbital theory of the atom, analogous to the solar system, was posited with negatively charged electrons revolving in elliptical orbits around a positively charged nucleus. Unfortunately, it was known that an electron moving in an elliptical orbit would be subject to centripetal acceleration which would cause it to radiate electromagnetic waves (and hence the atom would collapse in short order), as predicted by Maxwells’ Equations. The David Mathews approach to an explanation would be that god intervened to prevent the accelerated electrons from radiating energy, thus preserving the atoms’ stability. Fortunately, DeBroglie was not afflicted with the Mathews disease and posited that there were orbits that were stable and the radiation of accelerated electrons could only occur via transition between discrete stable orbits. This led to the theory of quantum mechanics, perhaps the theory with the greatest explanatory power in the history of science.

    By the way, if Mr. Mathews thinks that abiogensis and evolution are preposterous theories, I can assure him that quantum mechanics is far worse. As the Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg put it, “quantum mechanics is a totally preposterous theory, which unfortunately appears to be correct.” Or as physicist Lawrence Krauss put it, “nobody understands quantum mechanics.”

    Incidentally, Mr. Mathews’ characterization of god of the gaps as an atheist proposition is complete horse manure. There are many religious scientists who accept or accepted in the past methodological naturalism (e.g. Ken Miller, a devout Catholic, Theodosius Dobzhansky, a devout Eastern Orthodox).

    Although I suspect it is useless to conduct an intellectual discussion with someone as dense as Mr. Mathews, let me say that the reason that non-natural explanations are not acceptable science is because they are unbounded, thus not subject to prediction or falsification. A theory which predicts nothing and is not falsifiable cannot be a scientific theory. Period, end of story.

  67. #67 David Mathews
    November 12, 2009

    Hello Sab,

    * “Mr Troll clearly has no concept of why the lab environment might be a wee bit different to the conditions on an early earth that abiogenesis is attempting to deal with. Mr Troll believes that anything is possible in a lab due to the infallibility of scientists, and that all of the possible conditions have already been explored. ”

    More excuses for abiogenesis’ failure in the lab. Abiogenesis simply cannot fail. Abiogenesis is exempt from the principles of refutation which apply to all of the rest of science.

    The believers in abiogenesis simply don’t demand any observational or experimental support for their creation myth.

    * “Clearly there are some people here who are actually interested in discussing the topic of abiogenesis. ”

    I’ve spent all of this time talking about abiogenesis. You are simply bitter because your viewpoint lacks supporting evidence and even a rational defensible theoretical scenario for how abiogenesis might have occurred.

  68. #68 David Mathews
    November 12, 2009

    Hello Anita,

    * “Universe started. No Life. Now, universe still is. Life! Therefore, sometime in the past, life arose. How? Two choices – natural or supernatural. Before we know anything for sure (which we can’t, ever) we must admit that either is possible. Can science say anything about supernatural? No. Can science say anything about natural? Let’s find out. We’ll call this working hypothesis abiogenesis. ”

    Anita re-expresses the Atheism Argument for Abiogenesis. I feel so very sad for Andrew who spent so much time and emotion attempting to separate these two subjects above.

    Okay, Anita, I know that abiogenesis is the preferred creation myth of the atheists. Too bad abiogenesis lacks observational and experimental support. If abiogenesis failed what would happen to atheism? The heart shudders. Blind faith in abiogenesis therefore is easily understand.

    * “Note the use of the word hypothesis. There are a number of puzzle pieces that have been found, but as you point out, not many, and certainly not enough to call it a theory. There is simply not enough evidence to either reject the hypothesis, or put it all together and start calling it a theory. ”

    We can agree about that much, Anita. There isn’t much at all known about abiogenesis. Certainly not enough for any sort of rational, legitimate theory of abiogenesis. Instead there’s a bunch of science fiction mythology which sound sufficiently scientific to allow the believers to claim that the problem is solved so that they might not have to think about difficult things.

    * “You argue that scientists still cling to abiogenesis despite not having a working model or being able to replicate it. But this is normal of a hypothesis. The hypothesis will not be thrown out until there is enough evidence which contradicts it. ”

    Huh? Abiogenesis has failed numerous times in experiments. Such failures occurring over many decades suggests that abiogenesis is actually a failed theory. Yet scientists cling desperately to their failed theory because really they don’t have a choice.

    * “Now, from what I have written here, you can either pick a few sentences to take issue with, and argue against them with the arguments we’ve all heard before (in which case I will bid you good day), or you can read the entire thing a couple of times, understand what I am trying to say, and if you disagree with my main point, you can explain why. ”

    Well, I’ve already explained why numerous times above and on the other thread.

    Abiogenesis is beset by two fatal flaws: Life and Death.

    Until those two fatal flaws are addressed and resolved, abiogenesis will remain an impossibility.

  69. #69 Anita
    November 12, 2009

    Sir, you choose to both misrepresent my views and misunderstand my main point. I bid you good day.

  70. #70 David Mathews
    November 12, 2009

    Hello SLC,

    * “Mr. Mathews is really a schmuck of the first order. His basic argument is that scientists have not yet produced abiogenesis in the lab and therefore it will never happen. I have a flash for Mr. Mathews. Scientists have not yet produced a black hole in the lab so apparently they don’t exist by his moronic reasoning. ”

    That’s just stupid, SLC. Black holes were rejected by the scientific mainstream until they were observationally confirmed by astronomers.

    * “Scientists haven’t yet found a universal cure for cancer so I guess one will never be found. Scientists haven’t produced an HIV vaccine so I guess one will never be found. Oh ye of little faith. ”

    Again, a cure for cancer and an HIV vaccine would not attain their status without actual scientific evidence of their effectiveness. It certainly is not enough for a medical researchers to claim that they have cured those illnesses. The illnesses actually need to become cured.

    * “By the way, if Mr. Mathews thinks that abiogensis and evolution are preposterous theories, I can assure him that quantum mechanics is far worse. ”

    No, actually not. Quantum mechanics enjoys actual observational and experimental support. Scientists actually performed experiments and those experiments actually succeeded. Such a standard does not seem to apply to abiogenesis, though.

    * “Incidentally, Mr. Mathews’ characterization of god of the gaps as an atheist proposition is complete horse manure. ”

    I didn’t know we were engaged in an argument about a god of the gaps. Whatever …

    * “Although I suspect it is useless to conduct an intellectual discussion with someone as dense as Mr. Mathews, let me say that the reason that non-natural explanations are not acceptable science is because they are unbounded, thus not subject to prediction or falsification. A theory which predicts nothing and is not falsifiable cannot be a scientific theory. Period, end of story. ”

    Well, well, well … it seems that you are describing abiogenesis in the paragraph above. Abiogenesis is exempt from the rigorous standards applicable to all of the other scientific theories you described in your post.

    Abiogenesis is exempt from those rigorous standards specifically because of abiogenesis’ special philosophical – religious role.

    The failure of abiogenesis is unthinkable specifically because it would put people of a particular mindset in an especially difficult, unpleasant, and thoroughly unacceptable bind.

    Blind faith substitutes for scientific investigation. Philosophical arguments substitutes for experimental confirmation.

    Abiogenesis functions very much like a foundational creation myth. It can happen everywhere in the Universe except in a lab.

  71. #71 SLC
    November 12, 2009

    Re David Mathews

    I think is is totally obvious by this time that attempting to engage numbnuts Mathews is a waste of time and energy. His entire argument consist of scientists have not yet produced life from non-life in a laboratory and therefore it will never happen. I suggest that we just ignore him and treat him as the know nothing he is. Mr. Mathews, you can take your non-arguments and deposit them where the sun don’t shine.

  72. #72 David Mathews
    November 12, 2009

    Hello SLC,

    * “I think is is totally obvious by this time that attempting to engage numbnuts Mathews is a waste of time and energy. His entire argument consist of scientists have not yet produced life from non-life in a laboratory and therefore it will never happen. ”

    Well, well, well … the failure of scientific experiments just isn’t at all relevant to a science question, is it?

    Abiogenesis is alleged to have occurred on the Earth and on Mars and throughout the Universe. It can occur anywhere and everywhere … except in a lab!

    * ” I suggest that we just ignore him and treat him as the know nothing he is. Mr. Mathews, you can take your non-arguments and deposit them where the sun don’t shine. ”

    Perhaps when you stop weeping you will realize the absurdity of your viewpoint.

    Abiogenesis is impossible for two reasons: Life and Death.

    Abiogenesis experiments fail because abiogenesis is impossible.

    Science glosses over this problem because the alternative is philosophically offensive to scientists. Abiogenesis works very well as a creation myth even if it fails every scientific test.

  73. #73 Sab
    November 12, 2009

    @65: Hi Anita,

    Thanks for both of your posts :) I completely agree with you, progress requires pointing out the flaws in theories and tackling the issues from new angles. Part of the problem with trying to explore abiogenesis in a lab setting is the restrictive nature of such an artificial environment, which is why I find work like that of Baaske et al (2007)* really interesting. Working towards simulating a hydrothermal vent in the lab? Now that’s cool :)

    *Extreme accumulation of nucleotides in simulated hydrothermal pore systems. PNAS, 104: 9346-9351.

  74. #74 Sab
    November 12, 2009

    @67: “More excuses for abiogenesis’ failure in the lab. Abiogenesis simply cannot fail. Abiogenesis is exempt from the principles of refutation which apply to all of the rest of science.”

    You, sir, are a moron of the highest order. Do you really need to have your hand-held through all the many ways in which it is difficult to accurately recreate the conditions *that currently exist in real-world ecosystems* in a lab setting, let alone the hypothetical conditions of an early earth?

    “The believers in abiogenesis simply don’t demand any observational or experimental support for their creation myth.”

    Bollocks. People who are interested in exploring the possibility of abiogenesis continue to investigate the ways in which complex organic compounds can be created through physical and chemical reactions. They continue to investigate the ‘simplest’ known life-forms. They know that there is a big gap between these two areas, yet they observe that real world problems appear to have real world solutions, some of which are crazier than anyone might have imagined (see quantum physics). They do not assume that they have thought of everything, nor that it will be a simple thing to investigate.

    “I’ve spent all of this time talking about abiogenesis. You are simply bitter because your viewpoint lacks supporting evidence and even a rational defensible theoretical scenario for how abiogenesis might have occurred. ”

    No you’ve spent all of this time talking about your strawmen versions of abiogenesis, infallible scientists, labs that are capable of anything, and several rants about atheism. As for me I’m sure you’d like to think that you have affected me emotionally but it turns out I’m pretty happy-go-lucky in real life. What I am is bored of your arguments from incredulity/authority/stupidity flooding this blog. I’m bored of hearing about how your super-human intellect has decided that the issue is closed and no one should talk about it other than to worship your rejection of abiogenesis. I’m bored of your complete lack of alternate hypotheses for the origins of life. I’m bored of reading about your complete ignorance of biology and chemistry. I’m bored of you hand-waving or ignoring salient points. I’m perplexed by your apparent view of infallible scientists and labs that can accurately recreate the conditions on planet earth billions of years ago at the drop of a hat. I’m amazed by the inanity of such comments as ‘If it hasn’t been done yet its impossible’. I’m vaguely curious about what your stake in this issue really is, but comforted by the fact that there are actually people on this forum who are interested in discussing abiogenesis rather than the size of their ePeen.

  75. #75 David Mathews
    November 12, 2009

    Hello Sab,

    * “You, sir, are a moron of the highest order. Do you really need to have your hand-held through all the many ways in which it is difficult to accurately recreate the conditions *that currently exist in real-world ecosystems* in a lab setting, let alone the hypothetical conditions of an early earth? ”

    Scientists do plenty of extremely complicated things in the lab. Modelling real-world environments isn’t such a complicated thing that it is impossible in a lab. The scientists don’t have to create an entire planet, you know …

    * “Bollocks. People who are interested in exploring the possibility of abiogenesis continue to investigate the ways in which complex organic compounds can be created through physical and chemical reactions. They continue to investigate the ‘simplest’ known life-forms. They know that there is a big gap between these two areas, yet they observe that real world problems appear to have real world solutions, some of which are crazier than anyone might have imagined (see quantum physics). They do not assume that they have thought of everything, nor that it will be a simple thing to investigate. ”

    This is really quite amazing, Sab. Do you believe that abiogenesis occurred only once in the history of the Universe?

    * “No you’ve spent all of this time talking about your strawmen versions of abiogenesis … ”

    If there is some different way you want to talk about abiogenesis, no one is preventing you from doing so. The reason why you cannot is expressed in the paragraph quoted above, there’s a really big unbridgeable gap between non-life and life.

    * “I’m perplexed by your apparent view of infallible scientists and labs that can accurately recreate the conditions on planet earth billions of years ago at the drop of a hat. ”

    No one is asking scientists to create an entirely new planet. Scientists are merely required to create conditions in which abiogenesis is presumed to occur and observe the experiment until abiogenesis occurs.

    That’s not asking a whole lot of scientists. It isn’t quite as difficult an experiment as the Hubble Space Telescope or the Large Hadron Collider. All of the chemicals required for life are readily available. Prebiotic chemistry isn’t a mystery, either. Scientists have spent decades investigating this subject.

    If abiogenesis is the sort of thing which could have happened twice in one solar system, abiogenesis is the sort of thing which could happen in a lab.

  76. #76 Steve F
    November 12, 2009

    “Scientists do plenty of extremely complicated things in the lab. Modelling (sic) real-world environments isn’t such a complicated thing that it is impossible in a lab. The scientists don’t have to create an entire planet, you know …”

    This is such an incredibly naive and ignorant statement that it is truly breathtaking in its inanity. It took our universe more than 9 billion years to produce this planet. If the hypothesis of abiogenesis is correct, it likely took hundreds of millions of years (if not a billion) of a primitive earth to produce recognizable life. An earth that was a giant chemical experiment with a near infinite number of highly dynamic, micro/macro-chemical ecosystems. Ecosystems that we don’t even have a clue how to model yet.

    “If there is some different way you want to talk about abiogenesis, no one is preventing you from doing so. The reason why you cannot is expressed in the paragraph quoted above, there’s a really big unbridgeable gap between non-life and life. “

    This is nothing more than an argument from authority based on complete ignorance, not to mention dodging the question.

    “No one is asking scientists to create an entirely new planet. Scientists are merely required to create conditions in which abiogenesis is presumed to occur and observe the experiment until abiogenesis occurs.”

    Who requires this of science? Certainly not scientists. Again, you show complete ignorance of the scale of the problem.

    “That’s not asking a whole lot of scientists. It isn’t quite as difficult an experiment as the Hubble Space Telescope or the Large Hadron Collider. All of the chemicals required for life are readily available. Prebiotic chemistry isn’t a mystery, either. Scientists have spent decades investigating this subject. “

    The HST and LHC are experiments that are scaled up versions of well established technologies and experimental devices asking thoroughly vetted experimental questions with relatively defined parameters. These are not even remotely comparable. Prebiotic chemistry is a near complete mystery. While we know what the modern end-product of the evolution of life is, we don’t even have a good idea of what the last common ancestor was or any it’s simpler predecessors . For that matter, the whole abiogenesis debate underscores the fact that we don’t even have good definition for life.

    “If abiogenesis is the sort of thing which could have happened twice in one solar system, abiogenesis is the sort of thing which could happen in a lab. “

    Again, your ignorance is unbounded, expressed as a naive and childlike understanding of experimental science and our current fund of knowledge. You present the image of someone with a comic book level of education in science. Unfortunately, the only cure for your ignorance and the arrogance that it breeds, would be for you to spend a few years working in an experimental lab. Nothing like spending weeks setting up an experiment only to have it fail over and over to educate you in the true scientific method.

  77. #77 David Mathews
    November 12, 2009

    Hello Steve F,

    * “This is such an incredibly naive and ignorant statement that it is truly breathtaking in its inanity. It took our universe more than 9 billion years to produce this planet. If the hypothesis of abiogenesis is correct, it likely took hundreds of millions of years (if not a billion) of a primitive earth to produce recognizable life. An earth that was a giant chemical experiment with a near infinite number of highly dynamic, micro/macro-chemical ecosystems. Ecosystems that we don’t even have a clue how to model yet. ”

    Impressive, Steve, if I give you enough time you’ll discover 1,001 different excuses explaining why abiogenesis — the event which allegedly occurred on the Earth, Mars and a billion other places throughout the Universe — cannot possibly occur inside a lab under the careful observation and control of scientists.

    There must be something profoundly mystical about a natural process which occurs billions of times thoughout the Universe but cannot possibly occur inside a lab.

    * “This is nothing more than an argument from authority based on complete ignorance, not to mention dodging the question. ”

    An argument from authority based on complete ignorance? I’m really quite impressed by such a self-contradictory accusation.

    * “Prebiotic chemistry is a near complete mystery. While we know what the modern end-product of the evolution of life is, we don’t even have a good idea of what the last common ancestor was or any it’s simpler predecessors . For that matter, the whole abiogenesis debate underscores the fact that we don’t even have good definition for life. ”

    Prebiotic chemistry isn’t a mystery. Scientists have devoted decades to this particular subject and their efforts haven’t been in vain.

    The problem with abiogenesis isn’t what’s unknown. Abiogenesis fails because of what is known.

    * “Again, your ignorance is unbounded, expressed as a naive and childlike understanding of experimental science and our current fund of knowledge. You present the image of someone with a comic book level of education in science. Unfortunately, the only cure for your ignorance and the arrogance that it breeds, would be for you to spend a few years working in an experimental lab. Nothing like spending weeks setting up an experiment only to have it fail over and over to educate you in the true scientific method. ”

    Now you are just being silly. I leave the science to the scientists and spend my time appreciating the beauty of Nature instead.

    I have paid close attention to the scientists, though, since I have a longstanding interest in this subject. The problem with abiogenesis does not relate to any lack of intelligence or creativity among the scientists. The scientists who have investigated this question have designed highly sophisticated experiments which weren’t established upon mere guesswork and speculation.

    Abiogenesis has failed because it is impossible and for no other reason.

    The problem isn’t the lab. The problem isn’t the scientist. The problem is with the idea.

    Abiogenesis doesn’t happen because abiogenesis cannot happen.

  78. #78 Steve F
    November 13, 2009

    “I have paid close attention to the scientists, though, since I have a longstanding interest in this subject. The problem with abiogenesis does not relate to any lack of intelligence or creativity among the scientists. The scientists who have investigated this question have designed highly sophisticated experiments which weren’t established upon mere guesswork and speculation.

    Abiogenesis has failed because it is impossible and for no other reason.”

    I see. So, you stayed in a Holiday Inn Express and now feel competent to decree with authority that abiogenesis is impossible.
    Give us some examples of your extreme knowledge and authority. What labs are currently exploring agiogenesis? What individual scientists are involved and what types of experiments/models are they running? What are some of the current hypotheses of the various paths abiogenesis may have taken? Has anyone really even tried to reproduce more than one step in the complete process of abiogenesis? If so, please name that individual or the lab they are associated with and their published references. What is the total current and historical budget in the world committed to astrobiological research and how does that compare to say the NIH, NHLBI, or even NASA’s robotics programs?

  79. #79 Sab
    November 13, 2009

    @ Dave the Troll:
    “Modelling real-world environments isn’t such a complicated thing that it is impossible in a lab. etc…”

    Haha! Thanks, that was truly hilarious. At least now I’m convinced you know nothing about ecology, microbiology, chemistry or science in general.

    Now I’m off back to my magical lab to culture some of the thousands of species of unculturable microbes because apparently its easy business for serious scientists. While I’m at it I’ll create an exact working replica of every ecosystem on the planet.

  80. #80 SLC
    November 13, 2009

    To get back to the subject which was the possibility of life on Mars, I would argue that it is probably more likely that life will be found in the liquid H2O ocean on Jupiters’ moon
    Europa. Imagine a video camera descending into an opening in the thick layer of ice surrounding the ocean and coming face to face with a shark!

  81. #81 Thomas Neil Neubert
    November 14, 2009

    Paul Davies suggests “we would expect life to have emerged many times on Earth, not just once.”
    see http://espanol.astrobio.net/exclusive/3148/the-search-for-life-on-earth)
    Then Davies concludes, “If we found that there is an alternative form of life on Earth… then immediately the central question of astrobiology is answered: that life is obviously easy to make.”

    Yet proof that abiogenesis has repeatedly occurred upon planet Earth will not imply proof that intelligent life has ever occurred upon planet Earth.

  82. #82 Anita
    November 15, 2009

    Brilliant, Sab. I’ve been wondering what the weather in Melbourne, Australia is going to be for the next thousand years. Can you send me a copy of that computer model you made last week?

  83. #83 Sab
    November 16, 2009

    Certainly Anita, thanks to the billions of dollars put into my magical serious science lab(TM) its a simple matter but you’ll have to be more specific, unless you just want the summary (Model says: Mostly alright, should be quite nice actually but you’ll need an umbrella Thursday week)?

    @80: Does anyone know the current state of plans regarding a mission to Europa? I recall reading that a Europa project won an internal NASA contest, but that there was still no guarantee of funding for it.

  84. #84 Hush
    November 17, 2009

    Assume nothing.

    It is hard (at this point in the broadest sense of the word evolution of everything), to imagine something where assumptions are no longer needed. Where possibilities or impossibilities no longer need assumptions. Indeed, where are the possibilities or impossibilities where assumptions are no longer needed? Math? Maybe. Or another form of Nature.

    Where are your imaginations when needed?

    Hush

  85. #85 lewis e haymes
    November 19, 2009

    It’s either abiogenesis or The Great Dung Beetle.

  86. #86 jeremy
    March 31, 2010

    there is no big bang god created it all with out a bang

  87. #87 Lenoxuss
    February 14, 2011

    I love how so many cdesign proponentsists figure that a scientific hypothesis they don’t like can be thoroughly discarded for its failure to pass this or that test, yet blatantly exempt their own “alternative” from the same strict standards. It’s almost like those poor scientists are harming themselves with their system of curiosity, rigor, and self-doubt, and it would be so much easier if, like non-scientists, creationists, and woo-meisters, they could argue that their words pointed to irreducible mysteries and that’s that. (“It evolved, kid. Don’t ask what “evolved” means.”)

    Take one of David Mathews’s sentences and insert his own view into it: “If divine creation of life is the sort of thing which could have happened twice in one solar system, divine creation is the sort of thing which could happen in a lab. “

    The reason divine creation is exempt from this sort of scrutiny… is that it’s a case of incoherent thinking. There can’t ever be a “there” there; “divine creation” can only ever mean “divine creation”. It can’t be a process with separate steps, or one that can be repeated, or simulated, or even remotely represented as anything other than “poof”. It’s a folk notion.

    (Or, of course, you have the classic excuse that “God can’t be tested, divine creation was obviously a one-time event”. Wouldn’t it be convenient if scientists could make that excuse? “Well, a fossil precursor to echidnas probably won’t ever be discovered because the Mysterious Fossil Record, all praise her glorious name, doesn’t like to be tested.”)

    No matter how many experiments abiogenesis “fails”, it will never be enough to make supernatural genesis a workable “alternative” hypothesis. As stated earlier on this page, unless it’s turtles all the way down, some kind of abiogenesis happened . Even a spiritual being “breathing life into clay” (hey, if it’s actual “breath”, that almost sounds testable!) is really abiogenesis, because the life came from the clay, and the being only served as the experimenter.

  88. #88 Mr Markm Mitchell
    ca
    May 23, 2013

    IT IS NOW 2013 !
    Mankind HAS CREATED LIFE!