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Biologists on the Verge of Creating New Form of Life - Comments

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 1 by Quetzalcoatl

Absolutely fascinating. This may not be how life actually got started on Earth, but this work is simply remarkable- who knows where it might lead?

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 07:48:00 UTC | #231692

Rawhard Dickins's Avatar Comment 2 by Rawhard Dickins

Very exciting, of course it will be dismissed by most.

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 07:48:00 UTC | #231693

Tezcatlipoca's Avatar Comment 3 by Tezcatlipoca

Obviously shows the need for a designer...


Tue, 09 Sep 2008 07:51:00 UTC | #231698

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 4 by Dhamma

Maybe this could give some serious clues to how life once began?


Tue, 09 Sep 2008 07:53:00 UTC | #231699

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 6 by rod-the-farmer

Pretty hard to dismiss it, IF they get it working. But proof that life could "get started" on its own (even if the results are nothing like what we see on earth these days) is certainly impressive. Makes intelligent life much more likely on other planets, for one thing. I think I have even read of a proposed sulfur-based life form, instead of carbon, like us.

I will follow this with interest.....I wonder what the reaction of the various fundie groups will be if we were to ask them now, for their reactions. I know, I know, as a child I sometimes poked a stick into an ant nest, just to see then scurry around trying to repair the damage done by an outsider.

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 07:57:00 UTC | #231702

Stormkahn's Avatar Comment 5 by Stormkahn


Ahhh, the pleasing sound of another gap being closed....


Tue, 09 Sep 2008 07:57:00 UTC | #231701

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 7 by Quetzalcoatl

A common fundie claim is that even modern-day "simple" organisms like bacteria are relatively complicated. If this protocell can survive and reproduce, it proves that simple life can function- another gap between evolution and abiogenesis filled!

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 08:09:00 UTC | #231713

a non e-moose's Avatar Comment 8 by a non e-moose

Does this mean that the cell membrane appeared before, or indipendantly of the replicator? I think that's contrary to Dawkins speculations on the subject...

very interesting.

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 08:09:00 UTC | #231714

Quine's Avatar Comment 9 by Quine

<!-- Be sure tags are closed -->It's not going to be easy to get "the various fundie groups" to understand the significance of this. They will get hung up on the idea that showing that it could have happened this way does not show that it did happen this way. They will miss the important concept that showing that it could happen at all is what pulls the rug out from under their insistence that a supernatural intervention was necessary.

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 08:14:00 UTC | #231718

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 10 by Dr. Strangegod

This is really quite amazing. It's a given to me that there need be no unique catalyst for life, extraterrestrial or otherwise, but the idea of someone actually proving this fills me with glee.

As far as weird lifeforms go, has anyone around here ever read C.S. Lewis' "Out of the Silent Planet"? I woke up on my friend's floor the other morning and saw it in a stack of books and stole it (to be returned soon, of course). Very well done pre-moon landing sci-fi that tries to imagine other lifeforms on other worlds. Trippy stuff.

And as far as cool books go, everyone here, scientist or not, should be laying their hands on a copy of "Anathem" by Neal Stephenson, released today! If you quickly scan the Amazon description, watch the videos, and read the excerpt, you'll know exactly why. Let me just paste this in to whet your appetite:

Fraa Erasmas is a young avout living in the Concent of Saunt Edhar, a sanctuary for mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers, protected from the corrupting influences of the outside "saecular" world by ancient stone, honored traditions, and complex rituals. Over the centuries, cities and governments have risen and fallen beyond the concent's walls. Three times during history's darkest epochs violence born of superstition and ignorance has invaded and devastated the cloistered mathic community. Yet the avout have always managed to adapt in the wake of catastrophe, becoming out of necessity even more austere and less dependent on technology and material things. And Erasmas has no fear of the outside - "the Extramuros" - for the last of the terrible times was long, long ago.

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 08:17:00 UTC | #231720

PJG's Avatar Comment 11 by PJG

But it will still only be a cell! In any case, that isn't how God did it..... coz the Bible/Qu'ran says so.


Tue, 09 Sep 2008 08:21:00 UTC | #231724

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 12 by Quetzalcoatl

a non e-moose-

Does this mean that the cell membrane appeared before, or indipendantly of the replicator?

Unknown. It's entirely possible that the first replicators arose in tidal or volcanic pools, in some kind of "chemical broth" where a cell membrane might not necessarily be required. Of course, a membrane might well be needed if the first replicators appeared around sub-oceanic vents. We'll probably never know.

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 08:23:00 UTC | #231725

andysin's Avatar Comment 13 by andysin

Reply to a non e-moose:

I would guess it still implies the replicator arrived first/independently. These fat bubbles would provide housings for the replicators, and may even have provided a selection pressure; the replicators that could cross the membrane being those that are favoured. The expulsion of water from the bubbles could have provided a rich, undiluted source of 'food' for the replicators to replicate.

Pure speculation of course but more likely than a supernatural hand in my humble opinion.

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 08:29:00 UTC | #231729

a non e-moose's Avatar Comment 14 by a non e-moose

@ Quetzalcoatl

sorry, I meant to write could have appeared

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 08:30:00 UTC | #231731

JFHalsey's Avatar Comment 15 by JFHalsey

@Lucas: I'm sorry, I guess I just don't get it. That snipet makes it sound like just another "science/atheism is just another religion!" argument, this time in fictional form. Do the other videos and descriptions make the point more clear?

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 08:57:00 UTC | #231756

popecorkyxxiv's Avatar Comment 16 by popecorkyxxiv

Soon, soon we will have uncontrovertable evidence of the origin of life, then all but the most die hard, brainwashed theists will be forced to abandon this creation, god of the gaps mentality. Soon the only kind of belief will have to be deism for the simple fact that everything the organized faithes claim will have been completely debunked.

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 09:37:00 UTC | #231791

foolfodder's Avatar Comment 17 by foolfodder

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 10:28:00 UTC | #231814

delduq's Avatar Comment 18 by delduq

LOL. I don't think anyone posted the most obvious argument for the fundies. This will actually support their side. "Look, it took scientist (i.e. a creator) to create life. See we told you so!" I've shown this to 3 xtians so far and two of them have made that comment. There is no getting through to them. Give up.

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 10:52:00 UTC | #231823

DamnDirtyApe's Avatar Comment 19 by DamnDirtyApe

Another step towards a truely living economy, and the transformation of the civilised world. In an awesome vaguely singularity-related sort of way. Assuming it works like the scifish idea I have in my head does.

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 11:15:00 UTC | #231834

IanRaugh's Avatar Comment 20 by IanRaugh

And thus the gaps in which God could be found grow narrower.

I can only imagine how hard it was to do the above, congratulations to those involved.

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 12:29:00 UTC | #231898

Ipsilon's Avatar Comment 21 by Ipsilon

Both nucleotides (adenine being the simplest one) and short fatty acids are formed during the Miller-Urey-like experiments. Fatty acids have a tendency to agregate and form "fatty bubbles", whereas nucleotides organize themselves in complexes with the same kind of hydrogen bonding found in RNA and DNA. Add to that some simple sugars and amino acids (also found in the abovementionned experiment), and give the complex mixture millions of years to fool around, and there you are... it's quite simple, really!!

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 12:30:00 UTC | #231900

King of NH's Avatar Comment 22 by King of NH

I agree that the fundies aren't going to care much about this experiment or its results, with the exception of misquoting it for their own gain. They refuse to accept evolution until they see a cat give birth to an elephant (which would prove the exact opposite for me, I would find THAT fair evidence for a divinity), so I don't think they will be impressed by a mixture of chemicals being stimulated into a self reproductive state.

That said, I am amazed that they have come this far. I had little doubt they would, but it's kind of like going on a trip to Disney. When you leave your house with the suit cases, you have little doubt you going to get there. But now you're standing in line and looking at a Thunder Mountain... THE ANTICIPATION!!!! Science is awesome.

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 12:53:00 UTC | #231910

Scot Rafkin's Avatar Comment 23 by Scot Rafkin

At the very least, it shows the fundamentalists that there is nothing special about their god. If humans can create life, something that they believe to be one of the most awesome and supreme powers exhibited by their god, then that isn't saying much.

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 13:09:00 UTC | #231914

Quine's Avatar Comment 24 by Quine

<!-- Be sure tags are closed -->At least in this case we would be talking about actual creatures; not all of existing life, which the religious mistakenly go around calling "creatures."

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 13:21:00 UTC | #231918

chuckg's Avatar Comment 25 by chuckg

Just in time for the new Spore game!

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 13:40:00 UTC | #231925

Apeseed's Avatar Comment 26 by Apeseed

Once it can be shown that life can spontaneously arise I'm sure fundamentalists will just move the goal posts and demand to see big bangs spontaneously happen. After all the Large Hadron Collider didn't just happen, it was designed. We had to spend all the money and time just to get some idea of what the initial conditions might have been like. God just said 'Let there be light!'
When it comes down to it, it's an emotional need to see things a certain way.

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 14:47:00 UTC | #231951

Eli's Avatar Comment 27 by Eli

As an undergraduate in Biology these news are really endearing and astonishing. I believe that in my life I will be able to testimony great advances that will baffle all of us biologists.

Materialism wins, god-head-crakpots lose.

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 15:00:00 UTC | #231963

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 28 by Dr. Strangegod

JFHalsey - They do. But I have yet to read it, of course.

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 15:19:00 UTC | #231968

Philster61's Avatar Comment 29 by Philster61

Excellent.Science just keeps on marching foward while creationists just keep living in their bronze age beliefs.I really hope science gathers enough evidence to finally prove once and for all there is no God.

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 16:11:00 UTC | #231975

koldito's Avatar Comment 30 by koldito

This reminds me of P.F. Hamilton's "The Night's Dawn" trilogy. There is a group of humans (edenists) that have embraced science wholeheartedly: they have mastered genetic engineering, which allows them to live well in excess of 100 years with excellent health, and even upload their minds to a computer, thus surviving physical death. They have built sentient spaceships that can travel through the galaxy, and they mostly live in sentient space habitats in perfect harmony with each other. Their society is an utopist's wet dream. On the other hand, there's this other group of humans (adamists) who are anchored in religiously-based moral doctrines. They just keep on reaping the benefits of the edenist science while at the same time complaining how morally decadent edenist society is.

There is a lesson for us here. I'm sure we are near the day when some fundie will have his life saved by the results of the same research he deprecates today.

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 17:06:00 UTC | #231989