This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← Origin Of Life On Earth: Simple Fusion To Jump-start Evolution

Origin Of Life On Earth: Simple Fusion To Jump-start Evolution - Comments

Uhtred's Avatar Comment 1 by Uhtred

We'll probably never know exactly just how life made the jump from inorganic to organic life, but the clues being provided by modern science seem to indicate that the hurdle may not have been as big as the creationists would like to think. I believe the same shall prove to be the case for consciousness.
Certainly the trend in scientific discovery would lead one to safely conclude that.

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 11:32:00 UTC | #291138

Virgil's Avatar Comment 2 by Virgil

I like to imagine science as a massive guillotine, with creationists frantically trying to stick objects to stop it's progress. Science may be moving somewhat slowly, but nothing can really stop its progress.

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 11:38:00 UTC | #291142

steve8282's Avatar Comment 3 by steve8282

I always thought of it as a series of tubes.

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 11:54:00 UTC | #291154

Skutter's Avatar Comment 4 by Skutter

Fantastic news!

Another gap closed.

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 12:12:00 UTC | #291165

Daedalus5's Avatar Comment 5 by Daedalus5

Win

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 12:15:00 UTC | #291167

mikey nails!'s Avatar Comment 6 by mikey nails!

This is the sort of research that creationists (or just everyday people, for that matter) do not even realize is being conducted. The whole time I read this, I kept hearing Ben Stein intoning, "lightning striking a mud puddle."

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 12:24:00 UTC | #291172

ridelo's Avatar Comment 7 by ridelo

And now finding a way to speed evolution up a billion times! Et voilà, Homo sapiens! Or something comparable but wiser than most of us.

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 12:31:00 UTC | #291175

Peacebeuponme's Avatar Comment 8 by Peacebeuponme

daedalus - so where do you stand on Resistance 2'

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 12:34:00 UTC | #291177

Daedalus5's Avatar Comment 9 by Daedalus5

i take it your talking about the videogame, and i havent played it.

if you are referencing something else, it is unknown to me.

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 12:36:00 UTC | #291178

Peacebeuponme's Avatar Comment 10 by Peacebeuponme

I just wondered what gave you your name.

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 12:40:00 UTC | #291180

Daedalus5's Avatar Comment 11 by Daedalus5

Daedalus...the mythological creator of the labyrinth, and the first to fly (with his son icarus).

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 12:43:00 UTC | #291181

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 12 by rod-the-farmer

Of course, they have been playing with this RNA business in multiple labs around the world, for a long time, and have they created life yet ? NOOOO. Therefore, goddidit.

/sarcasm off

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 12:46:00 UTC | #291182

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 13 by Steve Zara

1. Comment #305627 by Uhtred

My view is that we need to stop thinking of the transition from "no-life" to "life" as anything really special. The "problem" with life is that it spreads and erases most traces of what has gone before. There really is no truly primitive life left on Earth - even the viruses and bacteria we see are the result of billions of years of evolution. So, we tend to think of life as complex. If we went back to the origin of life, we may have seen some polymers catalysing their own formation, and not even notice that "life" had begun.

My feeling is that the origin of life is not hard, and isn't that special.

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 12:47:00 UTC | #291183

Colwyn Abernathy's Avatar Comment 14 by Colwyn Abernathy

Wonderful! :) Now Cretinists...STFU already!

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 12:50:00 UTC | #291186

phil rimmer's Avatar Comment 15 by phil rimmer

These favourable conditions existed very early on in the Hadean Eon (4.4 to 3.8 billion years ago). Earth's "second atmosphere" during this time consisted of nitrogen and carbon dioxide at very high pressures and led to moderately acidic (pH 5.8), initially near boiling (but cooling) oceans.

It makes perfect sense that the environment for long RNA formation would pass through this "sweet spot".

But, of course, something like this happened. Whatever did we think? Godddidit?

People have to stop thinking they "know" the answers before we actually know the answers.

It stops us finding the answers. Self-serving, intellectual luddites!

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 12:57:00 UTC | #291187

decius's Avatar Comment 17 by decius

(acidic environment and temperature lower than 70 degrees Celsius)


These conditions are to be found nearby oceanic hydrotermal vents, among other places, lending credibility to a hypothesis for submarine abiogenesis formulated when they were first discovered. Vent fluids can be very acidic, with a pH sometimes inferior to 3.

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 13:11:00 UTC | #291190

phil rimmer's Avatar Comment 16 by phil rimmer

Comment #305674 by Steve Zara

My view is that we need to stop thinking of the transition from "no-life" to "life" as anything really special.


Exactly!

"Darwin's Dangerous Idea" will yield an inexorable transition from crap-copying-of-chemistry to good-enough-copying-of-chemistry, given a start like this and the step that follows it.

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 13:11:00 UTC | #291189

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 18 by Steve Zara

Comment #305681 by phil rimmer

Indeed.

I don't always find myself in agreement with PZ Myers but one area where we have the same opinion is that the frequently stated opinion that natural selection and the origin of life are fundamentally different matters is completely the wrong way to look at things, as it suggests some instant when evolution begun. Instead, it must have been as you say, crap copying chemistry transitioning smoothly to just-good-enough copying, with no single point at which "life" or "evolution" can have said to have started.

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 13:20:00 UTC | #291193

phil rimmer's Avatar Comment 19 by phil rimmer

decius

You are of course entirely correct to point out hydrothermal vents as an ideal location for long base RNA ligation. In Hadean times I imagine hydrothermal vents would have been much more common. One of the issues often raised is the statistical chance for exactly the right combination of bases to form. (And life started early!) It just struck me that the whole of the oceans might have been a suitable vat for this particular (random) chemistry experiment, greatly increasing the chances of early success.

EDIT (random) added lest "intentionalists" take heart.

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 13:23:00 UTC | #291195

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 20 by Steve Zara

Comment #305687 by phil rimmer

There is also good evidence that RNA polymerases well in very cold conditions (such as in ice).

I am becoming increasingly confident that the "RNA World" model of the origin of life is the right one.

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 13:28:00 UTC | #291198

phil rimmer's Avatar Comment 21 by phil rimmer

Comment #305690 by Steve Zara

There is also good evidence that RNA polymerases well in very cold conditions (such as in ice).


Presumably a great virtue of low temperatures is the stability of the chain-formed-so-far?

Is there any added energetic kick involved in getting each act of assembly over the hump? Arrehnius still rules surely? Incident photons? Energetic particles perhaps?

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 13:38:00 UTC | #291201

decius's Avatar Comment 22 by decius

Comment #305687 by phil rimmer

Marine abiogenesis seems also more economical than its terrestrial counterpart, which would imply early replicators migrating to the ocean, and lifeforms returning to colonise the surface much later (if I understand it correctly).

This discovery also deals a blow to the Clay Theory (clay is alkaline), which received Richard's support.

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 13:41:00 UTC | #291202

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 23 by Steve Zara

Comment #305693 by phil rimmer

Ice concentrates the reactants:
http://www.rsc.org/Publishing/Journals/cb/Volume/2007/6/RNA_on_ice.asp

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 13:43:00 UTC | #291206

phil rimmer's Avatar Comment 24 by phil rimmer

Comment #305694 by decius

This discovery also deals a blow to the Clay Theory (clay is alkaline) which received Richard's support.


I rather liked the "Clay Theory". It seemed nicely prosaic, whilst promising some truly alien life-form possibilities. It biggest problem was "What happened next?" Get to RNA and you are on a home run almost immediately.

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 13:49:00 UTC | #291209

decius's Avatar Comment 25 by decius

Comment #305701 by phil rimmer

I liked it, too. On second thought, better if it turned out to be false, due to its superficial similarities with biblical accounts. You know, the mud nonsense. It would undoubtedly be seized upon by christo-wackos.

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 13:56:00 UTC | #291214

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 26 by Steve Zara

Comment #305707 by decius

Aquatic origins of life do have real problems, as water dilutes things. Whatever happened must have been within some structures that kept things together.

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 13:58:00 UTC | #291216

phil rimmer's Avatar Comment 27 by phil rimmer

Comment #305698 by Steve Zara

So the big question is- Were there any quantities of ice around in Hadean times? Or is this a theory that favours a Panspermia / somewhere off the planet type of origin?

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 13:58:00 UTC | #291217

phil rimmer's Avatar Comment 28 by phil rimmer

Comment #305709 by Steve Zara

Aquatic origins of life do have real problems, as water dilutes things.


Evaporating rock pools at the upper end of the tidal range? They get topped up usefully (or not) depending on their position.

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 14:04:00 UTC | #291218

Brian English's Avatar Comment 29 by Brian English

Phil, Steve, & Decius, can't you see the action of the devine petri-dish here?

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 14:07:00 UTC | #291219

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 30 by Steve Zara

Comment #305711 by phil rimmer

My limited understanding is that any pools of water are far, far too dilute for any kind of spontaneous biochemical syntheses. Many of these reactions involve removal of water from a system, so having any liquid water around at all would be a problem.

Tue, 23 Dec 2008 14:07:00 UTC | #291220