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Thread: "Impossibility" of abiogenesis

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    "Impossibility" of abiogenesis

    I see this argument in this right wing journal fairly often, but not usually as sophisticated as this (perhaps because the author is an MD).
    What is a good answer to this? BTW, the issues he brings up are why I think f-sub-L in the Drake Equation is something like 10^-100.

    https://www.americanthinker.com/arti...o_darwin_.html
    SHARKS (crossed out) MONGEESE (sic) WITH FRICKIN' LASER BEAMS ATTACHED TO THEIR HEADS

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    Honestly, it really isn't a sophisticated article. Sorry. It makes all the same tired old claims based on careful selection, emotive or misleading language and mischaracterising what is actually thought to be going on.

    It ignores the RNA world theory* (which has only been around for 50 years or so, after all...) and pretty much all modern though about abiogenesis
    It keeps leaping to the solution and arguing that it is impossible for the system to appear or function after appearing (ignoring the whole evolution and intermediate forms thing)
    It mischaracterises a lot of things as random, ignoring feedback mechanisms

    Its just the same old argument from incredulity based on deliberately mischaracterising what the theories say.

    * ETA or its alternatives

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    I couldn't bear to read past the first couple of straw men, I'm afraid. As far as I got, it seems like the usual "jumbo jet assembled spontaneously by a tornado in a junkyard" fallacious argument, dressed up with a bit of biochemistry - it assumes that the progenitors of life were as complicated as life is currently.
    Is there a specific point you feel needs addressed? Maybe you could post it here, if so. Because that's a tedious read.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Ouch. It is painful.

    Also, challenging abiogenesis does not challenge evolution or even Darwin's theory of evolution. Darwin said little about the creation of life apart from a few guesses about what might be possible based on what was known at the time. These have nothing to do with evolution.

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    Maybe it's the biochemistry...my "thing" is astronomy, and that is a B.S. 40 years out of date.
    I can see Darwinian evolution easily getting up to us, but trouble seeing it getting started.
    SHARKS (crossed out) MONGEESE (sic) WITH FRICKIN' LASER BEAMS ATTACHED TO THEIR HEADS

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    I can see Darwinian evolution easily getting up to us, but trouble seeing it getting started.
    There are lots of possible (partial) routes hypothesized for the first "living" things to evolve. And there is probably a question mark over where you draw the line between living and on-living, I guess. Most of these involve some sort of pre-biotic chemical evolutionary process where relatively complex sets of reactions take place, probably driven by some sort of energy source (sunlight, lightning, proton gradients in hydrothermal vents, etc).

    I have really only skimmed articles describing several different possible mechanisms that could have given rise to different aspects of a living organism (creating complex chemicals, creating a membrane, creating chemicals able to provide reproduce and carry information, etc). But I haven't seen anything to suggest the whole process is impossible.

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    We see Darwinian evolution "getting started" all the time - all it needs is a self-reproducing system with copying errors and selection pressure. Biology is just one example of that sort of system.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    I can see Darwinian evolution easily getting up to us, but trouble seeing it getting started.
    Then you are making the same mistake a lot of people make (including apparently the person in the article), and that is confusing evolution with abiogenesis. They really are different things. Evolution says nothing about how life got started, just that once it got started and was self replicating THEN evolution starts working.

    What started life could have been biochemistry, could have been aliens experimenting, could have been supernatural, could have been panspermia, could have been blind luck, it doesn't matter to evolution. Once a thing starts self replicating, regardless of how it starts, it's then subject to evolution.

    The fact that the person in the article keeps getting abiogenesis confused with evolution is a bit shocking. I have no education in this field and I was able to spot this basic mistake in the first 2 paragraphs, so the fact that this person is unaware speaks volumes as to his lack of expertise on this subject. Like the rest here, I didn't bother to read much further if the author is this badly misinformed on the topic hes attempting to criticize.

    Like Grant, I also noticed that he's using a complex modern cell as an example for early life. And I suppose if his point was to show that a modern, complex cell can't spontaneously appear then congrats. Will he next attempt to prove that water is wet?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    I see this argument in this right wing journal fairly often, but not usually as sophisticated as this (perhaps because the author is an MD).
    What is a good answer to this? BTW, the issues he brings up are why I think f-sub-L in the Drake Equation is something like 10^-100.

    https://www.americanthinker.com/arti...o_darwin_.html
    Lifelike chemistry created in lab search for ways to study origin of life, (Nov 14 2019):
    "Scientists have been looking for examples of reactions that spontaneously complexify and organize organic chemicals for a long time," says Jim Cleaves, a co-author on the work from the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan. "Based on this work, and other experiments we have been conducting at ELSI, it seems possible such reactions may not be incredibly rare at all, it may simply be a matter of using the right tools to find them."

    When the researchers ran the experiment out to 40 generations, they observed periods of gradual change interspersed by sudden reversals to the starting conditions. While the cause of these crashes remains unknown, this kind of non-linear feedback loop is found across life and is evidence that the experimental system induced complex behaviors in the chemical soup.

    "This non-linearity is a prerequisite for all the interesting lifelike behaviors we're looking for, including self-propagation and evolution," says Vincent.

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    Well, I don't believe that I am confusing the two. That is my point. Life has to get started. Once it starts, it can evolve through Darwinian evolution easily. But it has to start without Darwinian evolution, and that is the hurdle.
    SHARKS (crossed out) MONGEESE (sic) WITH FRICKIN' LASER BEAMS ATTACHED TO THEIR HEADS

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    Well, I don't believe that I am confusing the two. That is my point. Life has to get started. Once it starts, it can evolve through Darwinian evolution easily. But it has to start without Darwinian evolution, and that is the hurdle.
    Why do you think it's a hurdle?

    Grant Hutchison

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    It is valid to point out that "we don't know how it happened, therefor we know it was my favorite god" does not work, and that would remain the case whether we knew of a viable alternative or not, but I can understand the feeling that the case against it gets stronger somehow when we do know of a viable alternative. So I wish it were more widely known that we have actually had a viable alternative for years.

    And I don't mean just "RNA world" alone; that would be only half of the picture by itself and I mean the other half. Yes, RNA can catalyze reactions like protein and (in some cases) self-replicate like DNA, so it can be the original from which protein & DNA later took over those functions, but that fact still gives us only an idea of how the innards of a cell could have worked, not where the structure of the cell to contain it and concentrate its activity would have come from.

    And the short answer is that fatty acid (lipid) molecules are known to spontaneously form and polymerize in the same kind of environment where nucleic & amino acids do (a warm slightly acidic water solution under a no-oxygen atmosphere), and the way lipids polymerize (the equivalent of amino acids stringing together into random proteins and nucleic acids stringing together into random strands of RNA or DNA) is not just into strings/strands but into sheets, which tend to curve, and can thus end up forming round enclosures once they get big enough for one edge of a curved sheet to touch the opposite edge. Then, because of purely thermodynamic & chemical processes without a hint of genetic or protein-mitigated "control" or "guidance" in sight, those enclosures naturally tend to increase the concentration of polymers inside and take in more monomers and water from the outside, and thus grow bigger. And the bigger they get, the more likely they are to break into smaller ones (either by rupturing and then the pieces re-sealing, or even by pinching in and partitioning off sections of the original with little or no loss of internal contents, which just happens to look just like what modern cell membranes do in mitosis). And when two of them touch each other, the bigger one starts incorporating lipids drawn from the smaller one, thus growing and causing the smaller one to shrink, usually til it's completely gone unless it gets broken loose and drifts away again first.

    So right there, without a single gene, specific protein, or RNA transcription event involved at all, you already have discrete biochemical objects that consume resources from their environment, grow, split, inherit their contents from their pre-splitting predecessors, and destructively compete against each other. That sounds like "life" to me. And it gives the question of the origin of DNA and proteins a setting in which to be plausibly answered as later additions that weren't necessary at first, not as needed first steps on their own. And this isn't inferred or speculated; it's observed in labs.
    Last edited by Delvo; 2019-Nov-24 at 10:50 PM.

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    A missing pathway from inorganic to pre-biotic discovered. (Paper here):

    Summary:

    Peptides, one of the fundamental building blocks of life, can be formed from the primitive precursors of amino acids under conditions similar to those expected on the primordial Earth, finds a new study.
    From the press release:
    Origin of life insight: Peptides can form without amino acids, Nature, July 10, 2019
    "Many researchers have sought to understand how peptides first formed to help life develop, but almost all of the research has focused on amino acids, so the reactivity of their precursors was overlooked," said Dr Powner.

    The precursors, aminonitriles, require harsh conditions, typically strongly acidic or alkaline, to form amino acids. And then amino acids must be recharged with energy to make peptides. The researchers found a way to bypass both of these steps, making peptides directly from energy-rich aminonitriles.

    They found that aminonitriles have the innate reactivity to achieve peptide bond formation in water with greater ease than amino acids. The team identified a sequence of simple reactions, combining hydrogen sulfide with aminonitriles and another chemical substrate ferricyanide, to yield peptides.

    "Controlled synthesis, in response to environmental or internal stimuli, is an essential element of metabolic regulation, so we think that peptide synthesis could have been part of a natural cycle that took place in the very early evolution of life," said Pierre Canavelli, the first author of the study who completed it while at UCL.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    I see this argument in this right wing journal fairly often, but not usually as sophisticated as this (perhaps because the author is an MD).
    What is a good answer to this?
    The answer is that someone who displays a deep level of ignorance about abiogenesis should not write about abiogenesis! At least we hope it is ignorance rather then lying.
    Abiogenesis is not is not the "Darwin Theory of Origin of the Species". Evolution is not even the "Darwin Theory of Origin of the Species"!
    Abiogenesis is not the appearance of human cells or even cells as complex as human cells about 3 billion years ago.
    Argument from incredibility or gaps in our knowledge does not mean that abiogenesis did not happen.
    There is no "chicken and egg" mystery. We have known for 60 years that it is easy for amino acids to form in the early Earth and even space. Add a lipid layer (a proto cell) and formation of RNA or DNA in the older DNA world is just more chemistry. DNA emerges as basically a catalyst to make more RNA.
    Assertions without evidence does not mean that abiogenesis did not happen. Once again - nucleosides are just chemicals and can be formed by chemical reaction from inorganic compound.. Millions of chemistry students every year produce simple organic compounds from inorganic compounds! The early Earth just ran its experiment over millions of years to get more complex organic compounds.
    Repeats his "circular problem" ignorance.
    Back to the deep ignorance of referring to today's cells. For example, he thinks that ATP synthase enzymes had to exist in the first cells when the evidence is only that ATP evolved early.

    The article ends with a "strong case for design" delusion. Ignorant statements and incredibility about abiogenesis that do not even mention design are not any sort of case for design.

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    Crystals dude, crystals!
    "It's only a model....?" :-)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3dZl3yfGpc

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    What's troubling for me is that the article is unsound in religion as well as science. How foolish will it look if an when an established abiogenesis model, or models, become working models? The better religious approach, IMO, is to note (by inference) fine tuning in the first few Planck units of time, which allows abiogenesis, evolution, and all natural events to take place, as well as, have just the right place for those processes to operate.

    Is this article's anti-abiogenesis not scientism ("a cosmetic application of science in unwarranted situations", Wiki) to favor religion?
    We know time flies, we just can't see its wings.

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    I think we in the scientific community should celebrate the fact that we 'don't know' how life began..... or how the universe began, what happens inside a black hole.... or what consciouness is, how memories are made etc etc. These explorations can be left to our children.
    Science is in the business of exploring, finding out things, changing it's mind , changing it's models.
    The fact that scientists don't know all the answers is a feature, not a bug.
    Beware of anyone who tells you they have "all the answers"... particularly if they point to a book written in the bronze age.
    "It's only a model....?" :-)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3dZl3yfGpc

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    The rapid advent of life on earth suggests either that abiogenesis is easy, or that panspermia (ATM!!) is a real thing. After single celled organisms form in the first billion years of earth's existence, it took over 3 billion years to go multi-cellular; which seems a much simpler problem than starting from nothing.

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