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Pssst! Don't tell the creationists, but scientists don't have a clue how life began
Scientific American ^ | 2/28/2011 | John Horgan

Posted on 02/28/2011 1:23:34 PM PST by Abathar

Exactly 20 years ago, I wrote an article for Scientific American that, in draft form, had the headline above. My editor nixed it, so we went with something less dramatic: "In the Beginning…: Scientists are having a hard time agreeing on when, where and—most important—how life first emerged on the earth." That editor is gone now, so I get to use my old headline, which is even more apt today.

Dennis Overbye just wrote a status report for The New York Times on research into life's origin, based on a conference on the topic at Arizona State University. Geologists, chemists, astronomers and biologists are as stumped as ever by the riddle of life.

After its formation 4.5 billion years ago, Earth was bombarded for millions of years by huge meteorites, which would have wiped out any fledgling organisms. Researchers have found evidence of microbial life dating back 3.5 billion years ago, suggesting that life emerged fairly quickly—"like Athena springing from the head of Zeus," as one scientist quoted by Overbye put it. But how exactly did chemistry first make the transition to biology?

As recently as the middle of the 20th century, many scientists thought that the first organisms were made of self-replicating proteins. After Francis Crick and James Watson showed that DNA is the basis for genetic transmission in the 1950s, many researchers began to favor nucleic acids over proteins as the ur-molecules. But there was a major hitch in this scenario. DNA can make neither proteins nor copies of itself without the help of catalytic proteins called enzymes. This fact turned the origin of life into a classic chicken-or-egg puzzle: Which came first, proteins or DNA?

RNA, DNA's helpmate, remains the most popular answer to this conundrum, just as it was when I wrote "In the Beginning…" Certain forms of RNA can act as their own enzymes, snipping themselves in two and splicing themselves back together again. If RNA could act as an enzyme, then it might be able to replicate itself without help from proteins. RNA could serve as gene and catalyst, egg and chicken.

But the "RNA-world" hypothesis remains problematic. RNA and its components are difficult to synthesize under the best of circumstances, in a laboratory, let alone under plausible prebiotic conditions. Once RNA is synthesized, it can make new copies of itself only with a great deal of chemical coaxing from the scientist. Overbye notes that "even if RNA did appear naturally, the odds that it would happen in the right sequence to drive Darwinian evolution seem small."

The RNA world is so dissatisfying that some frustrated scientists are resorting to much more far out—literally—speculation. The most startling revelation in Overbye's article is that scientists have resuscitated a proposal once floated by Crick. Dissatisfied with conventional theories of life's beginning, Crick conjectured that aliens came to Earth in a spaceship and planted the seeds of life here billions of years ago. This notion is called directed panspermia. In less dramatic versions of panspermia, microbes arrived on our planet via asteroids, comets or meteorites, or drifted down like confetti.

One enormous change in the past two decades in the quest to understand our origins—which Overbye also reported on recently—is that astronomers have identified more than 1,000 possible planets orbiting other stars. Some seem to be in the "Goldilocks" zone, neither too far nor too close to their respective stars for life as we know it to prosper. Perhaps we are descended from life that emerged on one of those planets.

Of course, panspermia theories merely push the problem of life's origin into outer space. If life didn’t begin here, how did it begin out there? Creationists are no doubt thrilled that origin-of-life research has reached such an impasse (see for example the screed "Darwinism Refuted," which cites my 1991 article), but they shouldn't be. Their explanations suffer from the same flaw: What created the divine Creator? And at least scientists are making an honest effort to solve life's mystery instead of blaming it all on God.


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: creationism; darwinismfaith; dna; rna; scientism
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1 posted on 02/28/2011 1:23:42 PM PST by Abathar
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To: Abathar

Scientists don’t claim to know how life began. They have theories but I think proof is out of reach till God gives them the answer.


2 posted on 02/28/2011 1:27:01 PM PST by cripplecreek (Remember the River Raisin! (look it up))
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To: Abathar

This is why in the field of theoretical physics there are theories that there are infinite number of universes where different possible outcomes for all events have occurred. We just happen to be in one where life happened on Earth.


3 posted on 02/28/2011 1:28:49 PM PST by LukeL (Barack Obama: Jimmy Carter 2 Electric Boogaloo)
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To: Abathar

The title ...

Pssst! Don’t tell the creationists, but scientists don’t have a clue how life began

... implies that creationists and scientists are mutually exclusive sets, when that’s not the case at all.

There are many bonafide scientists who are also creationists.


4 posted on 02/28/2011 1:29:14 PM PST by Westbrook (Having children does not divide your love, it multiplies it.)
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To: Abathar

God invented natural laws and physics. What makes people think that He and science are incompatible?


5 posted on 02/28/2011 1:31:25 PM PST by Bryanw92 (We don't need to win elections. We need to win a revolution.)
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To: Westbrook

Exactly my thought too. It seems just like doctors the deeper many scientists delve into it the more do turn to religion as the answer.


6 posted on 02/28/2011 1:32:35 PM PST by Abathar (Proudly posting without reading the article carefully since 2004)
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To: Abathar

There never will be a solution to this problem. Life as it is perceived by the so called living is an illusion. It is a dream and the dreamer is us. Relax and enjoy. We will all see this clearly when we wake up.


7 posted on 02/28/2011 1:32:42 PM PST by mosaicwolf (Strength and Honor)
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To: Westbrook
Well said.

There are many Luddites who take pride in their enforced ignorance.

8 posted on 02/28/2011 1:33:22 PM PST by starlifter (Pullum sapit)
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To: Abathar

That’s because one cannot create something from NOTHING. But God can.


9 posted on 02/28/2011 1:33:54 PM PST by Ev Reeman
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To: Westbrook
There are many bonafide scientists who are also creationists.

Many is defined as being "more than two". I guess that's about right.

10 posted on 02/28/2011 1:35:12 PM PST by Glenn (iamtheresistance.org)
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To: Abathar

The Big Bang:

God said “let there be light”...BANG!


11 posted on 02/28/2011 1:36:08 PM PST by JRios1968 (Laz would hit it!)
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To: Ev Reeman

“That’s because one cannot create something from NOTHING. But God can.”

Except stories.

People speak (or write) stories into existance.

And we are in the image of another.


12 posted on 02/28/2011 1:36:52 PM PST by TheThirdRuffian (Nothing to see here. Move along.)
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To: Abathar

Kant was the first to posit that concepts such as “a beginning” and “creation” are constructs of the human mind. Normally useful constructs, perhaps they just don’t have application here.


13 posted on 02/28/2011 1:40:15 PM PST by postoak
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To: Bryanw92
God invented natural laws and physics. What makes people think that He and science are incompatible?

Exactly. The only ones who would argue with that are Scientists who think they are god, or young Earthers who insist that God had to do it "by the book" so to speak.

God is God. As far as I'm concerned, He can do it any way he wants.

14 posted on 02/28/2011 1:41:51 PM PST by Ditto (Nov 2, 2010 -- Partial cleaning accomplished. More trash to remove in 2012)
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To: LukeL
This is why in the field of theoretical physics there are theories that there are infinite number of universes where different possible outcomes for all events have occurred.

Which necessarily rules in God. So it's back to the drawing board.

15 posted on 02/28/2011 1:41:51 PM PST by jwalsh07
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To: Abathar

For the record, it doesn’t matter.

It is ok to be uncertain


16 posted on 02/28/2011 1:43:53 PM PST by bert (K.E. N.P. N.C. D.E. +12 ....( History is a process, not an event ))
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To: Abathar
Don't tell the creationists, but scientists don't have a clue how life began

But the creationists do. Funny how that works.

17 posted on 02/28/2011 1:47:08 PM PST by Libloather (The epitome of civility.)
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To: Bryanw92

Two good books to read on how physics explains the existence of God are Jesus and the big bang, and The Science of God. Both really show how the Bible is spot on and debunk the naysayers.


18 posted on 02/28/2011 1:47:10 PM PST by RickB444 (This is NOT my president.)
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To: Abathar

It’s OK to ask about the orign of life, but people get pizzed when you ask about the origin of God.


19 posted on 02/28/2011 1:50:57 PM PST by Conan the Conservative (Crush the liberals, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of the hippies.)
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To: cripplecreek

“They have theories but I think proof is out of reach till God gives them the answer.”

So very well said.


20 posted on 02/28/2011 1:52:27 PM PST by Gator113 (I'm voting for Sarah Palin, Liberty, our Constitution and American Exceptionalism.)
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To: Abathar

The argument for either or is specious at best. Creationism and adaptation are not necessarily mutually exclusive.


21 posted on 02/28/2011 1:53:52 PM PST by Cyman
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To: Abathar

I’ve know this since I was maybe 10 years old................


22 posted on 02/28/2011 1:54:28 PM PST by Red Badger (Want to be surprised? Google your own name. Want to have fun? Google your friend's names.....)
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To: Bryanw92

I don’t believe creationists are trying to destroy science.
I don’t believe life science is trying to destroy faith.

The more I learn about God’s natural world the more in awe I am in his creative power. Science is the tool that helps us appreciate what He reveals about Himself to us through His creation.

I call for a cease fire and good will on both sides. I don’t even see the basis for sides.


23 posted on 02/28/2011 1:57:58 PM PST by DManA
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To: Bryanw92; Abathar
The argument is really about the information content of life: where did it come from? Life is not life without the inherent information in RNA and DNA.

Non-theistic evolution says that biological material is self-organizing. This has not been the results of experiments (Miller-Urey "filtered" the results and is not valid). There isn't a naturalistic explanation for life if the material is not self-organizing.

If biological material is not self-organizing, who put the information into life? The believer says, "God", the creator of the universe.

Scientists who want to discount God don't have another answer, which is why the panspermia hypothesis has become popular. But that just pushes the origin of life question back by one planet: if someone seeded Earth, where did that someone come from?

24 posted on 02/28/2011 1:58:09 PM PST by backwoods-engineer (Any politician who holds that the state accords rights is an oathbreaker and an "enemy... domestic.")
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To: Abathar

“Billions and billions of years ago, in billions and billions of galaxies, billions and billions of mutations...OK...yes, I am pulling this out of my behind because I prayed once and Susie Smith went out with Billy instead of me. I’ll teach God!”


25 posted on 02/28/2011 1:58:49 PM PST by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer.")
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To: Abathar

Life began on Saturday night.


26 posted on 02/28/2011 2:02:35 PM PST by bunkerhill7
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To: starlifter; Glenn

Ad hominem is par for the course for evolutionists.

Unless, of course, it’s due to ignorance rather than logical bankruptcy.


27 posted on 02/28/2011 2:04:24 PM PST by Westbrook (Having children does not divide your love, it multiplies it.)
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To: Abathar

Actually, I think a majority of the issue isn’t a scientific one. I believe it is ideology - socialist ideology that drives the controversy.


28 posted on 02/28/2011 2:06:36 PM PST by Gaffer
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To: Conan the Conservative

> when you ask about the origin of God.

A being that exists outside of time, who in fact created time-space, cannot, by definition, have an origin.


29 posted on 02/28/2011 2:06:36 PM PST by Westbrook (Having children does not divide your love, it multiplies it.)
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To: Ditto; Bryanw92
God invented natural laws and physics. What makes people think that He and science are incompatible? => => =>The only ones who would argue with that are Scientists who think they are god, or young Earthers who insist that God had to do it "by the book" so to speak. God is God. As far as I'm concerned, He can do it any way he wants.

Excellent. I have always regarded science as the profession that tries to understand what God has set in motion. One of these groups shows arrogance and bad scientific practice in proclaiming they know it all, the other group refuses to acknowledge evidence and have no business discussing science.

30 posted on 02/28/2011 2:06:44 PM PST by kidd
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To: Westbrook

GOD AND THE ASTRONOMERS by Robert Jastrow (for one)


31 posted on 02/28/2011 2:09:34 PM PST by fish hawk (R. Emmett Tyrrell: Liberalism is dead. What we see now is "soft Nazis-ism".)
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To: Cyman

The arguments I’ve been in are along the lines of

“how can you accept adaptation without accepting evolution!”

(Logic fallacy of equivocation)


32 posted on 02/28/2011 2:09:57 PM PST by MrB (The difference between a Humanist and a Satanist - the latter knows whom he's working for)
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To: Abathar
Yeah. Maybe scientists should save the heavy stuff until after they've decided whether or not Pluto is a planet.

What's the latest on Pluto? Is it is or is it not a planet.

33 posted on 02/28/2011 2:10:07 PM PST by Texas Eagle (If it wasn't for double-standards, Liberals would have no standards at all -- Texas Eagle)
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To: Abathar
I quit arguing about this. 1.there was nothing 2.then there was matter. 3. Matter cannot create itself. 4. something had to create it. 5. who?

Only one answer to this question.

34 posted on 02/28/2011 2:13:09 PM PST by fish hawk (R. Emmett Tyrrell: Liberalism is dead. What we see now is "soft Nazis-ism".)
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To: Bryanw92
What makes people think that God and science are incompatible?

Arrogance.

35 posted on 02/28/2011 2:14:14 PM PST by Texas Eagle (If it wasn't for double-standards, Liberals would have no standards at all -- Texas Eagle)
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To: Texas Eagle

Gerald Schroeder has some interesting thoughts on this topic. I’ve purchased a few of his books.


36 posted on 02/28/2011 2:16:06 PM PST by Chuzzlewit
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To: Texas Eagle

I believe they came up with a whole new category and name for it, to appease the upset people for them dropping it.

Kind of hilarious, when they had the vote on whether it was or wasn’t a planet there were some really heated arguments going on.


37 posted on 02/28/2011 2:16:39 PM PST by Abathar (Proudly posting without reading the article carefully since 2004)
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To: Abathar

Yeah, and PCs are better than Macs!


38 posted on 02/28/2011 2:20:25 PM PST by MrB (The difference between a Humanist and a Satanist - the latter knows whom he's working for)
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To: Abathar

I’m surprised they published this. Sci Am went moonbat years ago.


39 posted on 02/28/2011 2:21:44 PM PST by Peter from Rutland
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To: MrB

Hehehe, fastest way to hijack a thread known to man... :)


40 posted on 02/28/2011 2:22:18 PM PST by Abathar (Proudly posting without reading the article carefully since 2004)
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To: Peter from Rutland

The last couple of sentences brought everything back into perspective so they didn’t lose too many readers... :)


41 posted on 02/28/2011 2:23:31 PM PST by Abathar (Proudly posting without reading the article carefully since 2004)
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To: Gaffer

Absolutely it’s a worldview issue.

We all have the same evidence, and we all interpret it through our presuppositional worldviews.

The worldviews are not compatible, and are therefore inherently in conflict, trying to destroy the other.

And this battle is far bigger than we can imagine.


42 posted on 02/28/2011 2:24:30 PM PST by MrB (The difference between a Humanist and a Satanist - the latter knows whom he's working for)
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To: Abathar

I’m a Christian, so don’t get me wrong.

But where DID God come from?? I’ve wanted to know since I was 5


43 posted on 02/28/2011 2:25:51 PM PST by chesley (Eat what you want, and die like a man.)
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To: chesley

I guess it all depends on who you ask, I’ve heard a few answers to that.

I’m pretty sure there are plenty of people here who could give you an earful on the subject though...


44 posted on 02/28/2011 2:28:42 PM PST by Abathar (Proudly posting without reading the article carefully since 2004)
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To: Westbrook
Not certain where the ad hominem reference came from...

Creation and evolution are not incompatible.

45 posted on 02/28/2011 2:29:18 PM PST by starlifter (Pullum sapit)
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To: Ev Reeman

“That’s because one cannot create something from NOTHING. But God can.”

Agree. Stephen Hawking stated in his book, A Brief History of Time, that he “believed there’s a god because the other side of the Big Bang can not be explained by science”. I paraphrased, but think I was close...


46 posted on 02/28/2011 2:40:19 PM PST by snoringbear (Government is the Pimp,)
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To: Ev Reeman

“That’s because one cannot create something from NOTHING. But God can.”

Agree. Stephen Hawking stated in his book, A Brief History of Time, that he “believed there’s a god because the other side of the Big Bang can not be explained by science”. I paraphrased, but think I was close...


47 posted on 02/28/2011 2:42:07 PM PST by snoringbear (Government is the Pimp,)
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To: mosaicwolf

sh-boom!


48 posted on 02/28/2011 2:44:24 PM PST by 668 - Neighbor of the Beast
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To: Ev Reeman

Or maybe there is no “nothing.” It’s just a concept we had to invent because we can’t see everything.
But God can!


49 posted on 02/28/2011 2:46:16 PM PST by 668 - Neighbor of the Beast
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To: starlifter
"Creation and evolution are not incompatible."

Hegelian dialectic at its finest.

50 posted on 02/28/2011 2:49:37 PM PST by GourmetDan (Eccl 10:2 - The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.)
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