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02-18-2020, 03:38 PM - 1 Like   #166
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dartmoor Dave Quote
Well, there's a growing body of evidence that suggests that life on Earth began in deep sea geothermal vents...

...So scientists will keep doing what scientists do: following the evidence.
And there's other evidence uncovered by scientists which throws spanners in these deep sea suggestions, relating to the stability of a key amino acid.


QuoteOriginally posted by photoptimist Quote
Yes, we have yet to get conclusive data on the origins of life. In fact, it may be impractical to get that data if really requires letting a primordial planet do its thang for a billion years.
And yet we are asked to accept that science knows how 'tis done, indeed many expect us to believe science knows how it was done - without evidence. Now that's a familiar line:–
QuoteOriginally posted by arnold Quote
The essence of faith, is belief without evidence.
Would anyone disagree, on that basis, that we are expected to have faith in the origin of life hypotheses? Blind, lacking evidence, faith.


I'm fascinated by the jaw-dropping complexity of life in all its biochemical wizardry. The precision with which the processes of metabolism, reproduction, etc continue every second of every day in every cell of you and me, or even in the simplest of bacteria, is beyond impressive: it is staggering. Darwin and those of his day considered the cell to be a simple blob of protoplasm – how wrong they were! Science proceeds by examining, theorising and testing the theories against the evidence and there is little or no actual evidence as to how the extraordinary mechanisms of life were "cooked" from crude beginnings. There are far too many plates to keep spinning in even explaining the assembly of raw materials like amino acids etc to make living systems and I don't accept the current handwaving and just-so stories. It's not a bit difficult to explain, it's monumentally difficult.

So until science comes up with a credible explanation, I'll continue marvelling at life as we know it in its extraordinary, dazzling complexity. I just ain't holding my breath.

02-18-2020, 03:45 PM   #167
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QuoteOriginally posted by robgski Quote
Why not just post “42” ?

If the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything is 42 then mathematics must be part of the fundamental structure of reality. It must be something real about the universe that human beings have discovered, rather than a mere language that humans have created just for talking about stuff. Formal logic is within the category of mathematics, so therefore logic must be something discovered rather than created too.

That gives us solid foundations for reason to stand on, and reason is all we need.

(Although of course the question of whether mathematics is discovered rather than created is one of the deepest problems of all, and personally I'm doubtful that the answer is 42.)
02-18-2020, 03:56 PM   #168
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QuoteOriginally posted by StiffLegged Quote
And yet we are asked to accept that science knows how 'tis done, indeed many expect us to believe science knows how it was done - without evidence. Now that's a familiar line

But science doesn't claim to know how it was done, it just claims to have the best theory it's been able to come up with so far, and it certainly doesn't expect us to believe it without evidence. In fact the whole point of science is that it limits itself to only talking about things that it can justify talking about on the basis of evidence.
02-18-2020, 06:47 PM   #169
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rondec Quote
Basically we are talking about the Drake Equation: Drake equation - Wikipedia If you are a Carl Sagan sort of guy, you plug in numbers that make it look like the Milky Way is populated by thousands of different civilations. Or you could plug in numbers that show that is extremely rare and odds are we will never have contact with any of these races. Certainly most science fiction stores leave the implication that it is common.

As to life in our solar system other than on earth, I suppose the gas giants could house something, but they would certainly seem to be on the cold side for your primordial soup to work, while Venus seems a bit warm. It is awfully hard to prove a negative, but I am not sure that even relatively simple life (not sure why we would be sure it would form cells elsewhere) is particularly robust or common.

I am careful to couch all this in vague language, because I really have no idea, but neither does anyone else, since none of us has either (a) traveled outside this solar system or (b) run an experiment last even a million years (much less a billion). Making a lot of assumptions based on earth seems like a broad generalization.
The Drake Equation provides a very nice back-of-the-envelope framework for thinking about the "are we alone" question.

That wiki page noted that with Earth's current level of technology, the galaxy could be chock full of invisible Earth-level technological civilizations -- our current radio detection equipment isn't sensitive enough to detect a planet with our current level of emissions more than 1 light year away. And the way communications technology seems to be going toward greater numbers of shorter-range radios operating with wide-band and spread-spectrum, I wonder if the Earth (and other advanced civilizations) actually become less detectable over time.

Personally, I'd not be surprised if there is some form of life in the solar system but not surprised if there isn't. Both cold and high-heat are the enemies of complex chemistry and metabolic processes. There needs to be enough free energy for stuff to happen but not so much that big molecules get pulverized. It's one of the reasons many astrobiologists suspect that liquid water is a prerequisite for life.

02-19-2020, 12:22 AM   #170
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dartmoor Dave Quote
But science doesn't claim to know how it was done, it just claims to have the best theory it's been able to come up with so far, and it certainly doesn't expect us to believe it without evidence.
If only that were true, Dave. The biochemistry of life is increasingly well understood, genetics likewise. But there is a third discipline, a most unforgiving one, which is quite unable to account for life beginning in a dirty puddle, under a heap of stones, next to volcanic springs in the oceans or wherever from very raw ingredients. Chemistry is the problem, and chemistry says “who are you kidding?” to propositions of the raw ingredients of cellular life being made, persisting and assembling themselves into life, however basic, in prebiotic conditions of any colour. The variety of temperatures, pressures, pH and the presence of co-reagents simultaneously necessary but mutually exclusive is ridiculous.

The chemistry is difficult, really really difficult, even in a laboratory, and no-one has a credible answer to that essential problem. Appeals to billion-year timescales don’t help either because the compounds, unless in living systems, oxidise, hydrolyse and decay. Try any textbook, any academic paper, any popular science book, none give anything more than a vague recipe of wishful thinking or bodyswerve it entirely. But we are still expected to believe it.
02-19-2020, 02:22 AM   #171
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QuoteOriginally posted by StiffLegged Quote
Chemistry is the problem, and chemistry says “who are you kidding?” to propositions of the raw ingredients of cellular life being made, persisting and assembling themselves into life, however basic, in prebiotic conditions of any colour. The variety of temperatures, pressures, pH and the presence of co-reagents simultaneously necessary but mutually exclusive is ridiculous.

But chemistry doesn't say "Who are you kidding?" because that would be making a claim to absolute knowledge, and science doesn't make claims to absolute knowledge. Ever. All it claims is to have a bunch of really well tested theories that it can use to make reliable predictions. Chemistry is certainly able to make lots of very reliable predictions about all sorts of useful stuff, but it isn't in some unique position to make absolute claims that other branches of science can't make.

As to this question of the origin of life that has been exercising people in this thread: Science only claims to have very provisional theories in that area, and lots of scientists will be happily building their careers and reputations for a long time to come on gathering new evidence and developing better theories. The fact that the theories that are available at the moment are very tentative and provisional just means that lots more research is needed. Nobody is asking us to believe anything that's unsupported by evidence, although they are certainly likely to ask us to fund more research.

The thing is, you can't say that science is making absolute claims that it isn't actually making and then go: "Ahah! Science doesn't know absolutely everything about this particular question so science doesn't work!"

Last edited by Dartmoor Dave; 02-19-2020 at 02:33 AM.
02-19-2020, 03:35 AM   #172
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QuoteOriginally posted by StiffLegged Quote
If only that were true, Dave. The biochemistry of life is increasingly well understood, genetics likewise. But there is a third discipline, a most unforgiving one, which is quite unable to account for life beginning in a dirty puddle, under a heap of stones, next to volcanic springs in the oceans or wherever from very raw ingredients. Chemistry is the problem, and chemistry says “who are you kidding?” to propositions of the raw ingredients of cellular life being made, persisting and assembling themselves into life, however basic, in prebiotic conditions of any colour. The variety of temperatures, pressures, pH and the presence of co-reagents simultaneously necessary but mutually exclusive is ridiculous.

The chemistry is difficult, really really difficult, even in a laboratory, and no-one has a credible answer to that essential problem. Appeals to billion-year timescales don’t help either because the compounds, unless in living systems, oxidise, hydrolyse and decay. Try any textbook, any academic paper, any popular science book, none give anything more than a vague recipe of wishful thinking or bodyswerve it entirely. But we are still expected to believe it.
I don't disagree with you entirely.

People act like it is obvious, but I can't imagine how difficult it would be for a scientist to create a simple bacterium from scratch in the laboratory and then, having created it, how to bring it to life? The answer seems to be "electricity," but my experience with electricity is that it is actually fairly destructive in most voltages (particularly in lightning which I suppose what would have been present in these theories).

Somehow this membrane and DNA and organelles all came together and then got zapped and you've started with life. Most answers I have read basically say that the secret ingredient is billions of years and let it at that. And maybe that's all the answer we need, but I'm not so sure...
02-19-2020, 06:17 AM   #173
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dartmoor Dave Quote
But chemistry doesn't say "Who are you kidding?" because that would be making a claim to absolute knowledge, and science doesn't make claims to absolute knowledge. Ever. All it claims is to have a bunch of really well tested theories that it can use to make reliable predictions. Chemistry is certainly able to make lots of very reliable predictions about all sorts of useful stuff, but it isn't in some unique position to make absolute claims that other branches of science can't make.
Dave, if I insisted the Earth was flat and centre of the universe with Sun, Moon and stars orbiting it, you would be quite right to insist physics says I’m wrong. If you suggested our energy needs could be solved by electrolysing water to produce hydrogen for fuel, I would be correct to say chemistry says the energy expended doing so is at least equal to what you’ll get from the hydrogen so that’s also wrong. Likewise, chemistry knows what’s involved in the synthesis of the basic chemicals of life and says it’s anything but heat and stir. Absolute knowledge is not presumed, working knowledge is.

QuoteOriginally posted by Dartmoor Dave Quote
The thing is, you can't say that science is making absolute claims that it isn't actually making and then go: "Ahah! Science doesn't know absolutely everything about this particular question so science doesn't work!"
I have not and do not say anything of the kind.

QuoteOriginally posted by Rondec Quote
I don't disagree with you entirely.

People act like it is obvious, but I can't imagine how difficult it would be for a scientist to create a simple bacterium from scratch in the laboratory and then, having created it, how to bring it to life? ...
That would be a challenge to an entire research establishment of scientists and one which present knowledge is quite incapable of.

QuoteOriginally posted by Rondec Quote
...Somehow this membrane and DNA and organelles all came together and then got zapped and you've started with life. Most answers I have read basically say that the secret ingredient is billions of years and let it at that. And maybe that's all the answer we need, but I'm not so sure.
Somehow this membrane, somehow this DNA or RNA “came into being” is exactly the sort of handwaving that irks. The cell membrane is not just clingfilm, it’s an integral part of the cell’s mechanisms. Nothing gets into the cell without the right key for the protein doorways, nothing gets out without the right key either. The cell membrane resembles a sweetie paper no more than the Pentagon’s security systems do. Did you know its outer surface is also covered with identifying compounds for the benefit of other cells and systems? Cells don’t have time to DNA profile other cells as they go about their business.

I’m going to close by urging anyone genuinely interested to do some reading up on both the chemistry and the biochemical mechanisms of life. Prepare to be dumbfounded!!


Last edited by StiffLegged; 02-19-2020 at 06:26 AM.
02-19-2020, 06:44 AM   #174
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QuoteOriginally posted by StiffLegged Quote
I have not and do not say anything of the kind.

Apologies for misunderstanding your intent. You asserted above that published scientific research into the origin of life asks people to accept things on pure belief unsupported by evidence, and I interpreted that as a similar line of argument to the one that people often use to try to move science onto the same footing as faith. But clearly that wasn't your intention.

Unfortunately I'm now risking straying too close to the line of what the forum quite rightly considers acceptable topics for discussion, so I'll leave it there.
02-19-2020, 06:59 AM - 1 Like   #175
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There is speculation on how life began, but everyone knows it's only speculation. No one is expected to believe it but it's undeniable it happened. Most understand their understanding of science doesn't depend on an origin of life story. Origin of life stories are all myths. However, the fossil record is something we can believe, because we see the fossils. There are many ways to understand the geological progression of the earth.

The complexity of life on earth is only hard to understand only because of the inability of the human brain to understand the time it took. To us, 1,000 years and 5 billion years are the same. On an evolutionary scale 1,000 years is the blink of an eyelash.

Last edited by normhead; 02-19-2020 at 09:45 AM.
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