November 11, 2005

Abiogenesis: Leftovers

(Here are some additional quotes that I encountered, which didn't make it into my abiogenesis article. I've also included images to illustrate some of the biochemical complexities I've discussed.)

"The complexity of the simplest known type of cell is so great that it is impossible to accept that such an object could have been thrown together suddenly by some kind of freakish, vastly improbable, event. Such an occurrence would be indistinguishable from a miracle."
Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory In Crisis, 1985.

"It must be admitted from the beginning that we do not know how life began. It is generally believed that a variety of processes led to the formation of simple organic compounds on the primitive earth. These compounds combined together to give more and more complex structures until one was formed that could be called living. No one should be satisfied with an explanation as general as this."
Stanley L Miller, The Origins of Life on the Earth, Prentice-Hall, 1974.

"To insist, even with Olympian assurance, that life appeared quite by chance and evolved in this fashion, is an unfounded supposition which I believe to be wrong and not in accordance with the facts."
Pierre-P. Grasse, former Chair of Evolution, Sorbonne University and ex-president of the French Academie des Sciences.

"To grasp the reality of life as it has been revealed by molecular biology, we must magnify a cell a thousand million times...What we would then see would be an object of unparalleled complexity and adaptive design....What we would be witnessing would be an object resembling an immense automated factory, a factory larger than a city and carrying out almost as many unique functions as all the manufacturing activities of man on earth. However, it would be a factory which would have one capacity not equaled in any of our own most advanced machines, for it would be capable of replicating its entire structure within a matter of a few hours."
Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Burnett Books: London, 1985, p328-329

"So we have now what we believe is strong evidence for life on Earth 3,800 thousand million years [ago]. This brings the theory for the Origin of Life on Earth down to a very narrow range. Allowing half a billion years (for the disturbed conditions described above) we are now thinking, in geochemical terms, of instant life..."
Cyril Ponnamperuma (Director of Chemical Evolution Branch, NASA Ames Research Center, California)

"The presence of limestone, and other probably biogenic sediments, of stromatolites, microfossils, chemical fossils and biogenic kerogen in early Precambrian rocks suggests that life originated virtually simultaneously with the formation of the crust of the earth."
John C. Walton, "The Chemical Composition of the Earth's Original Atmosphere,"

"Even the simpler molecules are produced only in small amounts in realistic experiments simulating possible primitive earth conditions. What is worse, these molecules are generally minor constituents of tars: It remains problematical how they could have been separated and purified through geochemical processes whose normal effects are to make organic mixtures more and more of a jumble. With somewhat more complex molecules these difficulties rapidly increase. In particular a purely geochemical origin of nucleotides (the subunits of DNA and RNA) presents great difficulties. In any case, nucleotides have not yet been produced in realistic experiments of the kind Miller did."
Alexander G. Cairns-Smith, "The first organisms," Scientific American 252(6), 1985, p. 90.

"[The Miller-Urey paradigm was at one time] worth consideration, now the entire effort in the primeval soup paradigm is self-deception based on the ideology of its champions...The history of science shows that a paradigm, once it has achieved the status of acceptance (and is incorporated in textbooks) and regardless of its failures, is declared invalid only when a new paradigm is available to replace it...It is a characteristic of the true believer in religion, philosophy and ideology that he must have a set of beliefs, come what may...There is no reason that this should be different in the research on the origin of life...Belief in a primeval soup on the grounds that no other paradigm is available is an example of the logical fallacy of the false alternative."
Hubert P. Yockey, Information theory and molecular biology, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1992, p. 336

"The spontaneous formation of a polypeptide of the size of the smallest known proteins seems beyond all probability."
W. R. Bird, The Origin of Species Revisited, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Co., 1991, p. 304.

"We need a pathway, a succession of chemical steps leading from the first building blocks of life to the RNA world. Chemistry, however, has so far failed to elucidate this pathway. At first sight, the kind of chemistry needed seems so unlikely to take place spontaneously that one might be tempted to invoke, as many have done and some still do, the intervention of some supernatural agency. Scientists, however, are condemned by their calling to look for natural explanations of even the most unnatural-looking events. They must even, in the present case, eschew the facile recourse to chance, as I hope to have made clear"
Christian de Duve (1974 Nobel prize for biology), Vital Dust: Life As a Cosmic Imperative, 1995.

"Creationists have looked forward to the day when science may actually create a "living" thing from simple chemicals. They claim, and rightly so, that even if such a man-made life form could be created, this would not prove that natural life forms were developed by a similar chemical evolutionary process. The [evolutionist] scientist understands this and plods on testing theories."
William D. Stansfield, Professor of Biological Sciences, California Polytechnic State University

"This gulf in understanding is not merely ignorance about certain technical details, it is a major lacuna. . . . My personal belief, for what it is worth, is that a fully satisfactory theory of the origin of life demands some radically new ideas."
Paul Davies, The Fifth Miracle: The Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life, 1999.

Chirality Illustration
(left-hand and right-hand amino acids)

Amino Acids in Polypeptide Formation

Ribosome Constructing a Protein

Structure of the DNA Molecule

Typical Cell

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At 11/11/2005 1:08 PM, Blogger Paul said...

I tried to put a table in this post, but it always wanted to put a ton of blank space in front of it (i.e., push it way down on the page). Only a basic HTML table that wasn't too wide. Anyone else ever have this problem on blogspot?


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