November 6, 2005

CREATIONISM, LITERALLY TRUE:

Shaped from clay: Minerals help molecules thought to have been essential for early life to form. (Philip Ball, 11/03/05, Nature)

A team of US scientists may have found the 'primordial womb' in which the first life on Earth was incubated.

Lynda Williams and colleagues at Arizona State University in Tempe have discovered that certain types of clay mineral convert simple carbon-based molecules to complex ones in conditions mimicking those of hot, wet hydrothermal vents (mini-volcanoes on the sea bed). Such complex molecules would have been essential components of the first cell-like systems on Earth.

Having helped such delicate molecules to form, the clays can also protect them from getting broken down in the piping hot water issuing from the vents, the researchers report in the journal Geology.


Don't fret, sooner or later we'll learn something we haven't always known.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 6, 2005 8:06 AM
Comments

It's not even new to science. I've seen this theory floated around for as long as I've been interested in the field. It's useful that they've demonstrated some aspects of the theory work in the real world.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at November 6, 2005 1:28 PM

I checked the linked article and even found the journal. The underlying article was under lock and key.

The real barrier that all of these synthesis experiments have to pass is the production of chirally sorted molecules. The chemistry of living things depends on being able to differentiate between L and D forms of organic molecules. Fructose is a L form and Dextrose is a D form. They have the same chemical formula -- C6H12O6, but their biological action is different. They even taste different.

I assume that if this experiment produced chirally sorted molecules, they would have trumpeted it from the roof tops. If it did not, it was another meaningless stunt.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at November 7, 2005 2:39 AM

I've always wondered why, if evolution occurs so easily, life has not evolved dozens of times on our planet?

Posted by: flip at November 7, 2005 3:03 PM

Flip:

It has -- about 90 million times in the last 65 million years.

Posted by: JeffGuinn at November 7, 2005 3:20 PM

"The real barrier that all of these synthesis experiments have to pass is the production of chirally sorted molecules."

i apologize for the original paper being unavailable online without subscription at this time. any university library in your area should carry the journal Geology for you to examine.

to save you some time: no chiral molecules were found among the reaction products, but you are correct in recognizing the biological significance of chirality. all known life shares the same homochirality, and therefore it goes back at least as far as our last common ancestor. is it possible that an ancestor of our last common ancestor did not share in this homochirality? if all abiotic chemical reactions producing chiral molecules will produce a racemic (50/50) mixture of both enantiomers, then it seems fair to assume that there was a time in the transition from inanimate matter to life before chirality became embedded in life.

experiments discussed in the paper seek to explore this very period, and thus chirality poses no barrier to said experiments. the work described in the paper would be best described as "Prebiotic Chemistry".

Posted by: Mr DNA at November 7, 2005 10:08 PM

flip:

Because everything has to be just so!

Posted by: oj at November 7, 2005 11:29 PM

Mr. DNA

Thanks for the info. It is just as I suspected.

Living things can reproduce, but reproduction is based on chirality. Things that can reproduce can evolve.

No chirality, no reproduction, no evolution.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at November 8, 2005 12:05 AM

"reproduction is based on chirality."

while all life as we know it shares the same homochirality, the act of reproduction is in no way based or dependent on chirality. even the most general biochemistry textbook should clear that up for you.

it sounds like you do not accept that life was 'created' relatively unaltered from its current state, but that you recognize life evolves from something before it. and if you recognize that life evolves from something before it, you should allow yourself to imagine possibilities for what that something before might look like.

it can be admittedly difficult to imagine that something so integral to our beings (such as homochirality, respiration, cellular nuclei, etc.) could have ever been less important, or not existent at all. more and more evidence, such as that presented in this paper, confirm that these difficulties exist more in the imagination than in the chemistry.

Posted by: Mr DNA at November 8, 2005 4:08 AM

"the act of reproduction is in no way based or dependent on chirality. even the most general biochemistry textbook should clear that up for you."

Au Contraire. reproduction is intimately bound to homochirality, without which nucleic acids could not encode biological mechanisms, nor could proteins reliablely fold into biologically active shapes.

Only things that reproduce are alive, and only living things can evolve, and no living things (not even viri) are heterochiral.

"it can be admittedly difficult to imagine that something so integral to our beings (such as homochirality, respiration, cellular nuclei, etc.) could have ever been less important, or not existent at all."

as OJ is fond of pointing out, believing that something occured without any evidence that it did occur is an act of faith, perhaps a more stubborn one than any theist has ever made.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at November 8, 2005 1:42 PM

"as OJ is fond of pointing out, believing that something occured without any evidence that it did occur is an act of faith, perhaps a more stubborn one than any theist has ever made."

not only do you dismiss the theory the scientists are exploring (perfectly within your right to do so), but then you label their attempt to gather evidence as a stunt, ignore whatever evidence was gathered, and call the whole thing an act of faith ("without any evidence").

kudos.

Posted by: Mr DNA at November 8, 2005 2:31 PM

Mr. DNA:

Stunt is unfair--believers are often blind to their own actions. They need not be engaged in actual fraud.

Posted by: oj at November 8, 2005 5:17 PM

Its a stunt. They can create racemic mixtures of non-biotic organic molecules, and, with a lot of hand waving, the faithful claim that they have decerned the mechanism by which living things came to be. They haven't of course. There is nothing that they point to that would lead to the conclusion that life could have begun that way.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at November 9, 2005 12:07 AM
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