Origins of life - NASA/JPL

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Randomhero1982's picture
Origins of life - NASA/JPL

So an interesting feature has been shared via NASA's JPL....

Could we finally be closing in on discovering how life first formed on this planet?

And to our theistic members, if this becomes the fact of the matter, would this sway your beliefs or enforce them?

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Cognostic's picture
I don't like the study:

I don't like the study:

Pyruvic acid, is an organic compound.
Amonia is a "It is a common nitrogenous waste"
Nitrogen occurs in all living organisms.

The study is starting with organic compounds to make organic compounds. ""Understanding how far you can go with just organics and minerals before you have an actual cell is really important for understanding what types of environments life could emerge from," I don't get it? They can not begin with organic compounds to create organic compounds. Furthermore, they are using "Ocean Water" which is full of organic compounds. What's that about" It seems to me that the study must begin with inorganic compounds before any conclusion can be drawn. It seems to me that the study was something about, "Given all these organic compounds that we put together, how long will it take for a cell to develop?"

The idiot who wrote the article does not have a clue what he or she is talking about. HERE IS THE STUDY:

Amino acids are formed from simple organic precursors in iron oxyhydroxide mineral systems that contain geochemical gradients. Redox and pH gradients significantly impact reaction pathways: Amino acids only form when the mineral contains both oxidized and reduced iron, and when the surrounding solution is alkaline. This shows that aqueous, partially reducing iron mineral systems (which would have been common in early-Earth seafloor/vent environments) could have facilitated synthesis and concentration of prebiotic organic molecules relevant for the emergence of life. It also suggests that geochemical gradients in vent environments can drive product selectivity for prebiotic chemistry, perhaps leading to more complex organic reaction systems as these molecules continue to diffuse and react under different conditions within the gradients. (NOW THIS MAKES SENSE.)

ABSTRACT (What they showed)
We show that pyruvate, a simple organic molecule that can form in hydrothermal systems, can undergo reductive amination in the presence of mixed-valence iron oxyhydroxides to form the amino acid alanine, as well as the reduced product lactate.

Randomhero1982's picture
Thank you cognostic, that is

Thank you cognostic, an incredibly interesting link.

Sheldon's picture
I don't see how this will

I don't see how this will discourage superstition to be honest. Some will simply deny it, as they deny the scientific fact of evolution.

Genetics destroyed the Adam & Eve myth after all, by showing the diversity of the human genome could not have derived from a single breeding pair or a population anywhere near that size.

Evolution has shown unequivocally that humans were not created at the beginning with all other life as religions claimed, but are a mere 150k or so years old as a species, whereas life has been evolving for billions of years, which makes the idea we're the main event utterly risible.

If religious superstition can ignore that it's hard to see how solving abiogenesis will kill it off.

God will simply be behind the process of abiogenesis when / if science explains it.

Sadly if someone wants to believe in superstition no amount of contrary evidence will stop them. It's a mindset we can marvel at on here daily after all.

Cognostic's picture
All they have really

All they have really discovers is how the rust chemicals facilitate the creation of amino acids. We already know that amino acids can come from non life. They just discovered that they can do the same thing in volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean given the right conditions. (They took it out of the lab and into the ocean.) That's my take on it.

Randomhero1982's picture
I should have better phrased

I should have better phrased my OP but I'll leave it unedited.

The point was more, if we keep progressing as we are like in the article and we get to that point where science can definitively state how life first begun to flourish on Earth... would this change anyones opinions?

Cognostic's picture
I doubt any evidence at all

I doubt any evidence at all would sway a believer. They are really good at moving those goalposts. No matter how life begins. we are all going to discover it was God's plan.

Sheldon's picture
Science can definitively and

Science can definitively and objectively show all living things evolved, has this changed the mind of creationists like Vanderbilt III?

Assuming they can be bothered to properly understand and don't then simply dismiss it with menaciously unscientific objections (see Breezy) is there any reason to assume they will let it influence or disavow them of their core theistic belief in a deity?

I have to admit I'm dubious. I think we have seen enough examples on here to know that the most theists when confronted with a conflict between scientific facts and religious doctrine will choose the latter every time. Though their rationale for doing so may vary from apparently sophisticated but ultimately specious arguments, to the worst kind of willful ignorance, the result is pretty much the same.

arakish's picture
As I have posted here before,

As I have posted here before, SCIENCE shall forever force God into infinitely shrinking pockets "of the gaps."

As far as I am concerned, SCIENCE has already completely debunked ANY and ALL deities. Although we shall never 100% completely debunk ANY and ALL deities, we have shown enough evidence for any court of law to dismiss any case given for ANY and ALL deities.

Never shall the Religitards ever to be able to win except with verifiable and proven threats of violence and death. As long as the "threats of violence and torment and torture and death" are removed from the equation, (all Religitard evidence) = case dismissed.


Cognostic's picture
"But look at the trees!"

"But look at the trees!"

arakish's picture



Randomhero1982's picture
Or the banana... "its

Or the banana... "its designed to fit the hand"

Cognostic's picture
My banana sure fits my hand.

My banana sure fits my hand. I'm pretty sure it was designed that way.

Sheldon's picture
Brilliant video, you have to

Brilliant video, you have to wonder if those creationists have even heared of the coconut...I still chuckle when I remember that creationist take on the banana.

Calilasseia's picture
Meanwhile, back to the paper

Meanwhile, back to the paper ...

One of the facts not stated in that paper, because the authors are not in the business of reinventing the wheel, is that the composition of dissolved salts in ocean water is known to an exquisite level of precision. An example exposition of this can be found here.

Indeed, marine aquarists have had access to excellent quality synthetic sea salt for 30 years, to facilitate the maintenance of coral reef fish in the aquarium.

Consequently, it's perfectly possible to synthesise an excellent synthetic version of sea water, in order to perform abiogenesis experiments requiring an oceanic aqueous environment. The resulting synthetic sea water has the advantage of being sterile, completely bereft of organic molecules that might compromise the experiment, and can in addition be purged of oxygen prior to the experiment. Once due care and attention in the preparation thereof has been exercised, the synthetic sea water can then be pressed into service in experiments such as the one covered in the paper. This has been standard practice in the laboratory for almost as long as experiments in the field have been conducted.

Once a sterile, anoxic synthetic analogue of sea water has been prepared, and placed in a reaction vessel containing a mixture of prebiotic atmosphere simulants, all manner of interesting experiments can be performed. Such as the numerous experiments covering catalytic formation of RNA oligonucleotides using montmorillonite clay substrates.

My coverage of the literature is woefully incomplete, but extends to 322 papers residing on my hard drive, including the above paper. The papers in the collection include everything from simple syntheses of precursor molecules, all the way up to model protocell synthesis.

Cognostic's picture
Thanks Calilasseia: That

Thanks Calilasseia: That really makes a lot of sense. Another aspect of the original article completely missed. I am convinced that some staff writer wrote the article without actually understanding what he or she was talking about. Your insights help to tie the knot and make everything sound much more reasonable.

Calilasseia's picture
Indeed, that's one of the

Indeed, that's one of the issues that arises with modern scientific papers - the authors thereof are building on two centuries or more of past results. Consequently, if one of those past results has led to the development of a standard experimental procedure in the discipline in question, that standard procedure is simply mentioned in brief as having been brought into play. If scientists had to fill the paper with complete expositions of past results before moving on to their new work, the resulting papers would require a jib crane to lift when printed!

In short, standard experimental procedures are mentioned in brief, more recent applicable results that are being built on are referred to via citations in the main body of text (coupled to the References section at the end of the paper), and the paper then concentrates the bulk of its content on the new work.

Indeed, there's a whole set of rules applicable to the compilation of scientific papers, which were put in place specifically to maintain discoursive honesty, eliminate hyperbolic claims not supported by the data, and ensure that past workers were given due credit for their earlier work, when this is referred to. The typography used to implement these rules may vary from journal to journal, but there are only a small number of such typographical conventions to memorise, so this is not an issue.

The typical structure of a scientific paper is as follows:

[1] Abstract. The purpose of the abstract is to state the problem being worked upon, and summarise the authors' proposed solution thereto. This starts with an exposition of the problem, and the state of knowledge surrounding the problem before the authors submitted their new research. This is then followed by a brief summary of the authors' work, and a statement to the effect that said new work is being offered as a solution to the problem. Because of this structure, quote mining of abstracts by creationists and other agenda-peddling filth is sadly rampant, because the structure was agreed upon in an era before conspiracy theorists and other miscreants started spawning like bacteria in warm tuna salad (© P. J. O'Rourke). This discoursive muschief on the part of these reprobates, usually takes the form of deliberately misusing the abstract structure to try and support their pathetic apologetics. The classic modus operandi of these people, consists of presenting the initial part of the abstract, covering the question to be answered, especially if that initial part contains statements of doubt, or makes reference to assumptions made by past workers attacking a simplified version of the problem, as part of the grand work in progress in the scientific community. This quote mined passage is then mendaciously presented as if it constituted the entire output of the authors, hoping that no one will look further into this. Inevitably, when those of us who paid attention in class, or who have acquired an awareness of the discoursive criminality of certain sectors, delve deeper into the matter, we find that the quote mine deliberately omits the authors' following remarks about how they solved the problem, or dealt with past assumptions substantively, either by establishing their factual nature, or demonstrating that those assumptions were no longer needed. But I digress.

[2] Introduction. This isn't universdally present in scientific papers, but if it is, it's effectively a more in-depth exposition of the problem being addressed, and the particular method of attack that the authors sought to use to seek answers thereto. Sadly, it's still vulnerable to the more devious quote miners, but only if they have had something resembling a reasonable science education themselves, and this section is therefore likely to be quote mined by the professional liars for doctrine, rather than the typical Internet warriors, and even then only if they think they can get away with it before a suitably gullible audience.

[3] Materials & Methods. This is the meat of the paper, where the authors detail their experiments, what they sought to achieve via those experiments, and whether or not they succeeded. One point to take into account here, is that in honest scientific discourse, a negative result is considered to be just as informative as a positive one, because that negative result frequently spurs some other researchers into trying to find the stumbling block, and overcoming it. A nice example being when John Sutherland, whilst looking for a purine synthesis route that wasn't dogged by side reactions in the field of abiogenesis research, serendipitously hit upon a reaction scheme that no one in the field had suspected would be applicable before, as a result of one of those many trial and error runs that are the grunt work of research laboratories the world over. This section, due to its in-depth technical nature, usually frightens off all but the most determined and sophisticated quote miners, but occasionally, we see the odd attempt being fielded by the liars for doctrine.

[4] Discussion. This is the section where the conclusions being drawn from the experimental work covered above, are presented as a unified whole, along with the reasons why those conclusions may be robustly drawn from the data. Only the most foolhardy quote miners try and abuse this section, because this section usually drops a Tsar Bomba's worth of discoursive ordnance on their lies.

[5] References. Basically, a list of past papers covering relevant work in the field, which have been called upon in order to provide, for want of a better analogy, the conceptual landscape within which the problem resides. Regular researchers in the field will usually be familiar with many of the more frequently cited references in this section, and backtracking through the references is a good way of teasing out the history of a particular scientific problem, although pretty laborious even if you happen to have ready access to the papers.

Sometimes, there are also various legal declarations contained in the paper, such as declarations of no conflicts of interest. Such declarations were included with a renewed vigour in clinical papers in particular after the Wakefield scandal. Also, ever mindful of the surrounding community in which they live, authors of papers may also provide statements to the fact that their work was presented to an ethics committee before commencement, so that all the "i"s are dotted and the "t"s crossed, so to speak, particularly if the research involved such procedures as clinical trials of a new therapeutic agent upon volunteers. The wariness of modern researchers to stray into ethically suspect territory if they are doing their job properly, goes all the way back to the hideous revelations of the Nuremberg Doctors' Trial.

There's an additional issue to factor in here, before I take a break. Namely, the choice of language, which I refer to as "the scientific subjunctive". Since the purpose of the paper is to present new research for peer review, with the understanding that its conclusions are considered accepted only after said peer review and successful publication, the language used is deliberately tentative, except of course in places where indicatives and imperatives may safely be used. Again, this was an attempt to enforce discoursive honesty in the era before corporate creationism and other discoursive pestilences rose up, and those of us who understand this bristle a lot at the apologetic abuse of scientific writing style in creationist apologetics. You'll find "may", "might", and "possibly" appearing with a fair degree of frequency, even in landmark papers now considered to have established groundbreaking results in a rigorous manner. This even includes some modern papers in which the authors revealed a particularly exquisite sense of humour, frequently manifest in the choice of title for the paper. A particular favourite of mine being this paper:

Pair Of Lice Lost Or Parasites Regained: The Evolutionary History Of Anthropoid Primate Lice by David L. Reed, Jessica E. Light, Julie M. Allen & Jeremy J. Kirchman, BMC Biology, 5:7-17 (7th March 2007)

Taxonomy papers in Zoology are now replete with humour, by the way, and some truly groan-inducing examples can be found here.

However, the introduction of humour (some of it very definitely taking the form of "in jokes" among the scientists) should not detract one bit from the issues I've covered above. Namely, that scientific papers were structured in a specific manner for well-defined and sound reasons, and sadly, the duplicitous now abuse the requisite conventions to an extent that the founders of those conventions manifestly did not foresee.

Hopefully, my arming everyone here with this knowledge, will lead to said abuses being more widely detected and punished.

Cognostic's picture

I'm going to copy that and save it. I teach writing but have not thought about research and a scientific paper. The students are English learners in a country that does not teach critical thinking in any way. A five point essay is beyond many students; however, there is a select group of Nursing Students that this could be useful for.

JohnLFrazer's picture
To further complicated the

To further complicated the question, and leave creationists guessing, see the recent study by Dr Robert Zubrin, on comet-swapping among stars, spreading life via panspermia.
All things considered, what are the odds we were the first?

Sheldon's picture
Why would theists accept this

Why would theists accept this if it is established as an objective fact, any more than they accept objective facts like evolution contradicting their beliefs?

They'll either find another desperate rationalisation to move their deity into another gap, god made evolutions happen for instance, so god made life happen in accordance with these new facts, even though their religion has claimed something entirely different, and as an immutable truth, from its inception.

Or there'll be those who simply deny scientific facts, such as creationists like ROYISM.

You can't dent the beliefs of anyone that closed minded.

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