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  • #1047546
    Clusterfrog
    Participant

    I’ve recently been reading Paul Davies ‘The origin of life’.. a book tackling the problem of biogenesis. A subject of great personal interest for me because I’m very interested to know how much chance was involved in the formation of the first self repliacting microoorganism. Whether it was a massive fluke or as inevitable as crystals and galaxies forming. I’ve believed the latter for a while now but would like to see what the scientific world is currently thinking about the subject as it has interesting philosphical implications.

    Apart from being a very interesting introduction to what we know (or more specifically what we dont know) about the first stages of evolution it has definately educated me on current scientific opinion, including a lot that was definately not taught to me in my (fairly limited) education on the origin of life. A level biology talked of the ‘dark ages of evolution’ before bacteria floating around in the sea and made no attempt to discuss teh theories as to how they came about, and other books I’ve read on evolution have always dealt with the process that followed the first surface common ancestor.

    Long story short it turns out Darwins idea of ‘a warm little pond’ is not looking like the source of life… it’s puzzled scientists for a long time because as far as they can tell the conditions would never have been suitable and the earth was too unstable – the entire surface of the planet was bombarded with asteroids making the oceans boil away, sterilising the entire planet every few hundred million years. Yet surprisingly life emerged very soon after the end of the bombardment. how could this be? Scientists have for a while known about ‘extremovores’.. bacteria living in extreme conditions, geothermal vents, surviving at temperates over 110C, acidic conditions, etc. These were originally considered points of interest, examples of how life has adapted to even the most extreme niches.

    However in the last 15 years or so scientific opinion has changed considerably. Not only have these hyperthermophiles been found to be residing everywhere (imagine the earths crust saturated with billions of microorganisms per gram), study of the DNA of extremophiles and the rest of the tree of life has shown that these extremophiles are the most ancient and most simple forms of life ever found. Branching off the tree of life so long ago they are just as unreleated to bacteria as they are to humans! Along with various other types of evidence this book has convinced me that the origin of life was not from some warm little pond on the surface but in fact was formed deep in the pourous scalding rock under the earths crust. Living in firey sulphurous rock, not requiring sunlight at all, extracting energy from chemical processing and taking advantage of the abundant geothermal energy. Turns out these bacteria are the ‘evolutionary wimps’.. staying where conditions are easy, favourable, stable, and it was the organisms that ventured into the cooler surface area (which was far less stable) that evolved more causing greater complexity. This would explain how life survived the crazy bombardment and turbulant surface conditions that prevailed for the first part of the lifes earth, and once the bombardment ended life could creep out of the rock and start occupying the plaents surface.

    I’ve found this interesting for two reasons, once because it somehow makes the Earth seem more like the mother of life in a kinda hippy gaia way, everything emerging from within apart from accidently happening in a puddle somewhere up top. Also I think it’s really interesting that life was spawned from the firey depths in scalding sulphorous conditions. Life in fact started in a place of fire and brimstone, more like our idea of hell then our idea of a garden of eden paradise. I know it wouldnt make any logical sense but I’d like to think the ancient human fear of a firey hell is somehow related to our escape from our evolutionary beginings and our epic rise to the cooler surface.

    #1202007
    process
    Participant

    interesting stuff mate. alwasy amazed when i watch those nature programs with all those creatures living around those underwater volcanic vents. Makes you think that if life can survive in those harsh conditions then its pretty likely that it exists on other planets too…

    #1202019
    Clusterfrog
    Participant

    @djprocess 335303 wrote:

    interesting stuff mate. alwasy amazed when i watch those nature programs with all those creatures living around those underwater volcanic vents. Makes you think that if life can survive in those harsh conditions then its pretty likely that it exists on other planets too…

    definately, the difference beign the surface conditions on other planets arent good enough for life to emerge and set up camp. Makes me think life is a more fundamental property of the universe than we previously thought

    #1202008
    process
    Participant
    Iacchus;335341 wrote:
    the difference beign the surface conditions on other planets arent good enough for life to emerge and set up camp.

    people first thought that about areas of earth, where people thought there was no way life could exist. suddenly people are finding out life has been existing there for millions of years. makes you think could be the same for other planets… who knows. :crazy:

    #1202020
    Clusterfrog
    Participant

    yeah.. and if it turns out life forming is as inevitable as crystals forming then there is bound to be earthlike planets elsewhere in the universe where complex life could occur. Shame they’re so out of reach as to make contact impossible

    #1202012
    SweetAss
    Participant
    djprocess;335346 wrote:
    people first thought that about areas of earth, where people thought there was no way life could exist. suddenly people are finding out life has been existing there for millions of years. makes you think could be the same for other planets… who knows. :crazy:

    Already been proven on Mars….they have those fossils of microscopic oganizms….

    It is mad (for my human mind) to think things can live in such extreme conditions.

    #1202021
    Clusterfrog
    Participant

    @SweetAss 335348 wrote:

    Already been proven on Mars….they have those fossils of microscopic oganizms….

    It is mad (for my human mind) to think things can live in such extreme conditions.

    indeed, and the irony with this new evidence si that the conditions we previously thought extreme (ie very hot, very dark, very acidic) are actually more stable and more cushty then life on the surface

    #1202009
    process
    Participant
    SweetAss;335348 wrote:
    Already been proven on Mars….they have those fossils of microscopic oganizms….

    It is mad (for my human mind) to think things can live in such extreme conditions.

    maddness i never knew that! crazy stuff :weee:

    #1202013
    SweetAss
    Participant
    Iacchus;335354 wrote:
    indeed, and the irony with this new evidence si that the conditions we previously thought extreme (ie very hot, very dark, very acidic) are actually more stable and more cushty then life on the surface

    Exactly, we as biological beings are very fragile and can only survive in such a minute margin of this planets atmospheric conditions……quite exciting thinking about what could be out there and how creatures may have adapted to survive in extremes we can’t even comprehend!!

    #1202022
    Clusterfrog
    Participant

    @djprocess 335356 wrote:

    maddness i never knew that! crazy stuff :weee:

    yeah that bit of mars rock they found buried in the antartic had evidence of fossilised microbes from mars. It’s pretty tenuous to be honest as the fossils that imply ancient microbial activity could potentially be caused by non organic processes, hard to tell but scientists are optimistic. The never found hard evidence of microbes when the voyager landed unfortunately though. Implying either the microbes no longer live in the top soil, or the methods used to test for life are totally not appropriate for martian life. If we could get a bit of mars rock back we could look again as we did with the fragment that journeyed back to earth.. unfortuanetly getting rock back from mars is currently a logistical impossibility!

    #1202030
    dougmelv
    Participant

    abiogenesis. i don’t think science will never answer this question. it will only provide increasingly complex theories that are wrong in an even more complicated way. the simple answer to origins of life on earth is ‘God put it there’. the more difficult question is What is God?. for all we know seeds of life could have be blasted here in a space craft from a planet in another solar system or our creators could be hidding on venus monitoring their game/experiment (with tech we don’t yet have the ability to detect) as their human creations dominate the planet. he could also be an old man with a beard that appears in the clouds . unfortunately ,or perhaps fortunately given our track record with knowledge, i think humans are too stupid (cognitavely limited) to ever understand the truth about creation of the universe and life. for me science has disproved conventional religious creationist mythology but failed to come up with a decent alternative. intelectual people are saying ‘doh! like i’d ever believe in creationism’ whilst seemingly unwittingly swallowing the dogma of science.
    i try not to think about it apart from on special occasions cause i’m not that smart and i like the happy bubble that is my reality.
    xx

    #1202023
    Clusterfrog
    Participant

    @dougmelv 335390 wrote:

    abiogenesis. i don’t think science will never answer this question. it will only provide increasingly complex theories that are wrong in an even more complicated way. the simple answer to origins of life on earth is ‘God put it there’. the more difficult question is What is God?. for all we know seeds of life could have be blasted here in a space craft from a planet in another solar system or our creators could be hidding on venus monitoring their game/experiment (with tech we don’t yet have the ability to detect) as their human creations dominate the planet. he could also be an old man with a beard that appears in the clouds . unfortunately ,or perhaps fortunately given our track record with knowledge, i think humans are too stupid (cognitavely limited) to ever understand the truth about creation of the universe and life. for me science has disproved conventional religious creationist mythology but failed to come up with a decent alternative. intelectual people are saying ‘doh! like i’d ever believe in creationism’ whilst seemingly unwittingly swallowing the dogma of science.
    i try not to think about it apart from on special occasions cause i’m not that smart and i like the happy bubble that is my reality.
    xx

    Actually I’m pretty sure we’ll nail biogenesis one day.. we’re definately making progress. The breakthrough came in understanding that the simplest organism alive today is far more complex than the first life form would have to be. This blew the whole ‘hurricane in a junkyard’ / watchmaker argument out of the water.
    Scientists now understand a process of molecular evolution probably took place, with increasing complexity of looping chemical reactions taking place, before this got enclosed in a membrane and considered an organsim. We already know self replicating protein molecules exist (prions, bsc).. early life would be closer to this.(see RNA world theories on biogenesis). We just need more time to study the organic chemisry and run computer simulations and we’ll find a probably path life took.

    The question is, why does life (or anything) move towards greater complexity? Is there a force in the universe pushing things towards sentient life (ie a god force), was there just a lot of chemical accidents, or does complexy increase by iteself due to the laws of mathematics the universe is built on?
    Complexity theory is currently being developed along with lots of computer simulations on the subject, I’m pretty sure it’s going to have profound implications when it’s developed further.
    However opinion is divided. ‘Complex’ life forms like mammals/reptiles are actually just the very tail end of a massive distrobution of life, with signle celled organisms being the vast majority in both biomass, numbers, and evolutionary success (it is argued). Judging progression of life by our tiny proportion just because it’s us and we only really deal with ‘big’ life, and considering ourselves supieror is not necessarily a correct attitude to have when judging what direction life has been taking. Random perambulation of life would still allow for greater complexity in the minory of species without some mystic drive towards intelligence.

    Personally I think there isnt a god force meddling in the laws of physics constantly to create life (that would be an inelagant way to create life if you were omnipotent), but the universe is set up such that systems automatically increase in complexity if energy is put into a closed system. If there is a god then it is not a meddling individual, but an individual who created a world that automatically tends towards sentience if left to its own devices from the beginning.

    #1202031
    dougmelv
    Participant

    interesting post. although i don’t understand a lot of it. looks like you know your stuff. i still don’t buy it. i just don’t have that much faith in science. but it is facinating.
    someone once said to me that believing life originated from ‘random’ events is like an ‘alien’ walking through a city looking at at the buildings and structures and supposing that they came together by accident.
    i understand a bit about evolution theory (mutation and natural selection) and it is a neet way of accounding for changes over time within species. I just can’t stretch it back as far as bridging the gap between single celled organisms and sentient life forms.
    This could simply be down to my lack of knowledge in this area but it seems to me to be just as much of a leap of faith to believe this as one would take in believing God created humans ,or in light of scientific theory, that God created hominids which evolved into humans. The fossil record is a bit gappy too. and some of the theories are ,well , just that. like

    ‘man first walked upright because climate change caused the forest habitat to receed, so those with the adaption to walk on two legs survived (my saving energy or seeing higher) thus passing on their genes’

    this makes a lot of sense but we just don’t know. maybe a majic lightning bolt came out the sky and zapped the ‘monkeys’ ankle???
    My own feeling is that the increasing complexity of life forms is a result of the purposeful refinement and improvement of organisms and biospheres by a higher power. but thats just a feeling.
    I would be truely interested to hear an easy to understand account of the transition from single cell to sentient beings as science see’s it.

    #1202024
    Clusterfrog
    Participant

    The alien in a city argument is actually an argument for evolution, not creationism! Cities are the product of society, not 1 man. They are not planned from scratch right down to the last building, the form over time through interacting systems of smaller units. Society is the next phase of evolution and cities are a product of society.

    Also do you not think a universe that required constant meddling to create life would be poorly constructed?

    Surely if god put humans on the earth with a ‘magic wand’ interference, then he would have done that at the beginning of the universe, not 12 billion years after the earth was created? If you’re going to use an unnatural process to create life, why do it in slow stages? It makes no logical sense. What you’re effectively saying is god did this:

    12 billion years ago – kick off big bang.. from this point the universe needs no meddling because stars, second generation stars, and planets containing an adequate range of elements will eventually be created, one being in a suitable location for life. All by iteself with no interference required. This has been shown conclusively by what we know of physics.

    4 billion years ago – stick a single celled organism on the planet.
    400 million years ago – stick insects on the planet
    *god sits there drumming fingers*
    160 million years ago – stick dinosours on the planet (why??)
    100,000 years ago – stick humans on the planet.

    In fact the number of times God would have to turn up and add new species would be millions of events, because the fossil record clearly shows new species emerging constantly. All for no apparent reason then to give us some fossils to dig up, confuse us, and test our faith.

    Now does this not seem to you like a massively illogical bodge job of a way to put humans here? Surely either creating humans right from the start (ie not using the big bang method, creating a static universe) or letting humans arise from a natural process (like the natural processes that stars, galaxies and planets to form) are the only ways that make any sense?? It also implies god is lying to us by leaving around evidence that isnt true. Evolution is more or less conclusively proven, suggesting otherwise is like saying the earth is flat. Yeah the fossil record has holes in it but so does our understanding of gravity, it doesnt mean that it doesnt exist. For a start evolution has been mapped backwards for the last 4 billion years using DNA analysis, mitochondrial RNA analysis etc, and many other techniques, all which collaborate with each other and give the same conclusions. Is god lying to us?

    If god is indeed omnipotent he wouldnt need to turn up and fiddle with things all along the way, this shows the universe was imperfectly made in the first place and god is a poor workman. A really amazing omnipotent creator would be able to make a universe where sentient life is written into the laws of physics right from the start.

    I understand where you’re coming from because I used to think the same way, i come from a very christian family, and letting go of my old beliefs has been a slow difficult process, but if anything science has strengthened my belief in a creator. Science need not take away the wonder and mysticism in the universe, not unless you want it to.

    #1202014
    SweetAss
    Participant

    I like to keep an open mind……….what has really interested me over the last year or so was the announcement that up to as much as 96% of our universe is Dark Matter. Scientists all over the world stating that due to this discovery they cannot state for fact that there is no god.

    Personally I still struggle to see it…….

    Type 2 string theory speaks to me though…..the possiblity of these vibrating links thoughout space, vibrating into other parallel universes..

    Quite a good intoductory paper on string theory here………..well worth a read!!

    String Theory: The Theory of Everything

    #1202025
    Clusterfrog
    Participant

    yeah ive been following string theory with interest since my degree. Although it doest really have any impact on the god argument, unless the laws of physics turn out to be completely self explanatory and self contained (ie the way things are is the ONLY way things can be, hence destroying the anthropic principle)

    However I find this unlikely, most scientists think string theory will still give rise to infinite possible universes, leaving the question, why this one? what ‘breathed fire’ into this permuation of possible existences? if all perumations of universes exist, why any universes at all? The existence problem remains it just adds another layer of complexity. It needs many years more devlopment before we know the implications of string theory unfortunately, and only a few people in the world are clever enough to work on it which slows progress!

    #1202015
    SweetAss
    Participant

    Im not saying i have all/any of the answers. The anthropic principle is an important & good theoretical idea. But as stated above we cannot see 96% of the universe….it is the complete unknown…i like to wonder how it could be and have many theories myself…
    Im not in the slightest bit religious………at some schools in the states, lecturers are using string theory as proof that god exists…all be it these are far right evangelical institutions..

    Skeptic’s Play: String Theory, extra dimensions, and God

    #1202026
    Clusterfrog
    Participant

    ive never really considered dark matter significant, its an area of particle physics that needs more attention (ie solving) but dont see how it will have any philosophical implications.. Dark energy has had some interesting implications – ie making the universe accelarate instead of slow down, stopping any big crunch scenario. It also means the average energy of the universe is zero (dark energy is negative energy and balances out everything else) meaning the universe didnt need energy to be created from nothing.

    anyway i think trying to use science to prove or disprove god is a logical fallacy.. its a concept that exists outside the rules of our universe and whatever logical reasons people use for or against god it still boils down to a matter of faith, with the logic being bent around that

    #1202010
    process
    Participant

    brilliant thread mate, really interesting read. What degree did you study? from what you’ve written sounds like you must have done quite well! :weee:

    #1202027
    Clusterfrog
    Participant

    I did physics, but most of this stuff has come out of me reading popular science/philosophy books in the last couple of years and stroking my beard ๐Ÿ˜€

    if you’re interested in this stuff some good reads are:
    The goldilocks enigma – paul davies (subject: anthropic principle and mystery of existence, most interesting book ive read for years)
    Lila: an inquiry into morals – Robert M. Pirsig (subject: eastern value based philosophies applied to society and morals).. worth reading the prequel ‘zen and the art of motorcycle maintanence’ first.
    The origin of life – paul davies (subject: take a guess)
    Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination – Gerald M Edelman (clue is in the title again)

    There are plenty others but these are the really interesting ones.
    if you’re new to physics/astrophysics/evolution stuff a good start is ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson’

    #1202028
    Clusterfrog
    Participant

    ps i didnt do that well in my degree… too much of a stoner ;P

    #1202011
    process
    Participant
    Iacchus;336897 wrote:
    if you’re new to physics/astrophysics/evolution stuff a good start is ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson’

    prob start with that one then! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    #1202016
    SweetAss
    Participant
    djprocess;336900 wrote:
    prob start with that one then! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Got the book and the cd if you wanna borrow process…..you should also give Richard Dawkins God Delusion a read:weee:

    #1202017
    SweetAss
    Participant
    Iacchus;336898 wrote:
    ps i didnt do that well in my degree… too much of a stoner ;P

    +1:weee::love:

    #1202006
    PhilKmorgan
    Participant

    @SweetAss 336905 wrote:

    +1:weee::love:

    Did u go to uni in Scotland?

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