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Origin of Life, Theater of the Absurd


See if you can follow the logic here all the way through. Researchers sampled ancient water trapped for 1.5 billion years around what were deep-sea hydrothermal vents two kilometers under the earth's surface. The water included apparent necessities for "kick-starting" life -- like a primordial soup still in situ.

From the article at New Scientist, "Watery time capsule hints at how life got started on early Earth":

It has all the ingredients of a primordial soup. What's more, the chemicals of life -- discovered in a pocket of water that last saw the light of day 1.5 billion years ago -- appear to have formed without any influence from biological processes.

That means the idea that life got started as a result of chemical reactions around deep-sea vents looks more likely.

Barbara Sherwood Lollar at the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, and her team discovered the water a few years ago oozing from rocky fractures 2 kilometres below the surface at the Kidd mine near Timmins in Ontario. The water, which is about 1.5 billion years old, appears to show no signs of life -- an extremely rare find.

The rocks are the ancient remains of hydrothermal vents formed at the bottom of Earth's early oceans, and that means the water they contain could reveal important details about the chemistry that might have occurred at such vents before life began exerting its influence.

Hot, chemical-laced water gushes out of deep-sea hydrothermal vents -- conditions that in theory would be ideal for the origin of life.

Note, they found no life, which given the overall liveliness of our planet is a quite unusual thing. Instead, it's the usual building-blocks scenario:

Now [Dr. Lollar's] colleague, Christopher Glein, has performed a raft of calculations to show that all of those molecules could have formed through perfectly feasible abiotic chemical reactions in the conditions found in such ancient hydrothermal vents.

His calculations show the conditions were particularly favourable for the formation of some key chemicals, including glyceraldehyde, one of the precursors of RNA and DNA, and pyruvate, which is important for cell metabolism.

Stephen Meyer has explained in Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design why life -- dependent on information, an expression of design -- doesn't just come together or kick-start itself even under what might seem to be ideal conditions. As ENV put it before:

Obtaining "building blocks" of life through an unguided natural process is one thing. Putting them together the right way, composing biological information, is something else altogether....

Here's the problem... It's like making Lego blocks and then expecting them to assemble themselves into a massive structure that is not only complex but also alive.

Or no, a better analogy would be it's like finding rocks on the beach that resemble Lego blocks, then expecting the wind and waves to fashion them into a massive structure that is not only full of information but also alive.

And sure enough, the water from the Canadian source is sterile, devoid of any hint of life, after a billion and a half years. Yet this water is taken as evidence that it looks likelier than it seemed before that this represents a model of the environment where life began.

A rare absence of life confirms the ease with which life -- biological information -- originated without design. The sterility itself actually strengthens the case! It's science as a theater of the absurd.

Image: White smokers at Champagne Vent, by NOAA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.