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Abiogenesis—Origins of Life Research


The period of abiogenesis is here represented by the words "First Life ?" It is not part of evolution.


What Is Abiogenesis?

Abiogenesis is about the origin of life. Evolution, technically, is about what happened after life arose on Earth. Life origins studies proceed under a number of hypotheses and remain very tentative during this early period of investigation. A recent summary of research is in The Spark of Life : Darwin and the Primeval Soup by Christopher Wills and Jeffrey Bada.

Readings in Abiogenesis



Radiation of the First Animals: Narrative Index :
A University of California at Berkeley Lecture

The Beginning of Life on Earth : Article at American Scientist

How Life Evolves : from NASA

Pre-biotic Earth : What a Gas!

How the Scum of the Earth Led to Advanced Life: Your scummy ancestors had the planet to themselves up to about 2.2 billion years ago. These single-celled organisms were the only things that could survive on a diet nearly bereft of oxygen.

Thermophiles and Early Life : Because thermophiles are ancient, and because they prefer the steamy conditions that were typical of the early Earth, many scientists think they may also tell us about the origin of life itself. Life at High Temperatures is about thermophiles at Yellowstone National Park. Other Extreme Earth Life Discusses scientists' suggestions that life on Earth may have originated during the planet's earliest periods, some three billion or more years ago. Includes a Chart of Extremophiles. A discussion of earliest known life forms is at Natural History of the Archaea.

Molecular Evolution from Abiotic Scratch : .pdf file. Concerning the evolution of amino acids and proteins. And this is a research publication list by the same author, dealing mainly with the evolution of amino acids and biological molecules. A number of papers are available in .pdf format. They are highly technical.

Hypotheses of Origins

Self-Replication : Even peptides do it

FAQ: The Probability of Abiogenesis

Miller-Urey Experiment

The Miller-Urey Experiment
Beginning organic replication on Earth.

Exobiology: Stanley Miller Interview
Primordial Soup to Prebiotic Beach

Exobiology

Exobiology : The search for the origin of life on the Earth, and in the Universe.

More on Research in Exobiology

Cell Origin Theories

The Origin of Cellular Life : Sidney W. Fox, a man some colleagues say should have won the Nobel Prize, showed how living cells can be formed from inanimate material.

Self-Replication: Even Peptides Do It : By Stuart A. Kauffman. From Nature.

Endosymbiotic Theory of Eukaryote Evolution
This was first proposed by Lynn Margulis in her 1981 book Symbiosis in Cell Evolution.

Origins of the Eukaryote Cell : Aspects of the autogenous and endosymbiotic hypotheses.

Photosynthesis Directory : The Evolution of Photosynthesis in the cells of green plants.

Evolution of the Bacterial Flagella : Michael Behe nominates the bacterial flagella as "irreducibly complex" and unable (or unlikley) to be produced via evolution. A microbiologist responds.

Giardia lamblia : Biology & microscopy of what some scientists have called a missing link in the evolution of eukaryotic cells from prokaryotic cells.

Why Do Creationists Insist on Linking Abiogenesis and Evolution?
Written in response to an essay by Jorge A Fernandez entitled
"Talk.Origins: Deception by Omission" The essay can be read here

One of the problems that Christian fundamentalists (specifically Biblical literalists) have in dealing with biologists who say "Evolutionary biology and abiogenesis are two different topics" is that they have no answer. If they accept that definition, then they lose one of their prime arguments: that "evolution" can't account for the origin of life from non-living matter. If they lose that connection, they have a much harder time denying evolution, since the evidence for it is overwhelming, and most creationists have been forced, by the pure weight of the evidence, to accept that evolution occurs - on a "micro" level, another distinction creationists make so that they can continue to deny at least a part of evolutionary theory.

So when a creationist says: "What's more, if we are to remain exclusively within the natural (material) realm then the term 'evolution' must somehow be further extended to include life from non-life, i.e., the emergence of life itself must also be accounted for by the ever-stretching definition of evolution." ( http://www.trueorigin.org/to_deception.asp)

This is such abysmal logic it is hard to even reply in any manner of seriousness. The actual statement Fernandez is making is: "If we creationists have any chance at fighting evolutionary theory, we must include the origin of life in it, so that we can point to at least something and claim that evolution can't explain it".

The definition of evolution is being stretched to include the origin of life only by the creationists. Change in gene frequency through time is the genetic basis for any definition. However, as apologists such as Fernandez are well aware, genetics makes its outward expression as the phenotype - the physical entity that embodies those genes. Natural selection acts upon the phenotype, not upon the genotype, and changes in gene frequency are manifest, and measurable, as changes in morphology. Genetic changes in living creatures can also be measured directly by specifying the genotype, but for fossils, morphology is what we have, and it is more than adequate. So the definition hasn't been stretched, at least not by biologists.

No theory of biological evolution has every tried to account for the existence of everything. It simply explains the diversity of life we see on earth today.

But why would creationists insist upon stretching the definition of biological evolution to include any 'change" - the origin of life, the origin of the earth, of the universe, of matter and energy? Because, other than in an extreme reductionist sort of way, there isn't, and most likely can't be, a single theory which explains "everything". Except for God. Thus, by stretching the definition of evolution to cover "everything in the known and unknowable universe", creationists position them selves to be able to say that science is inadequate, and that God is the only explanation capable of encompassing everything! The problem is that, at that point, the explanation is no longer scientific. It is untestable, it is faith, it is religion.

The materialistic approach of science (which creationists can't distinguish from Philosophical Naturalism) works perfectly well in explaining the diversity of life we see on earth via evolution and natural selection.

One might well ask, then, why Talk Origins spends so much time talking about abiogenesis, physics, astrophysics and cosmology. The answer is simple. Creationists are the ones who constantly try to drag those topics into discussions concerning biological evolution. Talk Origins has therefor very carefully defined each (as used by the very practioners of those subjects), shown that they do not relate to biological evolution, and thus deprived the creationists of their intentional obfuscations.

Fernandez's entire essay is a cry in the wilderness to regain that obfuscation. Without it, Creationists have almost no argument they can make. Note also how the essay takes a bit of time to denigrate those of faith who do accept evolution as the best explanation - a thinly veiled "No True Christian" logical fallacy.

Richard S. White
Originally appeared on Fundies Vs. Atheists, June 14th, 2005 - scroll back to message #14.



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abiogenesis.htm Last Updated April 22, 2011     Links verified April 22, 2011