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Harvard’s “Origin of Life in the Universe Initiative”

How much play do you think ID is going to get in Harvard’s new origin of life initiative:

President Bush recently said intelligent design should be discussed in schools, along with evolution. Like intelligent design, the Harvard project begins with awe at the nature of life, and with an admission that, almost 150 years after Charles Darwin outlined his theory of evolution in the Origin of Species, scientists cannot explain how the process began.

Now, encouraged by a confluence of scientific advances — such as the discovery of water on Mars and an increased understanding of the chemistry of early Earth — the Harvard scientists hope to help change that.

”We start with a mutual acknowledgment of the profound complexity of living systems,” said David R. Liu, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard. But ”my expectation is that we will be able to reduce this to a very simple series of logical events that could have taken place with no divine intervention.”

MORE: http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2005/08/14/project_on_the_origins_of_life_launched

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8 Responses to Harvard’s “Origin of Life in the Universe Initiative”

  1. “…a very simple series of logical events that could have taken place with *no divine intervention*”

    This is the expectation from the start?!

    “At Harvard, the origins of life initiative is part of a dramatic rethinking of how to conduct scientific research at the university.”

    With a clear “godless” expectation from the start I see nothing like rethinking anything at all – same old methodological naturalism is already the underlying assumumption.

    Reminds me of a song – “shame, shame, shame…”

    ”If, as I suspect will happen,” Behe said, ”they fail to find a plausible answer without invoking intelligence, then maybe science will be less hostile to folks who see intelligent direction in the history of life,” he said.

    We can be sure from the start that they will indeed fail (always have) without invoking Dawkins. ;-)

    Another thing I found interesting is : “In a paper in the journal Science, he has shown that a clay common on the early Earth, called montmorillonite, speeds this process by serving as a scaffold.

    The Szostak team has also built on the work of other scientists, who have shown that the same clay can help the formation of RNA, thought to be a precursor to the DNA that now serves as life’s instruction book. Szostak showed that when fatty acids and RNA were mixed with the clay, these balloons formed with RNA trapped inside. A process like this, Szostak said, may have led to the first cell.”

    The hebrew word “aphar” – the “dust” of Genesis 2:7 can be translated as “dry or powdered clay”?

    hmmmm….

  2. ” Researchers have sketched out a version of the story that begins 4 billion years ago, when Earth was a hot, young planet, with no oxygen to breathe. Evolution forms the basis of modern biology. ”

    There is not one coherent senario sketched out yet. There are merely a collection of mutually exclusive speculations.

    Note they state that “Evolution forms the basis of modern biology.” It is always important to say the creed.

    “There is a deep philosophical divide between this scientific community and the advocates of intelligent design.”

    What is the nature of the deep philosophical divide between ID and Naturalists? The Naturalists have faith in Nature’s undetectable ability to design itself, ID proponents see detectable evidence of intelligence at work.

    We need not hold our breaths waiting for claims of progress. They will come timed to get some more of that funding rolling in from the believers. That is what the Mars explorers did, they brought out the old meteor with the pseudo fossils, just when their funding was being reviewed. Coincidence or design?

    “Szostak had been surprised to see his own research cited as evidence of how difficult it would be to create life without a designer — because, Szostak said, ”not even Harvard scientists can do it.”"

    This is similar to the surprised response I had when citing “Paul W.K. Rothemund at CALTECH proves conclusively that molecular intelligent design research is fruitful and has real applications. Paul believes it is not possible to scientifically detect design in his DNA creations. Proteins have also be intelligently designed through DNA sequencing. Could we scientifically detect design in Paul’s smiley faces or his map even if we did not know Paul’s identity?”

  3. Steve Jones (the Aussie one) quotes the following on his current blog post.

    “Many different accounts leading to the origin of the first replicator could be constructed, using experiments published in the literature. All would share the same general defects. Many steps would be required which need different conditions, and therefore different geological locations. The chemicals needed for one step may be ruinous to others. The yields are poor, with many undesired products constituting the bulk of the mixture. It would be necessary to invoke some imagined processes to concentrate the important substances and eliminate the contaminants. The total sequence would challenge our credibility, regardless of the time allotted for the process.” (Shapiro, R., “Origins: A Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth,” Summit Books: New York NY, 1986, pp.182-185).”

    http://creationevolutiondesign.blogspot.com/

  4. How much play do you think ID is going to get in Harvard’s new origin of life initiative
    The same play a baseball bat has in a chemistry lab: none whatsoever. They have already decided that there was no inteligence (or at least no Supernatural Inteligence) in the “emergence” of life on earth, trillions of years ago (maybe).

  5. Borne

    One of many fatal problems in RNA World chemistry is finding an unassisted way to stabilize the environment so that RNA doesn’t decompose as fast as it composes. The only stable environment found in nature (so far) to sustain the chemistry is inside a living cell wall. Cell walls are (unfortunately for RNA World pundits) exceedingly complex assemblages in and of themselves that require a living cell to produce them.

    Thus there’s a desperate search to find some other way to sustain the RNA chemistry. The clay model, which seems to be channeling biologists from Darwin’s time who thought life spontaneously emerges from mud, is one hypothetical solution (very far from demonstrated at this point). Other researchers have abandoned hope of finding any plausible model for direct emergence of an RNA World and are looking for some other polymer that could have preceded the RNA World. At this point in time we could call that the “Something Other Than RNA World” . :razz:

  6. Excerpt from the article:

    “But on the third floor of Harvard’s Engineering Sciences Laboratory, a chemist, Scot Martin, has pursued a different theory. He believes that ultraviolet light from the sun, shining down on tiny mineral crystals floating near the surface of the early ocean, may have generated organic compounds.”

    But then we find a small snag with the early ocean scenario, from http://creationevolutiondesign.blogspot.com/

    See Oct 27 posting:

    Ponds, not oceans, the cradle of life

    Another rediscovered gem from my pile of unclassified science journal photocopies!

    “There is a major problem with origin of life theories which assume that life began in the ocean (e.g. “deep-sea thermal vents and tidal pools,” etc).

    And that is, “a spherical membrane called a vesicle that could enclose self-replicating chemical chains … When sodium chloride or ions of magnesium or calcium [i.e. salts] were added the membranes fell apart” and “Earth’s early oceans were 1.5 to 2 times as salty as they are today”:”

    All the Origin of Life and other NDE efforts reminds one of Hannibal — chasing here and there, declaring all sorts of progress to brag about, perpetually on the verge of decisive victory. We all know how it ended.

  7. A scientific study of Spontaneous Generation.
    Might as well study Alchemy;
    algae to ecosystem,
    and mind from matter.
    Not your father’s science!

  8. [...] Gareth Cook’s article on the new Harvard origin of life project in the Boston Globe, reads like a press release (except for the very end where he actually quotes Michael Behe). Bill  blogged on it, wondering how seriously they would take any evidence of intelligent design. [...]

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