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He said it: Origin of life both one of the hardest and most important problems in science. And the solution is …

The origin of life is one of the hardest problems in all of science, but it is also one of the most important. Origin-of-live research has evolved into a lively, interdisciplinary field, but other scientists often view it with skepticism and even derision. This attitude is understandable and, in a sense, perhaps justified, given the “dirty” rarely mentioned secret: Despite many interesting results to its credit, when judged by the straightforward criterion of reaching (or even approaching) the ultimate goal, the origin of life field is a failure – we still do not have even a plausible coherent model, let alone a validated scenario, for the emergence of life on Earth. Certainly, this is due not to a lack of experimental and theoretical effort, but to the extraordinary intrinsic difficulty and complexity of the problem. A succession of exceedingly unlikely steps is essential for the origin of life, from the synthesis and accumulation of nucleotides to the origin of translation; through the multiplication of probabilities, these make the final outcome seem almost like a miracle.

- Eugene V. Koonin, molecular biologist, The Logic of Chance: The Nature and Origin of Biological Evolution (Upper Saddle River, NJ: FT Press, 2011), 391

Koonin bought some peace by wavering toward the multiverse:

The Many Worlds in One version of the cosmological model of eternal inflation might suggest a way out of the origin of life conundrum because, in an infinite multiverse with a finite number of macroscopic histories (each repeated an infinite number of times), the emergence of even highly complex systems by chance is not just possible, but inevitable. (p. 392)

Yeah. Multiverse = Magical Neverneverland Machine He’ll smarten up.

See also: Here’s his recent book again, The Logic of Chance.

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11 Responses to He said it: Origin of life both one of the hardest and most important problems in science. And the solution is …

  1. That type of honesty, though I respect it immensely, is liable to get him in hot water with the Darwinian thought police.

  2. “. . . we still do not have even a plausible coherent model . . .”

    But, but, but . . . we’ve been assured over and over on this site by Dr. Liddle and others that folks like Szostak have indeed put forward a plausible coherent model. Oh, there might be a few details needed, but the model has been put forward and it makes basic sense. It’s all right there for the faithful to see, they urge, just go read the literature.

    Nice to see Koonin admit what is known to those who follow the field more closely.

    Multiverse is such a joke as an explanation for the origin of life, because it doesn’t even address the conditions for the origin of life. There is nothing about the physics and chemistry of our universe that would cause life to form. Thus, the question isn’t whether there are lots of universes with different fundamental characteristics, and our just happens to form life. The question is, given a universe with the fundamental characteristics ours has, what is the best explanation for the formation of life. Ultimately, to even be meaningful the idea requires a near infinite number of universes that happen to have our universe’s characteristics, which simply means that everything, no matter how outrageous or preposterous, will happen somewhere in some universe. Problematic on every level. This “explanation” is equivalent to saying “stuff happens.”

  3. 3

    Eric Anderson:

    You somehow omitted the key phrase of the sentence you quoted only half of. Perhaps this was an oversight? Koonin writes

    Despite many interesting results to its credit, when judged by the straightforward criterion of reaching (or even approaching) the ultimate goal, the origin of life field is a failure…

    And this is not inconsistent with what Liddle or Szostak are saying. Koonin says this is an extraordinary difficult problem. He agrees that a great deal has been learned, and a great deal remains to be learned. And nobody is going to dispute that “judged by the straightforward creterion of reaching the ultimate goal” (that is, actually creating life), current work falls well short.

    Picture someone setting out to walk from coast to coast. They’ve been at it for a week, and they’ve gone over 100 miles. Judged by the straightforward criterion of reaching the opposite coast, their journey is a “failure” – so far.

    What I find interesting is that Koonin makes the claim that we lack a plausible coherent model, and THEN says

    A succession of exceedingly unlikely steps is essential for the origin of life, from the synthesis and accumulation of nucleotides to the origin of translation; through the multiplication of probabilities, these make the final outcome seem almost like a miracle

    – a statement that simply cannot be made WITHOUT a coherent model to provide the context within which it applies.

    In the walking journey analogy, this would be like saying that we do not have any plausible concept of foot travel, but nonethless we “know” that such long walks require extraordinary luck. In other words, Koonin says we don’t know what’s required, and then says the requirements (none of which have been identified, which requires a model) would need a miracle – and he lists the requirements the nonexistent model identifies!

    When Szostak lays out a model meeting Koonin’s very requirements, Koonin turns around and deems it nonexistent.

  4. OT: Scot Pollock – Teaching Pastor – Human Body – video
    http://vimeo.com/32060271

  5. As to origin of life research, I find that a beyond space and time cause is needed for photosynthesis, which, since neo-Darwinism relies on materialistic causes, rules it out:

    Non-Local Quantum Entanglement In Photosynthesis – video
    http://vimeo.com/30235178

    Notes:

    The oldest sedimentary rocks on earth, known to science, originated underwater (and thus in relatively cool environs) 3.86 billion years ago. Those sediments, which are exposed at Isua in southwestern Greenland, also contain the earliest chemical evidence (fingerprint) of ‘photosynthetic’ life [Nov. 7, 1996, Nature]. This evidence had been fought by materialists since it is totally contrary to their evolutionary theory. Yet, Danish scientists were able to bring forth another line of geological evidence to substantiate the primary line of geological evidence for photo-synthetic life in the earth’s earliest sedimentary rocks.

    U-rich Archaean sea-floor sediments from Greenland – indications of +3700 Ma oxygenic photosynthesis (2003)
    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2004E&PSL.217..237R

    But the most damaging thing to the materialistic/Darwinian belief that life simply ‘emerged’ from some prebiotic chemical broth, besides the extremely ancient age for photosynthetic life, is this finding:

    Evidence for wavelike energy transfer through quantum coherence in photosynthetic systems. Gregory S. Engel, Nature (12 April 2007)
    Photosynthetic complexes are exquisitely tuned to capture solar light efficiently, and then transmit the excitation energy to reaction centres, where long term energy storage is initiated.,,,, This wavelike characteristic of the energy transfer within the photosynthetic complex can explain its extreme efficiency, in that it allows the complexes to sample vast areas of phase space to find the most efficient path. —- Conclusion? Obviously Photosynthesis is a brilliant piece of design by “Someone” who even knows how quantum mechanics works.

    Quantum Mechanics at Work in Photosynthesis: Algae Familiar With These Processes for Nearly Two Billion Years – Feb. 2010
    Excerpt: “We were astonished to find clear evidence of long-lived quantum mechanical states involved in moving the energy. Our result suggests that the energy of absorbed light resides in two places at once — a quantum superposition state, or coherence — and such a state lies at the heart of quantum mechanical theory.”,,, “It suggests that algae knew about quantum mechanics nearly two billion years before humans,” says Scholes.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....131356.htm

    Life Masters Physics – Feb. 2010
    Excerpt: Collini et al.2 report evidence suggesting that a process known as quantum coherence ‘wires’ together distant molecules in the light-harvesting apparatus of marine cryptophyte algae.,,,“Intriguingly, recent work has documented that light-absorbing molecules in some photosynthetic proteins capture and transfer energy according to quantum-mechanical probability laws instead of classical laws at temperatures up to 180 K,”. ,,, “This contrasts with the long-held view that long-range quantum coherence between molecules cannot be sustained in complex biological systems”
    http://www.creationsafaris.com.....#20100210a

    The reason that this ‘quantum photosynthesis’ finding is absolutely crushing to the atheists’s materialistic belief that life simply ‘emerged’ from some prebiotic chemical broth, is that this reductive materialism, which atheists hold is true for how life came to be on earth (neo-Darwinism), is falsified as to being the ’cause’ for quantum entanglement!:

    Quantum Entanglement – The Failure Of Local Realism/Reductive Materialism – Alain Aspect – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/4744145

    The falsification for local realism (reductive materialism) was recently greatly strengthened:

    Physicists close two loopholes while violating local realism – November 2010
    Excerpt: The latest test in quantum mechanics provides even stronger support than before for the view that nature violates local realism and is thus in contradiction with a classical worldview.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....alism.html

    Thus since quantum entanglement is found in photosynthesis, it now logically follows that a ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, cause must be supplied to explain the origination of photosynthesis in the first life on earth as well as all subsequent photosynthetic life on earth! This is more than a slight problem for materialistic atheists who believe in neo-Darwinism!,,, The following video gives a hint of just how ‘spooky’, to use Einstein’s infamous word, it is to find ‘non-local’ quantum action to be necessary for photosynthetic life:

    Light and Quantum Entanglement Reflect Some Characteristics Of God – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4102182

    To solidify my basis for inferring the necessity of a ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, cause to explain photosynthesis, I would like to refer to the quantum wave collapse of a photon;

    Double Slit Experiment – Explained By Prof Anton Zeilinger – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/6101627/

    Wave function
    Excerpt “wave functions form an abstract vector space”,,, This vector space is infinite-dimensional, because there is no finite set of functions which can be added together in various combinations to create every possible function.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W.....ctor_space

  6. Explaining Information Transfer in Quantum Teleportation: Armond Duwell †‡ University of Pittsburgh
    Excerpt: In contrast to a classical bit, the description of a (photon) qubit requires an infinite amount of information. The amount of information is infinite because two real numbers are required in the expansion of the state vector of a two state quantum system (Jozsa 1997, 1)
    http://www.cas.umt.edu/phil/fa.....lPSA2K.pdf

    Quantum Computing – Stanford Encyclopedia
    Excerpt: Theoretically, a single qubit can store an infinite amount of information, yet when measured (and thus collapsing the Quantum Wave state) it yields only the classical result (0 or 1),,,
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entr.....tcomp/#2.1

    Single photons to soak up data:
    Excerpt: the orbital angular momentum of a photon can take on an infinite number of values. Since a photon can also exist in a superposition of these states, it could – in principle – be encoded with an infinite amount of information.
    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/7201

    It is important to note that the following experiment actually proved that information can be encoded into a photon while it is in its quantum wave state, thus destroying the notion, that was/is held by many, that the wave function was not ‘physically real’ but was merely ‘abstract’. i.e. How can information possibly be encoded into a entity that is not physically real but is merely abstract? It simply would not be possible!

    Ultra-Dense Optical Storage – on One Photon
    Excerpt: Researchers at the University of Rochester have made an optics breakthrough that allows them to encode an entire image’s worth of data into a photon, slow the image down for storage, and then retrieve the image intact.,,, Quantum mechanics dictates some strange things at that scale, so that bit of light could be thought of as both a particle and a wave. As a wave, it passed through all parts of the stencil at once, carrying the “shadow” of the UR with it.
    http://www.physorg.com/news88439430.html

    Now, I find the preceding to be absolutely fascinating! A photon, in its quantum wave state, is found to be mathematically defined as a ‘infinite-dimensional’ state, which ‘requires an infinite amount of information’ to describe it properly , can be encoded with information in its ‘infinite dimensional’ state, and this ‘infinite dimensional’ photon is found to collapse, instantaneously, and thus ‘non-locally’, to just a ’1 or 0? state, out of a infinite number of possibilities that the photon could have collapsed to instead! Now my question to materialistic atheists is this, “Exactly what ’cause’ has been postulated throughout history to be completely independent of any space-time constraints, as well as possessing infinite knowledge, so as to be the ‘sufficient cause’ to explain what we see in the quantum wave collapse of a photon???

    verse and inspirational video

    John 1:1-5
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

    Inspired Bicycles – Danny MacAskill April 2009
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z19zFlPah-o

    further notes:

    Virtual Particles & Special Relativity of Photons – Michael Strauss PhD. Particle Physics – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4554674

    Fine Tuning Of Universal Constants, Particularly Light – Walter Bradley – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4491552

    Fine Tuning Of Light to the Atmosphere, to Biological Life, and to Water – graphs
    https://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0AYmaSrBPNEmGZGM4ejY3d3pfMTljaGh4MmdnOQ

  7. Wow- if we listen to Koonin the origin of life research is as “scientific” as SETI…

  8. I would like to point out that basically Dr. Koonin, in appealing to a never before observed ‘materialistic miracle’ he conjures up with the ‘Many Worlds in one’ hypothesis, clearly illustrates that the materialistic argument, ‘desperately’, appears to be like this:

    Premise One: No materialistic cause of specified complex information is known.
    Conclusion: Therefore, it must arise from some unknown materialistic cause

    On the other hand, Stephen Meyer describes the intelligent design argument as follows:

    “Premise One: Despite a thorough search, no material causes have been discovered that demonstrate the power to produce large amounts of specified information.
    “Premise Two: Intelligent causes have demonstrated the power to produce large amounts of specified information.
    “Conclusion: Intelligent design constitutes the best, most causally adequate, explanation for the information in the cell.”

    There remains one and only one type of cause that has shown itself able to create functional information like we find in cells, books and software programs — intelligent design. We know this from our uniform experience and from the design filter — a mathematically rigorous method of detecting design. Both yield the same answer. (William Dembski and Jonathan Witt, Intelligent Design Uncensored: An Easy-to-Understand Guide to the Controversy, p. 90 (InterVarsity Press, 2010).)

    Stephen C. Meyer – The Scientific Basis For the Intelligent Design Inference – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4104651

    Though purely material processes have NEVER shown the ability to produce ANY non-trivial functional information (David Abel – Null Hypothesis), Darwinists are adamant that material processes produced more information, of a much higher integrated complexity than man can produce, than is contained in a very large library, when it accidentally produce the ‘simplest’ life:

    “a one-celled bacterium, e. coli, is estimated to contain the equivalent of 100 million pages of Encyclopedia Britannica. Expressed in information in science jargon, this would be the same as 10^12 bits of information. In comparison, the total writings from classical Greek Civilization is only 10^9 bits, and the largest libraries in the world – The British Museum, Oxford Bodleian Library, New York Public Library, Harvard Widenier Library, and the Moscow Lenin Library – have about 10 million volumes or 10^12 bits.” – R. C. Wysong
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-363647

    The Theist holds the Intellectual High-Ground – March 2011
    Excerpt: To get a range on the enormous challenges involved in bridging the gaping chasm between non-life and life, consider the following: “The difference between a mixture of simple chemicals and a bacterium, is much more profound than the gulf between a bacterium and an elephant.” (Dr. Robert Shapiro, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, NYU)

    Scientists Prove Again that Life is the Result of Intelligent Design – Rabbi Moshe Averick – August 2011
    Excerpt: “To go from bacterium to people is less of a step than to go from a mixture of amino acids to a bacterium.” – Dr. Lynn Margulis

    Three Subsets of Sequence Complexity and Their Relevance to Biopolymeric Information – David L. Abel and Jack T. Trevors – Theoretical Biology & Medical Modelling, Vol. 2, 11 August 2005, page 8
    “No man-made program comes close to the technical brilliance of even Mycoplasmal genetic algorithms. Mycoplasmas are the simplest known organism with the smallest known genome, to date. How was its genome and other living organisms’ genomes programmed?”
    http://www.biomedcentral.com/c.....2-2-29.pdf

    First-Ever Blueprint of ‘Minimal Cell’ Is More Complex Than Expected – Nov. 2009
    Excerpt: A network of research groups,, approached the bacterium at three different levels. One team of scientists described M. pneumoniae’s transcriptome, identifying all the RNA molecules, or transcripts, produced from its DNA, under various environmental conditions. Another defined all the metabolic reactions that occurred in it, collectively known as its metabolome, under the same conditions. A third team identified every multi-protein complex the bacterium produced, thus characterising its proteome organisation.
    “At all three levels, we found M. pneumoniae was more complex than we expected,”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....173027.htm

    There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Simple’ Organism – November 2009
    Excerpt: In short, there was a lot going on in lowly, supposedly simple M. pneumoniae, and much of it is beyond the grasp of what’s now known about cell function.
    http://www.wired.com/wiredscie.....s-of-life/

    Simplest Microbes More Complex than Thought – Dec. 2009
    Excerpt: PhysOrg reported that a species of Mycoplasma,, “The bacteria appeared to be assembled in a far more complex way than had been thought.” Many molecules were found to have multiple functions: for instance, some enzymes could catalyze unrelated reactions, and some proteins were involved in multiple protein complexes.”
    http://www.creationsafaris.com.....#20091229a

  9. Better link for ‘presently acting cause’;

    RC Sproul Interviews Stephen Meyer – Presuppositional Apologetics (and Scientific Argument for ID from presently acting cause known to produce effect in question)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CM5J2zTBIzI

  10. Thanks, David.

    Your analogy of a man who is walking from coast to coast assumes that there is a viable pathway from point A to B. The analogy would be more applicable to origin of life if, instead of someone walking coast to coast, we had a man (perhaps even with blinders on) who had wandered from sea level to 1,000 feet and then claimed that if he kept going he would eventually get to Mars. Those who can see the landscape more clearly realize it won’t happen, not because of any lack of effort on the part of our intrepid hiker, but because the pathway can’t be traversed in that manner. Giving the hiker more time isn’t going to change the fact that his proposed mechanism of getting from A to B simply isn’t going to cut it.

    Also, Koonin is not being inconsistent in his statements. We musn’t confuse a basic list of requirements for a model. Noting that a naturalistic origin of life scenario must explain the “synthesis and accumulation of nucleotides to the origin of translation” does not constitute a model of how that could have occurred. If I realize that to get to Mars we need to achieve escape velocity, traverse a great distance of space, time the departure and vector just right, and have some kind of landing mechanism, that just means I’ve made a very simple list of basic requirements, it doesn’t mean I have a “model” of how to do it.

    Folks like Koonin who have looked closely at the proposed ideas for origin of life (whether volcanic vents, mud globules, Szostak’s vesicles, or otherwise) realize that there is no coherent model. It is not that the models are on the right track and need just a bit more time and money. The models are actually incoherent — logically problematic — in the same way that our hiker’s attempt to get to Mars is incoherent. [Note, it is a separate question whether OOL research is worth funding and will yield some indirect benefits. I tend to think there is value in some level of continued OOL research.]

    There are three main camps of people who propose a naturalistic origin of life: (i) those who think it was improbable in our universe, but we got lucky (Dawkins, Gould, probably most evolutionists); (ii) those who think that life is an inevitable outgrowth of the laws of chemistry and physics (some of the “emergent properties” theorists, certain theistic evolutionists); and (iii) those who have looked at the first two and realized that (ii) doesn’t have any supporting evidence and is logically problematic, and (i) needs *lots* more resources to be taken seriously, so they propose a multiverse in an attempt to get those resources. Koonin seems to fall in this last camp.

  11. It’s embarrassingly obvious, if you understand what natural selection is :

    EarthLife [email protected]

    A.
    Purines and pyrimidines are two of the building blocks of nucleic acids. Only two purines and three pyrimidines occur widely in nucleic acids.

    B.
    Pyrimidine is a heterocyclic aromatic organic compound similar to benzene and pyridine, containing two nitrogen atoms at positions 1 and 3 of the six-member ring.

    A purine is a heterocyclic aromatic organic compound, consisting of a pyrimidine ring fused to an imidazole ring. Purines, including substituted purines and their tautomers, are the most widely distributed kind of nitrogen-containing heterocycle in nature.

    Aromaticity ( Kekule, Loschmidt, Thiele) is essential also for the Krebs Cycle, for energy production.

    (Wikipedia)

    C.
    Natural selection is E (energy) temporarily constrained in an m (mass) format.

    Natural selection is a universal ubiquitous trait of ALL mass spin formats, inanimate and animate.
    Life began/evolved on Earth with the natural selection of inanimate RNA, then of some RNA nucleotides, then arriving at the ultimate mode of natural selection – self replication of RNAs. ALL Earth life is evolved RNAs. The drive and purpose of EarthLife is to enhance RNAs replication, its natural selection.

    Aromaticity enables good constraining of energy and good propensity to hydrogen bonding. The address of EarthLife Genesis, of phasing from inanimate to animate natural selection, is Aromaticity. Hydrogen Bonding.

    Dov Henis (comments from 22nd century)
    http://universe-life.com/

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