Home » Extraterrestrial life, Intelligent Design, News, Origin Of Life » Mars mission: Science blogger typically gets it wrong about NASA’s “Darwinian evolution” definition of life.

Mars mission: Science blogger typically gets it wrong about NASA’s “Darwinian evolution” definition of life.

It is highly contested.

But in “Mars Mission Critics Misunderstand Chemistry” (Philly.com, August 5, 2012 ), Faye Flam announces to the  great unwashed,

NASA defines life as any self-replicating system that can undergo Darwinian evolution. It’s a broad enough denfinition that it allows life without carbon, but there are reasons that carbon is well-suited to the task.

Characteristically, for legacy media science writers, Flam does not appear to know that NASA’s definition of life is under serious attack within the discipline.

For example, evolutionary biologist Bjørn Østman comments, riffing off a recent talk by “no arsenic” Rosie Redfield, on conventional definitions of life according to which “living things would be those which evolve by natural selection.” He proposes a thought experiment. Noting that languages are not alive but do evolve in various ways, he asks,

Suppose we go to another planet and find one being there, looking exactly like a human being. Everything we can measure about this being confirms that it is just as much alive as you and me. It eats, moves, heals, replenishes, communicates, feels, defecates. Learning more about this being, though, we find that it has no ancestors, and that it does not age. It does not reproduce, and it is the only such being on the planet. Thus, there is no lineage of descent and no population that can evolve. So this being is then not alive? Of course it is. This definition does not work.

Astrobiologist Charley Lineweaver offers,

What is the unit of Darwinian evolution? Is it the gene? Is it the cell? Is it a multicellular organism? Is a city evolving? How about Gaia? Is that a life form?

And so forth. They are only two of many dissenters. At a recent conference, many other definitions were offered.*

But, basically,  if you are a legacy media science writer, Darwin is right even when he doesn’ t- or his followers don’t –  make any sense.

Just for the record (nil nisi bonum, you know):  The actual Darwin – not the current atheist cult figure, but the actual old Brit toff heir of the Wedgwood pottery fortune – prudently stepped around the origin of life mess, as he would have prudently stepped around other messes in the street. And good on him.

*Edward N. Trifonov. Vocabulary of Definitions of Life Suggests a Definition. J. Biomol Struct Dyn 29(2) 259-266 (2011).

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4 Responses to Mars mission: Science blogger typically gets it wrong about NASA’s “Darwinian evolution” definition of life.

  1. Pinning down a precise definition of “life” is an interesting undertaking and worthy of discussion in its own right. Tying it to “Darwinian evolution,” however is a fool’s errand. It just underscores the materialist mentality involved: namely, that life depends on Darwinian evolution to such an extent that the very definition of life is defined by the process. As Philip Johnson aptly explained the materialist mindset: “All reality is a single process of evolution.” Then there is the pesky little fact that Darwinian evolution (certainly in the classic sense of RM+NS) is being shown ever less capable of doing much of biological interest.

    I suppose almost any living system could, in theory, undergo some kind of change+selection over time, but that certainly doesn’t mean that it actually did or would.

  2. Trifonov’s paper is OPEN ACCESS. Free download here:

    http://web.iitd.ac.in/~amittal.....f_Life.pdf

  3. Suppose we go to another planet and find one being there, looking exactly like a human being. Everything we can measure about this being confirms that it is just as much alive as you and me. It eats, moves, heals, replenishes, communicates, feels, defecates. Learning more about this being, though, we find that it has no ancestors, and that it does not age. It does not reproduce, and it is the only such being on the planet. Thus, there is no lineage of descent and no population that can evolve. So this being is then not alive? Of course it is. This definition does not work.

    A planet the God created Adam but no Eve. Or an Eve without and Adam.

    First, the definition does NOT say it HAS to undergo Darwinian evolution. Just that it can. And although it may not reproduce it may be made up of reproducing cells. And those cells may be imperfect replicators.

    And obvioulsy we should ask how it came to be able to communicate and where it came from.

    That said obvioulsy materialists have a need to simplify. The more simple the definition of a living organism the easier it is to get one for nuthin’, ie a free lunch

    “Whadaya want for nuthin’?…. RRRRRRubber biscuit!” Elwood Blues

  4. from discussion of Curiosity was said it not equipped to find living things as bacteria, amoeba, etc. it equipped for examination of “residues” in same way water once flowing long ago leaves “residues” and products mineral.

    sergio

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