Home » Intelligent Design » Origin of life: Researchers claim life could have existed 4.4 billion years ago, before Earth cooled.

Origin of life: Researchers claim life could have existed 4.4 billion years ago, before Earth cooled.

So why are these University of Colorado at Boulder people – and New Scientist – determined to prove that God must have created life?

Look, I don’t care, but consider this:

Just when claims for Akilia, as evidence of life at 3.82 billion years ago have not held up, some researchers are even more ambitious than that.

As reported in New Scientist, Oleg Abramov and Steve Mojzsis of the University of Colorado in Boulder suggest that life could have existed on earth as early as 4.4 billion years ago:

… hardy life-forms could have survived if they were buried underground.

They were using a computer model and they assumed that these primeval life forms were extremophiles (simple, extremely hardy life forms).

… heat from the impacts would not have penetrated very deeply into the underlying solid crust. The layer heated to the sterilisation point, about 110 ̊C, would be only about 300 metres thick. High-temperature ‘extremophile’ microbes, like those in the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park, would have survived at greater depths, down to their limit of about 4 km.

Mojzsis argues that the Late Heavy Bombardment of Earth by asteroids “pruned, rather than frustrated, life.”

That conclusion is reasonable, says Kevin Zahnle of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California.

It certainly is, if you are looking for an argument that God created the first life on Earth. I wonder if either he or New Scientist have thought this one out ….

Abramov and Mojzsis will present their research to the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas on March 23. Here’s the .pdf.

In fairness, I must warn you that I consider New Scientist the National Enquirer of popular science magazines, and I am also wary of computer models in these situations. So I would just wait and see.

See also: Podcast: Chemist Charles Garner on chemical evolution; Why the Huygens probe – sadly – probably won’t tell us much; Mars red but not dead?; NASA says, could be life on Mars, could be rocks; Origin of life: What can the Saturnian moon Titan tell us?; Origin of life: Alien origin taken seriously? Ghost of Francis Crick smiles wanly; Origin of life: A meatier theory? Or just another theory?; Origin of life: There must be life out there vs. there can’t be life out there; Origin of life: Oldest Earth rocks may show signs of life, in which case … ; Origin of life: Positive evidence of intelligent design?; Origin of life: But is being greedy enough?; Origin of life: Ah, that “just so happens” intermediate series of chemical steps; Why should the search for Darwin’s “warm little puddle” be publicly funded?

Also just up at Colliding Universes:

Quantum theory: Finally facing up to its threat to special relativity

Physics: A peek behind the veil of reality earns physicist Templeton Prize

Origin of life: Doubt cast on oldest trace of life – not so old, new research says

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35 Responses to Origin of life: Researchers claim life could have existed 4.4 billion years ago, before Earth cooled.

  1. The holy “consensus” is really starting to resemble a Hindu creation myth.

  2. Off topic.

    I have been following the fortunes of the Intelligent Design movement for a few years now, more for the sociological interest than anything, as the arguments and claims, especially that ID is science, or that it has the potential do produce useful insights, seem, frankly unconvincing.

    One thing that really weakens the case for ID most obviously for me is the Orwellian way the moderation on ID blogs is conducted. Lack of integrity, lack of honesty merely highlights the lack of content.

    If you think isolating yourselves in an echo chamber is the way to advance the cause of ID, so be it. Four years ago I predicted the demise of ID as any kind of possible route for scientific research within five years. I don’t expect, from what I have witnessed here lately, to be proved wrong.

    I shall be wasting no more time here. My apologies to gpuccio for not continuing with the discussion on oxytocin and FCSI. If he or anyone would like to have further contact, you can reach me at [email protected]

  3. Arthur:

    I am sorry that you are going away, you seem to be a fine guy with whom to discuss. But I can’t say I share your views about what happens here. Obviously, it’s a blog, and anything can happen, and there is certainly much passion in both fields about this subject. In the past, the moderation policy here has been IMO too hard, and I have never agreed with that, but things have changed much, and the new moderation policy seems quite fair to me (not perfect, obviously, but who is looking for perfection on a blog?)

    I would never judge darwinian evolution from what happens on some darwinist blogs. I can judge the single persons sometimes, but if I judge a theory I do that for its contents, and not for the personality of its followers.

    Everybody, especially darwinists, seems to depict the war between darwinian evolution and ID as though it were a war between supporters of two different football teams. I like to think that there is something more important at stake: the confrontation between two very different scientific theories, and different approaches to science and scientific knowledge. It is an important debate, and I am sorry that you think differently.

    You say:

    “Lack of integrity, lack of honesty merely highlights the lack of content.”

    I don’t agree with your judgement about integrity and honesty: lack of them can be easily found on both fields, but I have some ideas about where they abound more. But that’s not the point. The point is that there is no lack of content. That’s absolutely false. There are a lot of contents, and I have had extremely interesting discussions with some darwinists, here and elsewhere. I can accept that you don’t agree with those contents, but not that you deny their existence. I don’t think I have been just chatting about trivial things here, for a few years, and the same is true for many other IDers and for many serious darwinists who have had the patience and goodwill to participate.

    I think I owed you this brief comment for the serious attitude that you have shown in our extremely brief interaction. I wish you all the best.

  4. Well, I am sure many here will miss Alan Fox.

    It is his own choice to leave, of course.

    Regarding our Comments policy, here it is:

    Comments

    Clive Hayden is specifically responsible for checking discussions now and then, in case a disruptive person sits down at your virtual table and starts making a scene.

    One useful approach is not to say things on the blog that one would not say in a public meeting.

    This IS in fact a public meeting.

  5. Alan Fox:

    One thing that really weakens the case for ID most obviously for me is the Orwellian way the moderation on ID blogs is conducted.

    As compared to the insults and mud-slinging to be found on sites such as AtBC?

    Yeah those tactics show that the ToE is a top-notch “theory”.

    Add that to the FACT that neither Alan nor any other anti-IDist can support their claims.

    Top-notch indeed.

    Four years ago I predicted the demise of ID as any kind of possible route for scientific research within five years.

    And you have been proven wrong time and again.

    The more we know the better ID appears as the explanation.

    The “Waiting for Two Mutations” paper that tried to refute Behe is a perfect example of the scientific data which shows your position is nonsense.

    So all Alan is left with is bald declarations.

  6. gpuccio:

    You are a classy person. Your kind farewell to Alan Fox is a fresh example of your calm, patient, and civil approach to discussion.

    What a bright contrast with the uncivil behavior of a few others – on both sides of the issues – who post here.

    And, Denyse, also well said.

  7. Let’s see, we have Arthur Smith, David Kellogg, Jay M, Frank H., Reciprocating Bill, khan, Richard Simmons, Adel, Madsen, George Farquar, eintown, djmullen, hazel, R0b, B.L. Harville, JT, Seversky, sparc, Allen MacNeill, eligodwin, Sal Gal, Ray Martinez, Kris (censored), mikev6, Mtreat.

    These all posted in the last few days here. Yes I can see how Arthur Smith thinks this is an echo chamber. When you get this many lame posts here in such a short time I can see how Arthur can get frustrated.

    Oh, by the way I apologize if I left someone out. I do not read every thread and do not know enough about every individual to know whether they should be included in the echo chamber list or not.

    The amazing thing is that this site is mainly about evolution and not one of the above has ever been able to make a coherent case for naturalistic macro evolution (the origin of complex novel capabilities.)

    Where is Richard Dawkins when we need him?

  8. Adel, thank you for the kind words.

    Jerry, a good list indeed!

    And an additional difficulty is that we have to deal with very different positions, sometimes not exactly explicit, and it happens that the answer to somebody is a little out of tone because we have not really understood what that person really thinks. But that is part of the game.

    By the way, where is Mark Frank? I miss him. And I would again appeal to Zachriel, if he is listening.

  9. gpuccio,

    The list is from the last 3 days. Yes, I forgot about Mark Frank and then there was ribczynski, and Yellow shark and I am probably missing a few others and their mentors who coach them.

  10. Denyse wrote: “So why are these University of Colorado at Boulder people – and New Scientist – determined to prove that God must have created life?”

    Shouldn’t you have written “…to prove that an intelligent designer must have created life?” Or did the article specifically mention God?

  11. Well, you are right, PaulBurnett, except that – when hotly denying that they ever intended any such thing – the researchers are likely to deny God and Intelligent Design -and all that stuff. (fill in the blanks)

    Okay by me. I may as well spare them the trouble by putting it in those terms myself. That way, foolish bloggers can carry it far and wide, and miss the main point, but smarter people will pick it up.

    The question of how the first organisms arose is wide open.

    Except for this: Darwin never dunit.

    So the current Darwin cult in academia remains a scandal.

  12. 12

    Jerry

    The amazing thing is that this site is mainly about evolution and not one of the above has ever been able to make a coherent case for naturalistic macro evolution (the origin of complex novel capabilities.)

    I came here because I always thought it was supposed to be about ID and I had a number of questions to ask. If I want to learn more about evolution, I’ll go to a different site.

  13. Richard Simons:

    I don’t see why you are worried. This site is obviously about the cause of biological information, and about the debate between the two main scientific theories (practically the only scientific theories) about that issue: ID and darwinian evolution. I doubt we can debate one without debating the other. That’s why we appreciate the constructive contribution of so many darwinists to this site.

    And please, do ask your questions. You will probably get answers, some of them maybe even good.

  14. “I came here because I always thought it was supposed to be about ID and I had a number of questions to ask. If I want to learn more about evolution, I’ll go to a different site.”

    Now I doubt this. If you read what I wrote a couple days ago, you will find out what ID is about. To be short, ID says that the evidence points to an intelligence in the design of some aspects of the universe and life. That is it, very succinctly.

    And you will also find out what evolution is about too because there is no aspect of it that is not up for consideration by ID. Reciprocating Bill was chastising us on our knowledge of evolution and our inability to form propositions but it was he who was deficient. However, if you wish to go elsewhere on this topic, then I will not expect you to make any comments on it while you are here.

    So maybe after the brief description of ID which I just gave you, there is no need for you to post anything anymore because it really is that simple.

    Now, I said I doubt that your quote is true, but one way you could prove it true is to ask questions and we can answer them for you but as you indicated evolution is out of bounds since you said you are not interested in it here.

    So ask away.

  15. Jerry @14

    Reciprocating Bill was chastising us on our knowledge of evolution and our inability to form propositions but it was he who was deficient.

    That’s very easy for you to say now that RB has been banned for asking a simple question that neither you nor anyone else answered.

    Anyone reading that thread objectively will clearly see that it is you, Jerry, along with Joseph and Upright BiPed, who are”deficient.” If you disagree, answer RB’s question by providing a positive testable prediction of ID theory, the failure of which would serve to disconfirm that theory.

    Unless and until you do, your jibes at RB are cowardly and dishonest.

    JJ

  16. 16

    JayM,

    “That’s very easy for you to say now that RB has been banned for asking a simple question that neither you nor anyone else answered.”

    That’s not at all why he was banned, JayM. Let’s not confuse the issues.

  17. 17

    JayM,

    “Unless and until you do, your jibes at RB are cowardly and dishonest.”

    Don’t call folks cowardly or dishonest, even if it is a contingent name-calling.

  18. That’s not at all why he was banned, JayM. Let’s not confuse the issues.

    Perhaps, but the timing doesn’t work in your favor in the eyes of onlookers. Perhaps you could start a new blog entry answering the question. That would be sure to keep an interesting conversation going.

  19. 19

    gpuccio:

    And please, do ask your questions. You will probably get answers, some of them maybe even good.

    Thanks!

    You mentioned biological information. As a biologist, that is something I’ve always wondered about (along with CSI, the Explanatory Filter and the Theory of ID). What exactly is meant by ‘biological information’ and how is it measured?

  20. 20

    Crater,

    “Perhaps, but the timing doesn’t work in your favor in the eyes of onlookers. Perhaps you could start a new blog entry answering the question. That would be sure to keep an interesting conversation going.”

    What question are you referring to?

  21. JayM,

    I answered Reciprocating Bill’s questions more than once. Go to the thread and follow my answers. If you cannot understand that, then maybe you should refrain from commenting on the subject. I told him what the research should be and the results expected and what would be compromising results. All of which are in answers to him.

    Here is also something that he said

    “Accumulation of genetic accidents” doesn’t comport with any version of evolutionary theory I know. That said, the “accumulation of genetic accidents” in a population, alone (absent selection), would result in drift and ultimately a reduction in the average fitness/success of that population.”

    which is nonsense since it is the Darwinian paradigm that he says doesn’t comport with what he knows. The use of the term “genetic accidents” or mutations is Joseph’s short hand for mocking the Darwinian paradigm. So Bill disqualified himself as anyone who should comment on evolution. Then he mentions drift and deterioration which are non sequiturs in the discussion.

    I generally do not answer anything you say because your comments seem naive and disingenuous to me. You seem to want to comment here but don’t seem to have the knowledge necessary to understand the debate. And yet you hurl accusations of ignorance, dishonesty and cowardice at others. I would look at yourself rather than others. I have never avoided any legitimate question. But I do not respond to everything said about my comments because I believe many are inane.

  22. Richard Simons:

    Biological information is all the functional information which allows living beings to “work”. The simplest, and best known example is the information in protein coding genes. It is a form of digital symbolic sequence which conveys the information for the functional proteins to the translation system. In the simplest form, we call that information FSCI (functionally specified complex information).

    I have recently discussed a practical, and voluntarily restricted, definition of FSCI in the thread “A Search Algorithm, And A Prize”. You can refer to that discussion, if you want. I paste here, for your convenience, the essential definition:

    “We define FSCI any information which has the following characteristics:

    1) It is a digital sequence (IOW, it can be read as a sequence of digital values, like the sequence of the results of the tossing of a coin, or the sequence of nucleotides in DNA).

    2) It is functionally specified. IOW, the sequence, in the appropriate context which can read and use it, can convey the information necessary to realize a well recognizable function. For instance, a sequence of 0s and 1s (as can be read in the tossing of a coin, or any other system which can be read as a sequence of bits) is functionally specified if, say, it corresponds to some important mathemathical object, like pi, or to a sequence of bits which, when inputted in a specific computer, behaves as a functional software. Please note that the function must be explicitly definable, and the context is essential to define it.

    3) It is complex (unlikely), in the Dembski sense of the word. IOW, the probability of attaining that sequence randomly, in the system where the sequence is found, must be extremely low, lower than a threshold which can be conventionally defined in various ways, in different systems. The important point is that the threshold must be low enough to make the random hypothesis really unacceptable from an empirical point of view.

    The probability is meant as the probability of the functional set (all possible sequences which retain the defined function). If we can assume an uniform distribution, the probability is simply the ration between the number of functional sequences and the total search space.

    4) There must be no known procedure based on laws of necessity which can output that specific sequence in that system. IOW, the observed sequence cannot be explained by any known mechanism based on necessity.

    I want to remark that the above definition is relative to a very specific subset of the more general concept of CSI. CSI is a concept referring to “any” information which can be in “any” way specified. In my definition, I have given many additional restraints (the information has to be digital and not analogic, the specification must be of the functional type), because those restraints allow us to go with very simple, objective and quantitative definitions, and they apply perfectly to the object of our discussion (biological information). So, in the biological field, nothing important is lost by those restraints, and much is gained in clarity and objectivity.”

    You can also find more on FSCI and a simple way of measuring it in protein families in the important paper by Durston et al: “Measuring the functional sequence complexity of proteins”, easily available on the internet.

  23. What question are you referring to?

    This one.

  24. And yet you hurl accusations of ignorance, dishonesty and cowardice at others. I would look at yourself rather than others….But I do not respond to everything said about my comments because I believe many are inane.

    You know, Jerry, before telling other people that they are dishonest, cowardly, or inane, did you ever consider that they were looking for information? You unwillingness to help educate interested onlookers about ID reflects poorly on UD Someone got bounced the other day for referring to this place as an echo chamber. Your insistence that participation here requires a specific knowledge fifts means that newcomers are not welcome and only those are in possession of the same knowlege need comment only makes that comment seem possibly true to people, like me, that haven’t been around the topic for years and years.

  25. And yet you hurl accusations of ignorance, dishonesty and cowardice at others. I would look at yourself rather than others….But I do not respond to everything said about my comments because I believe many are inane.

    You know, Jerry, before telling other people that they are dishonest, cowardly, or inane, did you ever stop to consider that they were looking for information? You unwillingness to help educate interested onlookers about ID reflects poorly on UD Someone got bounced the other day for referring to this place as an echo chamber. Your insistence that participation here requires a specific knowledge fifts means that newcomers are not welcome and only those are in possession of the same knowlege need comment only makes that comment seem possibly true to people, like me, that haven’t been around the topic for years and years.

  26. Denyse, why do you think that New Scientist article requires God or some other Intelligent Designer? Go to Mike Gene’s old blog, Telic Thoughts, choose any message and look at the books advertised for sale. “Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe” by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee is one of the choices. IDist Mike Gene presumably agrees with the thesis of this book, since he advertises it and even gets a bit of money if you order it through his blog.

    I don’t have the book at hand, but I read it several years ago and Ward and Brownlee’s thesis is that simple, single cell life is very common in the universe. It’s their conclusion that life can start from non-life rather easily and in a very short time, geologically speaking. They consider complex life, like us, to be much rarer. For instance, it took over four billion years to produce us humans.

    New evidence, specifically the discovery that the earth is full of life down to several kilometers beneath the surface, is causing Origin Of Life studies to narrow their focus to under ground. There, plate tectonics forces sea water through cracks in mineral rich rocks full of Cairns-Smith’s crystals which can act as catalysts to join atoms into molecules, where the water can pass through rocks of widely varying temperatures in quick succession and where the temperature and pressure speed chemical reactions up to the point where the catalysts necessary for life at room temperature are not necessary.

    Ward and Brownlee’s book is approved by one of the leading thinkers in ID. It makes an excellent case for life starting quickly underground and the New Scientist article shows that even heavy bombardments would leave deep living microorganisms unaffected.

    So why do you think the New Scientist article makes God necessary for the OOL?

  27. O’Leary:

    “The question of how the first organisms arose is wide open.

    Except for this: Darwin never dunit.

    So the current Darwin cult in academia remains a scandal.”

    Your personal disbelief does not make a scientific scandal.

  28. Hi Denyse,

    Following your link on chemical evolution, I read
    If chemical evolution were true, we should expect to see much more unusual chemistry around us than we apparently do.

    Passing over the somewhat naive use of the word ‘true’, I wonder what rate of unusual chemistry we should expect? Is there a different rate that would be more confirmatory of an ID hypothesis? If we found extremophile microbes with very different maps from codons to amino acids, what does that say about ID and OOL?
    I understand that these OOL experiments are pretty cheap, as these things go. It would be great to see the DIscovery Institute sponsor some research that would get at some of these issues.

  29. crater said,

    “You unwillingness to help educate interested onlookers about ID reflects poorly on UD Someone got bounced the other day for referring to this place as an echo chamber”

    This is the kind of double talk, deflections, distortions etc that we get here. Someone decides he doesn’t want to post here because it is an echo chamber and I point out the echo chamber is full of people just like himself and you say he is banned. Was Arthur Smith or Alan Fox banned? Here is the quote where he seems to be leaving us volunteeringly and then telling us how to get hold of him.

    “I shall be wasting no more time here. My apologies to gpuccio for not continuing with the discussion on oxytocin and FCSI. If he or anyone would like to have further contact, you can reach me at [email protected]

    I say read my replies to Reciprocating Bill and you act like I am imposing my views on everyone. I suggest that people actually read the replies that I have made along with the referred to posts on past threads and decide if this is not an attempt to explain and educate.

    To the list I posted at #7, you can add crater. I think the echo chamber is not of the pro ID people but the anti ID people.

    So crater, thank you for helping us make the ID case by not providing anything in support of an anti ID position and joining the anti ID echo chamber that we have here. If I was Arthur Smith and couldn’t find anyone amongst such a large percentage of commenters who couldn’t support my position, I could see why he would leave.

  30. gpuccio @ 22:

    I’m no expert on FSCI (or FCSI), so I have a question about your succinct definition. First, I think you mean “discrete” when you use the word “digital”. The first just means “in chunks”, while the second means “base 10″. (A minor point when people talk about digital computers all the time :)

    So, is the Mona Lisa FSCI? I think if we just look at the facets of functional, specified, complex, and information, we’d all agree that Leonardo scored pretty high in each. But the painting is not a discrete sequence, even of brush strokes. I’m wondering how important “discrete sequence” is to FSCI (or FCSI).

  31. pendulum

    Digital means discrete state, not base ten. Base 10 is DECIMAL digital, base 2 is binary [hence bits], base 12 is duodecimal, base 8 octal, base 16 hexadecimal, and base 60 as used by the Chaldean stargazers of old [and then up to C17 for astronomy!], sexagesimal. [My students used to get a kick out of that last for some strange reason.)

    Mona Lisa etc are digitisable, so the use of a digital reference is without loss of generality. (For that matter, the structure of a workable stone arrowhead is digitisable.)

    And since essentially any digital number structure can be reduced to organised 2-state strings, speaking of bit strings is also just as general in effect.

    The importance of the digital is that it is a LOT easier to work with for analysis. indeed, most commonly used metrics of information reduce to digital metrics, and to binary ones in the end. (Think of reducing the matter to a string of structured yes/no questions and their answers.)

    GEM of TKI

  32. Pendulum:

    from dictionary.com (one of the definitions):

    digital = of, pertaining to, or using data in the form of numerical digits.

    I don’t think there is any reference to base 10 in the word, just to the fact that the information is in numeric form (digits).

    That said, a further clarification on various definitions of functional information:

    - CSI: any kind of information which is complex and specified, whatever the kind of specification.

    - FSCI: complex specified information where the specification is of the functional type (a subset of CSI)-

    - digital FSCI: complex functionally specified information in digital form (beware: any information can be digitized, but here I mean information which is already in the form of digital sequences). A subset of FSCI.

    - symbolic digital FSCI: the same as above, but the sequence symbolically conveys the information for another, final structure. A subset of digital FSCI.

    My definition is a restricted definition, appropriate for the last two subsets. Indeed. biological information is in those forms. For instance, protein coding genes are a good example of symbolic digital FSCI, while proteins themselves are digital FSCI (there is not much difference, because the information in proteins is essentially the same as in the gene, but in symbolic digital FSCI the model is even more clear, because information and final function are separate, being carried by two different structures.

    The only reason that I insist on these last two forms of CSI is that they are more easily define rigorously, and computations are much easier. Mona Lisa is certainly a case of CSI, but not of digital CSI. I have no doubt that it is CSI (indeed we happen to know it was designed), but I really would not know how to make computations on it. The same is true for Mount Rushmore, and similar examples of analog CSI.

    Luckily, analog CSI is of little importance in the basic discussion about the origin of biological information, because the real object ewe are discussing is genomic information, which is digital and symbolic (at least in the part which is best understood, protein coding genes).

  33. Guys, thanks for the correction re ‘digital’. I agree with gpuccio on analog CSI, no need to force a digitisaton or loss of information.

  34. there is an article in the print version of the American Scholar (http://www.theamericanscholar.org/) which unfortunately is not yet available online. It makes the case that Darwinian thought robs life of meaning. It concludes that this is not the case, however, without taking into account what does give life meaning for many people.

  35. It concludes that this is not the case, however, without taking into account what does give life meaning for many people.

    NASCAR!

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