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Darwin’s “warm little pond” origin of life labelled “absurd”

In “Russian hot springs point to rocky origins for life” (New Scientist, 13 February 2012), Colin Barras reports on the recent new theory that insists that life began on land, in ponds, not the ocean. Sure enough, the story begins with ritual Darwin worship:

New findings challenge the widespread view that it all kicked off in the oceans. Life may have begun on land instead – just as Darwin thought

In fairness, Darwin tossed that off as an “if only” speculation in a letter, and did zero research on the subject. It’s not his fault if his followers are prone to inappropriate worshipfulness about everything he did and said.

Armen Mulkidjanian and colleagues explain to us why life couldn’t have begun around hydrothermal vents in the ocean:

Armen Mulkidjanian at the University of Osnabruck in Germany says there is a fundamental problem with the ocean floor hypothesis: salt. The cytoplasm found inside all cells contains much more potassium than sodium. Mulkidjanian thinks that chemistry reflects the chemistry of the water life first appeared in, yet salty seawater is sodium-rich and potassium-poor.

“The ancient sea contained the wrong balance of sodium and potassium for the origin of cells,” says Mulkidjanian.

His team has found thermal springs in Kamchatka, Siberia, where they say the balance is just right.

Science writer Barras deserves credit for admitting that origin of life is “a highly polarised field of research,” noting that

Nick Lane at University College London disputes the claims that the first cells couldn’t cope with life in sodium-rich water. Early cells could have actively pumped out sodium ions, he says. “This is exactly what many methanogens and acetogens do,” he points out, referring to microbes that are thought to be among the earliest cellular life forms. This, says Lane, is good evidence that the earliest living cells did indeed actively pump out sodium ions.

Also,

Carrine Blank, a geologist at the University of Montana in Missoula says life was unlikely to survive on land 3.8 billion years ago, at a time when meteorites were pummelling Earth.

Others dismissed the idea as “absurd” and would not comment on the record.

Via Slashdot

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2 Responses to Darwin’s “warm little pond” origin of life labelled “absurd”

  1. This is an interesting example of what Bydand and I have been discussing the past couple of days on the other thread (“If today’s origin of life theorists are right, life did not originate.”)

    Specifically, we have one researcher (Mulkidjanian) who is trying to find a place that would be similar to and conducive to typical cellular chemistry and concluding that the ocean floor is the wrong place. On the other side, we have another researcher (Lane) pointing out that some microbes can actively pump out sodium ions, and thus the ocean floor is not a show stopper. Carinne Blank further argues that land is no good, because of meteorite bombardment.

    So we have a more conducive chemical location, but it is subject to meteorite impacts. We have another location safe from meteorite impacts, but that is more hostile in its chemistry and requires more cellular machinery and specialization (pumping out sodium ions) to cope with the environment.

    We are dealing with 2 issues: where life started and how it started. The naturalistic story faces a real conundrum: we can’t even seem to find a chemically conducive location for life to arise that is also safe from other natural hazards to life’s initial foothold. As a result, we’re not even sure of what chemical environment and natural barriers have to be overcome in determining the ‘how’ of life’s genesis.

  2. So the claim is that life originated on earth about 3.8 billion years ago?

    Let’s see. If earth is really 4.6 billion years old as claimed, life had a whole 800,000,000 years to evolve. 800 million years and I suspect that. number would need to be drastically reduced since conditions for life to evolve were probably not met for quite a long while after the planet was formed.

    Aren’t there any Darwinists who see a potentially insurmountable problem here – namely the lack of sufficient time for such miracles of chance to take place? There must have been an awful lot of monkeys typing on their proverbial Darwinian typewriters to see such a fortuitous sequence of things occur in such a short time!

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