Home » Extraterrestrial life, News, Origin Of Life » Physicist Paul Davies starts to say something sensible about how to go about looking for extraterrestrial life

Physicist Paul Davies starts to say something sensible about how to go about looking for extraterrestrial life

Davies, director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University and the author of The Eerie Silence:Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence, notes ,

The underlying problem is complexity. Even the simplest bacterium is, at the molecular level, staggeringly complex. Although we have no idea of the minimal complexity of a living organism, it is likely to be very high. It could be that some sort of complexifying principle operates in nature, serving to drive a chaotic mix of chemicals on a fast track to a primitive microbe. If so, no hint of such a principle has been found in laboratory experiments to re-create the basic building blocks of life.

On the other hand, if life arose simply by the accumulation of many specific chemical accidents in one place, it is easy to imagine that only one in, say, a trillion trillion habitable planets would ever host such a dream run. Set against a number that big — and once you decide a series of unlikely accidents is behind the creation of life, you get enormous odds very easily — it is irrelevant whether the Milky Way contains 40 billion habitable planets or just a handful. Forty billion makes hardly a dent in a trillion trillion.

Okay, so we have already got as far as it happened and apparently it wasn’t an accident.

Davies suggests that we now focus our research on life forms here on Earth that do not appear related to any others: “The discovery of just a single “alien” microbe under our very noses would be enough to conclude that the universe was indeed teeming with life.”

Okay, I’ve pointed out before that the dogmatic insistence on a universal common ancestor is a handicap in origin of life research. It would at least make more sense to think in terms of an ancient environment friendly to the formation of life, perhaps several or a number of times. But it makes no sense that the discovery of Davies’ alien microbe “would be enough to conclude that the universe was indeed teeming with life.” It would at most demonstrate that a given period in Earth’s history was more favourable to the spontaneous origin of life forms than any known subsequent one (because we take it as a given that spontaneous generation does not now occur).

As for the space aliens, well, to conjure them, Davies insists on placing Darwin’s dead hand firmly back on the scale:

Although the pathway from microbes to complex thinking beings like humans may still be a very difficult one, at least we know the mechanism whereby it happens — Darwinian evolution. If microbial life is widespread in the cosmos, we can expect that, at least here and there, sentient beings will evolve. We would then be much closer to answering that age-old puzzle of existence: Are we alone in the universe?

Davies needs to talk to the people who seriously propose that bacteria can evolve to evolve, which means evolution has foresight, the opposite of what Darwin’s followers say.

Evolution with foresight might do the trick all right but then we’d have to start by taking Darwin’s dead hand off the scale and putting it back in the coffin.

See also: But surely we can’t conjure an entire advanced civilization?

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8 Responses to Physicist Paul Davies starts to say something sensible about how to go about looking for extraterrestrial life

  1. Interesting and nicely written article. I suspect that people like Paul Davies know in their hearts that Darwinism is a big pile of smelly bovine excrement but they are either too smart or too afraid to speak what is really on their minds. It’s an example of the survival of the smartest or the most paranoid. :-D

  2. Davies suggests that we now focus our research on life forms here on Earth that do not appear related to any others: “The discovery of just a single “alien” microbe under our very noses would be enough to conclude that the universe was indeed teeming with life.”

    Assuming, for argument’s sake that life arose by accident (playing a devil’s stupid advocate), how can anybody determine that an “alien” microbe is really alien and did not also arise from dirt by accident?

  3. as to this comment:

    It could be that some sort of complexifying principle operates in nature, serving to drive a chaotic mix of chemicals on a fast track to a primitive microbe. If so, no hint of such a principle has been found in laboratory experiments to re-create the basic building blocks of life.

    Not only is there not any known ‘complexifying principle’ that, contra the second law, could drive chaotic mix of chemicals on a fast track to a primitive microbe, there is not any evidence for a chaotic mix of chemicals in which the complexifying principle can drive in the first place:

    Dr. Hugh Ross – Origin Of Life Paradox (No prebiotic chemical signatures)- video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4012696

    “We get that evidence from looking at carbon 12 to carbon 13 analysis. And it tells us that in Earth’s oldest (sedimentary) rock, which dates at 3.80 billion years ago, we find an abundance for the carbon signature of living systems. Namely, that life prefers carbon 12. And so if you see a higher ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 13 that means that carbon has been processed by life. And it is that kind of evidence that tells us that life has been abundant on earth as far back as 3.80 billion years ago (when water was first present on earth).,,, And that same carbon 12 to carbon 13 analysis tells us that planet earth, over it entire 4.5662 billion year history has never had prebiotics. Prebiotics would have a higher ratio of carbon 13 to carbon 12. All the carbonaceous material, we see in the entire geological record of the earth, has the signature of being post-biotic not pre-biotic. Which means planet earth never had a primordial soup. And the origin of life on earth took place in a geological instant” (as soon as it was possible for life to exist on earth).
    – Hugh Ross – quote as stated in preceding video – words in brackets are added for clarification

    As to

    “The discovery of just a single “alien” microbe under our very noses would be enough to conclude that the universe was indeed teeming with life.”

    I believe Davies is hoping for some type of “alien” microbe that is radically different in chemical composition from the carbon/DNA based life that we have on earth. If so, good luck with all that. Carbon is shown to be the only element, from the periodic table of elements, by which the stable complex molecules of life in this universe may be built. And DNA itself vastly exceeds any information storage mechanism ever devised by man.

    Do you believe Richard Dawkins exists?
    Excerpt: DNA is the best information storage mechanism known to man. A single pinhead of DNA contains as much information as could be stored on 2 million two-terabyte hard drives.
    http://creation.com/does-dawkins-exist

    Information Storage in DNA by Wyss Institute – video
    https://vimeo.com/47615970

    Quote from preceding video:
    “The theoretical (information) density of DNA is you could store the total world information, which is 1.8 zetabytes, at least in 2011, in about 4 grams of DNA.”
    Sriram Kosuri PhD. – Wyss Institute

    Indeed, as even Davies himself has admitted to in the past:

    Natural selection cannot explain the origin of life
    Excerpt: “DNA is not a special life-giving molecule, but a genetic databank that transmits its information using a mathematical code. Most of the workings of the cell are best described, not in terms of material stuff — hardware — but as information, or software. Trying to make life by mixing chemicals in a test tube is like soldering switches and wires in an attempt to produce Windows 98. It won’t work because it addresses the problem at the wrong conceptual level.”
    Paul Davies
    http://creation.com/ns-origin-of-life

    and also as Dr. Stephen Meyer points out here:

    Dr. Stephen Meyer: Chemistry/RNA World/self organization can’t explain genetic information – video
    Excerpt 5:00 minute mark: “If there is no chemical interaction here (in the DNA molecule) you can’t invoke chemistry to explain (DNA) sequencing”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLeWh8Df3k8

    The problem for the origin of the first life (and for the appearance of life thereafter) always boils down to a ‘information problem’. It is not a chemistry or a physical law problem. i.e. The brick wall that origin of life researchers keep running to time and again, and again, is ‘Where did the information come from?’

    News, as to your suggestion that,,,

    It would at least make more sense to think in terms of an ancient environment friendly to the formation of life, perhaps several or a number of times.

    Although I’m certain that a ‘friendly environment’ had nothing whatsoever to do with it, we now have fairly strong evidence for multiple independent origins of life,,,

    Dr. Craig Venter Denies Common Descent in front of Richard Dawkins! – video
    Quote: “I think the tree of life is an artifact of some early scientific studies that aren’t really holding up.,, So there is not a tree of life. In fact from our deep sequencing of organisms in the ocean, out of, now we have about 60 million different unique gene sets, we found 12 that look like a very, very deep branching—perhaps fourth domain of life. ”
    - Dr. Craig Venter, American Biologist involved in sequencing the human genome
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXrYhINutuI

    ORFan Genes Challenge Common Descent – Paul Nelson – video with references
    http://www.vimeo.com/17135166

    “We already have good evidence that linear descent with modification is false for prokaryotes, because their tree looks like a thicket. At what point will molecular systematists be willing to say that at the root of the animal phyla we have not one tree but a grove?”
    (Ann Gauger, Confusing Similarity with Evolutionary History, Biologic Institute, December 16 2012)
    http://www.biologicinstitute.o.....ry-history

    The Elaborate Nanoscale Machine Called Photosynthesis: No Vestige of a Beginning – Cornelius Hunter – July 2012
    Excerpt: “The ability to do photosynthesis is widely distributed throughout the bacterial domain in six different phyla, with no apparent pattern of evolution. Photosynthetic phyla include the cyanobacteria, proteobacteria (purple bacteria), green sulfur bacteria (GSB), firmicutes (heliobacteria), filamentous anoxygenic phototrophs (FAPs, also often called the green nonsulfur bacteria), and acidobacteria (Raymond, 2008).”
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....8048253561

  4. Moreover, these multiple independent origins of life (indicated by Paul Nelson’s video) ‘just so’ happened to live in mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship with each other in microbial mats (as well as living symbiotically with the entire earth’s entire ecology as a whole),,,

    Geobiologist Noffke Reports Signs of Life that Are 3.48 Billion Years Old – 11/11/13
    Excerpt: the mats woven of tiny microbes we see today covering tidal flats were also present as life was beginning on Earth. The mats, which are colonies of cyanobacteria, can cause unusual textures and formations in the sand beneath them. Noffke has identified 17 main groups of such textures caused by present-day microbial mats, and has found corresponding structures in geological formations dating back through the ages.
    http://www.odu.edu/about/odu-p...../topstory1

    Microbial Mat Ecology – Image on page 92 (third page down)
    http://www.dsls.usra.edu/biolo.....nit2.2.pdf

    ,,,Please note, that if even one type of bacteria group did not exist in this complex cycle of biogeochemical interdependence, that was illustrated on the third page of the preceding site, then all of the different bacteria would soon die out. This essential biogeochemical interdependence, of the most primitive different types of bacteria that we have evidence of on ancient earth, makes the origin of life ‘problem’ for neo-Darwinists that much worse. For now not only do neo-Darwinists have to explain how the ‘miracle of life’ happened once with the origin of photosynthetic bacteria, but they must now also explain how all these different types bacteria, that photosynthetic bacteria are dependent on, in this irreducibly complex biogeochemical web, miraculously arose just in time to supply the necessary nutrients, in their biogeochemical link in the chain, for photosynthetic bacteria to continue to survive.
    Also of note is that these mutual beneficial set of microbes somehow had the foresight to start terraforming the earth from the beginning of their presence on earth,,:

    Iron in Primeval Seas Rusted by Bacteria – Apr. 23, 2013
    Excerpt: The oldest known iron ores were deposited in the Precambrian period and are up to four billion years old (the Earth itself is estimated to be about 4.6 billion years old). ,,,
    This research not only provides the first clear evidence that microorganisms were directly involved in the deposition of Earth’s oldest iron formations; it also indicates that large populations of oxygen-producing cyanobacteria were at work in the shallow areas of the ancient oceans, while deeper water still reached by the light (the photic zone) tended to be populated by anoxyenic or micro-aerophilic iron-oxidizing bacteria which formed the iron deposits.,,,
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....110750.htm

    The role of bacteria in hydrogeochemistry, metal cycling and ore deposit formation:
    Textures of sulfide minerals formed by SRB (sulfate-reducing bacteria) during bioremediation (most notably pyrite and sphalerite) have textures reminiscent of those in certain sediment-hosted ores, supporting the concept that SRB may have been directly involved in forming ore minerals.
    http://www.goldschmidt2009.org...../A1161.pdf

    Bacterial Heavy Metal Detoxification and Resistance Systems:
    Excerpt: Bacterial plasmids contain genetic determinants for resistance systems for Hg2+ (and organomercurials), Cd2+, AsO2, AsO43-, CrO4 2-, TeO3 2-, Cu2+, Ag+, Co2+, Pb2+, and other metals of environmental concern.,, Recombinant DNA analysis has been applied to mercury, cadmium, zinc, cobalt, arsenic, chromate, tellurium and copper resistance systems.
    http://www.springerlink.com/co.....04577v8t3/

    As well, please note that the long term tectonic cycle, of the turnover the Earth’s crustal rocks, must also be fine-tuned to a certain degree, with the these different types of bacteria, and thus also plays a important ‘foundational’ role in the overall ecology of the ‘biogeochemical system’ of the earth that must be accounted for as well.

    Ancient Earth Crust Stored in Deep Mantle – Apr. 24, 2013
    Excerpt: New research,, demonstrates that oceanic volcanic rocks contain samples of recycled crust dating back to the Archean era 2.5 billion years ago.,, This indicates that the sulfur comes from a deep mantle reservoir containing crustal material subducted before the Great Oxidation Event and preserved for over half the age of Earth.
    “These measurements place the first firm age estimates of recycled material in oceanic hotspots,” Hauri said. “They confirm the cycling of sulfur from the atmosphere and oceans into mantle and ultimately back to the surface,” Hauri said.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....132705.htm

    Dr. Falkowski sums all this up nicely here:

    The Microbial Engines That Drive Earth’s Biogeochemical Cycles – Falkowski 2008
    Excerpt: Microbial life can easily live without us; we, however, cannot survive without the global catalysis and environmental transformations it provides. – Paul G. Falkowski – Professor Geological Sciences – Rutgers
    http://www.genetics.iastate.edu/delong1.pdf

  5. Also of related note, photosynthesis, which we have evidence of in the oldest sedimentary rocks on earth,

    The Sudden Appearance Of Photosynthetic Life On Earth – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4262918

    When did oxygenic photosynthesis evolve? – Roger Buick – 2008
    Excerpt:,, U–Pb data from ca 3.8?Ga metasediments suggest that this metabolism could have arisen by the start of the geological record. Hence, the hypothesis that oxygenic photosynthesis evolved well before the atmosphere became permanently oxygenated seems well supported.
    http://rstb.royalsocietypublis...../2731.long

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

    this photosynthesis, of which all higher life is ultimately dependent on for food,,,,requires a ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, cause to explain its effect,,,

    Plants ‘seen doing quantum physics’ – By Jason Palmer – 21 June 2013
    Excerpt: “What you see here is this photon comes in, and it sees many energy pathways,” explained Prof van Hulst. “Where does it go? It goes to the one that’s most efficient, the one where this quantum effect tells you it has the highest probability (of being put to use),” he told BBC News.
    But the soft, flexible, warm conditions at room temperature mean that, as things move and jiggle – as life tends to do – that most efficient path can change. Remarkably, so did the evident path along the rings. ,,,- “this for me is something shocking,” Prof van Hulst continued.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/scie.....t-22996054

    At the 21:00 minute mark of the following video, Dr Suarez explains why photosynthesis requires a ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, cause to explain its effect:

    Nonlocality of Photosynthesis – Antoine Suarez – video – 2012
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....ge#t=1268s

    Verse quote and music:

    John 1:4
    In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

    “The Light was brighter than hundreds of suns, but it did not hurt my eyes. I had never seen anything as luminous or as golden as this Light, and I immediately understood it was entirely composed of love, all directed at me. This wonderful, vibrant love was very personal, as you might describe secular love, but also sacred.
    Though I had never seen God, I recognized this light as the Light of God. But even the word God seemed too small to describe the magnificence of that presence. I was with my Creator, in holy communication with that presence. The Light was directed at me and through me; it surrounded me and pierced me. It existed just for me.” –
    testimony from Kimberly Clark Sharp’s Near Death Experience

    Toby Mac (In The Light)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_MpGRQRrP0

  6. Although the pathway from microbes to complex thinking beings like humans may still be a very difficult one, at least we know the mechanism whereby it happens — Darwinian evolution.

    “It just happened, that’s all,” is not a mechanism.

  7. at least he admits biology is very very very complex at even the most “simple ‘ level. Thats why they are not smart enough to create life from raw materials in the backyard.
    its most likely complex because a intelligent being made it in the first place.
    A line of reasoning.

  8. It would be essential to define attributes which would make an ‘alien bacteria’. I am not sure that would be any easier than searching for signals from outerspace. Let’s see what Paul Davies comes up with.

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