left biblioblography: LIFE FROM ABOVE

Saturday, September 23, 2006

LIFE FROM ABOVE

Some say that life rained from above. The sweet kiss of life upon primordial soup, however, is said by some to have been brought here not by some divine set of lips, or by a happenstance bolt of lightning into primal stew, but by extra-terrestrial hailstones.

A rather rough kiss, I might add.

The creationists often quote Fred Hoyle. Problem is, that Sir Hoyle was actually a panspermatist, most definitely NOT a creationist.

[Author’s note: I am using the term interchangeably, but exogenesis is what I actually am leaning more towards:”Panspermia is the hypothesis that the seeds of life are ubiquitous in the Universe, that they may have delivered life to Earth, and that they may deliver or have delivered life to other habitable bodies; also the process of such delivery.
Exogenesis is a related, but less radical, hypothesis that simply proposes life originated elsewhere in the Universe and was transferred to Earth, with no prediction about how widespread life is. The term "panspermia" is more well-known, however, and tends to be used in reference to what would properly be called exogenesis, too.”]

Here is the answers.com entry (I have boldened the context dropping of the ID/creationists, by the way):

Rejection of chemical evolution
“In his later years, Hoyle became a staunch critic of theories of chemical evolution to explain the naturalistic Origin of life. With Chandra Wickramasinghe, Hoyle promoted the theory that life evolved in space, spreading through the universe via panspermia, and that evolution on earth is driven by a steady influx of viruses arriving via comets.
In his 1981/4 book Evolution from Space (co-authored with Chandra Wickramasinghe), he calculated that the chance of obtaining the required set of enzymes for even the simplest living cell was one in 1040,000. Since the number of atoms in the known universe is infinitesimally tiny by comparison (1080), he argued that even a whole universe full of primordial soup wouldn’t have a chance. He claimed:
The notion that not only the biopolymer but the operating program of a living cell could be arrived at by chance in a primordial organic soup here on the Earth is evidently nonsense of a high order.
Hoyle compared the random emergence of even the simplest cell to the likelihood that "a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein." Hoyle also compared the chance of obtaining even a single functioning protein by chance combination of amino acids to a solar system full of blind men solving Rubik's Cube simultaneously. [1]
These analogies have been rejected by biologists as a straw man argument. Richard Dawkins, for example, wrote in The Blind Watchmaker:
If he'd said 'chance' instead of 'natural selection' he'd have been right. Indeed, I regretted having to expose him as one of the many toilers under the profound misapprehension that natural selection is chance.
The evolution of complex systems can occur by means of a ladder of stratified stability. The Nobel Prize-winning chemist Manfred Eigen (beginning in 1971 with an influential theoretical paper) and his collaborators have considered in some detail how a genetic code could get going.
Other controversies:
Further occasions on which Hoyle aroused controversy included his questioning the authenticity of fossil Archaeopteryx and his condemnation of the failure to include Jocelyn Bell in the Nobel Prize award recognising the development of radio interferometry and its role in the discovery of pulsars. Hoyle played an important role in determining the nature of the pulsing radio signals (from the pulsar), but was also excluded from the prize. Hoyle had a famous heated argument with Martin Ryle of the Cavendish Radio Astronomy Group about Hoyle's Steady State Universe which somewhat restricted collaboration between the Cavendish Radio Astronomy Group and the Institute of Astronomy during the 1960s.”
I have been visiting the website, http://www.panspermia.com recently, and find much of this fascinating.

But there is proof (somewhat disputed, see the disputed section of the answers.com entry) that meteorites may have delivered extra-terrestrial microorganisms, which punctures many of the creationists’ myths, such as:
Second Law of Thermodynamics: “It is occasionally claimed that the Second Law is incompatible with autonomous self-organisation, or even the coming into existence of complex systems. The entry self-organisation explains how this claim is a misconception.” In application to closed systems. Obviously, if external forces can…deflower our atmosphere, then it is by no means isolated. If our planet isn’t isolated, then the probabilities are proportionately cut down to size.

I found this very amusing:

“This one is venerable and quite old within the scientific community, which posits that life on Earth may have been seeded from elsewhere in the cosmos. Panspermia was trotted out for the “Scopes II” trial in the 1980s, when Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinge were among the few first-rank scientists to openly disbelieve the standard Origins model — the one that posits life appeared independently out of nonliving chemicals in Earth’s early oceans. Their calculations (since then refuted) suggested that it would take hundreds of oceans and many times the age of the Earth for random chemistry to achieve a workable, living cell.
Alas for the Creationists of that day, Hoyle and Wickramasinge did not turn out to be useful as friendly experts, because their alternative offered no comfort to the biblical Genesis story. They pointed out that our galaxy probably contains a whole lot more than a few hundred Earth oceans. Multiplying the age of the Milky Way times many billions of possible planets — and comets too — they readily conceded that random chance could make successful cells, eventually, on one world or another. (Or, possibly, in the liquid interiors of trillions of newborn comets.) All it would take then are asteroid impacts ejecting hardy cells into the void for life to then spread gradually throughout the cosmos. Perhaps it might even be done deliberately, once a single lucky source world achieved intelligence through … well … evolution. (Needless to say, Creationists found Hoyle & Wickramasinge a big disappointment.)”

From what I’ve culled from TV lawyer shows – one should always make the minimum effort to ‘prep’ the witnesses, shouldn’t they?

The website, Common Ancestry, is a fairly interesting place to investigate. Common Ancestry is a sort of hybrid, as pointed out in the intro page:”We are calling the union of Lovelock's Gaia with Hoyle and Wickramasinghe's expanded theory of panspermia Cosmic Ancestry.”

Thus far, haven’t found anything as radical as Lovelock’s postulation of “proposing and popularizing the Gaia hypothesis, in which he postulates that the Earth functions as a kind of superorganism (a term coined by Lynn Margulis).”

I understand Lovelock has softened his theorem somewhat. It’s a little out there, I’ll admit.

At this juncture, there’s some circumstantial evidence for exogenesis (see the answers.com entry under Evidence), but nothing conclusive.

Some of my own problems are that
  1. The Cosmic Ancestry proponents deny the big bang.

  2. They posit that life is eternal, i.e., life springs solely from life, without any beginning.

  3. The website lists an example that has been debunked (the Orgueil meteorite). In fairness, this is juxtaposed by some relevant data, such as the Murchison meteorite.

  4. There are a few problems with some of the info – it states in a few places that the big bang theory (the term Hoyle coined while criticizing it) stipulates that ‘everything came out of nothing’ (which isn’t my understanding at all…I have consistently maintained that matter/energy has always existed, and have asked multiple times for a source quote where ANY physicist of note says this: de nada.)

  5. The concept propounded is that life begets life – ergo, life is and always has been eternal. At some point, everything (except matter/energy) has some sort of beginning the way I see it.

In a nutshell, it’s a novel approach; it offers a semi-viable third alternative to the excluded middle polarization issues between abiogenesis and ID, it deflates the ‘isolated system’ concept (thereby puncturing the equilibrium of the ‘violation of the 2nd law of Thermodynamics’, hehehehe), and it adds a possible angle to the Cambrian explosion.

In short, I’ll date this one, not exclusively, nor will I give it my class ring. By no means am I married to the idea.

Nor am I even getting within arm’s reach of Francis Crick’s concept of Directed Panspermia – even if one of my favorite shows, Star Trek had an episode exploring this: “The Chase”. There’s way too many wack-a-doofs positing this, from the Scientologists to the Raelians, on far too little evidence other than a warm ‘n fuzzy feeling.

And that, dear readers, is my nickel’s worth. Spend it, or donate it to charity.

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18 comments:

say no to christ said...

Ka
Thanks, that was a very interesting piece of information. I wounder if Carl Sagan could be concidered a panspermatist? "we are all made of stardust." Or is there another term for people who believe that the universe is all made of the same stuff?

Krystalline Apostate said...

SNTC:
Or is there another term for people who believe that the universe is all made of the same stuff?
Exogenesist? ;)

mxracer652 said...

Well, we are all made of ordinary matter, good enough for me.

Stardust1954 said...

From an essay I wrote some years ago while taking an astronomy course in college. It's a cool way of thinking about the no beginning and no end concept:

"We Are Stardust"

There is not one thing in the entire vast universe that remains as it is. Every thing, living or inanimate, changes. Some say even the universe itself will at some point in the incomprehensible infinity contract inside itself, swallowing every atom and molecule up, then will be born again with the next "big bang" and our recycled particles will begin anew.

Mesoforte said...

The remains of stars are what make all the other elements beside hydrogen and helium (or that's what I remember from my last Astronomy class), so I guess 'we are made of stardust' is accurate.

Krystalline Apostate said...

mxracer:
Well, we are all made of ordinary matter, good enough for me.
That made me chuckle deeply, I don't know why.

stardust:
There is not one thing in the entire vast universe that remains as it is.
Thx for coming by. You should drop in more often.
Everything in flux, nothing in stasis.

I recall, well over a decade ago, reading a newspaper article in the S.F Chronicle about 'space aliens' in our drinking water. Can't find it on the 'net now (because I google about a zillion hits on all the UFOists out there).
6 mos. later, the Nat'l Enquirer pasted it across their headline.
I find this an interesting idea. Problem is, in current pop culture, when you mention alien microorganisms, everyone thinks you're a loon. Thx to movies like 'It came from outer space!', MIB, X-Files.
Of course there are limits.

say no to christ said...

About a year ago I watched a program about nano-oragnisms on mars that a woman discovered. Has anyone else heard or know anything about it?

Mesoforte said...

SNTC-

The fossils they found in a meteorite?

Krystalline Apostate said...

SNTC:
http://www.answers.com/ALH%2084001
"In September 2005, Vicky Hamilton of the University of Hawaii at Manoa presented an analysis of the origin of ALH84001 using data from the Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey spacecraft orbiting Mars. According to the analysis, Eos Chasma in the Valles Marineris canyon appears to be the source of the meteorite [6]. The analysis was not conclusive, in part because it was limited to parts of Mars not obscured by dust."
Is that what you mean?

say no to christ said...

Here is a link on nano-organisms from Mars. I'm not sure if this is the same woman. If I saw a picture of the woman I could say for sure

http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s20156.htm

http://www2.jpl.nasa.gov/snc/news30.html

Beowulf said...

K-Apostate:

“Here is the answers.com entry (I have boldened the context dropping of the ID/creationists, by the way)”

Are there creationist using Hoyle’s quotes inappropriately? I usually stay away from internet creationist material. Can you point me to some examples?

“There are a few problems with some of the info – it states in a few places that the big bang theory (the term Hoyle coined while criticizing it) stipulates that ‘everything came out of nothing’ (which isn’t my understanding at all…I have consistently maintained that matter/energy has always existed, and have asked multiple times for a source quote where ANY physicist of note says this: de nada.”

Do you have a source quote where a physicist of note says matter and energy is eternal (post 1980’s)? I don’t think physicists make this claim. The problem is they can only extrapolate matter and energy within time/space (T). So as far back as one can go is T = 0 (or as close to 0 as they can get). Making assertions of anything T -1 is idle speculation within testable science (at least at this point). So I don’t think one can assert that matter/energy always existed without stepping outside of testability. However, it is still a possibility.

Panspermia is an interesting theory. I am not sure how this is falsifiable or testable, but this theory still has some difficult problems to overcome (origins, distances etc…).

Krystalline Apostate said...

BF:
Are there creationist using Hoyle’s quotes inappropriately? I usually stay away from internet creationist material. Can you point me to some examples?
I’ve seen it used before on blogversations. Answering genesis quotes him, but qualifies the background. It may or may not be inappropriate in some instances. Why do you stay away from ‘net creationists?
Do you have a source quote where a physicist of note says matter and energy is eternal (post 1980’s)?
Hey, no fair! I asked 1st! ;)
I don’t think physicists make this claim. The problem is they can only extrapolate matter and energy within time/space (T). So as far back as one can go is T = 0 (or as close to 0 as they can get). Making assertions of anything T -1 is idle speculation within testable science (at least at this point). So I don’t think one can assert that matter/energy always existed without stepping outside of testability. However, it is still a possibility.
I think it’s a fair presupposition until proven otherwise. You have to remember, that the big bang was (supposed) to be a condensation of matter before it exploded. Where did the matter come from, then?
Panspermia is an interesting theory. I am not sure how this is falsifiable or testable, but this theory still has some difficult problems to overcome (origins, distances etc…).
It’s still being looked at, & researched. A big problem is contamination, because most meteors/meteorites impact the earth & pick up microbes (as per the Orgueil metorite). It’s difficult, but not impossible, to test & falsify. If I recall rightly, earth is constantly bombarded w/interstellar fragments. 1 is likely to get thru occasionally? Who’s to say that 1 of these didn’t punctuate the equilibrium of the florinella (sp?) of the Cambrian explosion? With or w/o ET microbes?
That’s just idle speculation, BTW.

Aaron Kinney said...

Hey KA,

I finally posted a reply to the book list. Here it is!

http://goosetheantithesis.blogspot.com/2006/09/i-got-tagged-by-ka.html

Krystalline Apostate said...

Aaron:
Oy, I'd forgotten all about it!;)

mxracer652 said...

KA:that the big bang was (supposed) to be a condensation of matter before it exploded. Where did the matter come from, then? Don't forget matter can be created from energy, and vice versa. The ingredient of the bang was energy in slightly non-uniform regions.

The early universe did undergo nucleosynthesis, as it cooled, creating matter.

Matter is energy as governed by E=mc^2. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, and is eternal.

Krystalline Apostate said...

mxracer:
Yeah, I tend to use the terms matter & energy interchangeably now, which I shouldn't.

Beowulf said...

K-Apostate:

“Why do you stay away from ‘net creationists?

Internet creationists seem to be contaminated with Hovindian ad argumentium. That is, they get copies of his un-copyrighted material and treat it like it’s some earth shaking devastation to evolution. In addition, most of the argumentation is out dated (such as moon dust etc...) Many creationist sites are just parroting others; there is no independent research being conducted or distinguishing conclusions. Though, I haven’t done much exploring so I could be wrong. So I kinda look at the internet creation sites like I do the tele-evangelical shows; unrepresentative and sometimes embarrassing.

Krystalline Apostate said...

BF:
So I kinda look at the internet creation sites like I do the tele-evangelical shows; unrepresentative and sometimes embarrassing.
I take it you're unimpressed w/Hovind?
Have you tried contacting any of these folks, point out their errors?
At the risk of being a gentleman, here's a site that seems to be far more scientific in its approach:
http://www.thedesignmatrix.com/content/
I think this is a prime example of what your side of the fence needs to do in order to be taken seriously.
There's an interesting post at http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2006/08/interesting_paul_nelson_post.php - where a contributor to the Panda's Thumb actually AGREES w/a post of an ID advocate.
This is something I've been saying all along (albeit others have said it better): ID needs to contribute, & do research, instead of generating negative PR.

As a sidenote, I found this at thedesignmatrix, found it interesting:
http://lincei-celebrazioni.it/pubblicazioni/rendicontiFMN/rol/visabs.php?lang=en&type=fis&fileId=104