Ben Bova: The Search For Life’s Origins

Ben Bova, the science fiction author, lives in Naples Florida, and sometimes writes for the local paper. He has this article in the Naples Daily News: On Earth, the search for life’s origins. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

The quest to find other worlds on which life exists is closely tied to the question of how life began here on Earth. Is there life elsewhere in the universe? Did life on Earth arise spontaneously out of non-living chemicals? Or are we, and the world we live in, the act of a supernatural power who built this planet, seeded it with life, and created the human race?

That’s the question. Let’s read on:

Many religious faithful find fault with Charles Darwin and his concept of evolution precisely because it seems to remove God from the explanation of who we are and how we came to be.

Therefore, despite all the evidence, creationists continue to deny the reality of evolution. We continue:

Ah, but where did life come from originally? The same old question still awaits an answer. Can science show how life arose out of non-living materials? Or must we conclude that life was created by forces beyond scientific explanation?

Well, what are the answers? Here’s more:

Researchers at the University of Manchester, in England, have successfully produced a unit of RNA out of non-living chemical ingredients. They have duplicated steps that probably happened in nature nearly 4 billion years ago, steps that led to the creation of life in Earth’s early history.

Here’s an article about that from Science News: Scientists identify chemical reactions that could be responsible for the origin of life. Moving along with Bova’s article:

Since 1953, scientists have been able to synthesize amino acids in their laboratories. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Now they have created a building block of RNA. What the scientists have done in months of work, in lab flasks, nature apparently did in the vast oceans and shores of Earth over millions of years.

This is powerful evidence that life arose on Earth quite naturally. Opponents of this explanation for life’s origin claim that it’s ludicrous to expect inert chemicals to just happen to randomly combine in such a way as to produce life. The probabilities strain belief, they say.

Ah yes, the odds are against it, or so they say. We’ve discussed that at length, here. Another excerpt from Bova’s article:

But chemicals don’t combine at random, as anyone who has suffered through high-school chemistry will remember. Chemicals are rather choosy about how they combine. Scientists have shown how simple chemicals tend to build up into more complex molecules, producing an “organic soup” in which all the ingredients for life were present. Now they have produced the building blocks both for proteins and RNA. No special outside force needed: ordinary organic chemistry does the job.

Blasphemy! One last excerpt:

Religious faithful need not be dismayed, though. If you believe that God created life on Earth (and on other worlds, too) all the scientists are doing are showing the steps involved in the creation.

Somehow, we suspect that won’t comfort the creationists. This is a good article. Click over to the Naples Daily News and read the whole thing.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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