We sometimes see creationists asking: “If it’s so natural for life to start from non-living chemicals, then how some it isn’t happening all the time?
The usual answer is that if it were to happen, we’d probably never notice it because some new configuration of a microbe would be tiny and the oceans are huge. Besides that, it would quickly be devoured by the kinds of life we already see, so once life evolves and gets a good foothold, it’s unlikely that something totally new would ever have a chance to become established. That’s why everything we see has evolved from one early form of life.
It tough enough for existing species to survive in this world — something new has virtually no chance at all. The available niches are already occupied. So it’s probably the case that yes, from time to time, new life does evolve from non-living chemicals, but it won’t get very far. A global ecosystem is likely to develop only once per habitable planet.
Which brings us to a couple of articles we recently found at PhysOrg. They indicate that unusual, very unexpected forms of life can evolve and thrive — in isolated habitats. Check out these two stories:
The first is Strange alien slime discovered living beneath the Nullarbor Plain. It says:
Deep in water-filled underground caves beneath Australia’s Nullarbor Plain, cave divers have discovered unusual ‘curtains’ of biological material – known as Nullarbor cave slimes.
The paper on that is in the International Society for Microbial Ecology, but we can’t find it to give you a link unless we log in there, and that’s too much trouble. Let’s continue with PhysOrg:
“Earlier studies on the community suggested that there was an unusual chemistry going on in the caves, but we didn’t know how the microbes were making a living in the cave environment,” says the lead scientist Professor Ian Paulsen, Macquarie University.
We’ll skip to the end:
The research team says this analysis shows that the organisms make up the Weebubbie cave slime community make their living in a very unusual way – by oxidizing ammonia in the salty cave water – and are completely independent of sunlight and ecosystems on the surface. “It just goes to show that life in the dark recesses of the planet comes in many strange forms, many of which are still unknown,” says Professor Paulsen.
But wait — there’s more than one alien life form out there. We also found this: Russia finds ‘new bacteria’ in Antarctic lake. As with the Australian cave slime, note the isolated environment. The article says:
Russian scientists believe they have found a wholly new type of bacteria in the mysterious subglacial Lake Vostok in Antarctica, the RIA Novosti news agency reported on Thursday. The samples obtained from the underground lake in May 2012 contained a bacteria which bore no resemblance to existing types, said Sergei Bulat of the genetics laboratory at the Saint Petersburg Institute of Nuclear Physics.
“After putting aside all possible elements of contamination, DNA was found that did not coincide with any of the well-known types in the global database,” he said.
It seems that the intelligent designer still has a trick or two we haven’t seen yet. The article continues:
The discovery comes from samples collected in an expedition in 2012 where a Russian team drilled down to the surface of Lake Vostok, which is believed to have been covered by ice for more than a million years but has kept its liquid state.
Pay attention to this:
Bulat said that the interest surrounded one particular form of bacteria whose DNA was less than 86 percent similar to previously existing forms. “In terms of work with DNA this is basically zero. A level of 90 percent usually means that the organism is unknown.”
He said it was not even possible to find the genetic descendants of the bacteria. “If this had been found on Mars everyone would have undoubtedly said there is life on Mars. But this is bacteria from Earth.”
Okay, that’s enough. You can click over there to read both articles if you like. But one thing seems certain: We ain’t no kin to no Australian cave slime, or to that Antarctic bacteria either.
Addendum: The Russian find in Antarctica may be bogus. See Russia admits no new life form found in Antarctic lake.
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