Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bogus Abiogenesis

I'm quoting the narrative from this corny Youtube video
for pure entertainment value.

Its really quite the load of B.S.:

I'll be analysing it shortly:


 The Origin of Life Made Easy  
When Bill O'Reilly asked Kirk Cameron to give his best shot in
proving the existence of God this is what he said:

"The fact that there's a painting proves there must be a painter;
The human body proves there must be a designer because of its complexity  and because of the information we can see down at the DNA level"

The problem for fundamentalists like Cameron is that this argument can be too easily  flattened.  In this video I want to show what scientists have actually deduced about the origins of life, so let's start by putting the 'artist and painting' myth to rest.

Why can't paintings paint themselves? 
Simple: Because they're made of chemicals that can't replicate themselves.
Living matter on the other hand does contain a chemical that can replicate itself. Even if God made DNA he doesn't need to intervene every time animals mate. The DNA does the job on its own. So the real question is, how did DNA appear?

How did living matter come from non living sludge?
Here again fundamentalists need to drop a common argument that seems to be based  on complete ignorance of current scientific hypotheses, which is this:
"Scientists believe life just popped out of nowhere."

Of course that's not what scientists believe.
Life popping out of nowhere is no better a theory
than life popping out of the hand of a deity.
So what do scientists believe about the origin of life?

Let's take this step-by-step: 
The first step involves looking at the primordial earth 4.7 billion years ago.

There it is, very wet, very warm and with an atmosphere composed of all sorts of gases;
 hydrogen, hydrogen cyanide, methane, and ammonia among them.

Step 1: Formation of Nucleotides

DNA is a long chain molecule made from just four different types of nucleotide, so the first question is where did the nucleotides come from. 

In 1961 a researcher called Huan Oto left hydrogen cyanide and ammonia
to stew in an aqeous solution in his laboratory under conditions
very similar to those that prevailed on the primordial earth.

Left alone the solution produced adenine, one of the four nucleotide bases that make up DNA.

  To make a complete nucleotide these bases need to gain a sugar called Ribose, and a group of phosphates.

Biochemist think they know how the phosphate group formed.
They are now trying to find out how the ribose is attached.

Step 2: Nucleotides to Polynucleotides

------------------------- >

Once nucleotides formed, the next step was to join together to make chains called polynucleotides.


 In the 1980s researchers found that a clay called montmorillonite, which was abundant on the primordial seafloor and in hot pools of water on land, is the perfect catalyst for this process.


Step 3:  Polynucleotides to RNA


Some of these long polynucleotide chains like ribonucleic acid or RNA are able to make copies of themselves.  The copies aren't always perfect: mistakes creep in.  But some imperfectly copied molecules would have been better adapted to the environment than others.

These successful molecules continue to replicate and pass on their traits,  while weaker or less well adapted molecules would have broken apart.

Step 4:  RNA to Protocells

As RNA molecules replicated themselves, they shared their environment with other chemicals that thrive in montmorillonite clay.

One group, called lipids, have a natural tendency to clump together, to form spherical structures called mycells.

RNA molecules that attracted these lipids,

would therefore find themselves protected inside a mycell membrane.

Because they were better protected, they better survived and replicated
more successfully.  There you have the first primitive cells.  They looked nothing like the complex cells we have today for a very good reason:  Over 3.7 billion years they've evolved. 

I'll tackle the subject of evolution in another video.

Step 5:  RNA to DNA

Over 100s of millions of years RNA grew more complex. 

The single-strand became a double-strand and the better-adapted DNA molecule evolved.

One of the differences between RNA and DNA is that DNA needs proteins to replicate itself.

Proteins are made of amino acids, which are often called the building blocks of life.

Step 6: Formation of Amino Acids

So where did the first ones come from?
No, there was no need for God:

----- >


A number of experiments using montmorillonite have produced not only amino acids, but long chains of amino acids called polypeptides.


Montmorillonite it turns out, is a natural breeding ground
for all kinds of complex organic chemicals.

It has to be said that this research is in its infancy and current hypotheses are nowhere near as solid as the Theory of Evolution,  which has been around for 150 years, and has overwhelming evidence to support it.

But the reality is a far cry from the idea that scientists believe life popped out of nowhere. If God did indeed create life then where did he come in? Step one?  - step two?  and why?  If the chemical process can happen on its own, why would God intervene at all?

Before I go I just want to look at a couple of other hoary old arguments that are being used, and which also show a complete ignorance of science.

"It's impossible for simple chemicals to form more complex chemicals
without intvervention."

Just because creationist websites like to pass this myth around doesn't make it true. We know it's not true.  Left alone, organic chemicals can and do polymerize, to form longer more complex chemicals.

"But this goes against the Law of Thermodynamics."

Oh that sad argument: The fact is that the natural formation of replicating chemicals doesn't conflict with any of the laws of thermodynamics.
People who make that argument need to read the law, because I suspect most of them have never done so and are just mindlessly repeating an urban myth, that's already been debunked.

As I've said we still have a lot more to learn about this process.
Researchers know that there are many more intermediate steps that we haven't  yet discovered. 

And when all of them are found, there will still be fundamentalists around
 to say, "Ah, but you can't prove that this is how life started on earth."
No, we probably never will.  But what we can say is if there's a natural process by which the first replicating molecules appeared on earth,  then we don't need to invent Gods, goddesses and other invisible deities to explain it.  Ultimately this isn't a guessing game, it's a detective trail.'  
End of video text

-- Uploaded by potholer54 on Nov 13, 2008         

The video explains current ideas as to how life might have originated on Earth. The idea that inorganic mud can miraculously turn into cells is a claim made in the Bible and the Qu'ran, not science. What biologists are trying to do is understand how carbon-based chemicals combine to form nucleotides, the building blocks of replicating chemicals. The chemistry is complex, but it's starting to be understood, and it's not magical.

Please also see The Origin of Life - Abiogenesis by cdk007
which gives an excellent description on the latest hypotheses about cell formation. 
Okay, there's the text with some snaps from the video.

I'll critique it as time permits.


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