David Baum (U of Wisconsin) talk on OOL as a chemical ecological problem


I liked that talk a lot. I saw it a few months ago and didn’t know about the work by David Baum at the time. The kind of work he does is of a different nature than in typically seen in so-called “bottom up” chemistry. It’s more hands-free, open-ended, and exploratory in nature. A type of experiment of the “what happens if we just let it run?”-type, in the style of actually simulating a plausible archaean environment, rather than deliberately setting up fortuitous conditions.

When I criticize James Tour’s conclusions (and the reasoning he employs to reach them) in his essay, it’s not that I disagree with many of the issues he raise against some of the research going on in the OOL field. I have read my fair share of papers where I had to simply shake my head. Things are taken for granted they have no business taking for granted. Key factors in plausibility are simply not assessed, and hosts of other problems.

There are many scientists who agree these problems in the field are widespread. But it isn’t fair to paint the entire field as suffering from these problems, and it isn’t possible to take these criticisms to the conclusion that chemistry has shown that life should not exist. Because it simply hasn’t.


I really agree with this.

How would you go about mapping out a middle ground position? One that finds some points of agreement with Tour, even though you go the entire way with him

If Tour had said “It will be very difficult, perhaps not even possible, to explain the origin of life” then I would have agreed with him. But his choice of words greatly overstated the issue.