OOL discussion - from the "Discussion of Big Science" thread

Continuing the discussion from Discussion of Big Science Today, by an Important Member of the National Association of Scholars:

From the first paragraph of the results of the paper I pointed to:

" As we investigated the photoreactions of the products and putative intermediates of the CO2 reduction network with SO3 2–, the photoredox chemistry of one product – glycolate 5 – stood out. Acetate 6 (16.2 mM), malonate 8 (0.1 mM), sulfoacetate 29 (7.8 mM), citrate 30 (0.2 mM), rac- tartrate 9a (1.5 mM), meso -tartrate 9b (1.0 mM), malate 31 (2.9 mM), succinate 32 (1.1 mM) and hydroxycitrate 33 (0.19 mM) along with C1 products were detected by 1H-NMR spectroscopy after 6 hours irradiation of glycolate 5 (50 mM) and SO3 2– (100 mM)"

It doesn’t get more hands-off than that. A one-pot reaction in realistic prebiotic conditions that yields, among other things, crucial Krebs cycle intermediates.

@Eddie, yer in luck on this. Nick Lane has just published an entire book that describes, among other things, the relevance of the Krebs cycle to the origin of life. The chemistry mentioned above is not just a bunch of carboxylic acids being formed. Any steps towards the Krebs cycle are important.


Oh, geez! I had better get finished re-reading The Vital Question (over my head, but fascinating to the extent that I understand it) so that I can pick that one up. He’s a great writer.


I for one can’t wait for OSIRIS-REx returns in september 2023 with samples from asteroid Bennu, just to see what kinds of molecules have formed on their own under circumstances that completely eliminate any possibility of contamination(might not be relevant to the origin of life directly, but will still say something about how blind physical processes can build organic molecules).

Bennu was chosen as the target of study because it is a “time capsule” from the birth of the Solar System.[21] Bennu has a very dark surface and is classified as a B-type asteroid, a sub-type of the carbonaceous C-type asteroids. Such asteroids are considered “primitive”, having undergone little geological change from their time of formation. In particular, Bennu was selected because of the availability of pristine carbonaceous material, a key element in organic molecules necessary for life as well as representative of matter from before the formation of Earth. Organic molecules, such as amino acids, have previously been found in meteorite and comet samples, indicating that some ingredients necessary for life can be naturally synthesized in outer space.

Older than 4.5 billion years and millions of miles from Earth is as “hands off” as it is possible to get.


You are thinking like a rational person, not like a creationist.

Whichever “intelligent designer” created those compounds on earth could have created them there, as well.

Now I’m glad I agreed to teach Biochemistry in the spring. I can order this with department funds.:blush:


This will be a great resource! Lane gives a fascinating overview of the history of the field, with many tidbits that may resonate with students. He also ties the Krebs cycle in, not only with the OOL, but with cancer (among other things). I agree with @Puck_Mendelssohn that Lane is a great writer.


The asteroid or the book?

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:laughing: Well, my department chair did say “buy whatever you need.”


Regarding OoL, I have occasionally asked others what they would do if/when science delivers convincing description of life’s origin. The response is often a refusal to even consider the hypothetical question. One YEC gentleman said it would destroy his beliefs, which I think was honest but misguided. Still, I find this a useful way to turn the discussion to the real question.


Personally, whether or not it is the “real question”, I would find discussion of recent findings in OOL research far more interesting than that of how creationists react to these findings.

I guess that if you have horrible reasons for believing, you can then discard those beliefs for reasons which are equally horrible. It doesn’t give one much faith in the human capacity for reason, that’s for sure.


I used to ask my Biology students a similar question. Responses were split about 50/50 between students who refused to accept the premise of the question (“science will never do that”) and students who wrote “it wouldn’t affect my faith at all”. Only rarely would a student write that it would cause them to rethink some things or possibly shake their faith. But I wondered how many of the “it wouldn’t affect my faith” students were overly confident in their beliefs in the way that 19 year olds can be.


My sense is that it is somewhat a function of the rigidity of the underlying beliefs. I find Bart Ehrman a kind of interesting case that way: driven to agnosticism by the “problem of evil,” seemingly because he was raised in a really inflexible faith, while others raised in a more flexible faith look at the problem of evil and say, “meh – try not to make it worse.”

So if the only god you can imagine is one who poofs whole organisms into being by waving his mighty tentacles and willing that it should be so, then the discovery that this probably isn’t how it went down is a disaster, while the more flexible believer says, “meh – I didn’t really think it happened that way anyhow.”


So many of my students were taught “science can’t explain it, therefore God.” I had a colleague who made a career out of it.


That’s odd…I’m more interested in the psychology that Dan is describing.

Ehrman was actually raised Episcopalian, converted to born-again Evangelical in his teens, lost faith in the inerrancy of the Bible due to his studies and converted back to Episcopalian, and remained a liberal Christian for 15 years before the ‘problem of evil’, as you say, drove him to agnosticism.

This probably renders Ehrman’s dynamic rather too complex to be a good exemplar of the phenomenon you are talking about (though I’m not claiming that it doesn’t exist).

Based on the amount of time you (we) spend responding to creationists, that must be interesting too. :wink:

He was a hard core devote his retirement to YEC missionary work sort. He was always completely honest about his motivation (the Bible). Though we disagreed strenuously, he was easier to talk to than some. He would consider reasonable arguments without necessarily accepting them.

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Funny…either I did not know that at all, or had forgotten it. But yes, you’re right that this does make him a poor example of what I was describing, doggone it.

That makes sense. People like that are much more genuine than the rank-and-file or the religious elites, in my experience.

I would think that missionaries need to be better listeners than speakers.

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Yes, just not as interesting. By now, I think I understand the thinking of creationists much better than I do OOL research. :slight_smile:

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