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EvC Forum Science Forums Origin of Life

# Abiogenisis by the Numbers

Author Topic:   Abiogenisis by the Numbers
Loudmouth
Inactive Member

 Message 151 of 206 (160140) 11-16-2004 3:02 PM Reply to: Message 150 by dshortt11-16-2004 2:47 PM

Re: Calculations
quote:
First off, it is highly doubtful that there are a billion planets that could support life.

A billion planets would be one per galaxy, since there are conservativley one billion galaxies. A billion planets may actually be a low estimate. If there are 100 planets per galaxy that could support life, then we jump to 100 billion planets.

The probability of life occuring depends on these numbers. As an analogy, the odds of winning a lottery are about 50 million to one. For each individual (with one ticket each) the odds are astronomical. However, if 50 million people buy a ticket then a winner is very probable. For the same reason, if the odds of life arising on a planet are 50 million to one, it is still possible for life to occur through abiogenesis if there are over 50 million possible planets. According to Dembski's and other's logic, it should require 50 million separate lottery drawings before we get a winner. Obviously, this isn't true.

quote:
Next, all you end up with is protein.

The argument is that it is a trillion trillion to one for creating a SPECIFIC protein that could result in life through abiogenesis. Using those odds, it only requires the production of 250 picograms of protein per year per planet of any random protein in order to arrive at the specific protein. Again, referring to the lottery analogy, there are many possible combinations but only one is a winner. By spreading the probabilities over many tries the chance of coming up with the winner becomes very possible.

quote:
It also occurs to me that, in accordance with an earlier post, there are a ton of "conditions" that must be met for this life synthesis to even be possible.

We don't even know what all of those conditions are yet, so it is impossible to assign probabilities to these conditions. This is the mistake that Dembski makes, assuming Earth is the only place in the Universe where life could occur and secondly that we know the exact conditions that give rise to life. As I said before, if a planet exactly like Earth (within reason) occurs once per galaxy, this calculates out to one billion possible planets where life could arise through abiogenesis. If the requirements for life are less stringent, such as life occuring on both Mars and Europa, then there could easily be trillions of planets that could give rise to life. All probabilities must take these other planets into account, just as the odds of getting a lottery winner must include all those that have a ticket.

 This message is a reply to: Message 150 by dshortt, posted 11-16-2004 2:47 PM dshortt has responded

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Coragyps
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Posts: 5414
From: Snyder, Texas, USA
Joined: 11-12-2002
Member Rating: 6.0

 Message 152 of 206 (160141) 11-16-2004 3:02 PM Reply to: Message 150 by dshortt11-16-2004 2:47 PM

Re: Calculations
 First off, it is highly doubtful that there are a billion planets that could support life. Next, all you end up with is protein.

That's a different thread altogether, but with planets already detected, with not-real-sensitive instruments, around perhaps 5% of stars examined, and 10^22 or more stars in the universe, 10^9 ain't a very big number.

 This message is a reply to: Message 150 by dshortt, posted 11-16-2004 2:47 PM dshortt has not yet responded

dshortt
Inactive Member

 Message 153 of 206 (160143) 11-16-2004 3:10 PM Reply to: Message 148 by Loudmouth11-16-2004 11:35 AM

Yes, and the combustion of molecular hydrogen in the presence of molecular oxygen ALWAYS results in water, with a few exceptions. Loudmouth replied: "This repeatability is also seen in genetic systems, where certain codons ALWAYS result in a specific amino acid, where certain amino acid chains always fold into a specific enzyme, where certain bases are complimented with another base. The information for this repeatability is a characteristic of the atoms that make up larger molecules. The information needed to create a self replicating system is present in atoms, not in a nebulous metaphysical creation process."

You make this sound so inevitable that I have to wonder why self-replication has eluded the labs trying to produce up to now. I think you are describing the chemical process to produce the ink rather than realizing that a whole set of highly improbable processes are relying on the ink to get them started. And it may be that DNA is not the only home for this information, but there is clearly something going on here that is greater than the sum of the parts.

Loudmouth also said: "And where in this process is physics and chemistry not involved? Where in this process is any natural law broken? Nowhere. The same laws that govern the combustion of hydrogen govern the chemistry of life. Also, put water in a gas tank and what happens? Nothing. Specificity of reactions applies to non-life as well as life."

Interesting analogy. Put gas in the tank, but don't put a driver in the seat to turn the key and what happens: nothing again. No physical laws are broken in the manufacturing process of a car either, but here again the sum of the parts is not the same as blowing down a straightaway at 120 with the top down.

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Percy
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Posts: 19078
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.2

 Message 154 of 206 (160149) 11-16-2004 3:28 PM Reply to: Message 153 by dshortt11-16-2004 3:10 PM

Hi Dshortt,

I've just got to congratulate you. I don't agree with you, but you've done a wonderful job of staying on topic and sticking with rational arguments while not taking disagreement personally. I hope you stick around a while.

--Percy

 This message is a reply to: Message 153 by dshortt, posted 11-16-2004 3:10 PM dshortt has not yet responded

dshortt
Inactive Member

 Message 155 of 206 (160152) 11-16-2004 3:33 PM Reply to: Message 151 by Loudmouth11-16-2004 3:02 PM

Re: Calculations
Loudmouth replied: "A billion planets would be one per galaxy, since there are conservativley one billion galaxies. A billion planets may actually be a low estimate. If there are 100 planets per galaxy that could support life, then we jump to 100 billion planets."

Yes, but for the life-necessary conditions on earth to duplicated, we are talking about a much lower number. If there are say 150 criteria necessary to life and each one of these criteria has a 1 in 10 to the 10th power chances of showing up in a random planet, then the universe is not big enough to have produced even one life-supporting planet.

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pink sasquatch
Member (Idle past 4362 days)
Posts: 1567
Joined: 06-10-2004

 Message 156 of 206 (160157) 11-16-2004 3:43 PM Reply to: Message 155 by dshortt11-16-2004 3:33 PM

conditions and assumptions
 Yes, but for the life-necessary conditions on earth to duplicated, we are talking about a much lower number. If there are say 150 criteria necessary to life and each one of these...

I think there are underlying assumptions in the argument in this thread that we simply can't make. The common ID perspective is that conditions for the arisal of life are impossibly strict, and therefore were unlikely to occur on Earth. What evidence do we have to support that view?

We simply don't know enough about the nature of our planet a few billion years ago to understand how likely chemical abiogenesis would have been...

For all we know, huge portions of Earth may have been under absolutely ideal conditions for the assembly of nucleic-acid based life, and may have stayed that way for millions of years.

On the other hand, perhaps the production of self-replicating chemical systems is inevitable in a system as complex as the planet Earth. Thus the conditions on Earth didn't determine if life would arise, the conditions determined what kind of life would arise.

The assumption that chemical abiogenesis has a near impossible probability of occurring is just that - an assumption.

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dshortt
Inactive Member

 Message 157 of 206 (160166) 11-16-2004 4:07 PM Reply to: Message 156 by pink sasquatch11-16-2004 3:43 PM

Re: conditions and assumptions
Pink Sasquatch replies: "I think there are underlying assumptions in the argument in this thread that we simply can't make. The common ID perspective is that conditions for the arisal of life are impossibly strict, and therefore were unlikely to occur on Earth. What evidence do we have to support that view?"

I wouldn't think it would be too hard to take a constant (examples abound; the force of gravity, nuclear forces, the axial tilt of the earth, etc) tweak it and see if life could survive under the new conditions. Granted we are talking present, but they couldn't have been too far from what they are now on the early earth.

Pink Sasquatch also said: "For all we know, huge portions of Earth may have been under absolutely ideal conditions for the assembly of nucleic-acid based life, and may have stayed that way for millions of years."

Now that would be a huge assumption.

 This message is a reply to: Message 156 by pink sasquatch, posted 11-16-2004 3:43 PM pink sasquatch has responded

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Percy
Member
Posts: 19078
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.2

 Message 158 of 206 (160172) 11-16-2004 4:22 PM Reply to: Message 157 by dshortt11-16-2004 4:07 PM

Re: conditions and assumptions
I just wanted to point out the difference between an assumption and an "I don't know."

This contains a couple assumptions:

 dshortt writes:I wouldn't think it would be too hard to take a constant (examples abound; the force of gravity, nuclear forces, the axial tilt of the earth, etc) tweak it and see if life could survive under the new conditions. Granted we are talking present, but they couldn't have been too far from what they are now on the early earth.

One assumption is that early life wasn't too different than modern life. The other assumption is that conducting studies of the survivability of modern life under extreme conditions is relevant to early life or it's origins.

This is expression of "I don't know":

 Pink Sasquatch writes:For all we know, huge portions of Earth may have been under absolutely ideal conditions for the assembly of nucleic-acid based life, and may have stayed that way for millions of years.

Pink was merely providing the opposite end of the spectrum from your assumption that conditions on the early earth were hostile to the formation of life. He did this to make the point that we don't really know whether these conditions were hostile or not.

Nailing down probabilities on this topic is fraught with things we cannot know because uncovered too little evidence thus far to enable us to ferret out the details of conditions on the early earth.

--Percy

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pink sasquatch
Member (Idle past 4362 days)
Posts: 1567
Joined: 06-10-2004

 Message 159 of 206 (160174) 11-16-2004 4:29 PM Reply to: Message 157 by dshortt11-16-2004 4:07 PM

Re: conditions and assumptions
 I wouldn't think it would be too hard to take a constant... tweak it and see if life could survive under the new conditions.

We could, but we'd only be predicting if modern life, as we know it, could survive under the new conditions. That is another huge assumption - that the only way life can exist is in the form we know. Perhaps a gravity "tweak" that would kill life as we know would have simply changed selective forces, producing a different form life.

 Now that would be a huge assumption.[that Earth once was an ideal place for the self-assembly of life].

It is an assumption - since you call it "huge" do you have any evidence to counter it? Do you have any evidence supporting your assumption of it being an unlikely place for life to arise? If you do, I'd be interested in seeing it.

You also didn't address my point that the formation of chemical replicators (life) is inevitable in a complex system, and that the system simply determines the kind of chemical replicator that forms.

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dshortt
Inactive Member

 Message 160 of 206 (160207) 11-16-2004 5:52 PM Reply to: Message 159 by pink sasquatch11-16-2004 4:29 PM

Re: conditions and assumptions
Pink Sasquatch says: "We could, but we'd only be predicting if modern life, as we know it, could survive under the new conditions. That is another huge assumption - that the only way life can exist is in the form we know. Perhaps a gravity "tweak" that would kill life as we know would have simply changed selective forces, producing a different form life."

Maybe, but now we have compounded the problem because we must figure out abiogenisis for a life form we are not familiar with and then figure out how it transformed itself into modern life. It seems a fairly safe assumption that early life was carbon-based and required DNA or RNA. And these 150 plus criteria I spoke of are all required for carbon-based life to exist.

Pink Sasquatch also replied: "It is an assumption - since you call it "huge" do you have any evidence to counter it? Do you have any evidence supporting your assumption of it being an unlikely place for life to arise? If you do, I'd be interested in seeing it."

I don't assume the early earth was an unlikely place for life to arise. I assume that anyplace is an unlikely place for life to arise by purely natural means. If you seriously would like to see evidence however for how hostile the early earth environment is thought to have been for life to form or survive, I will be glad to supply.

And also: "You also didn't address my point that the formation of chemical replicators (life) is inevitable in a complex system, and that the system simply determines the kind of chemical replicator that forms."

Could you please define "complex system" for me. Thanks

 This message is a reply to: Message 159 by pink sasquatch, posted 11-16-2004 4:29 PM pink sasquatch has responded

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pink sasquatch
Member (Idle past 4362 days)
Posts: 1567
Joined: 06-10-2004

 Message 161 of 206 (160217) 11-16-2004 6:19 PM Reply to: Message 160 by dshortt11-16-2004 5:52 PM

Re: conditions and assumptions
 Maybe, but now we have compounded the problem because we must figure out abiogenisis for a life form we are not familiar with...

Exactly. We don't even know what the first life form was, let alone the conditions it formed under. To try to assign any numbers to these processes (or your 150 criteria) isn't possible.

 ...and then figure out how it transformed itself into modern life.

That's a problem of evolution, not abiogenesis, and shouldn't figure into abiogenesis calculations.

Do you have a way I could see the list of 150 criteria? Who came up with it?

 I assume that anyplace is an unlikely place for life to arise by purely natural means.

I guess it depends on what you mean by unlikely - but to me it is a generalized assumption based on bias rather than evidence, since we don't know the ideal conditions for abiogenesis (of potentially multiple types of life), or if they occured anywhere on this planet or others, and if they did, how long they lasted.

 If you seriously would like to see evidence however for how hostile the early earth environment is thought to have been for life to form or survive...

You mean hostile like high-temperature, high-radiation, high-pressure, high-cyanide, etc.? There are life forms on this planet that thrive in such hostile environments.

Indeed the hostile/unstable environment may have served as a reaction engine and selective force to drive abiogenesis and early evolution. In my opinion it is more probable for life to form and evolve in an unstable enviroment than a stable one - indeed, it seems that many in the abiogenesis field study "hostile" factors as key components in abiogenesis.

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Percy
Member
Posts: 19078
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.2

 Message 162 of 206 (160230) 11-16-2004 6:55 PM Reply to: Message 160 by dshortt11-16-2004 5:52 PM

Re: conditions and assumptions
 dshortt writes:It seems a fairly safe assumption that early life was carbon-based and required DNA or RNA.

This part of the assumption about DNA and RNA isn't as safe as you think. One widely accepted hypothesis is that DNA and RNA themselves had simpler predecessors. You have to somehow cast doubt on these and other alternative hypotheses to justify your assumption.

 I assume that anyplace is an unlikely place for life to arise by purely natural means. you seriously would like to see evidence however for how hostile the early earth environment is thought to have been for life to form or survive, I will be glad to supply.

I think this information is critical for formulating probabilities. If you have good recent sources for the most widely accepted hypotheses of the environment of the early earth then I think you should go ahead and present this information.

One hypothesis about the origin of life involves black smokers. They're buried deep at the bottom of the sea, are hotter than the boiling temperature of water, and are full of sulpher and poisonous heavy metals. This is pretty hostile, I'm sure you'll agree, yet black smokers contain life today, and they're one possibility for the origin of early life.

It's always a good idea to recognize the difference between what you know based on evidence versus what you think you know that's actually only an assumption.

--Percy

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Member (Idle past 3372 days)
Posts: 3428
From: Ithaca,NY, USA
Joined: 12-20-2001

 Message 163 of 206 (160413) 11-17-2004 8:46 AM Reply to: Message 161 by pink sasquatch11-16-2004 6:19 PM

Re: conditions and assumptions
Although my attention in this thread is starting to divide I will attempt to weave it all (back) together.

Yet again, we had two posters with a viable volley

quote:
To try to assign any numbers to these processes (or your 150 criteria) isn't possible.
 ...and then figure out how it transformed itself into modern life.

That's a problem of evolution, not abiogenesis, and shouldn't figure into abiogenesis calculations.

but another poster, Loudmouth, was able to reveal more to me this thread around so I WILL be attempting to gather all of the formulas I might think are necessary to compute life ASSUMING that the only Shannon Info involved is that from Classical Entropy. Loudmouth will still be in place to say this is not enough but...well lets wait for the stuffing and turkey as I really do want to try to get some numbers on this. In the mean time I was able to eliminate the possible confusion engengered in the exchange between pink and shorty I isolated.

In terms of the research program, panbiogeography as a methodology is
not testible. It is the program that determines how research is carried out.
However, that research is open to testing, not in terms of refutation, but
by corroboration. Track analysis by Croizat led to a number of
specific predictions about the geological structure of
@
http://biodiversity.uno.edu/~gophtax/_gophtax/0829.html
but here one has one person not two saying the same KIND of thing for if abiogenesis INFORMS the track width then by comparing the Shannon info of biology to perhaps a larger amount in society the temporal transformation info might be intended by the spatial biogeography quantitiatvely. Given that probability it would not be necessary to know preciely the FIRST FORM, but only that stragly enough the conclusion humanity OVERVALUED life. It would be that subsequent economic claim, NOT the correlation of abiogensis and biological change that was in incident question. If all of this just seems like Brad-speak for needed translation"", please wait. I like Percy really do appreaciate the "mental copy" that EvC now affords the intelligent reader. Thanks to all participants in this weave.

 This message is a reply to: Message 161 by pink sasquatch, posted 11-16-2004 6:19 PM pink sasquatch has not yet responded

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dshortt
Inactive Member

 Message 164 of 206 (160470) 11-17-2004 10:44 AM Reply to: Message 163 by Brad McFall11-17-2004 8:46 AM

Re: conditions and assumptions
Hey Brad, before you sign off on this thread, may offer the following from Dr. Hugh Ross:

Origin of Life Predictions Face Off, at reasons.org/resources

This message has been edited by Admin, 11-17-2004 11:27 AM

This message has been edited by dshortt, 11-17-2004 12:02 PM

 This message is a reply to: Message 163 by Brad McFall, posted 11-17-2004 8:46 AM Brad McFall has responded

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dshortt
Inactive Member

 Message 165 of 206 (160471) 11-17-2004 10:46 AM Reply to: Message 163 by Brad McFall11-17-2004 8:46 AM

Re: conditions and assumptions
And also:

Recent discoveries continue to indicate that life appeared suddenly and early in Earth’s history. While substantiation for a rapid and early origin of life is fragmentary, the scientific community, by and large, views the evidence as convincing. Chemical residues of biological activity dated at greater than 3.8 billion years and fossilized bacteria recovered from rocks dated at around 3.5 billion years present primary indicators for early life.1 The incomplete nature of the evidence, the great antiquity of the rocks, and the geological processes operating on life’s remains obscure understanding of the first life on Earth, leaving many questions unanswered.

However, recent discoveries begin to address some of these questions. These new discoveries not only provide important additional support for an early origin of life, but also yield insight into the type of bacterial communities and metabolic processes at work.

The first of these new discoveries, made by an international team of scientists, uncovered fossilized bacterial remains in rocks from South Africa dated between 3.3 and 3.5 billion years in age.2 Spherical, “sausage-shaped,” and filamentous bacterial fossils in thin sections of the rock samples indicate the presence of a complex microbial ecology made up of different types of microorganisms. Additionally, the chemical make up of the bulk carbon isolated from the rock indicates that it resulted from biological processes-quite likely photosynthesis.

Researchers from Indiana University and Kanagawa University (Japan) sought to gain an understanding of early photosynthesis by employing a different approach from that of the scientists studying ancient rocks from South Africa. Working from an evolutionary perspective, these investigators compared genes from the various groups of photosynthetic bacteria that play a role in making a key molecule needed for photosynthesis.3 These scientists hoped to uncover the evolutionary origin and development of photosynthesis. Due to similarities and differences among the genes, they concluded that if evolution brought about photosynthesis, anoxygenic photosynthesis (that which occurs in the absence of oxygen) must have emerged before oxygenic (that which occurs in the presence of oxygen).

Researchers from Princeton University and the Russian Academy of Sciences, employing a chemical approach, reached a similar conclusion.4 Namely, to fit an evolutionary model, anoxygenic photosynthesis must have emerged prior to oxygenic. Remarkably, the biosynthetic routes needed to make the key molecular component of anoxygenic photosynthesis are more complex than the pathways that produce the corresponding component required for the oxygenic form.

These findings create problems for the evolutionary paradigm when examined in the context of the geological record. Fossil deposits clearly indicate the presence of a diverse collection of microbes capable of oxygenic photosynthesis on Earth 3.5 billion years ago.5 This means, from an evolutionary perspective, more complex anoxygenic photosynthesis must have been in operation well before 3.5 billion years ago. According to these results, evolutionary models for the origin of life must now account for the rapid and early appearance of photosynthesis.

The rapid and early appearance of life on Earth represents, perhaps, the most remarkable discovery in origin-of-life research. Yet this scenario does not fit within the various evolutionary portrayals of life’s origin. By emerging strictly through natural processes, life’s appearance on Earth should have taken place over a relatively long period. In contrast, the rapid and early beginning of life on Earth signifies the hallmark characteristics expected of life with a supernatural origin.

References:

Manfred Schidlowski, “A 3,800-Million Year Isotopic Record of Life from Carbon in Sedimentary Rocks,” Nature 333 (1988), 313-18; Manfred Schidlowski, “Carbon Isotopes as Biogeochemical Recorders of Life Over 3.8 Ga of Earth History: Evolution of a Concept,” Precambrian Research 106 (2001): 117-34; S. J. Mojzsis et al., “Evidence for Life on Earth before 3,800 Million Years Ago,” Nature 384 (1996), 55-59; J. William Schopf, “Microfossils of the Early Archean Apex Chert: New Evidence of the Antiquity of Life,” Science 260 (1993), 640-46.
Frances Westall et al., “Early Archean Fossil Bacteria and Biofilms in Hydrothermally Influenced Sediments from the Barberton Greenstone Belt, South Africa,” Precambrian Research 106 (2001): 93-116.
Jin Xiong et al., “Molecular Evidence for the Early Evolution of Photosynthesis,” Science 289 (2000), 1724-30.
G. C. Dismukes et al., “The Origin of Atmospheric Oxygen on Earth: The Innovation of Oxygenic Photosynthesis,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 98 (2001): 2170-75.
Schopf, 640-46.

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