Friday, December 31, 2010

Origin of life: O he of simple faith

I was impressed by the studies made after the 1980 eruption of Mount St Helen's in Washington State, which destroyed all life for many kilometres around. Within a remarkably short time, nasty hot, evil-looking pools around the volcano were teeming with life in the form of bacteria and blue green algae. These are exactly the kinds of organisms that we know from the earliest records of life on Earth. The necessary original formula must have been one of chemistry and heat in a watery environment.

- D. V. Ager, The New Catastrophism: The Importance of the Rare Event in Geological History, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge UK, 1993, p. 149.
It really does take a lot of faith to think that the most ancient organisms could just appear in the same way that existing organisms spill into a new territory, taking advantage of the fact that the more complex organisms that usually constrain their activities, are temporarily absent.

If “chemistry and heat in a watery environment” were the solution to the origin of life, life would be popping up from nothing far more often than it does.

Hat tip: Stephen E. Jones.