Create life in the laboratory?


(Ralph Dave Westfall) #1

Has anyone has ever succeeded, using all the accumulated knowledge, tools and techniques of the biological sciences in either:

A-creating life in the laboratory, which successfully reproduced itself for multiple generations in a favorable environment?
OR

B-disassembling and reassembling a living cell which then reproduced itself as above?

This would exclude viruses, which as far as I know cannot reproduce without living cells as hosts.

I haven’t been able to find anything online that indicates either of the above has ever been accomplished. However it would be good if someone who has a stronger background could point to examples of it having been done or provide evidence of a lack of success in either of the above.


(Phil) #2

There was this one bowl in the back of thr fridge…

Seriously though, the answer is no. This recent series speak some to that subject:
http://biologos.org/blogs/dennis-venema-letters-to-the-duchess/series/id-and-information


(Jon Garvey) #3

How can that be? NASA keep telling us that all these exoplanets have “the building blocks of life” - should be child’s play to put building blocks together… though come to think of it these planets also have rocks, but that doesn’t guarantee finding the Parthenon.:slight_smile:


#4

I get your point, but to be pedantic, that criteria would also exclude a fair number of bacterial & eukayrotic pathogens/endosymbionts.

I can’t think of any reason why it would be technically impossible to assemble components isolated from various cells into a new, functional, replicating cell. It’s certainly possible now to perform viable transfers of nuclei, chromosomes, cytoplasm, mitochondria, and proteins. The difficulty would be related to the question of how basic are the starting materials you’d like to use. If we instead started with elemental materials like carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, then you’d probably only see proof of principle for steps rather than the actual creation of a cell.


(Ralph Dave Westfall) #5

Thank you Argon.

Actually it would be OK to exclude “pathogens/endosymbionts” because that would still leave a lot of cells that could function entirely on their own.

As for the raw materials, amino acids, sugars etc. would be OK. I’m more interested in the assembly aspect, rather than a “from the ground up” process with a lot of repetition of chemical processes that are already well-understood.

I’ll try to get back to the other responders soon.


(George Brooks) #6

@RalphDaveWestfall,

What does this thread prove?

BioLogos says we need God involved in creation. The BioLogos position does not fold up into oblivion if natural processes without God could not have jump-started life as we have come to know what life is.

This is an argument against the Atheists … who are not as common on these Boards as they once were …And that’s probably why there aren’t a lot of comments on this thread after 4 days…


(Ralph Dave Westfall) #7

@jpm

Thank you James for the link. It led me to the article at http://biologos.org/blogs/dennis-venema-letters-to-the-duchess/biological-information-and-intelligent-design-abiogenesis-and-the-origins-of-the-genetic-code says: “Research on abiogenesis has not, by any stretch, provided ‘an adequate causal explanation for the ultimate origin of the functionally specified biological information’. Nor will it, in the foreseeable future, if ever.”

Those are interesting statements but they don’t really address my question about success in creating life in the laboratory through non-natural activities. I looked through the other articles around the one I quoted from but couldn’t find anything more relevant to my specific inquiry. Was the answer there and I just missed it?


(Ralph Dave Westfall) #8

@gbrooks9

“What does this thread prove?”

Thank you, George for the response.

Re your question, my post is not intended to “prove” anything. I was just asking for information to back up some things I’m planning to say in a presentation on the abiogenesis problem.

My understanding is that biologists have not been able to create life in the laboratory even though using all the accumulated knowledge, tools and techniques developed since DNA was discovered in the 19th century and its structure identified in 1953. If that is correct, it seems to me that it would be incredibly unlikely (like winning over 100 Powerball lotteries in a year by buying one ticket every time twice a week) that life could have developed on its own through unguided, unaided natural processes.

Any thoughts on this?


(George Brooks) #9

@RalphDaveWestfall

Yep … my thoughts are these:

  1. Your position might be valuable in a discussion with Atheists.
  2. Your position might be valuable in a discussion with those few people who think God doesn’t get involved in evolution.
  3. But you should also include in your presentation that there is a group, BioLogos, that teaches that God is involved in Evolution, and that while certain “hurdles” in the history of creation might be best explained by God’s miraculous intervention…
  4. since Creation is also riddled with many imperfections, BioLogos may have the ideal compromise position - - providing the union of faith and science all at once.

(Ralph Dave Westfall) #10

@gbrooks9

Thank you, George for the quick response. I will mention Biologos in my presentation.

By the way I just spotted the article at
The Minimal Genome Project: “Here we report a new cell” which discusses a significant step in the direction I’m thinking about. However the abstract of the paper at http://science.sciencemag.org/content/351/6280/aad6253 says, “Whole genomes can now be built from chemically synthesized oligonucleotides and brought to life by installation into a receptive cellular environment.” That sounds like implanting the synthetic genome into an existing cell rather than building a complete cell structure from amino acids, sugars, etc.


(George Brooks) #11

@RalphDaveWestfall

Agreed. that is definitely what is being discussed in that quote !!!

Be advised that you can avoid accusations of supporting a “God of the Gaps” analysis if you point out that while you think only God could move life over a number of creation hurdles, the convergence of scientific assessments demonstrating the extreme age of the Earth supports the idea that God combined his creative interventions with his equally reasonable embrace of naturally lawful forces of Natural Selection to create life as we know it on Earth.


(Ralph Dave Westfall) #12

@gbrooks9
"the extreme age of the Earth"

Well now we’ve hit a point of difference, George, as I (and probably you) expected we would. In the context of combinatorial explosions, 4.5 billion years or 13.8 billion years for the whole universe really aren’t very old. Unless there is some law of nature such as the extraterrestrial life people seem to believe–that if there’s water and a few billion years, there (almost) inevitably will be life. Although I haven’t seen any even vaguely compelling evidence for that, if it’s true it just becomes another aspect of the fine tuning argument.

Re the combinatorial explosion, "the probability of a universe full of monkeys typing a complete work such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet is so tiny that the chance of it occurring during a period of time hundreds of thousands of orders of magnitude longer than the age of the universe is extremely low (but technically not zero)."

My example of winning 100+ Powerball lotteries with one purchased ticket each time also has a probability that “is extremely low (but technically not zero).” But it’s not going to happen.


(George Brooks) #13

@RalphDaveWestfall

In your rush to provide your standardized answer, I believe you have missed my point completely.

I do not encourage you to defend the age of the Earth because it leads inevitably to non-God related evolution… No.

I encourage you to AFFIRM the great age of the Earth because of the convergence of multiple lines of scientific evidence for this fact.

And this affirmation, combined with your conclusions about God intervening in the miraculous creation of life allows you to avoid the classic mistake of being an ID proponent trying to use science to prove YEC.

You make the point that 4.5 billion is not particularly old … that may be true … but it is certainly multiple degrees older than 5k or 10k years, right?

So - - strengthen your case, demonstrate your independence, and join the Pepsi Generation here at BioLogos - - God intervened in the creation of life … and he did so over the span of millions and millions of years.

Sound like a good combination?


(George Brooks) #14

Side note on the Monkey criticism…

I don’t find your particular use of the criticism of random monkeys to be very compelling. It’s really just a debating trick… This is how the monkey scenario is actually organized by atheists:

"If we ignore the five spaces in the phrase - - and [we] discount capital versus lower case letters - - the probability that the 13-letter sequence “tobeornottobe” could be typed by chance is the inverse of “26 to the 13th power.”
[^^^ Yes… that is a huge number! But it is not the correct number.]

“However, it is possible to use a computer program to “randomize alphabet selection until a T is drawn. Then it will be programmed to do the same for the O and continue accordingly for all desired 13 letters.” In theory, using this procedure, the phrase is expected to be typed in 1 out of 338 trials.”
[^^^ This is based on the idea that natural selection retains the positive step, which becomes the groundwork for the next favorable selection …]

" Hardison claims this procedure (which Richard Dawkins calls “ratcheted cumulative selection”) is more akin to how natural selection works than the previous nonselective method where none of the individual letters have any adaptive value of their own apart from the complete 13 letter sequence."

Please… I don’t want to have to post this again …okay?


#15

RDW,

You may have to give Mr Brooks his pound of flesh. You see, his only objective is to test everyone against dastardly YECism. It’s the only subject there is, and he is not fooled otherwise. He knows that ID is a front for YEC to take over the planet, and nothing, nothing, n-o-t-h-i-n-g can take that away from him.


(Ralph Dave Westfall) #16

@gbrooks9

“I encourage you to AFFIRM the great age of the Earth”

What makes you think I don’t? I was simply pointing out that the ages of the earth of the earth and universe, which I AFFIRM, are inadequate to deal with combinatorial explosions. The fact that those ages are much greater than 5-10 K is irrelevant to me and to combinatorial explosions.

You could come across more civilly if you disabused yourself of the notion that you can read people’s minds. A quick glance at my page at http://www.forgetevolution.com/ might help if you’re still in doubt.


(Ralph Dave Westfall) #17

Thank you for the heads up, Biosemiosis. I was starting to speculate about how much less cranky are some of the atheists with whom I interact as a Christian.


(George Brooks) #18

@RalphDaveWestfall

It is certainly helpful that you provide a link to your own pages! I encourage you to include your link in your profile page. But let’s turn to what you actually say. Here is a key section you write on Theists and Evolution:

“The problem is that for people who believe in a theistic origin of our existence, arguments against evolution are attacking a strength of explanations based on natural processes rather than a vulnerability. Evolution sounds logical. Everyone knows that things—airplanes for example—develop over time. Evolution unquestionably works within the higher branches of the “family tree” of life, for example different breeds of dogs. It seems reasonable that it might also explain larger differences between species that are much farther apart, for example dogs and dinosaurs.”
[^^^ looking good! You appear to be affirming that Dogs and Dinosaurs share a common Evolutionary ancestor!]

"There is honestly a tremendous amount of data that supports the theory of evolution. None of it is totally conclusive, but the huge quantities distract attention from the qualitative weaknesses. Most people—religious or not—do not have the educational background to discuss the weaknesses. "
[^^^ But here is where you start stirring things up … and I’m not quite sure where you are going…]

“Therefore most dialogues about evolution are either arguments among fools…”
[^^^ So… here is that ‘lack of civility’ that I expected to find in your writing … as the source of your projection that I am the one without civility … it’s been many years since I have insisted that everyone who criticizes me are fools…]

“… or foolish arguments by people of religious faith against more knowledgeable people who believe in evolution.”

So… my assessment is that your pages have been forged in the intense heat of “Atheism vs. Intelligent Design” ! But I see no realistic attempt to grapple with the complexities that BioLogos wrestles with.

Your focus on the very spark of life - the moment of the first living thing is all very good… but then you throw it all away by spinning around and around on the idea that this ‘moment of first life’ proves that there is no use for Evolutionary science. This is, of course, in error.

Creation is amazing enough to justify the heart of the I.D. movement, but you don’t seem able to embrace the idea that BioLogos is really the blessed child of the I.D. movement! It acknowledges that the general arc of Creation is amazing enough that we accept God’s role in that general arc. But within the arc, there are enough flaws and weaknesses, all in scientifically demonstrable ages involving millions of years, that we must also embrace the reality that God’s creation also embraces the evolutionary principles of Natural Selection.

Another participant on this board talks about letting go of your “pound of flesh” - - and he is right. As long as you continue to hint, imply or specify that YEC is the foundation of your position, you are on the wrong track. Creation is not so perfect that it can prove the Earth is less than 10,000 years of age.

You must surrender your pound of flesh … and embrace the complexity of a God-guided evolution that requires millions of years of God’s providential work!


(Ralph Dave Westfall) #19

@gbrooks9

Hi George:

You said about me, “As long as you continue to hint, imply or specify that YEC is the foundation of your position”

  1. Pray tell me, how did I “hint, imply or specify that YEC is the foundation of” my position? Please provide clear examples to document your accusation.

  2. In a response above I mentioned “the ages of the earth of the earth and universe, which I AFFIRM,” capitalizing the last word because you did the same. Is that not clear? Are you hinting, implying or specifying that I am being dishonest?


(Ralph Dave Westfall) #20

Hi George:

What is you evidence that this was a standardized answer? Could you provide links to at least three places where I have said essentially the same thing? Maybe some other clear indicators of it being a standardized answer? Or it a “discernment” thing that doesn’t require any evidence? (BTW have you ever served on jury duty?)