Life’s Rocky Start is an upcoming NOVA segment on the origin of life that will be aired Jan 13 at 9 p.m. Looks interesting!
Four and a half billion years ago, the young Earth was a hellish place—a seething chaos of meteorite impacts, volcanoes belching noxious gases, and lightning flashing through a thin, torrid atmosphere. Then, in a process that has puzzled scientists for decades, life emerged. But how? NOVA joins mineralogist Robert Hazen as he journeys around the globe. From an ancient Moroccan market to the Australian Outback, he advances a startling and counterintuitive idea—that the rocks beneath our feet were not only essential to jump-starting life, but that microbial life helped give birth to hundreds of minerals we know and depend on today. It’s a theory of the co-evolution of Earth and life that is reshaping the grand-narrative of our planet’s story.
I will try to watch the show, but I know that I will feel quite frustrated, since I always do when I read or see anything by Bob Hazen. Not because I disagree with his ideas, I think they are quite interesting. My frustration comes from the fact that people keep talking about the origin of life, when that is not al all what they mean. The mystery of the origin of life is not about how clay or minerals can act as catalysts, its not about energy utilization or the availablitiy of organic molecules in a concentrated formation. Its not even about membranes or micelles, or chemical evolution of polymers. Yes, all these things are necessary to explain how any kind of life could ever start. But while necessary, such things are woefully non sufficient.
The origin of life needs to have a theory that can explain the emergence of DNA and the genetic code as a way to link phenotype with genotype with high accuracy to allow for evolution. It also needs to explain the incredibly complex development of photosynthesis before natural selection could occur. And most importantly it needs to explain how an extremely error prone replication and translation system could allow for evolution, and avoid error catastrophe.
Eddie is right. The insistence on an Earth based, very rapid origin of life within the first couple of hundred years of Earth’s existence from chemical evolution is simply not a good scientific hypothesis. And I have seen nothing to dispute that.
Well I am looking forward to seeing it. I am sure Hazen as a mineralogist will present all the lastest findings and then talk about possibilities of how life arose that are consistent with the data. I doubt he will just make up stuff that has no evidence whatsoever - like ID. No philosophers needed.
My problem is different. If life comes from rocks in any sense then it comes from the environment and the evolution of life is guided by the environment or ecology.
However the words ecology and environment are not used in the description of this presentation, but the word coevolution is used, which obscures the fact that ecology, that is rocks and minerals, is a driving force behind the emergence of life. If one mislabels all processes as evolution, then evolution is the only process that you see, even though it is not the only process that is evident.
OK Patrick. Please provide evidence for that claim. Include your criteria for “better”. In particular explain to me the reason you find Wagner’s book deficient. And it better be good, because I am working on gene regulatory networks at the moment, so bullshit wont pass muster.
@beaglelady Good point. Actually both the Shapiro and Wagner books are based on numerous peer reviewed papers. I have read quite a few of each, and they do indeed provide a very substantial basis for the themes of their books.
@Patrick. Ah, you are referring to basic textbooks. Yes, for learning the basics of evolutionary theory those are better. But I dont think that was what you and Eddie were discussing. I thought you were discussing books about the latest results in evolutionary theory. Your list falls woefully short there.