>I occasionally tell HS students that it's worth remembering that among the
>best people in the field of 'abiogenesis', there is no longer any consensus
>that *"even in principle"* can the (earthly) 'origin of life' be claimed to
>be understood (no matter what HS textbooks may say).
Origin of life studies have made great progress since the time of Miller's
spar-discharge experiments. While many question remain unanswered there
has been notable recent success in a number of important research areas.
RNA has been found to be autocatalytic, and able to synthesize its own
replication. The evolution of RNA by random mutation in cell-free media
has been observed, and is in fact used to generate new functional
molecules. There have been a number of approaches which show promise in
resolving the problem of chirality (the "handedness" of life). New
organisms have been discovered, notably the thermophilic archaea, which are
likely similar to the common ancestor of living organisms. The discovery
of thermophilic chemosynthetic organisms associated with marine
hydrothermal systems have provided new scenarios for possible environmental
settings for the origin of life.
My point here is that there is no scientific basis for considering the
problem of the origin of life to be "in principle" unsolvable.
Keith B. Miller
Department of Geology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506