RE: The Deep Hot Biosphere

David Campbell (bivalve@mailserv0.isis.unc.edu)
Thu, 18 Feb 1999 18:15:02 -0400

>I'm aware of biological activity associated with, and supported by
>hydrothermal vents on ocean bottoms, often using sulfide as nutrient, but is
>it correct to say that life "originates" there?

I should have said "originated". The idea is that life evolved from
abiotic material at vents about 4 billion years ago, although I think at
least popularized versions have thrown in "maybe it is still going on" with
no supporting evidence.

>Similarly, to state that
>"recent experiments have been able to create biologically important
>molecules under hot vent-like conditions" does not, to me, suggest that life
>is created. Am I missing something here (I'm about as far from life
>sciences as possible)

Again, past tense would have been clearer. The advocates of a hot-vent
origin of life claim that the production of biologically important
molecules such as proteins under vent-like conditions in lab supports the
idea that it could have happened naturally back in the early Precambrian.
Production of proteins started with relatively well-formed starting
materials, so they need to fill a few gaps before the abiotic to protein
connection is convincing, much less an abiotic to life connection.

David C.