Re: Life in the Lab -- Fox and the Nobel Prize

Moorad Alexanian (
Tue, 04 May 1999 09:10:34 -0400

I am no expert in cellular biology. Let us assume that Fox made a
fundamental breakthrough in the question of creating life in the lab. A
seminal work like that would give rise to a whole slew of works following
Fox's lead that would give rise to further breakthroughs. The scientific
establishment is dying to accomplish such feats and publicize it. I believe
that creating life in the lab would surpass in importance the two scientific
revolutions of this century--relativity and quantum mechanics. In addition,
if Fox could not get the Nobel Prize posthumously, then surely someone else
would be deserving of such a prize? Who is that person?


-----Original Message-----
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To: <>;
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Date: Tuesday, May 04, 1999 12:09 AM
Subject: Re: Life in the Lab -- Fox and the Nobel Prize

>Look who woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning!
>In a message dated 5/3/99 5:43:48 PM Mountain Daylight Time, Art Chadwick
>> As a scientist who knew Sidney Fox quite well, I think I can say
>> without ambiguity that any suggestion that Sidney Fox did anything
>> worthy of a Nobel prize is ludicrous, and an offense to the whole
>> spirit and meaning of the Nobel Prize.
>I think you are letting your personal animosity towards Fox and myself
>your reasoning. Obviously, Henry Stanford, president of the University of
>Miami (while Fox was there) disagrees with you, as would all the scientists
>in the Thermal Protein Study Group at Southern Illinois University in
>Carbondale. Did you even bother to look at the website I mentioned, or
>Fox's symposium? Apparently not.
>> I have spoken to Fox personally on several occasions WRT
>> his views on origins, and he knew well my own views on origins.
>> His claim to have created anything like a life form (the best he
>> did was to make tiny bubbles of proteinoid material that resembled
>> cells as much as soap bubbles do) was laughable....
>What's laughable is your description of Fox's protocells, especially in
>of the the symposium given by Fox that I posted. Anyone who read it, who
>not blinded by dogmatic belief, can see that proteinoid microspheres are
>than "tiny bubbles", and resemble cells better than they do soap bubbles.
>soap bubbles have durable semi-permiable bilayer membranes? Can soap
>reproduce? Can soap bubbles catalyze metabolic reactions? Can soap
>convert light energy into chemical energy? Can soap bubbles generate
>electrical fields? Can soap bubbles synthesize polypeptides or
>polynucleotides? Can cells do these things? Proteinoid microsphere
>protocells can; so which do you think they most closely resemble, cells or
>soap bubbles?
>Instead of shouting your ignorance from the rooftops, Art, read Fox's
>symposium. Go to the website and see the research that people are doing
>proves these protocells are alive.
>> ...and must have been considered by him as a tongue-in-cheek
>> claim. His colleagues had no respect for his claims, and very
>> little for his work.
>That wasn't even true then and it is even less true now. Read the
>literature, Art; read Fox's symposium, Art; go to the website and see the
>evidence for yourself. Stop relying on your own ignorance.
>> When I last spoke with him, I challenged him again as to how
>> he was going to come up with a bridge from DNA to protein
>> without a ribosome. He explained to me that the problem was
>> already solved. He told me a French biochemist had discovered
>> a bacterium that did not need a ribosome to make proteins. This
>> bug, he said, made proteins by directly associating the amino
>> acids along the DNA backbone, then synthesizing the peptide
>> bonds while they were thus ordered. I asked him why, if this
>> was the case, that he was the only one who knew about this
>> fabulous discovery.
>Are you seriously suggesting that the only true science is that which is
>most popular, or the best well known? As you yourself should know,
>every scientific breakthrough started out as a minority concept disregarded
>by the majority of researchers in that field. That says nothing about the
>truth of the concept itself. Why didn't you ask Fox for a reference so
>you could see for yourself whether the concept was true? Or are you so
>dogmatically certain that Fox is "ludicrous" that you don't need to see the
>> He gave me a lecture on the philosophy of science, and about
>> how ideas that were not popular had a hard time being accepted
>> in the scientific community. He stated that the Frenchman had
>> been greeted by ridicule from his colleagues. I assured him that
>> he needn't give his lecture to me....
>Obviously not true, since you missed his point; otherwise you would have
>asked to see the evidence so you could make up your own mind.
>> ...that I was already well acquainted with the problems scientists
>> had accepting or even giving consideration to new ideas.
>Then why didn't you give Fox the benefit of the doubt and give the evidence
>fair consideration?
>> Needless to say, the Frenchman's idea has still not caught on.
>How would you know? Because his work hasn't been written about in the New
>York Times, or Newsweek, or Parade? Because it isn't common knowledge?
>won't even read the Frenchman's original paper, or Fox's own research, or
>latest work being done by his colleagues; why should I believe that you
>better than Fox and other biologists what constitutes proper contemporary
>abiotic science?
>> But this absurdity demonstrates the length we are all
>> capable of traveling in propping up an idea that is our own,
>> whether it has merit or not.
>So instead of investigating the evidence for yourself, you declare it
>from the depth of your ignorance, then have the gall to project your own
>folly onto Fox? Sounds to me like you are the one traveling to great
>to prop up your own flawed opinions.
>> Sidney Fox's work is now considered by most origin of life
>> advocates I have read to have been a tiny detour down a
>> road that led nowhere.
>Then you have read only a tiny portion of the available literature, and
>of it was probably at least ten years out of date. What you wrote above
>would be news to the dozens of researchers who have done, and still are
>doing, protocell research. Even Fox's own critics have within the past
>decade started admitting that he was right after all. But then you would
>know that if you read the scientific literature on the subject.
>> If you know of any publication by Fox or his students that has
>> made the claim to have produced a functioning reproducing cell,
>> and has substantiated that claim, please give us the reference.
>I will when I post my essay; I already have by posting Fox's symposium and
>the URL for the Thermal Protein Study Group website. If you go there you
>will find two links; one to a list of sixteen references, all but one less
>than ten years old, most of them less than five years old, all of which not
>only assert that Fox's protocells are "functioning reproducing cells" but
>which also "substantiate that claim"; the other to the reference and
>listing for a 1994 American Chemical Society conference on the origin of
>and the use of priteinoids as novel industrial materials (so much for "a
>detour down a road that led nowhere").
>> Posting his obituary does not cut it.
>Did I say anywhere in that post that I was offering that obituary as
>evidence? No, I was offerring it in reply to Moorad Alexanian's claim that
>life had not been synthesized in the lab because no one had been awarded
>Nobel Prize for the accomplishment. Try using the brains God gave a jelly
>donut and think -- really think -- for a change, instead of simply
>Kevin L. O'Brien