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

James Taggart (
Wed, 5 May 1999 17:01:51 -0400

The problem scientists are faced with, in hindsight, is that if "life"
evolved (spontaneusly or with a little help from God) from the "primordial
soup," it probably existed in a form that no longer exists on earth. It
was too vulerable, too fragile, too primitive to compete with "higher"
evolutionary forms. Thus reductionist experiments might shed some light on
the minimum requirements for "life", but will likely shed no light on what
actually happened. If you accept evolution (as the way God did it), then
to demonstrate the "origin" of life you need to come up with some entity,
catalyzed out of some collection of "non-living" biochemistry, capable of
reproducing itself without further external intervention (other than
provision of more raw ingredients and maybe light or heat), and in the
process of reproduction demonstrating non-destructive of mutation.

"Arthur V. Chadwick" <> on 05/05/99 06:03:10 PM

cc: (bcc: James Taggart/Multilink)
Subject: Re: Life in the Lab -- Fox and the Nobel Prize

You are absolutely right. As far back as I can trace my training in
science, there has been an urgency about demonstrating that man could
create life, which as is abundantly clear from discussions here, we cannot
even as yet define, something that would make a physicist's hair turn grey!
I remember well, when we had succeeded in duplicating the DNA of a virus
in vitro, "Life Created in a Testube" was the headline on every paper in
America. You can be sure that any claims that a living cell has been
created would receive similar acclaim. However, even if such claims were
made in the popular press (and they have not been), they would have no more
validity than the claim of cold fusion, until the work had been published
in Nature and Science and in the top peer-reviewed journals in the country,
and only after the experiments had successfully been repeated by others.
To date the closest things we have to this are the reductionist experiments
being done in a number of labs around the country using M genitalium, the
living cell with the smallest number of genes known. These experimenters
are concentrating on supplying external dependencies and successively
reducing the information content of the DNA in an attempt to determine what
the minimum genetic requirements for life are.