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

Arthur V. Chadwick (
Wed, 05 May 1999 16:17:25 -0700

At 05:01 PM 5/5/99 -0400, James wrote:

>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.

I agree. You can never get there from the top down. But I believe the
underlying aim of the experiments with Mycoplasma is to attempt to define
what life is in biochemical terms by reduction. Whether they will be
successful at discovering the underlying principle(s), they are learning a
lot on the way.