Re: Life in the Lab -- Fox and the Nobel Prize
Wed, 5 May 1999 23:14:21 EDT

In a message dated 5/5/99 1:47:52 PM Mountain Daylight Time, writes:

> Much of what we know is what we assume by faith from others who know.

In science you do not have to take anything on faith. If Fox simply claimed
that life could be synthesized in the lab, but provided no evidence to back
up his claim, I wouldn't believe him either. The reason why I believe him is
because he can back up his claims with scientific evidence that demonstrates
he really has synthesized life in the lab. I don't have to have faith when I
can read his papers, and the papers support his claims.

> We
> cannot be experts in everything. That I am no expert in biology does not
> preclude me from learning from experts....

The problem is that you began by implying that you were enough of an expert
to be able to dogmatically proclaim that life has not been created in the
lab, but when I challenged you to provide some support for your claim you
suddenly claimed you were no expert to avoid having to answer my challenge.
You can't have it both ways, Moorad. If you are well-read enough to be able
to determine that life has not been synthesized in the lab, then you are
certainly well-read enough to be able to explain why. If, however, you do
not know or understand why life could not have been synthesized in the lab,
how can you be so dogmatic that it has not? Simply because it hasn't been
discussed in the popular press? That's a pretty thin argument to put your
faith on.

> ...and not merely the proponents, that
> life has been indeed synthesized in the lab.

Do those opponents present any evidence to back up their claim, or do you
simply have faith that they are right because they say what you want to

> There surely must be a
> Scientific American type of magazine that discusses such a remarkable feat.
> You certainly are not an expert in physics but do know full well of all the
> fundamental, breakthroughs in physics. I can see the headlines in the New

What difference does it make whether such an article, or headline, exists?
As a scientist, you should be persuaded by evidence, not appeals to a mass
audience. As long as the evidence does exist, what difference does it make
that it is in the scientific publications and not the popular press? Are you
saying the evidence is more believable in the popular press than in the
scientific literature? More truthful? More accurate? All your rhetoric
simply tells me is that you are looking for some justification for your
refusal to read the evidence in favor of Fox's claims. Otherwise it would
make no difference to you one way or the other.

> I do not believe that life is unusual, but its ubiquitous presence does not
> mean that people can readily go to be lab, thinker with chemicals and bring
> life into being!

Of course not, but since that is exactly what did happen, then there must be
some basic properties to life that can arise spontaneously from the known
physiochemical laws. Go to the website I posted about and read the evidence
for yourself. If then afterwards you are still not convinced, tell my why
and back up your claim with solid biological arguments, not metaphysical
mumbo-jumbo about death. Or admit that you do not understand enough biology
to judge the evidence and your absolutist claim is based on your personal
beliefs rather than science.

> It is easy to toss phrases like "life is simply a matter
> of chemistry and organization," but to my ears that sounds as unfounded,
> haughty claims--if not a nonsensical statement. Or else the terms
> involved, "life" and "organization," are so defined as to make that phrase
> vacuous tautology.

If you understood biology as well as you claim, you would understand what I
meant. The fact that you did not indicates that you are not as knowledgeable
as you would like to believe, or would like others to believe. You can
correct that, however; go to <> and read the symposium
given by Fox. Then look up and read the articles cited at the website. Then
you will understand how the phrase is correct.

Kevin L. O'Brien