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

Moorad Alexanian (
Thu, 06 May 1999 15:39:30 -0400

I am in the middle of much work and cannot dedicate the time to learn and
discuss the interesting issue that we are discussing. I did look at the site
you mentioned and I found the following:

"Life," in this contest is defined as follows: "--- any system which can
independently do all four of the following:"

1. "Delineate itself from its environment through the production and
maintenance of a membrane equivalent, most probably a rudimentary or
quasi-active-transport membrane necessary for selective absorption of
nutrients, excretion of wastes, and overcoming osmotic and toxic gradients,

2. Capture, transduce, store, and call up energy for utilization (work),

3. Actively replicate, not just passively polymerize or crystallize, and

4. Write, store, and pass along seemingly conceptual information that 'gives
orders' for what is to be manufactured in the future, and to actually bring
to pass those processes and "factory products" out of linguistic-like coded
(codon) messages('recipes') into physical biochemical, biological, and
thermodynamic reality."

Are the protocells of Fox alive according to the above definition?


-----Original Message-----
From: <>
To: <>;
<>; <>
Cc: <>
Date: Wednesday, May 05, 1999 11:26 PM
Subject: Re: Life in the Lab -- Fox and the Nobel Prize

>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
>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
>because he can back up his claims with scientific evidence that
>he really has synthesized life in the lab. I don't have to have faith when
>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
>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
>> You certainly are not an expert in physics but do know full well of all
>> fundamental, breakthroughs in physics. I can see the headlines in the
>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
>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
>> mean that people can readily go to be lab, thinker with chemicals and
>> life into being!
>Of course not, but since that is exactly what did happen, then there must
>some basic properties to life that can arise spontaneously from the known
>physiochemical laws. Go to the website I posted about and read the
>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
>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
>> 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
>as you would like to believe, or would like others to believe. You can
>correct that, however; go to <> and read the
>given by Fox. Then look up and read the articles cited at the website.
>you will understand how the phrase is correct.
>Kevin L. O'Brien