Re: Life in the Lab -- Proof of Concept (Long) Part 1
Wed, 12 May 1999 00:33:10 EDT

In a message dated 5/11/99 7:23:29 AM Mountain Daylight Time, writes:

> I have partially read you long message and must say that I am impressed with
> your honesty and desire to find the truth. May I suggest that in addition
> searching for those who support Fox's contention, you must also search for
> known, reputable scientists who are critical of Fox's work.

I already have; I could only find a few in my literature search, and they got
fewer the closer I got to our time. It turns out that they are (or were;
many past critics are now supporters) critical for one of three reasons.

1) They are promoting their own hypothesis as to what constitutes a proper
protocell, which nonetheless is usually very strongly based on Fox's own
conclusions regarding the requirement for cellularity, metabolism and
self-assembly. These people agree with Fox that cells came before DNA; many
of them also agree that Fox's protocells are alive (they just deny that
proteinoid microspheres existed on the early earth). However, none of them
have so far been able to accomplish what Fox did and create a living
protocell in the lab based on their hypothesis. The best any of them have
been able to do is create computer models. Until one of them succeeds,
however, their criticism of Fox's protocells is purely theoretical.

2) They are promoting the gene-first concept. Unfortunately, none of them
have been able to synthesize a living genetically-based, pre-cellular
organism either. In fact, with a few exceptions, the genes-first concept
hasn't nearly had the same level of research success that the proteins-first
concept has had, a fact that has caused more than just a few of the
genes-first scientist (like Crick) to now admit that genes almost certainly
did NOT come first. And most of them have admitted that, except for the lack
of a genetic system, Fox's protocells are alive.

3) Like you they have religious or philosophical predispositions that deny
that life can arise from non-life. The best any of them have to offer are
arguments based on probability. Yet Fox's proteinoids demonstrate that amino
acids can self-assemble selectively to form nonrandom structures that have
specific activity. (Even the genes-first crowd accept that without
reservation.) So arguments that try to demonstrate that it is impossible for
a functional protein to be made by a random assembly of amino acids are not
only based on a false assumption (amino acids do not assemble randomly) but
are also refuted by experimental evidence.

In short, Fox's critics are unable to demonstrate that he is wrong about any
of claims, much less the claim that he synthesized life in the lab (which
many of them believe in any event).

> This is not an
> issue of science vs. creationism. This is a purely scientific question.

Then why don't you summarize the arguments that you believe falsify Fox's
claims instead of engaging in games and rhetoric? You sound more like a
creationist desperately trying to argue away a scientific fact than a
scrientist skeptical of a seemingly outlandish claim.

Don't be shy, Moorad, tell us about some of this evidence that supposedly
proves Fox wrong. Or are you afraid I'll make you look a fool like I did Art?

Kevin L. O'Brien