Re: Evolution of proteins in sequence space

From: Keith B Miller (
Date: Sat Aug 11 2001 - 22:25:52 EDT

  • Next message: Keith B Miller: "Re: Evolution of proteins in sequence space"

    Peter wrote:

    >But can you specify any feasible scientific tests for the following
    >propositions? (If not, why not?)
    >(1) Life can emerge spontaneously by purely natural means.
    >(2) Novel enzymatic activities (not slight modifications or new
    >combinations of pre-existing ones) can emerge spontaneously by purely
    >natural means.

    Firstly, I am assuming that by "purely natural" you mean that matter has
    the properties capable of organizing into living things without any breaks
    or "gaps" in the continuity of casue-and-effect processes. However, if you
    mean "without divine action or participation" then the answer in of course
    no - as this is a not question that can conceivably be addressed by
    scientific means. The existence or action of God is non amenable to
    scientific test.

    Both of the questions your list are areas of extensive current research.
    These are clearly scientific questions, even if we do not currently have a
    solid handle on the most likely answers. I am excited by the current
    discoveries being made - which show slow but continued progress in
    addressing these questions. Much progress has been made in our
    understanding of primordial Earth conditions, on the environments and
    biology of extremophile archeobacteria, on both terrestrial and space
    environments conducive to the synthesis of organic molecules, on the
    autocatalysis of RNA, on the random generation of functional proteins, and
    on factors that can generate excesses of L- or D- amino acids. (With regard
    to the latter I just recently ran onto a book called "Advances in
    Biochirality" edited by G. Palyi, C. Zucchi, and L. Caglioti and published
    by Elsevier (1999).)

    If such research continues to prove to be fruitful then our confidence that
    the scientific hypothesis that matter does indeed have the requisite
    capabilities to bring forth living things is in fact true would be
    supported. That is how any scientific model works. It is never proven,
    but either eventually abandoned for lack of fruitfull progress, modified to
    accomodate novel discoveries, or increasing supported by new data.


    Keith B. Miller
    Department of Geology
    Kansas State University
    Manhattan, KS 66506

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