Re: The young age of Earth

Kevin O'Brien (
Thu, 18 Mar 1999 20:34:29 -0700

Since each of you have made essentially the same objection, permit me to
respond to everyone together.

Ami Chopine wrote: "The formation of RNA and other replicating molecules in
the laboratory does not constitute abiogenesis."

Actually, it does (I'll explain below after I address David's comments).

David J. Tyler wrote: "I will predict that in 10 years from now,
origin-of-life researchers will still be seeking the elusive secret of the
chemical origin of life. If I am right, I will ask Kevin to review his
'Actually' statement and ask himself what factors led him to make such a
bold, confident and erroneous pronouncement. In the meantime, I will record
his words in my 'quotebook' - I'm sure I'll find suitable occasions to make
use of them."

I am flattered, but if you do not include the following exposition you will
be guilty of quoting out of context (not that I expect you to be bothered by

You obviously define abiogenesis as "the origin of life", but you do not
define life. I suspect that if you did it would involve some kind of
vitalistic nonsense about how "life" is some mystical quality that sets a
living cell apart from a test tube containing chemicals, or some such
schlock. In any event, that's why you have such a serious misconception
about this topic.

The vast majority of biologists/biochemists "define" life as an organized,
integrated metabolic system that uses certain polymeric catalysts to break
down certain biomolecules to obtain the raw energy and materials needed for
other polymeric catalysts to build up biomolecules needed by the organism.
This is a working definition as opposed to some set "official" definition
that can cover all cases, but it is no less rigorous. As such, when a
biologist/biochemist speaks of abiogenesis being the "origin of life", he
means that it is the creation of biomolecules and the metabolic systems they
support by non-biological methods. In other words, biochemically speaking,
there is no difference between "life" and the biomolecules/metabolic systems
that make life possible.

As such, the Miller-Urey experiment, Fox's proteinoids and the formation of
RNA and other replicating molecules, to name a few, are all examples of
abiogenesis. And since these have all been laboratory experiments,
abiogenesis is a fact that can be replicated in any modern laboratory.

And David's prediction has already been proven false.

Kevin L. O'Brien