Abiogenesis Is Soooo Boring

Hot ball of gas coalesces and ignites; dust and rocks form planets that settle into their own particular orbits; the planets cool and somewhere in the primordial ooze on the 3rd planet, a chain of molecules starts to replicate.


Physics professors can make this even more boring:
In a recent study called “Why did life emerge?”, two scientists, son and father Arto Annila of the University of Helsinki and Erkki Annila of the Finnish Forest Research Institute, offer some insight into the general driving force of life’s origins in terms of thermodynamics. As they explain, all organisms are composed of molecules that assemble together via numerous chemical reactions. Just as heat flows from hot to cold, these molecules obey the universal tendency to diminish energy differences, so that the most likely chemical reactions are those in which energy flows “downhill” toward a stationary state, or chemical equilibrium.
“The most important idea in our study is that there is no distinction between animate and inanimate,” Arto Annila told PhysOrg.com. “Processes of life are, in their principles, no different from any other natural processes.”
For obvious reasons, this won't play well with the Intelligent Design cabal. Never mind that no intelligence is involved; more importantly, no excitement is involved. No voice of God (i.e. James Earl Jones) saying "Let there be life", no lightning bolt from a finger tip, no harmony of angels heralding something new...

Can life just be some long, slow, silent segue of natural processes? No drum roll? No Also Sprach Zarathustra?

No wonder people still believe in fairy tale creationism. It has all the human-interest pictures without all the equations. Kind've like comic books.


Anonymous said...

Well, if these two had supplemented the thermodynamics with a whiff of electromagnetism, not only would they have gotten it right, but the unfolding account of the origins and energetics of biological organization would have shown how human life span may be doubled, with theoretical life spans exceeding 200 years, most of the time of which is spend in good health. But they flub it with talk of 'energy-transduction mechanisms' that are nothing more than biological species when, instead, the only such mechanism is that of redox coupling, a.k.a., battery discharge into the body in a simulation of food digestion. This simulation supplements the body's energy levels, and, mathematically, can be seen to have the same affect as caloric restriction on the longevity of small mammals, but without the hunger. The math is that of Kleiber's Law, dealing with metabolic rate, biomass, and efficiency of energy capture & expenditure by the biomass.

But you're right, these physicist have a boring account, though because it is incomplete. And it is incomplete because it is speculative, having no empirical consequence. On the other hand Kleiber at least suggests that, as with Mary Shelley's monster from Frankenstein being brought to life by battery discharges and lightning bolts, so too can the human organism revivify itself with electrical discharges from the DC power source, discharges that trigger electrochemically the building of tissue and repair of cells.

The skepTick said...

You totally left out all the quantum mechanics.