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Biotech Science

Old Materials Resurface For "Prebiotic Soup" 263

Posted by kdawson
from the do-not-clean-out-the-fridge dept.
AliasMarlowe writes "Stanley Miller performed the famous experiments in the 1950s showing that amino acids and other building blocks for biomolecules could be produced by passing lightning through a mix of simple hydrocarbons, water vapor, and ammonia (thought at the time to approximate the Earth's early atmosphere). Other experiments approximated the environment around volcanic eruptions, but those results were not published. Following his death last year, a former student discovered the materials from those experiments, in labelled vials. Analysis of this material indicates that the conditions around volcanic eruptions (still thought to be representative of such events in the early Earth) resulted in a higher yield of amino acids than the simple lightning experiments, and resulted in a greater variety of amino acids." Pharyngula has a discussion of the Science paper, including a graph of the amino acids produced.
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Old Materials Resurface For "Prebiotic Soup"

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:15AM (#25412009)

    Just add volcano.

  • Space (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    We have since discovered that complex organic molecules form even in space [wikipedia.org].

  • IANAMB (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oodaloop (1229816) on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:21AM (#25412087)
    (I am not a molecular biologist), but can someone explain if there we could expect some changes to the composition over 60 years? Are some chemicals produced going to break down in that time?
    • Re:IANAMB (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:33AM (#25412287)

      IAANAMB but if you think about it, changes in composition would not void the findings in the experiment. If after the initial experiment the samples were kept in closed vials and out of sunlight, then 60 years later were analyzed for content and the amino acids were found that means one of the following: Either the amino acids were formed in the volcano-like conditions of the original experiment, something more complex was formed in the original experiment and broke down to more simple amino acids over time, or nothing much was formed in the original experiment, but in the ensuing 60 years something reacted to form the amino acids. All of these presuppose the formation of amino acids in either prebiotic earth conditions or sealed-vial-kept-in-a-dark-closet conditions. It would be more surprising if they formed under the latter, than under the former conditions.

      • Re:IANAMB (Score:5, Insightful)

        by aardwolf64 (160070) on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:44AM (#25412395) Homepage

        Or, we have more accurate methods of detecting amino acids in 2008 than in the mid 20th century.

        Also, keep in mind that they're comparing modern day analysis of sample B to 60 year old analysis of sample A.

      • by Amouth (879122)

        as long as they where sealed.. even in the sunlight it would be a valid finding.. as last checked the sun is older than earth and there for would have be present

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Bobartig (61456)

        The "volcanic conditions" basically involves more access to similar compounds (sulfur, methane, nitrogen), along with abundant energy (heat). Most of the amino acids will form on their own, this we already know. It just takes longer at a lower temperature. So, you can determine how much change should have occurred based on previous estimates and the amount of energy available to the samples, then determine how they performed over 60 years in a closet, then determine if that expected rate is fitting or not.

      • IAANAMB? I am advocating new acronyms meaning bullshit?

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by drkoemans (666135)
        dude you win, the entire internet officially doesn't know wtf IAANAMB means.
    • 60 Years? Don't you mean 6,000?

      [ducks for cover]

    • Re:IANAMB (Score:5, Informative)

      by reverseengineer (580922) on Friday October 17, 2008 @01:27PM (#25415713)

      The distribution of amino acids is quite interesting. Eight of the amino acids (glycine, alanine, valine, serine, phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and glutamic acid) are from the 20 "standard" amino acids directly coded for in DNA. Seven more are isomers, close homologs, or simple derivatives of the standard seven (isovaline, 2-methylserine, etc.). Ornithine is not found in proteins, but is found as an intermediate both the natural synthesis and breakdown of other amino acids. It is curiously enough the only amino acid found in the vial which is a base- I would have expected more, given all the ammonia in the experiment atmosphere. I would have expected glutamine and asparagine as well, but they're pretty fragile, and if present, may have been lost in the workup.

      Five are aminobutyric or aminoisobutyric acids, which are also not coded for by DNA, but are involved in biochemical processes (the best known example is gamma-aminobutryric acid, GABA, a neurotransmitter). No sulfur in the vial, so the absence of cysteine and methionine is unsurprising. Proline is absent, but in organisms, it is formed from an enzyme-catalyzed ring formation from glutamic acid, so it may not form easily in test tubes.

      Phenylalanine was the only aromatic amino acid found, which is unsurprising, given the complexity- in organisms, they tend to be synthesized by multistep enzyme-catalyzed routes, and most organisms high on the food chain have lost this ability. Notably, phenylalanine seems to be present in the vial at about one-millionth the concentration of glycine, so its production is a pretty rare event. And all of the amino acids produced were racemic mixtures, whereas nearly all amino acids utilized in nature are the L-enantiomer. It is still a mystery as to when homochirality first arose.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:22AM (#25412111)

    Great, just add more fuel to the Scientology fire.

  • First cell walls (Score:5, Interesting)

    by spun (1352) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `yranoituloverevol'> on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:25AM (#25412171) Journal

    Here's an interesting philosophical question. After the first autocatalytic sets and simple replicators, but before the first cell walls, was the entire Earth a single organism?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      And I am considered a single organism.

    • Here's an interesting philosophical question. After the first autocatalytic sets and simple replicators, but before the first cell walls, was the entire Earth a single organism?

      Somewhere in there, there's a great Science Fiction story about people landing on a planet that turns out to actually be a giant living Madball [wikipedia.org].

  • by bwcbwc (601780) on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:29AM (#25412233)

    It sounds like it would be interesting to check the amino acids and genome of the life that exists surrounding the undersea vents. Since our oceans are no longer "prebiotic soup", there probably won't be anything truly remarkable (previously unknown amino acids in the DNA for example), but if there is anything, that would be an incredible breakthrough.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:50AM (#25412461)

      As a 60-a-day Marlboro man I regret the half hour lost to smoking every time I go for a swim, so you can image the excitement with which I opened your post. Only to be confronted with something about soup. God, I need a smoke.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ArhcAngel (247594)

      you mean the DNA of these guys [calacademy.org]?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      It sounds like it would be interesting to check the amino acids and genome of the life that exists surrounding the undersea vents. Since our oceans are no longer "prebiotic soup", there probably won't be anything truly remarkable (previously unknown amino acids in the DNA for example), but if there is anything, that would be an incredible breakthrough.

      If they found amino acids in the DNA (previously unknown or not) it would be a remarkable discovery. Amino Acids are the building blocks of proteins. DNA stands for Deoxyribonucleic Acid a completely different chemical. To date, no amino acids have been discovered in any DNA.

  • by NoNeeeed (157503) <slash@NoSPAm.paulleader.co.uk> on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:33AM (#25412289) Homepage

    My tutor at university used to get us to produce reports on old papers from the really early days of compsci, the 50's and 60's.

    What amazed me was how many great ideas were put forward which just couldn't have been implemented successfully at the time, and how many have turned up again many years later as "new" ideas.

    There are many ideas that were invented decades ago, but people have just forgotten about.

    It makes you wonder what great ideas and discoveries are lying hidden in old journals that no-one ever reads.

    • by vadim_t (324782)

      Can you give some examples?

      • by NoNeeeed (157503) <slash@NoSPAm.paulleader.co.uk> on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:59AM (#25412579) Homepage

        Not off the top of my head, it's been almost ten years since I left uni.

        However I do remember reading a paper about what is now called "life logging", storing everything you do and recording, dating back from the 1960's. It was totally impractical then.

        One good example of what I mean is the so-called "Mother of all Demos", given by Doug Engelbart in 1968. Look it up on YouTube, I'm sure the video will be up there. It demonstrated concepts that were well ahead of their time, some of which have only recently entered the wider world. Check it out, it's a fascinating video.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Can you give some examples?

        What, like [wolframscience.com] compression? [google.com]

        It's my understanding that the initial foundation for the concept of compression was a mathematical notion in Information Theory, and it literally took 30+ years for anyone to be able to actually come up with a practical way of doing it or recognizing how useful it would be.

        That's definitely an example of something being basically a concept for a few decades.

        Cheers

    • It makes you wonder what great ideas and discoveries are lying hidden in old journals that no-one ever reads.

      And how important it is to properly index and search old and new material.

    • From what I can tell, much of "modern" computing was pretty much first developed, at least in theory, by the end of the 1960s. Maybe not quantum computing, but that's a loooong way from being practical, but damned near everything else architecture-wise was worked on. It's the technology catching up with 40 year old ideas.

    • This is a primary source of what you're talking about.

      Membership is expensive, but well worth it IMHO. They've been offering free access to their library to a limited pool of people for the last year too.

      Some few diggers do work this mine still.

    • It makes you wonder what great ideas and discoveries are lying hidden in old journals that no-one ever reads.

      That's pretty much why the word discover was used during the Renaissance -- scientific belief at the time was that the classical civilizations had already learned how the world worked, but the knowledge was lost in the middle ages, and science simply "removed the cover" that was veiling this knowledge. Any in many ways they were right -- the Greeks had invented the steam engine [wikipedia.org] and napalm [globalsecurity.org], and the B

    • by sorak (246725)

      My tutor at university used to get us to produce reports on old papers from the really early days of compsci, the 50's and 60's.

      What amazed me was how many great ideas were put forward which just couldn't have been implemented successfully at the time, and how many have turned up again many years later as "new" ideas.

      There are many ideas that were invented decades ago, but people have just forgotten about.

      It makes you wonder what great ideas and discoveries are lying hidden in old journals that no-one ever reads.

      I am not a scientist, or anything else relevant, but my understanding is that most advances are based not on how long it took for someone to come up with the idea, but on how long it took to aquire the technology needed to make said idea feasible.

  • by Fished (574624) <amphigory AT gmail DOT com> on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:36AM (#25412305)
    Wasn't this the experiment that was determined to apply to conditions that never really obtained, leading to the current leading theory that life molecules came to earth from comets?

    Amazing how much of the stuff in high school biology texts turns out to be not-quite-as-advertised.

    • by LordKazan (558383)

      um... if i understand you correctly

      no

    • Wasn't this the experiment that was determined to apply to conditions that never really obtained, leading to the current leading theory that life molecules came to earth from comets?

      Not really. The comet arrival conjecture is applied mainly to the basic organic molecules, not to amino acids. There's a brief summary at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_life_(science) [wikipedia.org]

      Amazing how much of the stuff in high school biology texts turns out to be not-quite-as-advertised.

      Amazing how some people write before they read.

      If you read TFA, or even if you read the OP, you'd have noticed that the tests using lightning in a reducing atmosphere are no longer thought to be representative of conditions on the early Earth. You'd also have noticed that the tests using conditions around volcanic e

    • by Laxitive (10360)

      I realize it's somewhat cliche, but read the article. The current investigators were interested in this because hypothesized gas composition in volcanic eruptions would actually have been similar to the composition used by Miller. Furthermore, the article states that volcanoes often spur lightning strikes in the same area.

      So they're claiming that the atmospheric conditions near erupting volcanoes WOULD, in fact, be similar to Miller's original composition, and that this environment itself generates a dive

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by eleuthero (812560)
      all of it--I had a professor in college note that the "stages of evolution" model showing the progression of a human fetus was complete bunk used to steer people away from creationism (no, she was not a creationist). They still use it in the texts where I teach today.
  • by aardwolf64 (160070) on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:37AM (#25412325) Homepage

    You know what else gives a higher yield of amino acids? 1 egg, 1 sperm, and 9 months.

  • by Bovius (1243040) on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:44AM (#25412391)

    I would say this is another potential blow to young-Earth creationists, but I think most of them aren't going to give this particular experiment much credit. It's unfortunate that we can't just look at the results of scientific experiments at face value without requiring a religious interpretation tacked on to the end. We'd all get along much better that way. Theists could do generally accepted scientific study without getting discredited for their beliefs. On the other hand, enough science already goes on with predetermined goals in mind, so maybe it's a moot point.

    Disclaimer: I am a creationist, although not a young-Earth creationist, and I don't disagree with most of the tenets of evolution. I won't engage in debate over the merits of evolutionist vs. creationist perspectives, because there's little to no meaningful debate to be had. At this point, both sides of the debate are taking whatever evidence comes up and claiming it supports their perspective.

    In other words, don't expect me to argue over the existence of God in this thread. Interesting findings, though!

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Colonel Korn (1258968)

      I would say this is another potential blow to young-Earth creationists, but I think most of them aren't going to give this particular experiment much credit. It's unfortunate that we can't just look at the results of scientific experiments at face value without requiring a religious interpretation tacked on to the end. We'd all get along much better that way. Theists could do generally accepted scientific study without getting discredited for their beliefs. On the other hand, enough science already goes on with predetermined goals in mind, so maybe it's a moot point.

      Disclaimer: I am a creationist, although not a young-Earth creationist, and I don't disagree with most of the tenets of evolution. I won't engage in debate over the merits of evolutionist vs. creationist perspectives, because there's little to no meaningful debate to be had. At this point, both sides of the debate are taking whatever evidence comes up and claiming it supports their perspective.

      In other words, don't expect me to argue over the existence of God in this thread. Interesting findings, though!

      Your comment proves my point! I win! You lose!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      It's unfortunate that we can't just look at the results of scientific experiments at face value without requiring a religious interpretation tacked on to the end

      Why not? That's what scientists do. It's almost everyone else who has that problem.

    • I just wish everyone would get along. There is no good reason to think that a god would have created a universe with laws, but circumvented them in the actual creation with a snap of his fingers. OTOH, even if we definitively show the universe emanated outward from a big bang, or is made of superstrings or sillystrings or even silly putty, the fact is we will never know what the universe is outside of it, i.e., in what context it exists.

      No one - other than mathematicians - has the complete answer, so both s

      • Only scientists are willing to admit that the don't know everything, and that what they believe at the moment may turn out to be wrong. Besides the battle isn't between science and religion. The battle is between arrogant fundamentalists that want you to believe what they believe because they said so, and everyone else that want and deserve the right to seek answers they find more satisfactory.

        Most of the scientists I know (I'm a college grad student, so everyone I work with) are very devout christians
      • Huh? Mathematicians have all the answers? Why are we still sitting around on slashdot?! I want my warp drives, teleporters and borg sexbots, and I want them last tuesday! Oh, and I also want them to explain this weird rash on my hand.

    • "I would say this is another potential blow to young-Earth creationists,"

      YEC'ism is a matter of who they are born to(i.e. christian parents) and whether or not they are born with the intelligence to escape it. Many YEC'ers are indoctrinated into it, one way to reduce YEC, would be by preventing christian folk from outbreeding the secular. Outbreed them and outnumber them and via social pressure of numbers they will be increasingly be marginalized and they will die out. The real problem is human nature th

    • by Sylver Dragon (445237) on Friday October 17, 2008 @11:25AM (#25414003) Journal
      I've never understood why many people can't accept the co-existence of science and religion. They do not have to be mutually exclusive, it's just the extremists on both sides which create the problem.

      Take Christianity and The Big Bang theroy. They work out just fine, so long as the Christian can accept that the Bible may not be a 100% accurate portrayal of how God did it. And the science side doesn't get up in arms with the idea that god wrote the laws of the universe. You know, maybe he dumbed it down a bit so that his bronze age audience could understand it.
      My usual view of it is about:
      God: In the beginning there was nothing, not time, not space, truly absolutely nothing.
      Well, the quiet was nice, but it got boring fast. So, I figured I would write up the basic laws to run a universe, kick start it and see what that got me.
      Abraham: Nothing, Universal Laws, kick start, got it. But what do you mean by "no time", how can you have no time?
      God: Just go with me on that one, you'll figure it out later.
      Abraham:OK.
      God:So, the Universe exploded into existence, as it expanded a high energy plasma began to condense down into quarks, anti-quarks and a whole host of other sub-atomic particles. And it was truly chaos. Particles and their anti-particles were colliding and mutually an... Yes, what it is Abraham, why are you raising your hand, do you need to pee?
      Abraham: Um, I think you lost me at about "Plasma", and I know what a "cork" is, but what's and "anti-cork", it is some kind of spout?
      God: Oh right, a few thousands years early on those, aren't I? Um, how are you with Calculus?
      Abraham: Calcu-what?
      God: Non-euclidean algebra?
      Abraham: ...
      God: Right, fuck it. New clay tablet. In the beginning I said, "Let there be light!" and there was, and it was good. Still with me?

      You know, maybe the Bible/Koran/Torah aren't really literal versions of what happened. Maybe they are just metaphors which worked for early man, and God hasn't bothered to update them.

      And no matter how fun it is to pick on religious folk, there is really no harm in them believing that there is an invisible sky wizard behind everything. As long as they aren't forcing that belief on others. Or trying to harm others who disagree with them.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by geschild (43455)

        I can't understand one can be an intelligent being and believe in $Deity. The quick answer is: in light of religion, independant thought dies.

        On a side-note, I can't think of a reason why you would want to conjure up a 'being' to create our universe. Where did the being come from? What created that being? If that being could exist forever out of nothing, then why not the universe by and of itself?

        You could do worse than to read "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins for a more thorough argumentation, if you

    • Why would it be a blow to anyone especially the loony creationists? This experiment, looking at it a few years later, didn't prove anything but that scientist also can be caught in hypes. Even 60 years later after these 'ideal' environments were defined and many more experiments with it, nothing more but amino acids have been created in a lab. To go from an amino acid to a single living cell is a big jump. A lot of those amino acids have to line up perfectly into things called RNA and DNA and then they have to all come together and somehow be jolted to life and THEN you have a single cell. Then that single cell has to be strong enough and survive long enough in that environment (whether it be lightning or volcanoes which are both very violent and tend to destroy stuff) it was created in and then it has to somehow figure out how to reproduce and in all that time, these 'ideal' environments have to calm down to a certain level so multi-celled organisms can survive.

      This hypothesis has very little credibility now in the 'real' scientific world. It might still be in high school and college textbooks and some of you armchair scientists might know of them but the probability of it actually happening that way is so very low that even hardcore (read: religionist) evolutionists just look at it and say 'meh, let's look at something else'.

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) * on Friday October 17, 2008 @11:46AM (#25414301) Homepage

        This hypothesis has very little credibility now in the 'real' scientific world. It might still be in high school and college textbooks and some of you armchair scientists might know of them but the probability of it actually happening that way is so very low that even hardcore (read: religionist) evolutionists just look at it and say 'meh, let's look at something else'.

        Um, say what? 'Which' particular hypothesis has very little credibility? Abiogenesis [wikipedia.org]? Just because it's a difficult field of study doesn't mean it is either uninteresting, unfunded or un-anything. For your edification and enjoyment a few crackpot lectures [rockefeller.edu].

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by guruevi (827432)

          That people still believe in it or study it doesn't mean it's not on shaky grounds. There is still ample study being funded that tries to defy both standard and quantum physics (creation of energy out of nothing) or that tries to defy science (some states in the US try to tell the world was created in literally 7 days and the earth (and everything else) is only 8000 years old). Abiogenesis was believed in by Greeks but Pasteur eventually found out that nothing comes out of nothing.

          The biggest problem with a

    • by Bobartig (61456)

      There can be no valid argument between Evolution and Creationism, first and foremost because the theory of "Creationism" does not exist, as there is no theory.

      Note, I'm not saying that its wrong, I'm saying that fundamentally, there is no consistent underlying principle or discipline of Creation that "Creationists" adhere to, and agree upon, have vetted, tested, and found to be consistent. Concepts of Creation vary widely in scope and reasoning. So, you believe in God, and you believe in some notion of Crea

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Another blow?

      haha, all science is against them. They have a non evidence based belief. Their interpretation of creation is poppycock. Many. many bible scholars have pointed out the creation is a allegory for 100's of years.
      Literalists are committing the sin of the simplici(sp?). Jesus said 'I am the door.' do they really think Jesus was literally a door?

      This isn't an attack on the existence of God, It'
      s just that the minority of believers who are literalists are vocal and wrong.

      There are many belief that do

    • I am no expert on theology or science. But what I don't understand is how a scientist will reconcile the concept (matter cannot be created or destroyed) with the concept (matter exists). They ask "where does God come from?" but do not explain where matter comes from. The flipside is to say matter was always here but they get mad if you say God was always here. Then they say we just haven't figured it out yet and science will explain all of these things in time, but they get mad if you say we don't understan
  • by tsa (15680)

    I was thinking about this subject the other day, and I thought: life must have spontaneously appeared out of structures that were self-assembling and contained RNA or DNA and proteins. Why doesn't this spontaneously appearing of life happen continuously all around us, or at least in suitable places on Earth? And is the fact that this doesn't happen continuously, despite the fact that we seem to have many suitable places on this planet, a strong indicator that life as we know it may not have started on this

    • What makes you think it isn't happening? In geological time, things happen incredibly slowly. It took 4.5 billion years for us to get to this point. Now think about where do new illness causing organisms come from...
      • by tsa (15680)

        The distinction between life and non-life is quite big, so the last step in the development of life must be big and spontaneously. Someone further in the thread made the very valid point that it could be that we don't see new life because it gets almost directly swallowed up by passing bacteria or other lifeforms. But in environments that are hostile to other lifeforms, which we have quite a few of, the new life can easily get the upper hand.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by JesseMcDonald (536341)

          The distinction between life and non-life is quite big, so ...

          This is a false premise. While there is a noticeable gap between things that are definitely alive and things that definitely aren't, there are intermediate forms which we have a harder time classifying (e.g. viruses). Rather than a single "big and spontaneous" event, consider that non-living structures can gradually transition through various levels of semi-life before eventually giving way to something we would clearly recognize as a living organism.

    • by jonnythan (79727) on Friday October 17, 2008 @10:02AM (#25412633) Homepage

      Well virtually every cubic centimeter on the planet already contains some form of life already. Chances are a random collection of amino acids, phosphates, and maybe even a base sugar or two that could have eventually possibly evolved into a totally new life form before life existed will actually just get swallowed up by a passing bacterium or amoeba today.

      • by looseBits (556537) on Friday October 17, 2008 @10:23AM (#25412977)

        Yes, the original pre-biotic soup of life likely contained a bunch of RNA/DNA pre-cursor nucleotides as well as amino acids, sugars and who knows what else. I'm sure many different self-replicating molecules competed for these pre-cursors but according to the RNA-World hypothesis, RNA was able to out-compete other strategies (RNA it turns out does a halfway decent job of storing genetic information as well as catalyzing reactions). The theory goes that RNA eventually became the dominate self-replicating molecule and at some point these RNA molecules shifted the responsibility of storing genetic data to DNA (which is more stable and less prone to replication errors) and shifted enzymatic activity to proteins. I find this hypothesis fairly elegant as this kind of evolution explains RNA's current function in modern cells - as an intermediary between DNA and proteins. Also, that ribosomes still use RNA (rRNA) for enzymatic assembly of proteins with the help of tRNA to fetch the amino acids and mRNA to carry the genetic information from the DNA to the ribosomes. RNA's central role in the creation of proteins seems to imply it had the initial role of genetic storage and enzymes before it outsourced it to DNA and proteins.

        I am sure there are plenty of instances since modern cells became prevalent of abiotic formation of complex molecules but they serve as nothing but a snack for modern bacteria.

  • Ancient Atmosphere (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PainMeds (1301879)
    From TFA:

    Yes, I know that Miller's reducing atmosphere is no longer considered to be an accurate representation of the ancient earth's atmosphere

    This is true; in fact, had Miller used an accurate representation of ancient earth's atmosphere, the result would have been formaldehyde and cyanide - the very antithesis of life. It is interesting, though, (and I'm not trying to troll, or take sides on anything), but one thing the Miller experiment illustrated was that life could be intelligently planned and
    • You are drawing a false dichotomy. Evidence contradicting the Miller hypothesis is not evidence in favor of creationism or "intelligent design." Miller did not show that you could manufacture life, especially if you believed that his experiment was flawed.

    • by zappepcs (820751) on Friday October 17, 2008 @10:45AM (#25413321) Journal

      I find the theory that the universe and earth are fine tuned for life on this planet a ludicrous example of rectal/cranial inversion.

      The assumption that the conditions on the planet earth are created just so current life forms can exist presumes that previous life on this planet could have existed in the current conditions. The fossil records seems to indicate that this is not correct.

      Life exists here because it formed here. Had it formed on some other planet (and it might have) then it would have formed to suit that environment as if it had been fine tuned for life. Creatures that live on the ocean floor by thermal vents live in an environment that would kill surface lifeforms almost instantly. How is this 'fine tuning' anything? It isn't. Lifeforms evolved to suit a particular environment, not the other way around. Intelligent Design is ludicrous. Ever hear of congenital deformities? With every discovery of a link between genetics and human behavior and disease, ID loses even more. It doesn't appear to be that complex or even intelligent of a design. In fact, more and more it looks like there was no design, that it was all done accidentally, incrementally, and haphazardly. I don't think the appendix was part of the great design for modern man. How many of us actually use or still have wisdom teeth? How are your tonsils doing? Yes, all part of a wonderful design. Are you genetically predisposed to being fat? Gay? Have heart attacks? Cancer? Yes, a wonderfully intelligent design.

      so... NO, this discovery does NOT support ID. It supports the theory that life on Earth is a wonderful and amazing accident.

      • by gnick (1211984) on Friday October 17, 2008 @11:36AM (#25414151) Homepage

        Life exists here because it formed here. Had it formed on some other planet (and it might have) then it would have formed to suit that environment as if it had been fine tuned for life.

        The best phrasing I've heard for that (may have come from a /. sig - I don't recall) was:

        Remarking that the earth is perfectly suited to support its inhabitants is like a puddle of water remarking that its pot hole is perfectly contoured to its shape.

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) * on Friday October 17, 2008 @11:52AM (#25414397) Homepage
        Exactly. Remember kids - evolution doesn't require elegance. It doesn't require efficiency. It doesn't require cleverness. It just requires that your offspring do slightly better that other critter's offspring in your particular environment.

        Oh, and Slashdotters - remember the 'offspring' part. That's important.

        You're doomed.
      • by gillbates (106458)

        Okay, consider this:

        1. How many applications have library code in them which is not used at all?
        2. How many applications have identical sections of code? (Think: static libraries)
        3. How many applications came into existence of their own volition without any designer or intelligent agent acting as a designer?

        Not to tear down evolution, but you do realize that the evidence we do see could be interpreted in a much different light, and still be consistent. The fossil record, DNA, etc... could be explained away a

        • by zappepcs (820751)

          To start with, software has a visible, talking, breathing creator that we can chat with about why they chose to write the code that way. Does ID? when we all can sit down and have a cup of coffee with god, I'll change my mind on this.

          Science has been notably wrong before (you know, that whole Earth-is-the-center-of-the-universe thing...), and it routinely discovers information which invalidates previous theories.

          I want you to publicly and profoundly apologize to Galileo, right now! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo [wikipedia.org]

          If there was scientific proof of God's existence, they'd have to change their entire thought model of the Universe, and that change is particularly scary to them.

          If... IF... If there was scientific evidence of the existence of a god, a whole bunch of scientists and others would be glad to change their minds about it. The trouble

    • by khallow (566160)

      It is interesting, though, (and I'm not trying to troll, or take sides on anything), but one thing the Miller experiment illustrated was that life could be intelligently planned and synthesized. Wouldn't that seem to support modern day ID more so than evolution?

      If this does (and I don't agree with your characterization), it is much less so than humanity's extensive history of agriculture, which ironically demonstrates that one can have a process of intelligent design (here of many plants and animals used as food by humans) and evolution at the same time.

    • by pclminion (145572) on Friday October 17, 2008 @10:56AM (#25413517)

      Cyanide is toxic because it disrupts aerobic respiration. Specifically it inhibits cytochrome C oxidase. I find it highly unlikely that A) primitive life was aerobic (in fact we KNOW it was not, since there was no free oxygen in the first place) and B) even if it was, that it would possess this enzyme. Calling cyanide an "antithesis" of life is a bit overboard.

      The same argument goes for formaldehyde. Just because something is toxic to you or me doesn't necessarily mean it would be toxic to some extremely primitive life form. Generally life will make use of what is at hand. For all we know, early life DEPENDED on cyanide.

    • by richlv (778496)

      Wouldn't that seem to support modern day ID more so than evolution?

      only if there was a plausible theory for the existence and recursive creation of the creator (because that one could not have formed on itself as well, somebody had to create god, you know)

    • by JamesP (688957)

      the result would have been formaldehyde and cyanide - the very antithesis of life

      You could also say that Oxygen is the anthythesis of life. There are several life forms which die instantly upon coming in contact with oxygen. Hence, a planet with a high concentration of oxygen should be a lifeless planet.

    • by PPH (736903)

      Supporting ID?

      No prebiotic soup for you!

  • Following his death last year, a former student discovered the materials from those experiments

    How did he discover the materials after his death?

  • by srvivn21 (410280) on Friday October 17, 2008 @01:41PM (#25415859)

    Following his death last year, a former student discovered the materials from those experiments, in labelled vials.

    So the former student died, was placed in labeled vials and then made this discovery? That is simply astounding.

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