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Biotech Earth Science

Scientists Create RNA From Primordial Soup 369

Posted by timothy
from the that's-notional-primordial-soup-to-you dept.
Kristina at Science News writes "The RNA world hypothesis proposed 40 years ago suggested that life on Earth started not with DNA but with RNA. Now a team of scientists bolsters this hypothesis, having assembled RNA in the lab from a mixture that resembles what was likely the primordial soup. 'Until now,' Science News reports, 'scientists couldn't figure out the chemical reactions that created the earliest RNA molecules.' The new work started the RNA assembly chemistry from a different angle than what earlier work had tried."
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Scientists Create RNA From Primordial Soup

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  • by vrmlguy (120854)

    I thought that the headline was "Scientists Create RNA From Primordial Soap", which would have been interesting in a completely different way.

  • Abiogenesis.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jawtheshark (198669) * <slashdot@nosPAm.jawtheshark.com> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:25PM (#27944239) Homepage Journal
    Abiogenesis.... Take that ID-iots!
    • Re:Abiogenesis.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Captain Splendid (673276) <capsplendid@g m a i l . com> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:29PM (#27944287) Homepage Journal
      Shoulda used your troll account, the creationists are going to modbomb you for sure.
    • Ignoratio Elenchi (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:36PM (#27944437)

      Demonstrating that another link in the evolutionary chain can happen without conscious intervention (spontaneously and mechanically) does not demonstrate the non-existence of an intelligent designer.

      It, at best, removes a point that was previously used to defend ID.

      But, logically, the inability to prove something does not constitute a disproof (that would be the fallacy of Argumentum ad Ignorantium).

      Disclaimer: I am not an ID proponent. I am just a logician.

      • by retchdog (1319261) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:41PM (#27944507) Journal

        Demonstrating (something) does not demonstrate the non-existence of an intelligent designer.

        Indeed; nothing can.

        • by digitalunity (19107) <digitalunity.yahoo@com> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:49PM (#27944593) Homepage

          God crushing you nonbelievers with rain of sulfur and fire would settle the matter nicely.

          I'm not holding my breath though.

          • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @06:00PM (#27944731) Journal

            No, it wouldn't settle anything. Any being sufficiently more powerful than you can convince you that it is omnipotent. Any being sufficiently more clever than you could convince you that it is omniscient. An advanced alien race, claiming to be God, could determine who believes in God and who doesn't, and rain sulfur and fire on the nonbelievers, so a rain of fire and sulfur from something claiming to be God would not prove God exists, sorry.

            • by Polumna (1141165) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @06:41PM (#27945169)
              Come on, man, this is slashdot. You could have made your whole point with just the words: "Star Trek V" ;D
            • by corbettw (214229) <corbettw@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @07:11PM (#27945485) Journal

              If God exists, and if he's omniscient and omnipotent, he could design an event guaranteed to convince every non-believer in the world of his existence. The fact that he doesn't means either:

              a) he doesn't care, so why bother worshiping him?
              b) he doesn't exist, so why bother worshiping him?
              c) he likes to play mind games, so why bother worshiping him?

              • by tool462 (677306) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @07:25PM (#27945595)

                d) God is actually a woman. Powerful, but insecure, and she needs you to show her how much you love her all the time. If you don't, she'll get depressed and eat her weight in mint-chocolate chip ice cream, in which case she'll end up omnipresent in more ways than one.

              • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                by Anonymous Coward

                d) YOU like to play mind games by laying out ridiculously narrow terms for god to demonstrate his existence.

                Thinking that there is no possible evidence for god's existence is retarded and only demonstrates how little ability the person saying it has for stepping back and looking at the situation. Life is complex and it works well. It's not proof, it's evidence. The laws of physics yield a consistent universe. It's not proof, it's evidence.

                The ability of otherwise intelligent people to skew this issue by

                • Evidence of what? (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by interactive_civilian (205158) <mamoru@gma i l . com> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @08:54PM (#27946325) Homepage Journal

                  Life is complex and it works well. It's not proof, it's evidence. The laws of physics yield a consistent universe. It's not proof, it's evidence.

                  Both of these things are only evidence of themselves. Nothing more. You cannot logically extrapolate these things into anything more than they are without direct evidence of something more. No matter how much evidence the universe gives of its own existence, it does not point to anything beyond that, be it God or invisible unicorns or Flying Spaghetti Monsters, sauce be upon him, or anything else. The current body of evidence points only to its own existence.

                  If you want to posit the existence of God, based on the evidence provided by the universe, then you need direct evidence of God (well, you also need a clear, falsifiable definition of God). Otherwise, Occam's Razor gives us the more likely conclusion. Given the same body of evidence, the simpler explanation tends to be the correct explanation, unless more evidence appears to show otherwise.

                  In this case, the body of evidence: The universe.

                  - H0.) The universe just exists.

                  - H1.) The universe exists because God created it. God just exists.

                  Given the same body of evidence, H0 is the more likely explanation, and there is no REASON to assume H1 without further evidence.

                  While you cannot prove a negative, in science, lack of evidence for H1 is provisional evidence for H0. Also, any scientist knows that you can NEVER prove anything based on observation. You can only disprove it OR decrease the likelihood of its falseness.

                  NB: Most of the "you" in this post is the general "you" not a specific "you" to the parent post.

                • by MojoRilla (591502) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @10:17PM (#27946845)
                  Neither the laws of physics nor the complexity of life in any way provide objective evidence that there is an omnipotent, supernatural god. They can also be evidence that complexity can arise from simplicity, and that the universe happens to have hospitable conditions for life.

                  Only someone who believes in god would see those as evidence of god. Don't feel bad though. Your ape hierarchical mind is probably hardwired to believe in god. Believing in hierarchy is good for the group.
              • by AmberBlackCat (829689) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @07:59PM (#27945911)
                A false... trilemma...
              • by copponex (13876) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @08:04PM (#27945955) Homepage

                Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God?

                -Epicurus, 300 BCE

                The refrain from fundamentalists, Christian and Muslim and Jew alike, is because he is God, and he said so, according to this really old book. Which is usually the inerrant word of God - they just can't agree on which version is the "perfect" word. Once you try to engage someone who firmly believes that they know what God thinks, there's no use in trying to apply logic.

                One of my favorite David Cross bits is where he's asking out loud for the name of the television show where there's this guy on stage, and everyone in the television audience believes he can talk to the dead. The crowd in front of David keeps shouting out "Crossing Over!"

                And then David says, "Oh no, it was church, it was church."

              • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

                by shermo (1284310)

                Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
                Then he is not omnipotent.
                Is he able, but not willing?
                Then he is malevolent.
                Is he both able, and willing?
                Then why is their evil?
                Is he neither able nor willing?
                Then why call him God

                ~Epicurus

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                d) He gives you the choice, doesn't force you to believe, and respects your decision. Same way your parents can't force you to love them.

                If you're genuinely asking this question and want some answers send me a msg : )
            • This sort of scenario presents itself in any situation where proof is desired. It's called the brain-in-a-vat syndrome.

              This is why proof often isn't a very good standard of what to believe. You can't really have definite answers without axioms, whether your answer is in itself an axiom or is based on such. Math is an example of this, the most complicated such system I can think of, yet interestingly the most useful as well. But I digress.

              The reasoned conclusion that your deceitful "sufficiently powerful/cle

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by retchdog (1319261)

            No it wouldn't. It certainly doesn't disprove an intelligent designer. One could argue that it would prove the existence of an IDer, however it does not.

            It's eminently possible, even under these circumstances, that the universe evolved atheistically, until some asshole god/demiurge decided to take credit for it and toast Sol III.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by ozbird (127571)

            God crushing you nonbelievers with rain of sulfur and fire would settle the matter nicely.

            I'm not holding my breath though.

            I would - burning sulphur is not good for your lungs.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by FudRucker (866063)
          if the ID/Creationists claim there is a god then the burden of proof is on the ID/Creationists to prove god exists, until then i remain a devout atheist...
        • by Capsaicin (412918) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @10:00PM (#27946743)
          [quote]Demonstrating (something) does not demonstrate the non-existence of an intelligent designer.[/quote]

          Indeed; nothing can.

          Nor indeed is there any requirement or reason to "demonstrate the non-existence of X," where there is no evidence for the putative existence of X.

          On a side not, this discovery doesn't demonstrate the non-existence of the tooth fairy either.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MobyDisk (75490)

          Just to add: this is called a non-falsifiable theory [wikipedia.org].

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Demonstrating that another link in the evolutionary chain can happen without conscious intervention (spontaneously and mechanically) does not demonstrate the non-existence of an intelligent designer.

        As a logician, what are your thoughts on the minimum description-length principle? The MDL principle suggests that it's a mistake to add a God to the equation if there's no specific need for one.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "does not demonstrate the non-existence of an intelligent designer."

        Of course. That's because nothing can prove the non-existence of a sufficiently powerful intelligent designer. When Newton proposed that universal gravitation could predict the motion of the planets, did that prevent the Hand of God itself, or some other immensely powerful intelligent designer, from actively guiding the planets around in their orbits in accordance with what we perceive as gravitation?

        No. But that's because it is not real

        • What you've said is that the existence of a deity isn't a scientific question, which is true. Science doesn't deal with proving anything, though. Science deals with observation, experimentation, and ultimately devising a theory that can predict future observations. Mathematics deals with proofs. Proving that a deity exists is orthogonal to science.
      • by atraintocry (1183485) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @07:57PM (#27945891)

        Capital-I-capital-D Intelligent Design is a political movement based on getting anti-evolution viewpoints brought into science curricula.

        The mere belief in a God who created and designed the universe is not what this is about. If it were, then every religious scientist would call themselves IDers. It's not, and they don't.

        These people are not interested in logic. If they were, they would know that the burden of proof was on them and not the other way around.

      • Re:Ignoratio Elenchi (Score:5, Informative)

        by Fallen Seraph (808728) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @08:16PM (#27946045)

        Demonstrating that another link in the evolutionary chain...

        Stop right there. You couldn't even make it half-way through the first sentence without being wrong about something, impressive...

        Evolution has nothing to do with the origin of life. Evolution is the concept that organisms change over time due to external forces/stimuli (be they natural or artificial). It has nothing to do with the origin of life whatsoever, period, end of story.

        Evolution is about the origin of species (an apt name for a book might I add :P) and the diversity of life, not where life itself comes from.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by cmarkn (31706)

        I am not an ID proponent. I am just a logician.

        But then you repeat yourself.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Demonstrating that another link in the evolutionary chain can happen without conscious intervention (spontaneously and mechanically) does not demonstrate the non-existence of an intelligent designer.

        Are you familiar with the scientific process? This was yet another falsifiable test for the currently best supported version of the theory of abiogenesis. It was a test the theory passed, adding more support for said theory in that it made a useful prediction.

        It, at best, removes a point that was previously used to defend ID.

        ID is not logically defensible. It is not science. There is no hypothesis of intelligent design that I've ever been able to find.

        But, logically, the inability to prove something does not constitute a disproof (that would be the fallacy of Argumentum ad Ignorantium).

        The logical structure of the scientific method is well known. We even covered it in my intro to logic class and in numerous

    • by Dystopian Rebel (714995) * on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @06:29PM (#27945047) Journal

      "Sutherland says [...] 'The key turned out to be the order that the ingredients are added and the way you put them together -- like making a soufflé.'"

      How much clearer does it need to be made to you amoral materialists that cooking dinner needs *a Chef*?

      The only thing I regret is that Sutherland compared God's Work to making a "soufflé". Couldn't he have used a good Christian American recipe?

      Like omelette!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Abiogenesis.... Take that ID-iots!

      Scientists stitching together molecules like a chemical zipper to recreate a simple RNA sounds a lot more like "Design" and a lot less like "abiogenesis" to me, actually...

      Quoting Sutherland's team from TFA:

      It's not as simple as putting compounds in a beaker and mixing it up. It's a series of steps. You still have to stop and purify and then do the next step, and that probably didn't happen in the ancient world.

      Seriously, watching Abiogenesis fiends bickering with "Intelligent Design" supporters over who is more wrong makes me think I'm back on Digg when it was used as Richard Dawkin's RSS feed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rezalas (1227518)
      So after reading the article, here is what I gathered:

      1) A bunch of scientists who know what RNA looks like found a complex way or mixing and meshing chemicals together and purifying the process then repeating until they artificially created RNA.
      2) They admit it wouldn't have worked in nature on its own...
      3) People suddenly claim it disproves ID. Hell, all they DID was PROVE ID. The whole fucking article says "we, a bunch of intelligent people, used advanced chemistry to make something that we admit wo
      • by AK Marc (707885)
        Only if they are God.
        • by rezalas (1227518)
          No, intelligent design does not require god. ID requires that an intelligent being of some kind, even a giant spaghetti monster if it could, designed everything. ID does not equate to God, God equates to ID. Big difference.
          • by AK Marc (707885)
            ID requires God because ID requires not just ID in abiogenisis, but in creation of the materials present and creation of the laws of physics. Anyone that can design laws of physics is God. And ID (the ID, not some "intelligent design" spinoff) requires that it be God that did it. Anything else is a redefinition of ID to suit the needs of the argument, but then that is a pillar of ID anyway...
        • Only for sufficient values of omnipotence.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hahn (101816)

      Abiogenesis.... Take that ID-iots!

      I'm not an ID proponent at all and I realize you're at least half-joking, but this research finding doesn't do anything to disprove ID. In fact, if anything it somewhat favors it. ID asserts that there are certain aspects of the universe and life forms that require a directed force by an intelligent being. IOW, it requires planning. This research demonstrates that a lot of steps and manipulation that are NOT present in nature, were required to end up with RNA. It didn't happen "naturally". Ergo, "inte

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Unipuma (532655)

        Actually, what this research demonstrates is that with the basic components, it IS possible to create RNA.
        The research in no way proclaims to have found the way in which RNA was created in nature. It only proves that, without making any claims as to method, it is possible.
        I do not believe that they claim that they have found the -ONLY- way in which RNA can be created based on the raw components.

  • Clearly... (Score:4, Funny)

    by MachDelta (704883) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:29PM (#27944297)

    A wizard did it.

  • by anticlone (1245294) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:35PM (#27944409)
    they found a reaction pathway - that does not prove it happened that way - I too thought the article title indicated spontaneous generation of RNA from primordial soup.
    • by iamhigh (1252742) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:47PM (#27944577)

      they found a reaction pathway - that does not prove it happened that way - I too thought the article title indicated spontaneous generation of RNA from primordial soup.

      I have always thought that spontaneous was the wrong word for this theory. Spontaneous implies *NO* external force. There could have been (I think there probably was) forces such as comets, lava, boiling water, glass, wind, fire, water, and mixture of those or just about anything else. To show that it is possible, with what was known to exist at that time is not proof that it happened exactly that way, but it could have. And I highly doubt we will ever figure out how it actually happened.

    • by Deosyne (92713)

      Possibly not, but it is still nice to see a proof of concept actually carried out for a theory. Now if only the detractors would do the same.

  • Deja vu (Score:4, Funny)

    by SnarfQuest (469614) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:39PM (#27944475)

    a mixture that resembles what was likely the primordial soup.

    Deja vu: I just had primordial soup for lunch.

  • I've assembled a Windows XP kernel from Campbell's cream of leek soup.

  • by ThistleForce (1554011) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:52PM (#27944619)
    Anyone that only scans the synopsis is going to get the wrong idea. Read the article...it's more than likely that this never occurred in nature. Since when do organisms add material and cleanse and add and cleanse? Who threw the sugar in the first primordial soup? Where would RNA get it's instructions? There are too many holes... this isn't a breakthrough in science, It's an episode of "The Frugal Gourmet"
  • by reverseengineer (580922) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:54PM (#27944635)
    This is the reaction sequence that's being proposed here: link [nytimes.com].

    Previously, the sticking point was that there was no logical way for the sugar (ribose) to spontaneously attach to the base. Organisms use enzymes to transfer a ribose phosphate group to a base, but of course, in the time before enzymes could be coded for, that wouldn't be possible. This sequence neatly sidesteps that, and also provides a more logical reason for phosphate to be involved; it is the reagent that attacks that tricyclic pyrimidosugar, breaking the bond to form ribocytidine phosphate.

    Coincidentally, UV light deaminates cytosine to form uracil, which is where that second base comes from. This is why DNA uses thymine instead of uracil, by the way- as the archival storage medium for our genetic information, it would be unwise to have one base easily interconvert into another. The shorter expected lifetime of RNA means the interconversion is not a concern, though.
    • Nice summary. Better than the summary. More interesting stuff on RNA as the precursor to life here [rockefeller.edu].
  • Bender!!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by supernova_hq (1014429) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @11:57PM (#27947433)
    Looks like they finally have the blueprints to build Bender [wikipedia.org].

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