Astrobiology Essence of Life Fiasco

Charles Darwin in a letter Joseph D. Hooker in February 1871 speculated that life might have originated in “some warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity, &c., present, that a proteine compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes”. The search for the origin and essence of life continues.

Central to the origin of life issue is the question, what is life? The journal Astrobiology in December 2010 featured a collection of essays on the topic “What is Life?” organized by David Deamer of the University of California, Santa Cruz, by asking the question, “Can life be defined?”

An international team from France and Mexico, Stephane Tirard, Michel Morange, Antonio Lazcano answered the call with “The Definition of Life: A Brief History of an Elusive Scientific Endeavor”, with the reply, no:

Life is an empirical concept; and, as suggested by the many unsuccessful efforts to define it, this task is likely to remain, at best, a work in progress.” Noting that “between the non-living and the living… it may be meaningless to draw a strict line between them.

Mark A. Bedau, Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, agrees with Tirard, Moranage, and Lazcano:

This problem is controversial, and there is nothing approaching a consensus about what life is.

From Yale University, Steven A. Benner currently with the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution notes,

Any definition is intricately connected to a theory that gives it meaning.

In other words, the theory of life determines the definition of life—circular reasoning, a tautology at its best. In the context of evolution, “Darwinian evolution might itself be forced to change as supra-Darwinian species emerge… in our exploration of the Cosmos.”

To conclude the collection, Deamer includes an essay entitled “A Theory of Circular Organization and Negative Feedback” published in the journal Astrobiology by the late Sergey Tsokolo, molecular biology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz:

Because life could not exist in their absence, [biochemical] feedback loops should be included in definitions of life.

According to these astrobiologists, life is definable only in the terms of molecular functions. Italian geneticist and editor of the longest running biology journal in the world, Giuseppe Sermonti in the book “Why a Fly is Not a Horse” disagrees: “biochemical complexity has little to offer in explaining evolution”, and hence the definition of life.

No wonder Sermonti has been driven to conclude –

Evolution is really more of a paradigm or methodology than a theory.

Sermonti notes further,

Molecular biology has cultivated a passion for abstract ‘life’.

Life is simply indefinable in the context of an evolutionary theory. No wonder, evolutionary Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University, Jerry Fodor, has been driven to conclude –

Astrobiology doesn’t exist.

Robert Hazen, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington explains in an interview with Suzan Mazur why astrobiology continues to exist

Astrobiology is growing tremendously because there is a stable source of funding. Let’s face it. Science is a social endeavor. If people can get jobs, they’re going to go into the field. Right now NASA and other government agencies and also non-government agencies are putting money into this.

NASA established the Astrobiology Program in 1996. Now, the study of astrobiology is the primary reason for the existence of NASA. In their own words,

Astrobiology is a cross-cutting theme in all of NASA’s space science endeavors, knitting together research in astrophysics, earth science, and heliophysics as well as planetary science.

The evolution industry captures a major fraction of government funded science programs. After more than a decade, however, even NASA has failed in answering Deamer’s basic question, “What is Life?”

“Biologists have been unable to agree on a definition of the complex phenomenon known as ‘life’,” according to Mary Ann Liebert, writing for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society. Liebert’s article was featured in ScienceDaily, January 13, 2011.

Amazingly, Darwin faired better. In facing the essence of life issue, starting with the second edition of The Origin of Species, Darwin included the following phrase in the final paragraph all the subsequent editions –

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator.

With certainty, Louis Pasteur’s principle Omne vivum ex vivo, all life comes from life, is the essence of life, as illustrated by Michelangelo—not as a mindless product of cosmic chaos over eons of time.

The U.S. government should stop funding the insane notions, like finding the essence of life through astrobiology. The essence of life originated beyond the realm of natural laws.

References available upon request.

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Darwin, Then and Now is a journey through the most amazing story in the history of science - the history of evolution. The book encapsulates who Darwin was, what he said, and what scientists have discovered since the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859.

With over 1,000 references, Darwin Then and Now is a historical chronicle of the rise and fall of the once popular theory of biological evolution.