Harvard Origin of Life Initiative, a Orgueil Déjà Vu

Charles Darwin in The Origin of Species gave scant attention to origin of life issues. Only in the last paragraph of the book that Darwin suggests that life was “originally breathed by the Creator”

Privately, in a letter to Joseph D. Hooker in February 1871 Darwin alternatively speculated that life might have actually 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”.

This “some warm little pond” explanation has since been considered Darwin’s dominate origin of life point of view. But, this unsettling origin of life issue drove Darwin to become an agnostic: “The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic.” Darwin did not exclude the existence of God.

In 1864, just five years after the publication of the first edition of The Origin of Species, an enormous fireball seared a path through the sky over southern France near Orgueil, announcing its arrival with terrifying thunder. In the aftermath, the villagers retrieved around 20 ink-black pieces of meteorite space rock.

French chemist François Stanislaus Clöez, professor of chemistry at the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle, after examining some of the samples announced that the meteorite contained organic matter. At the time, theories speculating on the spontaneous generation of life were popular.

Since organic matter can indicate a biological origin, Clöez ‘s declaration supported a spontaneous generation of life from inorganic molecules theory. Evidence from the Orgueil meteorite aligned with the concept of life originating spontaneously in space by random chance from lifeless inorganic matter.

Louis Pasteur disproved the concept of spontaneous generation later that same year. However, spontaneously generation of life in space has continued to be popular. Why?

The infamous Miller-Urey experiment of the 1950’s produced biologically active molecules, but only in an atmosphere without oxygen.

Oxygen is a critical difference between the atmosphere on Earth and space. Tests have demonstrated that biologically active molecules cannot assemble from inorganic matter in an atmosphere with oxygen, like the Earth’s atmosphere.

The scientific evidence points to the presence of oxygen in the atmosphere early in the life of the Earth. In the words of Jon Cohen, writer for Science, “the early atmosphere looked nothing like the Miller–Urey simulation.”

For this main reason, research on origin of life has been focusing on discovering the origin of life in space−not Earth. The 2005, Harvard University announced the launching of the Origin of Life Initiative with $1 million per year seed funding from the university.

The purpose of the initiative is to integrate a range of scientific disciplines from biology to astronomy “to understand how life emerged from the chemical soup of early Earth, and how this might have happened on distant planets”.

David R. Liu, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard explained: ”my expectation is that we will be able to reduce this to a very simple series of logical events that could have taken place with no divine intervention.”

The Origin of Life Initiative declaration:

At Harvard, astronomers search for undiscovered planets… and focus on the route to assemble complex self-replicating molecules; and molecular biologists concentrate on the ultimate leap — how biological evolution can emerge from the chemistry.

The Harvard Origin of Life initiative is simply a Orgueil déjà vu.  The evolution industry, even with vast funding resources, has still not discovered the origin of life. After more than 150 years of exploration, we are still no closer to discovering a non-divine origin of life cause than was Darwin.

Darwin words continue to stand: “The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us”.

The scientific evidence to exclude a “divine intervention” in the origin of life has been a complete failure−the entire purpose of the Harvard Origin of Life Initiative. Déjà vu

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