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Can the Origin of Life Be Simplified?

first_imgEvolutionists looking for a materialistic explanation for the origin of life know that there is a huge gap between a sea of chemicals and a self-replicating cell.  Over the years since the Miller experiment (see 05/02/2003 entry), there have been several approaches trying to bridge this gap.  One has been the RNA World hypothesis, that RNA molecules fulfilled the functions of genetic storage and enzymatic activity (but see problems in 07/11/2002 entry).  A different approach rising in popularity these days is the “metabolism first” hypothesis.    This approach, championed by Harold Morowitz, Robert Hazen and others, looks for self-sustaining chemical cycles that could grow in complexity till co-opted later by nucleic acids and proteins.  Most researchers in the field are diffident about progress they’re making, but Michael Schirber on LiveScience shucked aside all modesty in the title of his article broadcast throughout the news media (see Fox News, for example), by announcing: “How Life Began: New Research Suggests a Simple Approach.”  Schirber reduced an enormous problem to the simplicity of flipping a switch, making it seem as if metabolism-first was a known fact of history:Somewhere on Earth, close to 4 billion years ago [sic], a set of molecular reactions flipped a switch and became life.  Scientists try to imagine this animating event [sic] by simplifying the processes that characterize living things.Not only that, he said, “New research suggests the simplification needs to go further.”  But then, after the title had done its comforting work, Schirber spent a whole section debunking the RNA World and Miller Experiment scenarios.  He focused instead on the ideas of Robert Shapiro (New York U) who favors the metabolism-first approach, and quoted him explaining why other approaches fail:Shapiro, however, thinks this so-called “RNA world” is still too complex to be the origin of life.  Information-carrying molecules like RNA are sequences of molecular “bits.”  The primordial soup [sic] would be full of things that would terminate these sequences before they grew long enough to be useful, Shapiro says.    “In the very beginning, you couldn’t have genetic material that could copy itself unless you had chemists back then doing it for you,” Shapiro told LiveScience.Shapiro is usually a good realist for spoiling the optimism of researchers envisioning RNA Worlds and primordial soups.  But he has his own hopeful world in an imaginary landscape, where garbage bags turn into powerhouses:Instead of complex molecules, life started with small molecules interacting through a closed cycle of reactions, Shapiro argues in the June issue of the Quarterly Review of Biology.  These reactions would produce compounds that would feed back into the cycle, creating an ever-growing reaction network    All the interrelated chemistry might be contained in simple membranes, or what physicist Freeman Dyson calls “garbage bags.”  These might divide just like cells do [sic], with each new bag carrying the chemicals to restart—or replicate—the original cycle.  In this way, “genetic” information could be passed downThe word “genetic” is in quotes because that’s a pretty loose application of a word so closely tied to information storage and retrieval.    The article jumps to discussing work by other researchers who found a microbe that runs a simple reaction cycle via two proteins.  One of them leaped to the conclusion that “This cycle is where all evolution emanated from.”  James Ferry (Penn State) continued triumphantly, “It is the father of all life.”  Shapiro, wearing his realism hat again, countered skeptically that something had to create the two proteins.  Probability studies show this to be astronomically unlikely (see online book).  He ended with a proverb, “We have to let nature instruct us.”Michael Schirber easily wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week with his dazzling, death-defying leap, “Somewhere on Earth, close to 4 billion years ago, a set of molecular reactions flipped a switch and became life.”  What could be more simple than flipping a switch?  He flipped a switch, all right, but in the OFF direction, turning the light of honest science into darkness.  Ferry wins a close second for his zinger about a reaction cycle (in a living microbe) being the “father of all life.”    Robert Hazen (George Mason U) made a great pitch for Metabolism-First in his 2006 lecture series for The Teaching Company, “Origins of Life.”  It’s interesting to hear him waffle between grandiose optimism and the hard realities of the lab.  In the end he has nothing more than visions and hope to keep him going in the face of repeated honest admissions of serious and fundamental challenges no matter what approach is used.  (In addition, he describes in some detail the partisanship and bickering between competing groups.)  Never do any of the workers in origin-of-life research entertain the slightest possibility that materialism might be the wrong answer.  They cannot, because they have already convinced themselves philosophically that science and materialistic philosophy are one and the same.    Unfortunately for them, Metabolism First is another dead end.  Why wait for the capitulation speech?  We already know that genetics is essential to life.  Metabolic reactions cannot code for function; they can only run in circles.  Planets run in circles, too, but they are not alive.  For a metabolic cycle to grow, adapt, “learn” (note Shapiro’s illegal anthropomorphism), and respond to stimuli, it must store information and reproduce itself accurately; and (because all life is built on DNA and proteins), it has to find a way to form these thermodynamically-unfavorable molecules de novo and get them to co-opt the cycle in some kind of genetic takeover.  But Shapiro already knows that proteins and nucleic acids capable of storing information and functioning as cellular machines are astronomically improbable.  Adding improbabilities to improbabilities does not produce probabilities, or even possibilities.  It produces impossibilities, unless one cheats by attributing wants, needs and purposes to the inanimate (see personification fallacy).    Materialistic origin-of-life research has been stumbling backward into the darkness.  Researchers keep themselves entertained not with success in the lab, but with ego, bravado and hype, which is only whistling in the dark.  Claiming the problem is simple (a big lie) is like shutting one’s eyes in a dark cave.  The only way out of the cave is to flip the switch to the ON position.  The switches are everywhere, readily felt on the walls.  Yes, Robert, we must let nature teach us.  Only determination to walk in darkness obscures the clear, well-lit view of the vital necessity of information, and its source: intelligence.(Visited 8 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more


December 19, 2019 0

South Africa ‘unlikely to fall into recession’

first_img5 June 2014 The South African economy is unlikely to fall into recession, the Reserve Bank said on Tuesday, predicting that second-quarter GDP growth would show some improvement, while cautioning that the risks to growth forecasts for the year were “to the downside”. Last week, Statistics SA reported that South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) had contracted 0.6 percent quarter-on-quarter in the first three months of the year – its first contraction since the second quarter of 2009, when the world’s economy dipped as a result of a global recession. A second consecutive quarter of negative economic growth would, technically speaking, indicate that the country had entered a recession. Releasing its latest Monetary Policy Review on Tuesday, the central bank noted that a number of adverse supply shocks, particularly from strike action as well as from electricity shortages, had led to negative first-quarter growth. “Although the second quarter is expected to show some improvement, the risks to the 2014 forecast are to the downside,” the Bank said. At its monetary policy committee meeting in May, the Bank revised its growth forecasts for 2014 down from 2.6% to 2.1%. According to the Review, inflation is projected to come in above the bank’s 3% to 6% target range for an extended period of time. In April, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) came in at 6.1%. “Overall, inflation in South Africa is projected to be above target for an extended period of time, with risks tilted towards higher inflation. Over the longer term, this necessitates higher interest rates, and therefore a tightening cycle.” The bank hiked interest rates at its first meeting of the year in January. “However, with domestic economic growth weak, and world inflation and interest rates remaining low, monetary policy tightening is likely to be moderate. This will provide continued support to the economic recovery,” the Review states. The review found that household expenditure has limited prospects for improvements in 2014 due to rising inflation, weak employment growth and muted wealth effects. “Household expenditure will also be constrained by continued moderate credit growth, knock-on effects from the mining strike, and rate hikes, which raise debt service costs and disincentivise further borrowing.” The Bank expressed concern at the country’s antagonistic labour relations and persistent strikes. “In particular, changes in the structure of mining unionisation over the past few years have caused multiple, often violent disruptions to production, the most recent example being the record-length and on-going platinum-sector strike. “These events have been costly in several ways, depriving households of wage income and retailers of customers, damaging exports, and ultimately compromising investment and employment,” the Review states. The Monetary Policy Review, which reviews domestic and international developments that affect inflation and the Bank’s monetary policy stance, is published twice a year. Source: SAnews.gov.zalast_img read more


December 18, 2019 0

2013/2014 Sectoral Debate: Minister of Labour and Social Security, the Hon. Derrick Kellier

first_imgMr. Speaker, I am honoured once again to stand in this Honourable House to report on the performance of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security over the last financial year and our plans for the next year.I want to thank the Most Honourable Prime Minister for the tremendous support she continues to give to the labour agenda and the process of supporting and empowering vulnerable Jamaicans.Download 2013/2014 Sectoral Debate: Minister of Labour and Social Security, the Hon. Derrick KellierMr. Speaker, I also want to thank the Permanent Secretary, the directors and staff of the Ministry, tripartite partners, other stakeholders and development team members for their invaluable work in advancing the interests of the Ministry.Mr. Speaker, this presentation is taking place at a time when the country is implementing an IMF programme and we are confronting varied challenges in every sector. But opportunities must be created and hopes must be fulfilled.The Labour and Social Security Ministry has the integral role of managing and promoting labour relations, employment and social security to achieve economic expansion and social equity.PRODUCTIVITY REVOLUTIONMr. Speaker, since I was entrusted with these portfolio responsibilities, I have been on a mission to create a productivity revolution in Jamaica.I have very strong confidence in the transformational powers of productivity, and this explains why my contribution to the 2012/2013 Sectoral Debate was titled: “Improved Productivity and Labour Market Efficiency: Pathways to Decent Work and Social Protection”.It should come as no surprise to anyone in this Honourable House, Mr. Speaker that continue to emphasize productivity as a critical component of my contribution to this 2013/2014 Sectoral Debate.Mr. Speaker, I continue to champion the cause of productivity because it is the prudent thing to do. I continue to champion the cause of productivity because it is a central plank of the growth agenda of this administration, of which I am a proud member.Mr. Speaker, MLSS is committed to ensuring that Jamaica maintains a laser-like focus on productivity growth. This is because productivity growth is a strategy that can simultaneously accomplish most of the development goals articulated by this Government…READ MOREDownload 2013/2014 Sectoral Debate: Minister of Labour and Social Security, the Hon. Derrick Kellierlast_img read more


October 24, 2019 0

Gov’t Taking Further Steps to Curtail Gender-Based Violence

first_imgStory Highlights The Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport is taking further steps to curtail the troubling prevalence of gender-based violence, inequality and discrimination.Portfolio Minister, Hon. Olivia Grange, says the interventions include the development of a budget for the new National Strategic Action Plan to Eliminate Gender-based Violence, and the appointment of a Council to oversee its implementation along with the National Policy for Gender Equality, 2011.She was making her 2017/18 Sectoral Debate presentation in the House of Representatives on May 30.Ms. Grange said the Action Plan provides a platform for an integrated, multisectoral approach to address the critical issues and challenges impacting victims, perpetrators, and witnesses of acts of violence.“Under the Plan, we are proposing the establishment of a minimum of three Regional Emergency Centres within the next two to three years for women fleeing violence and unsafe living conditions,” the Minister said.She announced that the budget and implementation plan have been prepared and submitted to Cabinet and are being deliberated on by the Human Resource Committee.Meanwhile, Ms. Grange informed the House that the Bureau of Gender Affairs has collaborated with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to develop an online platform that will be pivotal in heightening public awareness of gender-based violence.“A key feature of the platform is the community section where persons can chat with others who have had similar experiences, in a safe, secure, anonymous space. The community chat helps victims and survivors to heal,” she explained.Ms. Grange said the platform will be jointly managed by the Ministry and UNFPA. Portfolio Minister, Hon. Olivia Grange, says the interventions include the development of a budget for the new National Strategic Action Plan to Eliminate Gender-based Violence, and the appointment of a Council to oversee its implementation along with the National Policy for Gender Equality, 2011. The Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport is taking further steps to curtail the troubling prevalence of gender-based violence, inequality and discrimination. Ms. Grange said the Action Plan provides a platform for an integrated, multisectoral approach to address the critical issues and challenges impacting victims, perpetrators, and witnesses of acts of violence.last_img read more


October 24, 2019 0