Monday, November 24, 2014

Is the Origin of Life Part of Evolution?

I was trying to locate somebody's article/post about the double message from academia about whether origins of life are properly part of evolution.  I didn't find what I was looking for but I was amused at the first three hits on Google for Berkeley.  The one marked "Misconception" is a short summary of the message to the negative.  (This idea is often used as a counter-criticism of any criticism of the Urey-Miller experiments or of the state of 'origins of life' research.)  Looking below at the other two and you see that at the same institution Evolution 101 doesn't start with cells like the Darwin cartoon above implies but it ends with cells and starts with soup.  How we got from soup to cells is precisely the topic of 'origins of life'.  101 is usually the introductory material for a science, in this case evolutionary biology.  In the other link, the subtitle to 'Origin of Life' is 'Understanding Evolution.'  How do speculations about the "ultimate cold case" help a student understand a process that rather depends on cells already existing with their genetic code?  It's not really Darwin's bag after all.

To understand the double-think about origins of life, I don't think you have to look any further than that the tenuity and the mutual contradiction of the hypotheses are much more obvious in origins of life than in evolutionary biology proper.  The miraculousness and the void of sufficient material causes is also much more obvious.  Hence the need for many to distance it from the rest of evolutionary biology for which the most general outlines have some consensus at least. 

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