Origins of Life on Earth and Beyond - Daily Galaxy 11/8/11
Exciting progress on the abiogenesis front by the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative (I love that the acronym is HOLI). Figuring out how life got started is one of the most perplexing but also most exciting questions out there. We know genesis accounts in holy books are not accurate or feasible or even remotely possible, and with modern advances in science we are really getting a feel for how simple life is put together with amino acids, RNA, DNA and proteins. Reverse engineering life has hit a wall in experimentation, but new techniques in building life from scratch are starting to take hold and make some sense, especially with what we know was present in the early earth and what we see as abundant in the universe. Complex chemistry under the right conditions seems to steer us towards cell creation and self-replication, and eventually to mutations that can be advantageous evolutionarily. These are the basic functions of life and if it can be proven that life can be created in this way, then it is conceivable that life can arise from non-life very simply and possibly is a common occurrence through the universe.
This will undoubtedly have profound implications for the human race and for man-made religions that are still struggling to keep up with advances in evolution, climate science and other hot topics that science can now better explain. Finding that life can be created like this will dramatically decrease our importance in the grand scheme of the cosmos and religious people are fearful of that fact, because for them, the universe was "created" with us in mind. If we find out we are truly just a bi-product of complex chemical reactions in an indifferent cosmos, that happened coagulate on a planet not too close and not too far from its stable star and managed to not go extinct for a reasonable period of time enough to evolve more complex on that fragile planet, this will truly open our eyes. I'm really looking forward to reading Prof. Krauss' book coming out next year "A Universe From Nothing".
Harvard Origins of Life Initiative