One of the big, unsolved problems in explaining how life arose on Earth is a chicken-and-egg paradox: How could the basic biochemicals — such as amino acids and nucleotides — have arisen before the biological catalysts (proteins or ribozymes) existed to carry out their formation?
In a paper appearing in the current issue of The Biological Bulletin, scientists propose that a third type of catalyst could have jumpstarted metabolism and life itself, deep in hydrothermal ocean vents.
According to the scientists’ model, which is experimentally testable, molecular structures involving transition metal elements (iron, copper, nickel, etc.) and ligands (small organic molecules) could have catalyzed the synthesis of basic biochemicals (monomers) that acted as building blocks for more complex molecules, leading ultimately to the origin of life.
Since we tend to think and are taught that life as we know it is carbon based ( frequently bonded with hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and phosphorus) – organic chemistry based – that framework produces in the box thinking. A metal ligand – a kind of crab-like chemical structure – which holds on to elements an can catalyze reactions involving the reproduction of other ligands is already known. Bacteria, plants and algae naturally produce a transition metal iron and citrate compound.
In the comments there is the requisite argument from complexity. A mammal cell itself is so complex it is hard to imagine how nature left to its own devices could eventually produce a cell from some chemical compounds. Richard Dawkins among others have already replied to this silliness. The mammal eye for example is too complex to have evolved. Not really if you’re aware of intermediate forms which already exists. Some protists – simple single celled organisms do not even have eyes, but some can distinguish between light and dark. They use that information to move back and forth to exert some control over their own environment – being in the light might be too hot so they discern the location and than move into the shadows. A simple eye. An intermediate form of vision.
Let’s say you work downtown and you pass a homeless guy everyday. Maybe you start bringing him a bottle of water and a sandwich a few days a week. Would that be aiding someone in committing the act of vagrancy. When Is Offering a Drink of Water a Crime?
Last August, I reported on the case of Walt Stanton, a graduate student at Claremont Theology School who, with a group called “No More Deaths,” deposited bottles of water at points in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, an 18,000-acre area on the Arizona-Mexico border. Stanton and his group have no particular position on the illegal immigration issue—they just think that the immigrants shouldn’t die from dehydration. The Justice Department, however, saw the offer of a drink of water as a criminal act, and brought charges. In the absence of any clear criminal statute that would cover the situation, the prosecutors argued that Stanton’s act of Christian charity was in fact “criminal littering.” Under heavy pressure from the feds and a federal magistrate who made his intention to convict plain, Stanton agreed to 300 hours of community service in lieu of a prosecution.
Let;s not be too hard on Stanton for accepting a plea deal. We see it a lot of TV but actually dealing with prosecutors and the potential for jail time can be a little scary. While the decision that leaving the water was a crime was ultimately struck down, who would think leaving a bottle of water for someone is a crime? How about one of the same legal hacks that thought torture is legal if the president does it.
One judge on the panel saw things differently: Jay Bybee. He argued that the statute, which prohibits “littering, disposing, or dumping in any manner of garbage, refuse sewage, sludge, earth, rocks, or other debris,” was actually intended to criminalize Samaritans who offer a drink to illegal immigrants. This is the same Jay Bybee who wrote a series of memoranda for the Bush Administration in which he concluded that a specific criminal prohibition–against torture–was so hopelessly vague and unclear as to be meaningless. He and his colleagues at the Office of Legal Counsel approved waterboarding, premised on the notion that the torture sessions would be limited by the number of bottles of water used to induce drowning. (CIA-procured waterbottles are now being examined by prosecutors in Poland and Lithuania investigating crimes committed at black sites on their soil.) So while Bybee concludes that simulated drowning of prisoners was perfectly lawful (a position repudiated even by the Bush Justice Department before it left), he concludes that leaving a bottle of water for a person stranded in a desert so as to forestall death is a crime.
Bybee’s impeachment and removal from office has been openly discussed in Congress for some time. An internal ethics review by the Justice Department concluded that he had engaged in serious professional misconduct and recommended referral for bar disciplinary action. The recommendation was, however, blocked in a political maneuver.
Hate Pastor Behind ‘Burn A Quran Day’ Responds To Petraeus: ‘We Have Firmly Made Up Our Mind’ – General Petraeus has said burning the Quran may have consequences for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. So it is probably a bad idea. That said this is the good ol’USA and as long as you don’t violate local fire codes you’re free to burn any book you like. While my Quran expertise is not up to where I’d like it doesn’t seem any more evil than the KJV bible which makes the stated reasons for burning it spurious at best. Johann Gutenberg did not just give birth to the printing press, he also inadvertently gave us the first large scale systematic censorship of books. By 1559 the Catholic Church – fighting the evils of Protestantism ( of which the Florida minister is a member) issued the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. Which was likely the first published rules of censorship. The Index eventually had 5,000 titles, the reading of which would presumably lead the reader away from the true teachings of the Church into a life of sin and eternal damnation. The Church only stopped publishing the Index in 1966. In the U.S we had the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1872. Courtesy Anthony Comstock. This is in 1872 mind you, almost a hundred years after the Bill of Rights was drafted. Tony must have thought the first Amendment was just so much scribbling. His most famous slogan – “Morals, not art and literature,”. Tony convinced Congress to give us The Comstock Law ( he was also a US Postal Inspector). He managed to clean up some of America’s wickedness prosecuting 3,500 people and getting 350 convictions for mailing of materials found to be “lewd, indecent, filthy or obscene.” To be on the list of authors who were included on the lewd list is or was to be among distinguished company; they included James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, Eugene O’Neill and Ernest Hemingway. That such clearly unconstitutional laws were passed and enforced is testimony to the history of spinelessness among many America politicians when it comes to facing down religious zealots. Terry Jones is going to burn one book, he’s an amateur Comstocker at best.