Why isn't abiogenesis considered evolution?

Discussion in 'Religious Issues' started by Gunhaver, Feb 18, 2013.

  1. Gunhaver

    Gunhaver the wrong hands

    I'm so excited that I may have found something that I disagree with most atheists on! Bout damn time.

    Most theists like to lump abiogenesis and evolution together not because they understand what those words mean, but because they think a lack of evidence for chemical reactions from billions of years ago somehow weakens a position they otherwise have a hard time arguing against. The old, "you don't know how life started, therefore God" argument.

    We counter with telling them that ABG and EVO are not the same thing. Problem is that to me it seems like they are the same thing, one is just the beginning of a process and another is the continuation of that same process.

    I never really considered them 2 separate events. To me, once the chemical compounds started to combine in the direction of self replication that was the beginning of evolution. If you disagree then at what point during that process where you would still consider it abiogenesis and not yet evolution would natural selection not be the driving factor?

    In other words, if you could trace our lineage all the way back to the first nonliving combination of compounds required for life, at what point could you reasonably assume no natural selection involved in the formation of life. Seems to me that natural selection is the basis for evolution and I don't see where the need for that is eliminated when life gets so simplistic that it's not really life by our definition.

    Even viruses evolve and they don't fit all the qualifiers to be called life.

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  2. My quick thoughts are that...

    They are answers to 2 separate questions.
    Evolution explains the diversity of life.
    Abiogenesis attempts to explain how life arose.

    Evolution is biology.
    Abiogenesis is chemistry.

    Just as working backwards from the Big Bang only allows us to see back to the earliest inflation, rewinding evolution only allows us to see back to the earliest self-replicating molecule.

    Obviously in a scenario without divine intervention, they are intricately related, but I still see them as distinct.


  3. Abiogenesis is the random association of chemicals under conditions which make it possible for one of those combinations to become the basis of life. Until the point where one of those combinations is able to reproduce itself there is no evolution because there is no natural selection where more effective forms tend to produce more offspring than less effective forms. That is, the process of abiogenesis is a random process without natural selection and so cannot be evolution. Only once abiogenesis has produced something which can reproduce itself, and so meets the most fundamental criterion of life, can evolution, as a combination of random variation and natural selection, start.

  4. Bren

    Bren NRA Life Member

    One is an explanation for how life started and the other is an explanation for how it changed over time. Trade abiogenesis for "a meteorite carrying amino acids" or whatever and evolution stays the same. The work together, but they aren't inseparable. Not sure why you'd want them separated. If you think abiogenesis "weakens" the theory of evolution, that sounds like a weakness in your knowledge, not the theory.
    #4 Bren, Feb 18, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2013
  5. Blast

    Blast 'nuff said

    That is a good answer.
    However, abiogenesis has not been observed in nature nor reproduced in the lab. The issue may well be moot.
  6. Geko45

    Geko45 Smartass Pilot

    Abiogenesis and evolution do dovetail each other as complimentary theories quite well and I typically don't have a problem discussing them together in the same conversation. I see the relationship as similar to that of cosmic inflation and Lambda-CDM (i.e. the "Big Bang"). One explains how things got started initially; the other explains how things developed from there.

    My only gripe on this issue (and it applies to inflation and "big bang" as well) is that I just wish that religious apologists would stop trying to intentionally muddle the two when debating the topic(s). It seems like you'll be discussing one topic (say evolution) and they will make a point in opposition to the other (say abiogenesis) and think that they've just said something profound when in fact they've only committed a logical fallacy.

    Let's suppose for a moment that a deity did exist (I don't see how, but for the sake of argument...), maybe this deity started life by creating the first DNA chains but then sat back and let evolution play out without intervention. In that case, abiogenesis would be false and evolution would be true. Alternatively, maybe this deity just have happened across an unexpected occurrence (the first DNA chain), liked what they saw and decided to guide and develop it. In which case, abiogenesis would be true and evolution would be false. The point being that one could be correct and the other could be incorrect independently of each other.

    However, the most important point on this topic is that everything we have learned so far through empirical observation is consistent with these theories and nothing that we have observed is consistent with the various creation myths offered forth by the religions of the world. But that does not stop the religious apologists who attempt to discount all that we know in favor of one of these archaic myths that are supported by nothing at all. Attacking these theories does nothing to promote or support their explanation of life and creation (other than to allow them to continue to deny their own cognitive dissonance).
    #6 Geko45, Feb 18, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2013
  7. Unfortunately, that is not a good answer. Since the evidence is that it probably took something in the region of 2 billion years for abiogenesis to take place in nature and since all life descended from the same root it could be observed neither in nature nor in the lab.

    It is easy to show that at least the majority of the amino acids needed for life can be generated in the lab but that is a long way from creating a self replicating life form. The best guess at the moment is that this event occurred in deep sea thermal vents. In principle it would be possible to recreate those conditions but would be very expensive to do so. Then all the lab would have to do is wait some number of billions of years for abiogenesis to take place and would have to detect it when it did. Hardly a sensible expenditure of research funds!

  8. To expand a bit...
    Many amino acids can be readily formed in the laboratory within a few days, and 74 amino acids have been found in meteorites including all 20 found in living organisms. This tells us that there are a variety of atmospheric conditions in the universe capable of producing this building block of life.

    Then to get from amino acids to polymers (proteins)... In the 1950s Sidney Fox demonstrated that splashing amino acids onto hot, dry volcanic rock instantly produced most of the proteins found in life. Lipids are easier to polymerize into protolife structures that while not living are able to mimic processes similar to bacterial, feeding, excreting and metabolizing starch.

    Several mechanisms have been demonstrated for assembling short polymers into longer chains. Zeolites, clay and pyrite are all capable of lining up amino acids which could lead to longer proteins. Pyrite is found in black smokers which are home to some of the most primitive life on earth -- sulfide-reducing Archaebacteria. As you mentioned, this suggests to many scientists that life arose not on the surface of the primordial pond, but in a deep-sea hot spring.

    Endosymbiosis can take us from here to eukaryotic cells. This process is supported by some of today's living transitional forms such as Pelomyxa and Giardia.

    Steps have been demonstrated that would take inorganic material into amino acids to proteins and other polymers to prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. All the steps are gradual, none require extraordinary circumstances, and none are beyond plausible. Most of the steps can be reproduced in the lab, or are still observed in nature today. However, as we are all aware, the end to end chemicals-to-life process has not been reproduced in the lab.

    Regarding the emphasized text, that could remain the lab challenge. The odds of life arising in the right conditions in a given year could be in 1 in a billion, but if you wait a billion years the probability of life having arisen exceeds 63%, and if you wait 2 billion years the probability exceeds 86%.

    The universe is very large and very old -- the improbable happens all the time.

    To be clear, I just pulled the 1 in a 1,000,000,000 number out of the air (or a deep sea vent) to use as an example.

  9. Geko45

    Geko45 Smartass Pilot

    A "black smoker" extraction? :whistling: :wavey:
  10. Something like that [​IMG]
  11. How about,

    "God Created DNA and then just stood back and watched"

    #11 Comrade Bork, Feb 18, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2013
  12. An excellent expansion and exposition!

    It is fascinating that it took such a long time for the first life on Earth, more properly in the sea, to come into existence and then such a long time in which the only life was the Archaea and the Bacteria. But then after the first Eukaryote it was such a short time till the sea was full of many different species of advanced life forms. This does not suggest that coming into existence of the first life or the first Eukaryote was so rare that life exists only on Earth but it does suggest that both events could have taken much less or very much more time to come about.

  13. Tilley

    Tilley Man of Steel

    Organic material stemming from an inorganic world?

    Now who's trying to change the laws of physics...:upeyes:
  14. Gunhaver

    Gunhaver the wrong hands

    Aw man, I totally didn't miss you a bit.
  15. Sounds great. Who's been doing the research? Where is the supporting evidence? Why should I buy this unfounded conjecture, when theist ignore much more concrete evidence to the contrary?
  16. Gunhaver

    Gunhaver the wrong hands

    Well, OK. Makes sense. Natural selection doesn't kick in until reproduction kicks in. I was hung up on the idea that there had to be a one-step-at-a-time build up to the reproduction phase and I thought that required some natural selection. I guess not since other compounds that weren't going anywhere weren't really inhibiting the development of those that were. Hmmm... That's the word I'm looking for. Development instead of evolution. Thanks guys.
  17. Tilley

    Tilley Man of Steel

    You know you want me...:whistling:

    But seriously...why do you think you can change the laws of physics? This is a bona fide question.
  18. Could you clarify which law of physics would be violated?
  19. Tilley

    Tilley Man of Steel

    Conservation of Matter: A fundamental principle of classical physics that matter cannot be created or destroyed in an isolated system.

    This planet started off inorganic. Abiogenesis is wild guessing how life came from non-life.

    There is a million times more proof of God than there will ever be of abiogenesis.
  20. void *

    void * Dereference Me!

    Please show that current potential models for abiogenesis create or destroy matter. Please show that the Earth is an isolated system.

    Well, that's either a claim that there's some evidence for abiogenesis, or a claim there's no evidence for either. (that's a joke, for the record. :) )
    #20 void *, Feb 20, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2013

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