Generations of biology students have been taught that life originated in a primordial soup of simple organic molecules that gradually combined to form amino acids, nucleic acids and ultimately proteins and DNA. The exact pathway for this miracle was never very clear which may have been because it turns out that it probably didn't happen that way in the first place.
Based on new research reported in Science Daily researchers inform us that we must now throw out the primordial soup and look instead to chemical reactions occurring around hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the oceans for the conditions under which the first life was spawned:
For 80 years it has been accepted that early life began in a 'primordial soup' of organic molecules before evolving out of the oceans millions of years later. Today the 'soup' theory has been over turned in a pioneering paper in BioEssays which claims it was the Earth's chemical energy, from hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, which kick-started early life.
"Textbooks have it that life arose from organic soup and that the first cells grew by fermenting these organics to generate energy in the form of ATP. We provide a new perspective on why that old and familiar view won't work at all," said team leader Dr Nick lane from University College London. "We present the alternative that life arose from gases (H2, CO2, N2, and H2S) and that the energy for first life came from harnessing geochemical gradients created by mother Earth at a special kind of deep-sea hydrothermal vent -- one that is riddled with tiny interconnected compartments or pores."
Well, maybe so, but isn't it a bit disconcerting that just about everything that scientists have told us over the years about evolution turns out to be either untrue or questionable? Everything from the importance of natural selection and genetic mutation, to Haeckel's phylogenetic law, to the proof provided by finch beaks and peppered moths, to the crucial importance of the gene, to the junkiness of junk DNA, to the primordial soup, to who knows what next. The only belief about evolution that's remained undiminished over the decades is the dogmatic certainty that it happened, even though at the rate we're going everything we believe about it will be proven wrong by 2020.
This is not to say that organisms haven't evolved or that life didn't begin in some warm little vent. Rather it's to say that the details of evolutionary theory are a lot less settled than the confident pronouncements of the theory's advocates would have us think. And if the premises of an argument are uncertain how can anyone be expected to have any confidence that the conclusion is assured?RLC