COSMIC ANCESTRY | Quick Guide | 2006 - Replies Index - 2004 | by Brig Klyce | All Rights Reserved
It is guesswork, conjecture and the like that masquerade as problem-solving, interest-ending fact and so violate scientific norms — Carl R. Woese, 2004.

Replies to Cosmic Ancestry, 2005

Is sustained macroevolutionary progress possible in a closed system?
open email to Tom Ray | from Brig Klyce | 10:42 AM CST, 31 Dec 2005

Dear Tom -- It has been over four years since we initiated a research project at the University of Oklahoma to explore the question, "Is sustained macroevolutionary progress possible in a closed system?" I believed the answer might be no, in which case gene transfer, ultimately from outside of the system under observation, would have to account for macroevolutionary progress. You believed, with the majority of biologists, that macroevolutionary progress is clearly possible in a closed system. If so, the observed contribution from gene transfer would be of only secondary importance. Unfortunately, we did not come to an answer before the project ended.

In my observation, during the same four years, gene transfer has been observed as the source for new genetic programs many times. From 1 December 2001 until now I have listed on my "Viruses..." webpage about a hundred news items supporting this phenomenon to a lesser or greater extent. More than fifty of these news items are described in short articles in my What'sNEW Archives, beginning with "A gene needed for multicellularity is present in a single-celled organism" at http://www.panspermia.org/whatsne22.htm# 011221. More recently, "At least seventeen human genes contain exons missing in chimps" is part of my article of 30 Sep 2005, at http://www.panspermia.org/whatsne38.htm#050930. (These stories can be viewed in sequence using links styled as "Next What'sNEW about HGT Prev" following each article. Roughly as many before December 2001 are also listed.)

If gene transfer is actually not the primary source for new genetic programs, and if some version of the standard mutation-and-selection is, news items supporting the standard phenomenon would be even more numerous, one would expect. This expectation is especially warranted because most research is intended to observe and uphold the standard explanation. I am aware of reports that claim to support the standard mechanism, but none of them actually does so conclusively, in my opinion. For example, see "Gene duplication is the primary source of new genes," at http://www.panspermia.org/whatsne37.htm#050627.

I would like to ask you if I have overlooked some research that supports the standard source for new programs more convincingly. If so, would you tell me about it? In any case, may I ask you what your current opinion is on the original question, and what biological (or computer-model) evidence supports it? I am sending this to you as an open email, and asking for an open response to be posted with it on my website. I think your knowledge about this question is needed and I would like for others to benefit from it. I urge you to comment for the record. Thank you! Best regards. ...Brig Klyce | Astrobiology Research Trust

From Thomas Ray | 31 Dec 2005 18:24:34 -0600 (CST): Good to hear from you. I was in Memphis this week. Well, just passing through the airport, on my way back home from visiting my family in Florida. I'll try to get an answer for you, but you won't like it. Tom

10:41 AM 1/1/2006: If you address the questions in my previous email I will be grateful. Thanks. Happy New Year! Brig

Human Genome Search at University of Oklahoma is the CA webpage announcing the research project.
Correspondence with Tom Ray and others... contains emails about the research project.
In Real or Artificial Life, Is Evolutionary Progress in a Closed System Possible? is a related CA webpage.

09:36 AM 2/28/2006 | AOPI: Dear Tom -- This article was eye-opening even to me: "Can Viruses Make Us Human?" by Luis P. Villarreal, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, v148 n3, Sep 2004. http://www.aps-pub.com/proceedings/1483/480304.pdf. BTW, for my open email of 31 December, I contemplated only a brief reply. Shorter is better for my web format anyway, if it's not too late! Best regards. Brig

28 Feb 2006: Can Viruses Make Us Human? by Luis P. Villarreal.

From Thomas Ray | 28 Feb 2006 10:07:10 -0600 (CST): Your Dec 31 message is still in my in-box. I'm teaching a double load this semester, and that is what is behind the delay. It is possible that I may let it slide till the semester is over. Tom

Thomas Ray replies | Fri, 15 Sep 2006 11:53:06 -0500 (CDT)


    This site is devoted to "Cosmic Ancestry", the hypothesis that (1) life on earth was seeded from space, and (2) that macroevolution depends on genetic programs of extraterrestrial origin.
    The first of these ideas is known as Panspermia which, while controversial, is nonetheless within the realm of mainstream scientific discourse. Originating with the pre-Socratic philosopher Anaxagorous, it eventually yielded to the Aristotelian theory of Spontaneous Generation that still holds sway today in the form of the "RNA World"--the supposed earthly abiotic precursor to life. Despite a paucity of evidence, research on the RNA World has become, in Panspermia.org author Brig Klyce's words, a "medium-sized industry" unto itself. The "primoridial soup" of naked replicating RNA is a firmly ensconced orthodoxy.
    Yet as Klyce's numerous citations of peer-reviewed scientific literature demonstrate, the spontaneous terrestrial origin of life, orthodoxy though it may be, is not a sacrosanct orthodoxy. Klyce presents a variety of evidence for extraterrestrial life, including meteorite microfossils and Hoyle and Wickramasinghe's analysis of interstellar dust. He also ably disposes of the easy objections to panspermia—that bacteria could never survive the hard radiation and near-zero temperatures of interstellar space, and that there is no plausible vector to transmit them to earth. Citing recent findings on the durability of bacteria and their spores, and on the properties of comets and meteors, Klyce builds a convincing case that extraterrestrial origin is at least plausible.
    Far more controversial—and even more thoroughly argued—is the website's assertion that extraterrestrially-originating genetic material is responsible for macroevolution in addition to biogenesis. Klyce is not reticent in pointing out that this constitutes a "third alternative" in the Darwinism vs. Intelligent Design debate. His critique of the neo-Darwinian synthesis is thorough, dispassionate, and devastating—far more compelling and intelligent than any of the Intelligent Design sites I have found on the Internet. And for each gap in the logic of neo-Darwinism, Klyce offers a solution. Appealing to the increasingly-recognized ubiquity of horizontal gene transfer across species and even kingdoms, Klyce offers satisfying explanations for such problems as irreducible complexity, the survivability of intermediates, the improbability of traversing the enormous distances in sequence space that separate genes, the apparent gaps in the fossil record, the appearance of embryological coordinating genes before the appearance of the steps they coordinate, the existence of highly conserved genomic regions offering no survival advantage, and much more.
    The most impressive achievement of Panspermia.org is probably its annotated survey of recent publications in related fields. For anyone interested in the New Biology it is a treasure trove of articles from academic journals and the scientific press about new developments in astrobiology, genetics, and evolutionary biology. Updated almost daily, the "What's New" section catalogs the evidence for a gathering paradigm shift in biology.
    Cosmic Ancestry is indeed part of a larger shift in our understanding of the function of DNA and the mechanisms of evolution. Integrated with Gaia Theory, it posits a purpose or a pre-direction to evolution embodied in ancient genes. Darwinian natural selection, says Klyce, plays a role in modifying and selecting among variants, but he joins a growing chorus of voices in denying that it can explain macroevolution. Major evolutionary jumps happen through the integration of preexisting genetic material as transposons, via retroviral and other vectors—and our DNA contains the "programs" to successfully accommodate such transfer.
    Panspermia.org does not shy away from some of the more challenging implications of Cosmic Ancestry. While some dismiss Panspermia as merely pushing back the origin-of-life question another five or ten billion years, Klyce maintains that life could not have arisen spontaneously then either. His work is certainly relevant to proponents of the steady-state universe and other dissenting theories of cosmogenesis. He also discusses radical ideas such as directed Panspermia, which says that earth was seeded deliberately by an alien intelligence. Finally, he leaves the door open to the idea that evolution is not yet finished; that there lurks an unexpressed potential inside our DNA. Some of the more New-Agey speculations on the hidden potential of DNA might therefore find a degree of intellectual justification in this website, although Panspermia.org itself sticks to the science.
    Panspermia.org is accessible to the lay reader and scientist alike. Important ideas are introduced on a basic level, buttressed with links to cutting edge research which Klyce elegantly and trenchantly applies to his thesis. The editing is superb and the scientific terminology rarely misapplied—an impressive feat given that the author is not himself a professional scientist. This website makes an excellent case for bringing a new theory with vast explanatory power into the debate on life's origins and evolution.

cr. Charles Eisenstein | Department of Science, Technology, and Society | The Pennsylvania State University

Charles Eisenstein, "Website Review: www.panspermia.org," p 655-657 v 19 n 4,
Journal of Scientific Exploration, Winter 2005.
24 Dec 2005: The Cosmic Ancestry website is reviewed by The Society for Scientific Exploration.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics... http://www.panspermia.org/seconlaw.htm... I have been trying to explain the differences between configurational or logical entropy and thermodynamic entropy to my peers for a while. Your webpage does it so well! Thanks, ...
Anonymous, Ph. D. | ...Coordinator | Unnamed Department | A Major Midwestern University...

The Second Law of Thermodynamics is the referenced CA webpage.
My Compliment to you is a related "Reply," 1 Apr 2006.


Brig, a slew of recent What'sNEW items suggests that another round of consideration might be in order regarding potential parallels between ontogeny and phylogeny. Gould documented the persistence of the idea of parallels in his book Ontogeny and Phylogeny and anyone interested in evolution should give it a look. Common sense tells us that ontogeny is developmental. And today the idea is formulated in terms of a "genetic program" that controls the course of development from a zygote to the adult of a species. The potential for the mature form is inherent in the genes of the zygote.

But science has rejected the idea that phylogeny could be developmental. There is no concept corresponding to a governing program when it comes to evolution. It is anathema to the scientific view to propose that the potential for the physiologies and morphologies of modern species were inherent in the first bacteria. But as your collection of What's New items suggests, science might have to change its mind about that.

If bacterial life arrived (or sprouted spontaneously) on Earth with a full complement of genetic potential, then evolution comes very much to resemble the process of ontogeny--the progressive unfolding of genetic potential immanent from the beginning into a diversity of biological forms. This notion dovetails neatly into the concept of Gaia. If the Earth's biosphere is one integrated living system, then the evolution of life on Earth--phylogeny--constitutes Gaia's ontogeny.

The new research suggests that ontogeny and phylogeny alike begin with a genetic potential and then initiate a process of functional differentiation--the many types of cells that grow from a zygote in the case of a complex organism and the many types of organisms that grow from primordial bacteria in the case of phylogenetic evolution.

But where does the primordial genetic potential come from? In the case of ontogeny, it comes from the parents, but in the case of phylogeny it's not clear where the genetic information came from. It might be an eternal given of nature (Cosmic Ancestry) or an intentional pre-programming at the time of creation (Intelligent Design). But operationally these two explanations are indistinguishable. Normal science can only call it a fortunate happenstance of undirected chemistry.

Anyway, at this point I have to plug my own pet resolution, which is that evolution is a process embedded in another process, which is ontogenetic. The phylogeny of life on Earth constitutes not only the totality of Gaia's ontogeny, but also a particular (larval) phase in the ontogeny of a generation of stellar organisms--our sun's progeny. The bloody details are spelled out at www.starlarvae.org.

From Brig Klyce | 10:00 AM, 19 Dec 2005: Dear Ken -- Thanks for the comments. I must reply to yours about Cosmic Ancestry and Intelligent Design being "operationally ...indistinguishable." In CA, miracles are not allowed. In ID they are required. ID's, miracles, acording to Michael Behe's recent testimony, would not be detectable by closed experiments. However, they must occur for evolution to advance (see reference below). We say that any process, if it occurs, should be observable in controlled experiments. Thanks again for your continuing interest. Merry Christmas. Brig

Owen Gingerich on Science and Theology News, 8 Nov 2005.
Evolution versus Creationism is a related CA webpage with more about the difference between CA and ID.


Hi Brig: Here's an interesting article: ["Similar Stem Cells In Insect And Human Gut"] http://www.bio.com/newsfeatures/newsfeatures_research.jhtml;jsessionid=PJ3REC0XPQK0JR3FQLMCFEWHUWBNSIV0?cid=15200054. I got this link from Mike Gene over at telicthoughts.com blog. regards, Jack Foster


Brig, thank you for visiting our Astrobio J. Club [November 30]. I definitely enjoyed our discussion. Personally I find strong panspermia very interesting, but without any data to prove the existence of that process, I see it as just another idea. Great scientists are able to pose big questions and let the scientific community work on them. Most of us are not so fortunate, and so we must do our own legwork. Sincerely, Leif

From Brig Klyce | 15:05 PM 12/7/2005: Dear Leif -- I enjoyed the discussion too. I am puzzled by your expression "without any data." If you mean about the arrival of genetic material from space, OK, more data are needed. But about evolutionary advances driven by gene transfer, the data are overwhelming. Gene transfer is now accepted as the primary means by which bacteria acquire new features. Ernst Mayr said it was "all there is." Among eukaryotes as well, there are hundreds of undisputed examples now. I showed you some of them.

The lack of data that is striking to me is the lack of good hard evidence that the genetic programs for any evolutionary advance among eukaryotes can be written by strictly darwinian processes, without gene transfer. If you have any evidence thereof which you would be willing to show me for posting here, please do. If you are not sure what I mean by "good hard evidence" or "evolutionary advance," and you cannot find clarification on the relevant pages of this website, I will try to help.

Leif, I urge you to take this problem seriously. Thank you. Best regards. Brig

disappointment | Sun, 11 Dec 2005 01:55:31 -0700: [Content withheld at sender's request.]

From Brig Klyce | 10:31 AM 12/11/2005: Dear Leif -- I don't see how I could have misrepresented you, when I posted only, exactly what you asked me to. I think I understood you completely. I have acknowledged the need for more data pertaining to panspermia. And your group did not dispute the validity of my examples of gene transfer. But the consensus was that gene transfer is a minor contributor to evolutionary progress, versus standard darwinian mutation and selection. Did I misunderstand that?

For the umpteenth time, what is much more compelling, however, is the lack of evidence to support the strongest claims of darwinism. The missing evidence (that mutation and selection can, not just vary and optimise, but compose new, genetic programs) is described in slightly greater detail in my previous emails below [not shown], and in more detail on the previously mentioned pages of my website. This is the issue to which I have tried to draw your attention, without success. If the darwinian theory can produce no convincing evidence after so much time and effort, something must be wrong. Your position seems to be that this criticism doesn't even deserve any comment. Your unwillingness to address this issue is not unusual. But the issue should be discussed openly.

Please reply only for the record. "Do not post" will no longer be honored. Thank you, Leif. Best regards. Brig


Dear Drs. Arendt and Raible, I read with keen interest your subject article, and I have posted a notice about it at http://www.panspermia.org/whatsne39.htm#051125. How were you able to be sure that the Platynereis dumerilii did not acquire the introns by gene transfer and position them correctly by "homing"? Any reply will be appreciated. Thank you. Best regards, Brig

From Dr. Florian Raible | Fri, 02 Dec 2005 19:36:13 +0100: Dear Dr. Klyce, thank you for your interest in our study, and sorry for not getting back to you earlier. You are right in that it has been previously proposed that introns might also have jumped into the same sites of genes independently in several lineages. A prerequisite for this would be the existence of 'proto-splice sites', consensus sequences that would facilitate the integration of the introns in the gene sequence. If one assumes that the reason for identical intron sites is indeed independent gain of introns, it would follow that 'proto-splice sites' should be very conserved, even in organisms that do not share these introns.

A recent study has addressed this more rigorously, investigating introns shared between very distant groups (including plants -- vertebrates), as well as the corresponding regions in species that did not share these introns. The result was that (I quote from the abstract) "protosplice sites are no more conserved during evolution of eukaryotic gene sequences than random sites." and that "parallel gain can account but for a small fraction (5-10%) of shared intron positions in distantly related species."

Due to space constraints in the paper, we only put a short reference to that study, without giving the details of the reasoning. For further reading, we would refer you to this study (s.b.) and the references therein. I hope that answers your question. Best regards, Dr. Florian Raible

Sverdlov AV, Rogozin IB, Babenko VN, Koonin EV., "Conservation versus parallel gains in intron evolution." Nucleic Acids Res. 2005 Mar 23;33(6):1741-8. PMID: 15788746
A small marine worm has complex genes like humans' is the referenced What'sNEW article, 25 Nov 2005.


Photosynthetic bacteria may be able to live without solar light, instead using thermal radiation from hot fluid for energy, according to a study in this week's PNAS. Researchers led by J. Thomas Beatty of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, have found obligately photosynthetic green sulfur bacteria at a deep-sea hydrothermal vent more than a mile below the ocean surface. "They're seeing photosynthesis where there's no sunlight," said Carl Bauer of Indiana University, who was not involved in the study. "That's amazing."

J. Thomas Beatty et al., "An obligately photosynthetic bacterial anaerobe from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent" [abstract], doi:10.1073/pnas.0503674102, p9306-9310 v102, Proc Nat. Acad. Sci. USA, 28 Jun 2005.
Sun-free photosynthesis? by Melissa Lee Phillips, TheScientist, 21 Jun 2005.
Photosynthesis genes in marine viruses — a possibly related What'sNEW article, 15 Nov 2005.


Dear Mr. Klyce: I just read your description of my father's work on your Web page on entropy at http://www.panspermia.com/seconlaw.htm. Thank you for your kind praise of his work. However, you wrote that Dad is skeptical of the prevailing theory of evolution. Please allow me to set the record straight on his position on the questions of evolution and the origin of life. First, he believes they are entirely separate questions. He quotes Darwin on this and Darwin states he also regarded evolution and the origin of life as separate questions. Regarding evolution, Dad considers that Darwin's theory of evolution and the origin of species is among the best-established in all of science. So he is not at all skeptical of evolution.

Regarding the origin of life, Dad's life work has been to use information theory and other scientific disciplines to consider the various origin of life scenarios in order to discard the ones that are so unlikely--or impossible--that they can only be held on the basis of faith. This happens to include the scenarios of chance, self-organization and proteins-first. What his work in information theory shows, including his latest book from Cambridge University Press, "Information Theory, Evolution and the Origin of Life," is that the origin of life is unknowable by scientific methods and therefore must be accepted as an axiom of biology, as Niels Bohr predicted in 1933.

Here is what Dad writes against the specious "theory" of Intelligent Design: There is no need of an “Intelligent Designer” in evolution for the following reasons:

  1. The genome is the engine of evolution. The genome evolves through a random walk and therefore has no need of an Intelligent Designer.
  2. There are no gaps in the genome from the origin of life to the present and for all life yet-to-evolve. Therefore there is no need for an ad hoc Intelligent Designer to explain gaps in the fossil record or morphology.
  3. I define the distinction between living and non-living matter as follows: There is nothing in the physico-chemical world [apart from life] that remotely resembles reactions being determined by a sequence [the genome] and codes between sequences [the genetic code]. The existence of a genome and the genetic code divides living organisms from non-living matter. (Computers and Chemistry, 24 (2000) 105-123).
  4. All the Intelligent Design scenarios comparing living matter to machines are specious because they posit that machines exist, function and evolve due to the agency of an unspecified “Intelligent Designer” and claim that since living matter exists, functions and evolves this also must be due to an “Intelligent Designer.” The fatal flaw in this assertion is that life is not comparable to machines because machines have no genome. The place that they assert that "Intelligent Design" holds in machines is held in living matter by the genome. Since living matter DOES have a genome programming its existence, functioning and evolution—from the origin of life to the present and for all life yet-to-evolve—it does not need an Intelligent Designer.
  5. In addition, life is not “irreducibly complex” because the term was coined and defined by Alan Turing as a calculation that continues indefinitely. Michael Behe cannot hijack it and steal its identity. The genome, which is the non-material information programmed into DNA, has definite starting and stopping points for the information transcribed from it. For example, the genome for making a mouse does not run forever—it stops when it has made a mouse.
I hope you will be willing to take a few moments to amend your comments on your Web page to note that Dr. Yockey considers evolution and the origin of life to be separate questions, that he regards Darwin's theory of evolution to be among the best-established in science, and that his published articles show that the origin of life must be accepted as an axiom of biology.... Again, thanks for your kind description of my father's work on entropy. I'll be happy to supply you with a photo of my father for your Web page, if you like, to go with your description of his work.

Cynthia Yockey | Belcamp, MD

01:23 PM 11/17/2005: Dear Ms. Yockey -- Thank you for your thoughtful feedback about my description of your father's work. I have only good will for your father and now, you. I am familiar with your father's book Information Theory, Evolution and the Origin of Life. I reviewed it on 24 April 2005 at http://www.panspermia.org/whatsne37.htm#0504024, and he and I corresponded briefly about it. As I wrote then, I do not think that the ability to preserve information, by itself, explains evolution on Earth. New biological features depend on new information, or "new programs," I prefer to call them. In my view, these are just as unaccountable as the origin of life. If I understand him in the recent book correctly, your father thinks only the origin is unaccountable, and the new programs are accounted for by Darwinism.

When I wrote, "He is deeply sceptical of the prevailing theories of evolution and the origin of life on Earth," I was commenting on his earlier mongraph, Information theory and molecular biology. I had a only a borrowed copy of it, so I can't revisit it now to see what may have prompted that sentence. In any case, I will post this correspondence in my "Replies..." and link to it from the subject webpage to amend the record.

I'm not sure why you have so much to say to me about Intelligent Design. Granted, almost everyone thinks that if you doubt the effectiveness of Darwinian evolution, you must be a creationist / ID proponent. Even worse, almost everyone thinks that there really are only these two choices. This false dilemma is actively promoted by both darwinists and creationists, to the detriment of science. But the strong version of panspermia that I promote is fully scientific, and as different from both of these as they are from each other.

Your father thinks the origin of life "must be accepted as an axiom of biology," you say. I think the programs for all of life, including higher forms, are also in that category. Both he and I are therefore excluded, for now, from the fraternity of mainstream science. We may disagree slightly, but we have a lot in common. Yes, I would like to post a photo of your father by my text about him on the "Second Law..." webpage. Thank you for your kind words. Best regards. Brig

The Second Law of Thermodynamics is the referenced CA webpage with a paragraph on Dr. Hubert P. Yockey.
Evolution vs Creationism is a relevant CA webpage.
24 Apr 2005: Our review of Information Theory, Evolution and the Origin of Life, by Hubert Yockey.


Brig, Have you read next month's Scientific American? Page 26, "Lean Gene Machine". An interesting quote in a discussion of Pelagibacter ubique (SAR11). The article is about the bacterium's small genome and the lack of junk DNA. "Evolutionary biologists believe that the overhead required to maintain junk DNA is justified because it preserves a reservoir of potentially useful genes for a new or changing environment." A library of useful genes, held in reserve until the right situation arises. Does that sound familiar? ...Jerry Chancellor, President | VisionTech Training Solutions | Richmond VA


Does the article in this month's Sci Amer represent the state of things a) well b) fairly well c) poorly? ...K. ...Kenneth B. Miller | miller-associates.com

05:22 PM 11/14/2005: I would say a. I re-read it before replying, and I am even more impressed with the extent to which the mainstream paradigm has shifted. I have a couple of gripes about it.
1) It says, "In modern times, several leading scientists--including British physicist Lord Kelvin, Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius and Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA--have advocated various conceptions of panspermia. To be sure, the idea has also had less reputable proponents, but they should not detract from the fact that panspermia is a serious hypothesis...." These two sentences are an insult to Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, without whom the idea might still be dormant.
2) "No matter where it started, life had to arise from nonliving matter." This is a naked assertion supported by no tangible evidence whatsoever, except for the the standard interpretation of the intangible big bang. It may be aimed at me, because I don't know anyone else who's promoting doubts about it. If so, I guess I'm honored.

10:18 AM 11/16/2005: Thanks. #1 definitely struck me when I read it. Kind of catty, really. #2 didn't occur to me. Do you mean that life may have survived a variation of the Big Bang (but isn't it true that by definition it could not have since no information did), or that as defined the Big Bang did not take place and life has always existed, or something else?

09:15 PM 11/16/2005: Kenneth -- WRT #2: please see http://www.panspermia.org/astrobio01.htm which ends, "Instead, in a role reversal, cosmology would have to accommodate a fundamental biological principle." This possibility didn't occur to me either, until I had thought about the problem almost fulltime for a couple of years.

Mon, 21 Nov 2005 15:19:33 -0500: No wonder you disturb them. K.

Panspermia is reconsidered... is the related What'sNEW article with the Sci Am reference, 28 Oct 2005.
Is Sustained Macroevolutionary Progress Possible? is the last-mentioned CA webpage.


Hi Brig, I noticed your comments on our paper on your website and felt that it warranted a response.

12:37 PM 11/12/2005: Dear Dan -- Thanks for your interest and comments. I am delighted to know that someone looks at my WhatsNEW Archives! I would like to respond also. Perhaps we can remain cordial, even though we may disagree.

From the first paragraph: While the fossil record and the genetically reconstructed phylogeny are discordant, the results from the fossil record are not able to comment on genetic complexity. It is only by virtue of Occam's razor that the simple structure present in the common ancestors of Cnideria and Bilateria is proposed to be genetically simple. Our results show that this simplifying assumption does not hold.

Your results come from certain samples of today's genomes (all we've got). Several assumptions are needed to infer from them anything about their common ancestor (beginning with, there was one!) Anyway, using these data you now assume that the common ancestor must have had all the genes shared between humans and coral. But because there likely was gene acquisition (not just loss) in the intervening time, the genome of the presumed common ancestor could have been almost anything, including genetically simple. I agree that the older assumption was unsupported. Knowing this, we should be extremely cautious with our next assumptions.

We make reasonable claims about the eco-niche selections on the two non-mammalian outgroups from the Cnidarian line; both organisms used in the analysis are species found in ephemeral environments, and would thus be expected to have had a strong selection for rapid life cycles (which is why both were initially chosen for use in molecular genetics). Because of this, there _is_ a strong selection for gene loss.

But in the subject article you wrote,

...However, a significant number of D. melanogaster and C. elegans genes are highly modified, and the extent of gene loss in these organisms is unknown.... Gene loss has thus been much more extensive in the model invertebrate lineages than previously assumed.... The most surprising implication of the Acropora dataset is that extensive gene loss has occurred in Drosophila and Caenorhabditis.... The true extent of gene loss from the model invertebrates will only become clear after comprehensive analyses of a range of non-standard animals....

Acropora and Homo on the other hand are long lived species in relatively stable environments - the differences between worm/fly and human/coral is by virtue of their respective niches. ...There is no crisis. regards Dan Kortschak [...]

But you wrote, "Our preliminary survey ...appears to turn upside down several preconceived ideas about the evolution of animal genomes." What was that about? In the time since you wrote the article, has the phenomenon of gene acquisition by transfer gained any importance for you? Thank you again for your kind interest. Best regards, Brig

From Dan | Sun, 13 Nov 2005 08:25:23 +1030: Hi Brig, thanks for the rapid reply. The interesting preconceptions that need addressing stem exactly from the finding that genetic and phenotypic complexity are not necessarily correlated (see my original email). This finding is touched on my paper, but another paper by members of the group I was working with details more evidence for this (I don't have the reference at hand).

Basically it deals with the finding that a system that exists in all bilaterians and is unecessary for cnidarian development is none the less there. In order to esatblish bilateral symmetry at least 2 developmental axes are required (many organisms use more, but this is the theoretical minimum), an antero-posterior axis and a dorso-ventral axis. While systems that establish the AP axis vary amongst bilaterian, the dorso-ventral axis is highly conserved and involves the dpp signalling pathway. Coral, having only one axis phenotypically (at all stages of development as far as embryology goes) need only one developmental axis to provide the information necessary for appropriate development. Because of this, it has been proposed that the second axis required for a bilateral body plan evolved after divergence of the bilaterian and cnidarian lineages.

However, Cnideria has the dpp signialling system in its entirety (as far as has be investigated). Now this would not necessarily be interesting except for the finding that the expression patterns of the system are differential over the dorso-ventral axis, indicating that cnidarians are in fact bilaterially symmetrical at least genetically speaking. In fact what happens to the dpp signalling system in Acropora is that while starting out with a definite DV axis, but during development the axis aligns itself with the oral-aboral axis that is phenotypically visible in corals. This is interesting as it shows the system has been coopted from a DV axis to be used in the OA axis.

As far as horizontal transfer goes, I'd be a fool to say that it doesn't exist - in fact I've been a strong proponent for this. However, the rates are a significant issue. Looking at, in this example, whole systems which may comprise 20-80 genes, the likelihood of effective transfer of all the genes is vanishingly small, especially when the organisms are not located sympatrically/symtemporally (as humans and A. millepora). A much more parsimonious view when large genetic casettes is concerned is that r selected species, lose genes. This is pretty much what we said in the paper. I hope this makes the situation clear. regards ...Dan

22 Dec 2003: A species of coral contains many sequences matching ones from genes thought to be peculiar to vertebrates — the referenced What'sNEW article.


Dear Brig, When I saw this cartoon, I immediately thought of you. I hope you know how proud I am of you you and your relentless search for truth about the origin of life on Earth.... Love to you and all the family. Aunt Dot

Peanuts cartoon

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Dear Brig, I made some small changes to the Wikipedia entry for Panspermia (opinions against it do not constitute a "consensus," only a majority. And I made note that H&W expanded the idea to account not only for some diseases/epidemics, but also for the genetic novelty needed for macroevolution). While editing I saw that they have a fledgling entry for Cosmic Ancestry. You might want to expand that. It gives only a superficial overview.... Ken

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_ancestry


Have you seen this article about Degradation and Turnover of Extracellular DNA in Marine Sediments? http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=444808#N0x84d6420.0x8e1fed0. I'm not sure what extracellular DNA, or why there is so much of it. This was mentioned in a blog I read called DeepSeaNews.blogspot.com ...I don't know if you'd be interested or not. Take care, great web site!


(In case this did not get through earlier. Any help will be appreciated. Thank you!!...) Dear Sirs -- On my webpage about evolution and the second law of thermodynamics, I write, "In the diffusion of heat, the entropy increase can be measured with the ratio of physical units, joules per degree. In the mixing of two kinds of gasses already at the same temperature, if no heat is exchanged, the ratio of joules per degree - thermodynamic entropy - is irrelevant." Now Sergio Rossell claims that I am wrong, and that the entropy gain can be calculated without resort to little volume elements.... I would like to know more about this. Can either of you comment? Thank you!! ...Best regards. Brig

From Shu-Kun Lin | Mon, 26 Sep 2005 18:28:27 +0200 | Copy to Sergio Rossell and Michel Petitjean [Text removed at sender's request.]

From Sergio Rossell | Wed, 28 Sep 2005 02:34:48 -0500 (CDT) Dear Brig and Shu-Kun, Thank you for this exchange. Shu-Kun writes that the claim "In the mixing of two kinds of gasses already at the same temperature, if no heat is exchanged, the ratio of joules per degree­ thermodynamic entropy ­ is irrelevant" but gives no reference, we need to rely on his authority alone, this of course is unsatisfactory. I have given you a specific example and reference to literature (Physical Chemistry by Ira Levine, 1995) supporting my claim and describing the experiments. Best wishes, Sergio

From Brig Klyce | 09:22 AM 9/28/2005 Dear Sergio -- Shu-Kun asked me to remove his reply. He declined to give a reason and asked not to be contacted again.... Under these circumstances, I wouldn't blame you for being sceptical. My own further thought is this. You said partial pressures can be measured using semi-permeable membranes. But it sounds to me more like this: semi-permeable membranes can be used to separate mixed gasses, whose pressures can then be measured. Besides, if there's a gain when they're mixed, there would have to be a loss when they're separated again, right? So the membrane would violate the law, like Maxwell's demon! I'll try to look at your reference. Best regards. Brig

From Sergio Rossell | Wed, 28 Sep 2005 14:31:09 -0500 (CDT) — Dear Brig, I have the impression that the discussion inspired an idea in Shu-Kun's mind that he believes is very important and wishes not to share.... Now to the interesting stuff. [You wrote] ...semi-permeable membranes can be used to separate mixed gasses, whose pressures can then be measured.

Your rewording is confusing to me. Semi-permeable membranes can be used to measure partial presures because one gas hits against them while the other passes through, its a litte bit like filtration. Semi-permeable membranes can be used to separate gases but not without work, you have to compress the gas the memebrane is impermable to.... You need to invest work to separate them. Maxwell's demon is an important thought experiment.

I'll give you an alternative account, which as far as I know is originally mine. It is very simple: physics is based upon observation, there is no logical necesity for the most basic physical principles, logic does not require energy to be conserved nor the speed of light to be constant, it just happens to be so. The theory of probabilities is the formalization of the logical consequences of what will happen if, for instance, a molecule is as likely to move to the right as it is likely to move to the left, it later can be extended to biased probabilities, and so on. The second law of thermodynamics is a principle that was discovered, there is no logical need for it to be so, it just is so, as far as we can tell. If you introduce Maxwell's demon you introduce a biased probability, you change the rules of the game. If you change the rules you need not to have the same game, you may ask how would a change in that rule still allow the game to remain unchanged, and then you will have answers as that given by Szilard.

I googled the following search: thermodynamics entropy mixing site:.edu And found a site that calculates the entropy of mixing in the same manner as the book I have. http://www.chem.arizona.edu/~salzmanr/480a/480ants/mixing/mixing.html ...Best wishes, Sergio

From Klyce | 11:01 PM 9/28/2005 — I suspect Shu-Kun noticed the word panspermia and had an anxiety attack. My overall point about entropy is that the concept is confusing and cannot be used to explain how sunlight can ultimately compose genetic programs. I believe this point -- the concept is confusing -- is reconfirmed in our exchange. Originally attempting to locate the source of the confusion, nine years ago I wrote that mixing doesn't increase J/K. This statement on my website went unchallenged until now, when you say yes it does. I asked another opinion from the publisher of Entropy. He says it doesn't. Confusion reconfirmed!

BTW, another expert recently told me on the phone that mixing does increase J/K, but he thought the calculation would require using the little volume elements. I am certain that using Boltzmann's constant on quantities derived from the volume elements is a logical error, easily demonstrated. For an authority how about Claude Shannon, who wrote, with respect to the parcelling, "In the continuous case the measurement is relative to the coordinate system. If we change coordinates the entropy will in general change." All that said, I should confess, you have shaken my confidence about the mixing. Maybe it does increase J/K? (You have definitely earned a free _Mathematics of Evolution_ by Fred Hoyle!)

[You wrote] Semi-permeable membranes can be used to separate gases but not without work, you have to compress the gas the memebrane is impermable to. As I recall from high school chemistry, in liquids, a semi-permeable membrane can separate things across a barrier when the initial pressures are equal on both sides. The separation can produce a pressure difference, causing cells to burst, for example. Would gasses be different? I am at the very edge of my knowledge here! Thanks for your continuing interest. Best regards. Brig

From Rossell | Thu, 29 Sep 2005 02:48:58 -0500 (CDT): — Dear Brig, I agree that thermodynamics alone cannot explaing how sunlight can drive the evolution of complexity, but that claim has not been made, as far as I know, by any serious scientist. The production of entropy is, to my eyes, no more and no less than an observation that we find over and over again. The production of entropy was related by Boltzman to the idea of probability distributions. Based on the assumption that molecules are as likely to move in one direction or the other you can (considering a huge number of molecules) derive the same behavior predicted by entropy production as Carnot stated it. Boltzman gives a very plausible mechanism for Carnot's finding (clasical thermodynamics never gives a mechanism for entropy production)

[You wrote] ...Confusion reconfirmed! I don't think that thermodynamic entropy is confusing, the confusion arises because some people have confused thermodynamic entropy with "disorder", entropy is well defined in statistical mechanics, disorder is not. The confusion with logical entropy is similar, it arises from given the same name to a different thing. Thermodynamic entropy is a characteristic of the physical world, logical entropy is defined in similar mathematical form, but its defined in a "virtual world" of information that needs not be geverned by the same laws of the physical world.

[You wrote] ...how about Claude Shannon, who wrote, with respect to the parcelling, "...If we change coordinates the entropy will in general change." I am not very found of authorities, and I am not an expert in information theory. But what you say about Shanon that entropy changes relative to the coordinate system may be so in his information theory but is incompatible with known physics. It violates one of the most fundamental principles of physics that of the conservation of linear and angular momentum, if Shanon's idea of entropy would be true for the physical world, Newtonian dynamics and Einstein's relativity would not have been discovered but other laws of physics would have taken their place (see for isntance Feynman's lectures on physics).

[You wrote] ...Would gasses be different? You remember your highschool teachings well, what you are refereing to is osmotic presure one of the colligative properties. This example you give is different becuase in here both components do interact (which was different in ideal non interacting gases of the mixing example). The issue is a bit involved with thermodynamics, the basic idea is that the internal energy of a solution changes with the addition of solute. It's been a pleasure to have this series of discussions with you, I have had to revisit my physics and physical chemistry books to keep up with the discussion, and I have enjoyed the experience very much. Best wishes, Sergio ...Sergio Rossell | Department of Molecular and Cell Physiology | Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam | http://www.wichizaya.demon.nl/

09:50 PM 9/29/2005: We didn't resolve every issue, but I enjoyed it....Thanks. Brig

03:35 AM 9/30/2005: I'm very busy finishing my thesis, but will come back to these issues form time to time. I plan to work a bit on my web site, yours has inspired me to put my thoughts in a coherent manner and share it with whoever finds it.

I have failed to express how much I have benefited form our exchange. Although I do not agree with all your thoughts and I do not embrace panspermia as a working hypothesis just yet, I have been inspired by your efforts and passionate discussion, and particularly now feel I should follow your lead in sharing thoughts with others. I believe we will have future contacts and intersting discussions....

08:54 AM 9/30/2005: I am still thinking about our problem! I do not doubt your math, but perhaps the philosophy behind it. Entropy in the thermodynamic sense is defined as unavailable energy. It increases because the ability-to-do-work has decreased. In the example with the two gasses, what ability-to-do-work did they have before mixing, which was lost after the mixing? Suppose they were gasses not separable by a semipermeable membrane (gasses of equal molecular weight?)...

From Rossell | Wed, 5 Oct 2005 03:29:30 -0500 (CDT): Hi Brig, I was out of town for a few days. Entropy is defined as the heat transfered during a reversible process divided by the absolute temperature. Its relation to work is given by the Gibbs equation: ds= (dU+PdV)/T For a closed system with no chemimal reaction. Capacity to do work does not imply that work is actually done. You can use electrical energy to drive a motor and lift a body or you could produce only heat by making it circulate through a resistence.

09:16 AM 10/5/2005: Right, but the entropy gain is greater in the latter case, right?

In mixing, the fact that you could do work if you would use a semipermable membrane, does not imply that the process cannot occur without doing any work.

1) What work could you do with the unmixed gasses?
2) If they were not separable with a semipermiable membrane, what work could you do?

If you want to understand this matter you will need to spend some time studying basic thermodynamics. Do not be fooled in thinking that anyone can understand basic thermodynamics by having only a brief exposure during a highschool or university course. It is necessary to keep on studying it. I wrote a very short summary of what I have understood upon the matter (http://www.wichizaya.demon.nl/work/Thermo.pdf) but it is very dry and has moslty equations and little text. I am not finished with it but, as far as I can tell, all definitions are precise. I suggested revisiting your thermodynamics book because I think you will benefit form it, and because I believe that difficult matters, such as thermodynamics, can only be learned by repeated exposure. I remain open for discussion and interested in your point of view. Very best wishes, Sergio

Wed, 5 Oct 2005 13:56:17 -0500 (CDT): Dear Brig, I suggested you to study thermodynamics not becuase I'm annoyed, but because I think you are very interested and that without patient study you might not achieve understanding it.... The entropy change depends solely upon the initial and final states of the system, it matters not whether the free enegy change was used to perform work or just dissipated as heat. Inefficient machines do not 'create' more entropy per unit energy invested than efficient ones, but they do less work.

As I argued in one of our first exchanges, in order to mix, gases must first expand, this expansion can be in principle used to lift a body by ussing semi-permeable membrane.... Gases are separable with semi permeable membranes, but work must be invested to separate them. What is not possible is spontaneous separation of gases by just placing an semi-permeable memebrane in the chamber.

11:05 PM 10/5/2005: [You wrote] You can use electrical energy to drive a motor and lift a body or you could produce only heat..... In the former case, the weight can descend again and do work; in the latter case not. I am pretty sure there's more entropy gain in the latter example. Can you do a calculation? Say 1kwh is expended in each case. In the former case half the energy is lost as heat, and the other half is converted to gravitational potential energy. In the latter case it all is lost as heat. Experiments done at 300K. Isn't the gain .5kwh/300K versus 1kwh/300K?

OK about the separable gasses. For the non-separable ones, I think you already answered my question when you wrote (28 Aug): If, however, gas A and B cannot be distinguished, then the delta S would not change. I should have paid more attention. I think the gasses issue is settled. Now the other one!

From Sergio Rossell | Sun, 9 Oct 2005 05:28:45 -0500 (CDT): Dear Brig, I received the book Mathematics of Evolution, thank you very much, I will read it with care.

[You wrote] Isn't the gain .5kwh/300K versus 1kwh/300K? The entropy of the SYSTEM depends solely on the intial and final states. Importantly, if the system is not isolated you can think of three entropy changes: (i) the system's entropy change, (ii) the surroundings entropy change and (iii) the universe's entropy change. For any process to proceed the latter must increase (or stay constant in idealized reversible processes). Whether the system changes form state A to B in a reversible or irreversible manner does not affect the system's entropy change, but does affect the amount of heat transferred to the surroundings, and when these are considered big enough and at the same temperature the amount of heat transferred divided by the temperature is the entropy change in the surroundings. So you are right in saying that the entropy production is greater in the case transforming electrical energy into heat (considering that initial and final states of the system are equal to those when the system does work), becuase you are refering to the "universe". I was confused and thought you were talking about the system (my bad). This distinction is important because it allows the decrease of entropy in a closed system, if work is invested upon it, while the entropy of the universe increases.[...]

Very glad that the gas issue has been settled! The other issue is, to my eyes also settled, when I first read your email I was thinking upon the system while you were talking about the "universe". We actually agreed form the begining, I just didn't notice. Very best wishes, and thanks again for the book... Sergio
+ Sergio Rossell | Department of Molecular and Cell Physiology | Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam | http://www.wichizaya.demon.nl/

From Klyce | 02:54 PM 10/9/2005: [You wrote] Very glad that the gas issue has been settled! Yes. After this discussion, I have changed the wording on my page about the second law from "if no heat is exchanged...", to "if no energy is dissipated...". (I didn't know any could be.) I hope this is unobjectionable! Thanks for all your time spent on this, including the issue with the electrical energy. (There will not be a quiz on the Hoyle book! But, of course, your comments are welcome.) Best regards... Brig

upon panspermia/second law is the earlier query from Sergio Rossell, 27 Aug 2005.
Logical Entropy is the related section of the CA webpage The Second Law of Thermodynamics.


B- Has the Nylon Problem, as described in Space.com article linked below, been addressed somewhere in your website. I would very much like to read it. -R
http://www.livescience.com/othernews/050923_ID_science.html

from Brig Klyce, 09:37 AM 9/23/2005: Ron -- this will be brief but I think that nylonase is probably close to other existing enzymes and could have easily come by microevolution from one of them. Not a hard thing for darwinian evolution to do, but very different from the invention of new programs. The darwinian claim -- that it accounts for all new genetic programs -- is an extraordinary one to me. I believe the evidence should also be extraordinary. If the nylon problem is supposed to be the clincher, I'm unimpressed.


Hi Brig. Hope you're well, but I have a bone to pick with you. I'm sympathetic to the panspermia argument, but sometimes I think the peripheral issues you pursue on the site lead to blind alleys. Case in point: this excerpt from your comments on the book by Robert Hazen: "Most interesting to us, however, is that a book about the origin of life, by 'one of the world's foremost scientists seeking answers to these questions,' can deal with hardware (chemistry) only and completely ignore the software aspect of the problem." Other places on the site you also refer to the "software" aspect of the problem.

What is this mysterious aspect of the problem? Genes are arrangements of atoms, or "hardware." Presumably by "software" you're referring to the "information" that resides in the arrangements of atoms. But there is no such entity as "information" in arrangements of atoms, no matter how complex the arrangements. Information exists only in minds. Minds can perceive arrangements of atoms and notice patterns, correlations, etc., but that information exists in the perceiving mind. The atoms just are where they are. To store an encyclopedia on a computer chip is not to imbue the chip with information but only to rearrange the atoms. If there were no minds to recognize patterns in the arrangement and perceive meaning in it, there would be no information, just one particular arrangement of atoms instead of another.

If nothing else, you're making metaphysical assumptions or getting chummy with the Intelligent Design people. You're not doing that, are you? ...Best, Ken

from Brig Klyce, 06:24 PM 9/22/2005: Dear Ken -- Thanks for paying attention! You have identified a core issue. The software aspect is the crux of the matter, I believe. (And I assure you, the creationism/ID advocates consider me almost as reproachable as the hardcore darwinists do.)

Software has always been critical to my argument. By software I mean programs, subroutines and algorithms encoded in strings of symbols like bits or nucleotides. You say, "Information exists only in minds." But I think there is a clear difference between, for example,
-- blazes on trees that denote the trail, versus scars on trees that falling limbs made.
-- instructions written in text versus a random sequence of characters.

I will grant you, if no one ever sees the blazes or instructions, they are useless. But if anyone ever does see them, they would have a use and purpose. That is true about them now, whether we know it or not. Also,
-- the genome of an animal or plant versus a random sequence of nucleotides
is the same. The former, but not the latter, has a use and purpose, independent of our knowledge.

To continue, I suspect that programs, subroutines and algorithms encoded in strings of symbols do not get composed by darwinian processes. They can get optimized, diversified, made incompatible with others (speciated), randomized, etc. But not composed. If they exist, powerful genetic software management may be able to reconstruct them from large fragments. (With a little programming, MS Word could probably use its syntax and spellcheck features to reconstruct The Declaration of Independence from a small number of randomly sliced, shuffled pieces.)

22 Sep 2005: Genesis, a new book about the origin of life — the related What'sNEW item.


On the space oriented bbs uplink.space.com someone mentioned the detections of olivine in Tempel I and previously in other comets raise the possibility of more heating in comets than would be expected for objects formed far from the Sun. This would also be consistent with the theory of radiogenic heating in comets:

NASA Research Finds Green Sand Crystals Are in Comet Tempel 1.
Date Released: Thursday, September 15, 2005
http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n0007/20cometdust/

Time travel through a trail of comet dust.
NASA/GSFC NEWS RELEASE
Posted: July 20, 2000.
"We know that these dust grains change from amorphous to crystalline as they are heated, and our laboratory research revealed that the rate at which they change is extremely sensitive to temperature," Nuth added. "At the very low temperatures, where water-ice and the other volatile components of comets are frozen, the time required for amorphous silicate dust grains to change to the crystalline olivine found in comet Halley is many times longer than the age of the Universe."
http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n0007/20cometdust/

So there at least three separate and independent indications of internal heating, likely radiogenic, in comets: carbonate/clay detected in Tempel I, olivine in Tempel I and other comets, and crystalline ice detected deep in the Kuiper belt:

Chilly Quaoar had a warmer past.
Mark Peplow
Crystalline ice suggests remote object has radioactive interior.
Published online: 8 December 2004.
http://www.nature.com/news/2004/041206/pf/041206-7_pf.html
+ Bob Clark | Dept. of Mathematics | Widener University | Chester, PA | USA

8 September 2005: Deep inside comet Tempel 1 there are lots of organic compounds — the related What'sNEW item.


Source: Baylor College of Medicine | Date: 2005-09-16
URL:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050916080112.htm

08:26 AM 9/18/2005: Dear Jim -- Thanks for alerting me about this. I have posted a pointer to the article under What'sNEW on my "How Is It Possible?" page, where adaptive mutation is discussed.... The closing sentence of the article, "This can speed evolution of complex protein machines," interests me. If by "evolution" she means "invention," the sentence is not supported by the evidence. But if she means "adaptation within a narrow range," we agree completely. "Evolution" is a slippery term! Thanks for the alert. Brig

How Is It Possible? is the CA webpage where adaptive mutation is discussed, starting with the 3rd-from-last paragraph.


Brig- Are you surprised that organic compounds were found in a 'comet'... Honestly, I've been in and out and up and down articles, journals, text books, and your website and haven't seen any data presented that discounts the basic tenants of the theory of Panspermia... I've seen theoretical arguments against it... but no hard data to refute the thesis... It's really amazing to see how slowly the wheel is turning towards this theory, despite the steady stream of convergence of findings. Maybe it is just grinding finely... Best Regards, Ron

8 September 2005: Deep inside comet Tempel 1 there are lots of organic compounds — the news that prompted this reply.


Dear Sir, I have bumped into your web site very recently and enjoyed very much your discussion upon thermodynamic and logical entropy. I found very enlightening your accounts of entropy definition (or perhaps the lack of it) in information theory, and I do agree with you that evolution has produced ecosystems of increasing complexity. There are, however, two points which were not clear to me. (i) You wrote: "the mixing of two kinds of gasses already at the same temperature, if no heat is exchanged, the ratio of joules per degree - thermodymanimc entropy - is irrelevant." I do not understand how could you mix physically distinguishable gases without creating thermodynamic entropy. Although reversible mixing can be conceived (which indeed would be isoentropic), the only way to have the gases separated (prior mixing) is to have them in different volumes. This implies that the partial pressure of one gas, say A, will be pA in compartment I and 0 in compartment II, while for the other gas, say B, will be 0 in compartment I and pB in compartment II. The consequence of this is that once you remove the barrier separating the compartment, gas A will expand to fill compartment II and gas B will expand to fill compartment I, this is, you will have isothermal expansion and therefore heat flowing into your system.

Brig Klyce replies | 04:29 PM 8/27/2005: If you had only one gas expanding into a second empty chamber, maybe so. But I do not think heat or work must be supplied in order for the two gasses to mix.

You could avoid the expansion only by compressing the systems (i.e. investing work). At risk of boring you with formalism, delta S=-nA*ln(xA)-nB*ln(xB), where nA and nB are the moles of A and B respectively and xA and xB their molar fractions. I am aware that this detail by no means solves the confusion between logical and thermodynamic entropies, but is perhaps an interesting point.

I can easily picture this mixing with no work supplied. Two cylinders connected by a hose with a valve separating them. Simply open the valve. In time the gasses will mix.

The second confusion I had was that after convincing the reader of the discrepancies between logical and thermodynamic entropies you conclude that we should admit that earth’s biological system is open to organizing input form the outside. If logical entropy is not the same as thermodynamic entropy, then the second law (entropy must increase in a closed system) needs not to be valid for logical entropy. We have no reason to believe that it will increase if the system is isolated in terms of order. Your claim is of course plausible, but is it proven?

My claim, that organization cannot spontaneously increase, or, logical entropy cannot decrease in a closed system, is not proven. It is merely plausible to me (and most adults in the US.) Likewise, the opposing darwinian claim that organization can increase spontaneously, is unproven. This seems completely obvious to me. If darwinians say that their claim is proven by the big bang, I want better proof. When they pretend it needs no additional proof, I am flabergasted.

Last, I would like to thank you for providing this information, product of many readings and allot of thinking, to anyone who happens to pass by. I hope you find the time and willingness to reply this email, but if you don’t, I understand. Best wishes, Sergio Rossell

Sergio Rossell, 01:23 AM 8/28/2005: Hi, Thanks for your quick reply! SOME COMMENTS: [You wrote] "If you had only one gas expanding into a second empty chamber, maybe so. But I do not think heat or work must be supplied in order for the two gasses to mix." This is precisely the point. If gas A is distinguishable from B, it is expanding into an empty chamber (respect to gas A). The key is that A is different, and therefore, physically distinguishable from B. An example from standard physical chemistry books (cf. Physical Chemistry by Ira Levine, Fourth Edition ISBN 0-07-037528-3) is that of two chambers separated by an impermeable barrier and a membrane permeable to A but not to B (e.g. heated palladium is permeable to hydrogen but not to oxigen). Upon removal of the impermeable barrier, gas A will equilibrate between the two chambers but gas B wont. Supposing the chambers are of equal volume, pA in each chamber will be half the original (pA/2), but since B cannot cross the membrane pB will remain unchnanged in its own chamber and zero in the other. It follows after removing the barrier compartment I will have a presure of 0.5pA and chamber II 0.5pA + pB, therefore work or heat can be trasferred with the surrundings. If, however, gas A and B cannot be distinguished, then the delta S would not change. I will write down this example formally in a link inside (http://www.wichizaya.demon.nl/work.html), but mind that is not mine, it can be found in many standard text books on physical chemistry. I just begun constructing my web page, so there is not too much to see yet.

[You wrote] "Likewise, the opposing darwinian claim that organization can increase spontaneously, is unproven. This seems completely obvious to me. If darwinians say that their claim is proven by the big bang, I want better proof. When they pretend it needs no additional proof, I am flabergasted." I agree is not proven. I feel, as you do, that something is missing in the Darwinian position. But unlike you, I am not sure whether it requires extraterrestrial input. To my eyes it seems that we do not understand the relation between physics and biology suffciently well, and that is why we fail to explain the increase in complexity. I would consider the extraterrestrial hypothesis only after proof that indeed the terrestrial milieu is unable to sustain increasing complexty.

Brig Klyce, 12:56 PM 8/28/2005: The webpage you point to says, "The entropy associated with the expansion of a perfect gas is given by...." Why would this formula pertain to the mixing scenario, in which the volume, temperature and pressure do not change, and no work is supplied?

Sergio Rossell, 28 Aug 2005 14:15:52 -0500 (CDT): The mixing of two perfect gases requires them first to be separated in two different compartments, using similar notation as the webpage, before mixing the system's pressure P is: P1 = pA1 = pB1, after mixing, P2 = pA2 + pB2 and P1 = P2. So the system's pressure is unchanged. However, the partial pressures will have changed pA1 is different than pA2 and pB1 is different than pB1. You cannot mix gasses keeping their PARTIAL pressures unchanged and therefore there is an associated production of entropy. Partial pressures exist because the gases are PHYSICALLY DISTINGUISHABLE.

If you would imagine the two compartements filled by the same gas, no partial pressures would exist and, as expected, the entropy would remain unchanged after removing the barrier.

You can imagine a scenario were you do not allow exchange of heat nor work, still then, the internal energy of the system would change after mixing and entropy would increase. Mind that if you envision only Step 2 of the mixing (web site) and, in that way, maintain partial pressures unchanged; you would need to reduce the volume of the system with the same amount of work as the heat flux in Step 1.Hope it's clearer now.

Brig Klyce, 03:41 PM 8/28/2005: Sergio, it's not the least bit clear.
Sergio Rossell, 29 Aug 2005 02:47:13 -0500 (CDT): Hi Brig, Difficult thing we are trying to understand! but let's push further:

Partial pressure is not a physical phenomenon, it's a logical device.
This is not true, partial presures can be MEASURED (and have been) using semipermeable membranes.

But tell me this: when the two gasses mix, by how many joules per absolute degree does the entropy increase? Say there is a liter of oxygen and a liter of nitrogen, both at 20 degrees C, at one atmopshere? Open the valve. Pressure, temperature and volume do not change.
If you make the assumption that oxigen and nitrogen are are ideal gases and you mix 1 mol of each having them originally in separare chambers of the same volume, then the entropy production among mixing would be 11.52 J/K (using the equation in the web site).

If this were a cylinder of hot nitrogen and a cylinder of cold nitrogen, you could do the calculation without resort to little volume elements, so you shouldn't need them for the 2-gas problem either.
I have not used the little volume elements explicitely in any of my calculations. I think (but I'm not sure) that they are implicit in the partial presures and are infinitesimal (p=nRT/V), but I have no experience with logical entropy. If you have hot and cold nitrogen, there is a tempeture gradient that needs to be dissipated and will have an associated entropy production.

I would truly like to reach an understanding about this. Thanks. Brig
I am very glad to have had this correspondance with you. It is not an easy issue to discuss over email and you are right to doubt what I'm telling you. I think that if you would like to investigate this issue more in detail, a physical chemistry book would be best. Here you will find this problem addressed explicitely in terms of real examples (unlikely in a physics book). I plan to take looks at your web page from time to time and perhaps ask you some questions, is that is something you would like? Best wishes, Sergio

Brig Klyce, 10:07 AM 8/29/2005: Yes, I welcome your comments. I also plan to solicit comments on your entropy calculation from my other readers. Thank you!

Dr. Shu-Kun Lin replied, 26 Sep 2005.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics is the related CA webpage.


Dear Friends on Board: The Age of Cosmic Genealogy on Earth - overshadowing paradigms both ongoing and contending relative to origins while enhancing meaning and purpose - opens new vistas for contemporary science, philosophy and religion.

"Microbiology may be said to have had its beginnings in the nineteen-forties. A new world of the most astonishing complexity began then to be revealed. In retrospect I find it remarkable that microbiologists did not at once recognize that the world into which they had penetrated had of necessity to be of cosmic order. I suspect that the cosmic quality of microbiology will seem as obvious to future generations as the Sun being the centre of the solar system seems obvious to the present generation." (Sir Fred Hoyle, 1980, concluding a University lecture at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff with the title "The Relation of Biology to Astronomy").
The Age of Cosmic Genealogy on Earth, having begun with human cognition of the oneness and interconnectedness of all life, appears destined to culminate with humankind as a conscious participant with all intelligent life in the infinite continuum of life.... www.geocities.com/forelawsship/CosmicGenealogy.html

In forelawsship, Robert E. Cobb | Forelaws on Board | www.forelawsonboard.net/

Fred Hoyle is a related CA webpage.


Dear Bryce ...I'm so addicted to keeping current to your 'What's New' that it already seems too long since the latest, 6 August. Anyway, please post some speculation on the idea that the talcum-like dust blown ouf of the July 4th comet was dried bacteria, as with Hoyle & Wickramasinghe. What was the reflectio spectrum of that stuff. I saw the 'new star' arise in my 18" Dob: barely 10 minutes after the impact time it was quite obvious.
+ Bill Parkyn | Lomita CA (near LA) | Optical Engineer | MIT Class of '66

8 September 2005: Deep inside comet Tempel 1 there are lots of organic compounds — subsequent news related to this reply.


Dear Sir, I am a researcher in computational linguistics living in Hawaii. Some years ago I published an observation on the Internet that ran something like this: As humans, it is clear that we have evolved physically in many directions. A Nordic European is very different from, say, an African pygmy. So it is clear that physical evolution of some kind is happening. But linguistically we have never evolved one iota from the moment humans first began to speak. Proof? Just take any infant from any culture in the world and raise that infant in any other culture in the world, and he/she will grow up to speak the local language just like any other local person. If language were evolving, this would clearly be impossible.

Perhaps a couple of years after I posted this observation, I heard a remark by some female narrator on an American science television program--perhaps Nova. She said, "Language is not evolving," but never mentioned where she discovered this information. Anyhow, where the panspermia idea is concerned, this discovery that human language has never evolved one iota from the time (some estimate 500,000 years ago) when humans first began to speak is of critical importance, because if language has not evolved at all in .5 million years, then there is slim probability that it ever evolved at all. It is quite possible therefore that some genetic upgrade floated in from space in the form of a virus arriving here .5 million years ago and infected people with the power of speech, and if so, then this is indeed strong evidence supporting the panspermia idea.

Personally, I strongly suspect that the panspermia model, or some panspermia model, is the right one for a few very powerful and very simple reasons, which I will express as follows:
1. My 19 years of linguistic research would indicate that the human linguistic apparatus is simply far too complex to have spontaneously evolved by any series of accidents. The naivete of such a belief rivals that of belief in beings like Athena, Apollo, the River Styx, etc.
2. All life and intelligence comes from other life and intelligence. The Darwinists have had access to all the best bio labs in the world for the past 150 years but have never once come even close to showing us how life might have sprung spontaneously from nonliving matter. They can't even duplicate this hypothetical process deliberately in their best labs, let alone by any accident ever known to man. A scientific hypothesis that will not submit to proof in this fashion is a scientific hypothesis that doesn't work, and according to the scientific method, deserves to be thrown out. Hanging on to untenable hypotheses is the work of high priests: not scientists.
3. All physicists I have ever heard of believe that either (1) the universe was once to hot for any life to exist or else, and equally damaging (2) that no life was possible before stars started to explode. Therefore all life in the universe had to come from some source outside the universe of that time.
4. That source of intelligence and life existing outside our universe is nothing more nor less than what we have always called God, the living source of all life as we know it.

So I do not BELIEVE in the existence of God, gods, or anything else, but I simply KNOW of the existence of an intelligent creator by means of these ironclad facts. --Joe Devin.


Brigger, Please explain, in simple terms, the difference between Intelligent Design and Cosmic Ancestry.... Thank you. Morrison...

from Brig Klyce to Chip Morrison | Wed, 03 Aug 2005 11:47:44 -0500: Dear Chip -- your timing is excellent, given George W. Bush's recent endorsement of ID....

In brief, ID says that there must have been a miracle for life to originate, and other miracles for it to evolve from the simplest forms all the way to higher plants and animals.

CA agrees that these phenomena are not well accounted for by neodarwinism (ND).

But CA points out that the origin of life is not an observed phenomenon, only a firmly held belief. Firmly held by both ID and ND! The same is true of evolution, if you deconstruct it carefully. The evolutionary progress that takes life to higher forms is driven by the acquisition of new genetic programs for the features that higher forms have and lower forms lack. Both ID and ND attempt to account for the origins of these programs, ID by miracles, ND by science.

Many genetic programs are acquired by gene transfer. This fact already is a blow to ND, because in some cases the source species has no need or use for the program. If not, the ND account for its origin doesn't work.

But the origin of the programs is seldom even claimed to be observed. In 2000, W. Ford Doolittle even admitted, "Many eukaryotic genes ...seem to have come from nowhere."

Admittedly, programs can get *optimized* by ND processes. Optimization is also easily demonstrated in computer models. Not so for composing new programs for unforseeable, complex features.

So CA supposes that these things -- 1) life in the first place and 2) genetic programs for complex features -- never "originated." Maybe they always existed. If so, ID is right to assert that ND doesn't account for them. But ID is wrong to say that we must therefore resort to miracles. Interestingly, both sides agree that ID and ND are the only two choices, and both love the big bang, because it supports the dilemma.

CA contains no miracles, but it requires an amendment to the big bang theory. Life, even highly evolved, must have always existed. Having lived with this concept for years now, I find it no harder to accept than the existence of the universe. The existence of a physical universe is unexplained by science (even if it it began with a standard big bang.) Life is in the same category for me. Science doesn't explain it. But if it always existed, then there's no miracle in the finite past that needs explaining. Thus scientific faith is sustained.

These views are elaborated on the website, if you feel like poking around. Thanks for your interest. Comments invited....Brig Klyce | Astrobiology Research Trust

from Chip Morrison | 05:40 PM 8/3/2005: I need to find out more about Intelligent Design. Could not Nature be the intelligent designer? Is Nature too stupid for that? Not up to the task? I agree that Nature sometimes blunders. Does the Intelligent Designer also blunder? Or is that just Nature? Nature getting in the way?

from Brig: I know that ID requires miracles. Miracles cannot be investigated scientifically. So how ID works is not clear to me. Nature could only do it if Nature has a mind. ID is really just creationism made more palatable, they hope. (There are neodarwinists who think life is an inevitable result of properties of matter. That would be Nature I guess. But where's the evidence?)

from Chip: Also, you need to explain to me why it is necessary for CA that these genetic programs have always existed. From what I remember of the first paper of yours I read, a chief argument was that there hasn't been sufficient time for Nature to have developed the programs on Earth. If the programs come from afar, that solves the problem of time, assuming more time in other parts of the universe. But why does CA require that the programs always existed? Not enough time elsewhere?

Here I'm with the creationists. Suppose astronauts come upon a Chrysler Building standing on Venus. Venus hasn't existed long enough for a Chrysler Building to self-assemble by chance. But if you had forever? In forever anything can happen, right? Sorry, I'm not buying it. Even forever isn't long enough.

(An interesting sidetrack: Mars has existed long enough too have a grand canyon whose exact specifications are probably as detailed as those of the Chrysler Building. How is the Chrysler Building different? Creationist William Dembski writes about this. "Complex Specified Information".)

That argument works for "the origin of life." For evolution to ever higher forms after that, I think there's a second-law-of-thermodynamics equivalent that prevents it. True, now the number of possibilities can be counted. But the number for a single gene is like 4^1000 or about 10^600. (Try http://www.panspermia.org/proof5.htm)

Also, I need to be clear. You agree that life forms have evolved on Earth, but with a sort of assist from external sources. Universe is teeming with life, Earth is open system, life forms from afar mingle with life forms here, producing forms that could not have evolved using only local material. Is this correct?

Yes. Although once the material arrives, then it's local. And it could arrive long before it's deployed.

BTW, I don't see that gene transfer is blow to ND, just because programs are not always useful. Should be okay, as long as not harmful?

How did the gene acquire the program it needs in the recipient species, when, sometimes, there was no selective pressure to write the program in the donor species? Another unanswered question for ND....

President Bush backs the teaching of Intelligent Design — our related What'sNEW item, 4 Aug 2005.


Dear Mr. Klyce, I am a suststainable development design consultant and teacher who is currently working on a series of science fiction novels. In my research for the novels I came accross your discussion on the 'META' site and found it most interesting.

I must say that I fully appreciate how difficult it is to present an idea that is so contrary to most peoples' fundamental world view, and how vehement can be their antagonistic reactions. I am truely grateful for people like yourself who refuse to give in.

I grew up with the impression (as I'm sure most people do) that the Big Bang theory was fact, but it never 'felt' right to me. Discovering the Steady State theory was a revalation. Upon further research and reflection I came to understand how deeply rooted the creationist paradigm is in the western (and unfortunately increasingly global) psyche. When I was a kid I remember being told that if people try to think about infinity too much they could go mad. I've thought about it a lot - it is to my mind very comprehendable; either that, or I have gone mad!

To me (as an interested lay-person), the BB theory is synonymous with creationism. The SS theory 'feels' right (very unscientific of me, I know, but science is just a toolbox, one of many).

My point is that I happily go along with your 'Cosmic Ancestry' idea. I know you don't subscribe (publicly) to any particular cosmological theory, but you do propose that life has no particular 'origin', which suggests time without beginning and that equates to my understanding of the SS theory.

I am a practicing Buddhist (I hope to get it right, one day) and one of the reasons I was attracted to Buddhism (along with there being no god or rules) was its cosmology. Buddhist texts describe the universe as eternal, infinite, unbounded and describing cosmic cycles. Buddhist philosophy is one of life, the very nature of reality, and embraces all other religions, science, and philosophies within the Mystic Law. Put very simplisticly, the Mystic Law states that there is infinite potential for and temporary manifestation of all phenomena. Phenomena arise through cause and effect. Phenomena exist, or they don't exist - the ultimate reality is neither existence nor nonexistence, but exhibits the qualities of both.

I'd like to recommend an excellent book, a dialogue between Chandra Wickramasinghe and Daisaku Ikeda, called 'Space and Eternal Life' (Journeyman Press, 1998, ISBN 1 851720 60) which I believe you may find of interest. [Another look at your website shows me an essay by Mr. Wickramasinghe and yourself, you may already be aware of the aforementioned book].

My reason for writing to you is to make contact, say thank you, offer moral support and, maybe, engage in dialogue. As I stated above, I am writing a series of SF novels. It is my wish to tell a story of human integration into galactic society, set within an infinite and eternal universe. 'Panspermia' is the the way life spreads and is, at the material level, what unites all sentient species. I would be interested in having some professional opinion and constructive criticism on how I deal with these issues. In return, I would like to do what I can to bring such issues further into the public domain through the medium of literature.

With my deep respect, Mark Mukai-Warner

META vs Cosmic Ancestry contains discussions with the mentioned group, 28 April - 1 May 2000.


Brig, Does evolutionary developmental biology (http://www.answers.com/topic/evolutionary-developmental-biology) speak at all to your quest for genetic novelty. They’re concerned with morphological novelty. Would that constitute a genetic jump in your sense? Or, an explanation for the lack of such jumps? ...Stan
+ Stan Franklin | Computer Science | The University of Memphis

From Brig Klyce | 10:14 AM 7/25/2005: Dear Stan -- Thanks for keeping this question in mind. Yes, I think that changed morphologies and increased or decreased numbers of body segments can be achieved without new genetic programs, with things like regulatory changes instead. These might come from point mutations, gene duplications, or maybe even no sequence changes at all (Could cytoplasmic chemistry changes in response to environmental factors have regulatory effects on development?)
But I think it is obvious that new genetic programs are needed for almost any new evolutionary feature (photosynthesis, eyes, etc.). Evo-devo does not even suggest, to my knowledge, how these could be written.... Brig Klyce | Astrobiology Research Trust

Neo-Darwinism... is a related CA webpage.



[Alerting him to the What'sNEW item of 14 Jul 2005, about his article in Scientific American and inviting him to comment.]

from Dr. Michael Shermer | 09:44 AM 7/18/2005: Brig, I haven't any idea why you would "have certain objections" to my report on the evolution conference, and when I clicked on the link you provided there was nothing there about my report. ...Michael Shermer

from Brig Klyce | 18 Jul 2005: Dear Michael -- Thanks for your response. I'm very sorry for the omission. The correct link is [http://www.panspermia.org/whatsne38.htm#050714] ...Brig

from Brig Klyce | 22 Jul 2005: Can't tell if this reached you. I believe the issue mentioned is important. Any chance I could interest you in it?

from Dr. Michael Shermer | Fri, 22 Jul 2005 11:37:35 -0400: Brig, I received the link and read your comments. Thanks, but I have no additional comments. ...Michael

from Brig Klyce | 23 Jul 2005: Dear Michael -- Thanks for acknowledging. Your no-comment is interesting. Would you mind if I post your [above] email on my site, linked from the news item it pertains to? ...Thanks. ...Brig

from Dr. Michael Shermer | Sat, 23 Jul 2005 14:36:23 -0400: Brig, Post what comment? That I had no comment? What's the reason for that? I'm not an evolutionary biologist. I was simply reporting on the conference. If you want to engage in debate on the topics on your web page, you should do so with professionals in those areas. ...Michael

from Brig Klyce | 24 Jul 2005: Dear Michael -- I took issue with the logic in your own statement about evolution. You do not wish to defend your logic. This would be unremarkable if you were not also a self-designated and recognized spokesman for mainstream darwinian theory, making the statement in Scientific American. As you are aware, I do attempt to discuss this issue with other professionals like Dawkins. He replied with silence as well. In my experience, darwinists often simply ignore the difficulties. I find that puzzling and frustrating, but noteworthy. ...Brig

Michael Shermer, information at Skeptic Magazine website.
Brig Klyce, "Dear Dr. Dawkins" [doc], my attempt to discuss this issue with Dawkins (copied to Shermer), 4 Jan 2005.
The World Summit on Evolution is the related What'sNEW item, 14 Jul 2005.


Dear Brig, The last "Reply" suggests that there are indeed "Right answers" in Cosmology and Fred Hoyle in these field put the right questions but gave the "Wrong answers". So far so good! Please let me check the lesson. According to the Scientific Community the "Right answers" are that we certainly live in a Big Bang Universe which bootstrapped in a some acausal way 13.7 +/- 1% Gyr ago, begin to expand being filled with radiation, ordinary matter, dark unconventional untested non baryonic matter, dark unconventional untested energy. All of these different contributions vary in time, in a way that leaves their sum equal to the closure density parameter of 1, which is the outcome of a never observable inflation phase. The last two entities, "dark" matter/energy, now represent 96% (Ninety-six %) of the global content of the universe. In this scenario, a unique, single, generation of galaxies evolved in a "bottom-up" way from "primordial fluctuations" superimposed to an overall smooth and homogeneous background expansion which at first decelerates then accelerates. In spite of the lack of definition in the initial conditions, the theory supply us with a remarkably precise time of evolution as the age of the universe is no longer an order of magnitude estimate, but is a true measurement ( +/- 1% according to WMAP satellite results) in compliance with the claimed turn to the "Precision Cosmology Age" (Peebles 2003).

Had you the impression that this set of involved assumptions are purposely aimed to sustain a cozy "World System" instead of reflecting reality, please remind that once they are dressed under the scientific politically correct form of a respectable seven (at least seven) parameters, falsifiable (?!?) theory, they lead to the "Right Answer" and Fred Hoyle who raised for a lifetime doubts against this apparently humongous straining of reality, was wrong!

Best regards, Gabriel Manzotti | MONZA | Italy | http://astrocultura.uai.it/personaggi/index.htm | http://astrocultura.uai.it/personaggi/hoyle1/Home.htm [...]

Guardian Unlimited... is the referenced Reply, 16 Jun 2005.
Fred Hoyle... is a related CA webpage.


Nature cover ...I'm not sure whether you saw the following paper which appeared in Nature on 9/2/2004 (cover article). It does a quantitative workup of the relative efficiency of radiated vs. matter-based communication over interstellar distances. The article received quite a bit of press. After coming upon your site, I thought you might find it interesting. http://www.winlab.rutgers.edu/~crose/cgi-bin/cosmicY.html

Cheers, Chris Rose
* Prof. Christopher Rose * Associate Director, Rutgers WINLAB * http://www.winlab.rutgers.edu/~crose

24 June 2005: Dear Chris -- Thanks for the alert. Yes, it's interesting. ...I have placed a pointer to the article on my webpage that mentions the Voyager phonograph record. I will be glad to learn about any future developments. Best regards. Brig

09:31 PM 6/24/2005: ...Again, interesting area. I'm still trying to find the technical meat for various arguments about messaging and panspermia, and your web site is a good starting point. Cheers, Chris

What Difference Does It Make? is the CA webpage that describes the Voyager phonograph record.


...as two books trumpet Fred Hoyle's legacy, Tim Radford assesses a visionary scientist who went too far

Fred Hoyle was the man who worked out just how stars in a galaxy far away and long ago forged the carbon, oxygen, iron, silicon and other elements that became the molecules that became the organisms that ultimately turned into astronomers and accountants, authors and automatons. Fred Hoyle was also a wartime backroom radar scientist, a successful science fiction novelist, a colossal academic fighter and - in later life - a grade one batty boffin who argued that diseases were forged in space and delivered to Earth by comets and that the archaeopteryx specimen in London's Natural History Museum was a fake.

Fred Hoyle coined the phrase "the big bang" but intended it dismissively, clinging stubbornly to his belief that the universe had always been there. Colleagues often dismissed him as eccentric, but they also described him as "a towering figure", and brilliant.

Brilliant? His seven-part television series, A For Andromeda, launched Julie Christie in 1961. By the end of the sixth episode, 25% per cent of the UK population aged five and over were watching it. But he also clashed with another giant of astrophysics, Martin Ryle, and got the worst of a sometimes bitter argument. In the end, Hoyle fell into eclipse, and died in 2001. Then, after a four-year wait, two books have come along at once. The man mattered. He may have had the wrong answers, but he asked the right questions: what is this universe, and where did life come from?

Simon Mitton, an astronomer, a sometime student of Hoyle and himself a publisher, is the author of Fred Hoyle: A Life in Science (Aurum Press). He sees his subject as the outgoing, far-seeing figure who put British cosmology on the map, if only because he could see across the Atlantic. "He gave British astronomers, in the 1950s and early 1960s, [the impetus] to look to the US as a source of rich collaboration rather than a place of envious competition," says Mitton.

"People like Martin Ryle ... always regarded the US astronomical community basically as devils incarnate. It was Hoyle who said we have got to take these people seriously. Then in the late 1960s and 1970s he started the programme at the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy, inviting distinguished Americans to come over and interact with British graduate students. He got the funding to pay their air fares ... and salaries. He absolutely refounded theoretical astronomy in this country."

"When you bear in mind that at the present time a quarter of all the papers published by the Royal Astronomical Society are in cosmology, the theoretical cosmology output of this country is absolutely staggering," he adds. "Theory is the thing the Brits should try to be good at, because all the telescopes are overseas, and you only need a pencil and paper to do theory." People like Stephen Hawking went to Cambridge to do cosmology simply because Fred Hoyle was there. Martin Rees, astronomer royal, president elect of the Royal Society and master of Trinity College, began post-doctoral research in Hoyle's institute and has always felt warmly towards him.

Jane Gregory, author of Fred Hoyle's Universe (OUP), meanwhile, first talked to Hoyle in 1993 because she had begun a PhD on popularisation of science. "It was supposed to be on popularisation but I got kind of stuck with him because he was a great case study: he had a 50-year career and he had done the astronomy stuff, the biology stuff and the fiction," she says. "He ended up being a means by which I could look at different kinds of popularisation."

Gregory has her own theory for the fading of one of Britain's brightest luminaries. Hoyle never liked to let go of an idea until he had wrung everything from it. The ideas about life in space had been with Hoyle since the 1930s.

"So it's not something that came on him when he was going a bit batty in old age," she says. "It was something he'd been thinking about for 50 years by the time it got famous. If you've been working on an idea for 50 years, you don't walk away from it because your mates say it's a bit silly."

Martin Rees thinks that Hoyle espoused the idea that life began in space - the idea is known as panspermia, and it's a century old - because he liked the idea of a "steady state" universe that had always existed. The origin of life on Earth, and so far, only Earth, is one of the science's great unsolved riddles. Hoyle famously described the standard evolutionary explanation involving primordial soup and a warm little pond 3bn years ago as being as improbable as the assembly of a jet airliner during a hurricane in a junkyard. "With an infinite past, you could relegate the origin of life infinitely and forget about it," says Sir Martin. "I think the motivation for panspermia vanished once we had the big bang theory because the age of the universe then becomes only two or three times the age of the Earth. Fred is better known to the public for his advocacy of the steady state theory and his later eccentricities but his greatest lasting contribution is his pioneering work on the understanding of origin of the chemical elements, and how all the carbon, oxygen and iron that we are made of were synthesised in stars from pristine hydrogen. And that's his great achievement, I would say."

+ To buy Fred Hoyle: A Life in Science by Simon Mitton (Aurum Press, £18.99) for £17.99 and Fred Hoyle's Universe by Jane Gregory (Oxford, £20) for £18, both inc free UK postage, call Guardian book service on 0870 836 0875 or go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop.
Fred Hoyle... is a related CA webpage.


Dear Dr. Yockey -- I was very pleased to receive an advance copy of your new book. I read it carefully and posted a review on my website.... I especially noted your sentence: "Once life has appeared,... genetic messages will not fade away and can indeed survive for 3.85 billion years without assistance from an Intelligent Designer" (p 181, 184).

In my review I expressed disappointment that you didn't say much more about evolution: Where do new genetic programs come from, according to Information Theory? Now I wonder. Perhaps you think, as I do, that the genetic programs for all of higher life must already exist, in essence, from the beginning. You do not explicitly say so, but the quoted sentence implies it. Your comments are welcome.... Thank you.... Best regards. Brig

Reply to your e-mail of 5/17.2005 | from Hubert P. Yockey | Thu, 19 May 2005 10:35:01 EDT: Dear Dr. Klyce: How nice to receive your e-mail and your review of my book! ...I thought I gave the creationist/intelligent design folks, el momento de la verdad! I am more than skeptical about their essentially religious views. I started the book with the reference to Socrates to emphases that science is founded on measurement and mathematics not on faith. I criticized frequently scientists who based their conclusions on faith. As you know the founding fathers believed in the separation of church and state, First Amendment U S constitution: Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or restricting the free exercise thereof....

With regard to what is knowable please note the quotation of Niels Bohr on page 5. See also Chapter 11, Randomness, complexity, the unknowable and the impossible. These subjects are not understood by many scientists. They are often refereed to as "buzz words".

Michael Behe, who poses as a scientist, has done an enormous amount of damage. The argument in my book is based on publications by Gregory Chaitin, especially "Irreducible Complexity in Pure Mathematics". You may find this paper and download it from his home page. My theme in the book is that genetics works like a computer. Since the genome is read out to direct the formation of protein, the genetic message cannot be "irreducibly complex". Chaitin shows which sequences are "irreducibly complex" and those that are not. Of course this is far above Behe's head and of his creationist/intelligent design folks. You might find it useful to discuss my reasons why genetics is not "irreducibly complex" with one of your mathematicians. I suggest you go to Chaitin's web page and print out some of his papers on complexity and irreducibility. Try these ideas on your friends! The origin of life, like the origin of the universe, is unknowable. If life were just complicated chemistry, as Jeffrey L. Bada teaches his students, proteins would be composed of amino acids of both handedness.

I discussed the question of how new genetic programs come de novo in my book, Information Theory in Molecular Biology published by CUP in 1992, see Section 12.3. Perhaps your inter library loan can find this book. I wrote it as a textbook and the mathematics scarred off most people. One must decide what can be put in one's book. Being too encyclopedic makes the book so large and expensive that very few will be sold.

A unique characteristic of mathematics is that once a theorem is proved that ends the debate. One may debate the pros and cons of income tax policy but not the theorem of Pythagoras! Only in an insane asylum.! ...I shall be very flattered if you post my comments. ...Thank you for suggesting the reader to buy the book. ...Yours very sincerely, Hubert P. Yockey

24 Apr 2005: Information Theory, Evolution and the Origin of Life, by Hubert Yockey — our review of this book.


Dear Brig, ...I just found your article on second law of thermo. Nice! ...In 1909 Walter Ritz and Albert Einstein had a war over the source of the second law. Please see: The Ritz-Einstein Agreement to Disagree - http://www.datasync.com/~rsf1/rtzein.htm ...Best regards. ...Bob Fritzius | www.shadetreephysics.com.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics is the related CA webpage.


Hello Brig ...I just wanted to say that I am thoroughly enjoying your website and all the associated links. I am an artist from NJ, USA and I have recently started producing some art that has been inspired by various readings in science. I have attached a picture of a sculpture I just completed. It consists of an apple that has been "unzipped" to reveal a flurry of pollen-like structures that are about to be disseminated. It is entitled "Panspermic Apple". The picture is a bit blurry, my apologies, but hopefully it captures the essence of this interesting theory.

thanks, and keep up the good work! ...Paul Grech | www.pngconcepts.com

PS, 29 April: I am a huge proponent of the sciences, and am trying to fuse art with science in the hopes to encourage deeper thought among the various people with whom I come in contact.


Dear Brig, Sorry for the late reply - I was away for three weeks. Your article is concise and correct. An evolutionary question in this case (as in others) is whether this small genome is a consequence of genome reduction or of an early stage in building a larger one. If it was the former model, then one could imagine that the intact tRNA genes got split during the reduction stage. Unfortunately, there is no function of the tRNA that could be carried out by the half molecules; thus, it is difficult to argue that the half molecules could carry out partial reactions of the current function of a tRNA. Best regards, Dieter
+ Dieter Söll | Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry | Yale University | http://trna.chem.yale.edu

Can pre-existing genetic programs be pieced together? is the related What'sNEW item, 28 Feb 2005.


Your friend thought you should see this article on New Scientist.com today. Follow the link below for the full story: "13 things that do not make sense." Their message: Thought of you

http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18524911.600

[The 6th item in the list is about the Labeled Release (LR) experiments on Mars: "JULY 20, 1976. On Mars, the Viking landers have scooped up some soil and mixed it with carbon-14-labelled nutrients. The mission's scientists have all agreed that if Levin's instruments on board the landers detect emissions of carbon-14-containing methane from the soil, then there must be life on Mars. Viking reports a positive result. Something is ingesting the nutrients, metabolising them, and then belching out gas laced with carbon-14."]

Life on Mars! is the related webpage.


Dear Brig, We corresponded a while back about my upcoming book, The Ascent of Humanity. The bulk of the text is now finished and I'm halfway through the second draft, which I'm putting up on line as I complete each chapter. There is much in the book that is relevant to your site, as is not surprising given the number of valuable resources it pointed me toward. Anyway, my website (www.ascentofhumanity.com) links to panspermia.org, and I also mention you in the short essay I just posted there, entitled "Darwinism vs. Creationism: A Superficial Disagreement", which you might enjoy. Take care, and thanks for your valuable work.
+ Charles Eisenstein | www.ascentofhumanity.com


Dear Dr. Roy -- I have read your subject paper with keen interest. I have a comment and a question. Comment: The word "origin" is often used without positive evidence. "Earliest known example" is usually all that's warranted. Question: Your cited evidence and references do not seem to justify your dismissal of "parallel insertion." (Also called "homing," I believe.) Do you have other reasons not stated in the paper?

The same comment and question are posted with my discussion of the article on my website about panspermia at http//www.panspermia.org/whatsne36.htm#050203. I would be honored by any reply from you.... Thank you and congratulations for the article. Best regards. ...Brig Klyce / Astrobiology Research Trust....

At 12:44 PM 2/3/2005, Dr. Scott Roy wrote: Dear Brig, In most or all cases, I use "origin" in the context of "these results push back the origin...to early eukaryotes." Whether or not the origin of complex genes goes back further is beyond the power of this data to resolve and likely unknowable (if, as seems likely, eukaryotes thought to be deeply diverging have lost nearly all of their introns, a notion supported by Collins and Penny's recent finding of a complex spliceosome in the common eukaryotic ancestor (MBE, 1/05). Both Wally and I have been long-time supporters of the notion that introns are extremely old, and we are not here trying to pinpoint their origin at the beginning of eukaryotes, only to say that, regardless of their ultimate origin, there were already a lot of them by early eukaryotic evolution.

I do have more direct evidence that the data cannot be explained by parallel insertion. In short 1) there are too many occurrences of protosplice sites in the studied regions to explain the two-way correspondences between deeply diverged species; 2) there are too many three-way correspondences between deeply diverged species; 3) numbers of introns shared between species varies widely between genes, as expected if different genes have different rates of intron evolution or if introns are lost in concert (e.g., Roy and Gilbert, "The pattern of intron loss", PNAS 1/05); 4) introns present in multiple outgroup species and a sister are not particularly more likely to be retained in a species than are those found in only a sister and single outgroup. This last one takes some more explaining, but I will leave that for a manuscipt currently in preparation.

You have misinterpreted our table. You say "the number of modern introns present in various ancestor species appears to increase as one looks deeper into the past, as the above table shows. (Going right, the numbers increase.)" This is twice wrong. First, species to the right are more recent, not more ancient. Secondly, this table is not talking about intron number in ancestral species, but the fraction of introns in modern species which were already present in the genomes of various ancestors. Estimated numbers of introns are given in the color figures.... Thanks for your interest. Best, Scott

At 04:10 PM 2/3/2005, Brig Klyce wrote: Dear Dr. Roy -- Many thanks for your kind reply. Of course I am embarrassed about misunderstanding your table. Thanks you for straightening me out. (I'll fix it.) Too often, I'm sure, my dumb mistakes remain because experts won't even reply to me. Thanks for your responsiveness. Congrats again on the study. ...Brig

Complex early genes is the related What'sNEW item, 3 Feb 2005.


Brig: Venter's statement is marvelous, and really strong. Congratulations! Tom.

20 Jan 2005: Panspermia is how life is spread throughout the universe — J. Craig Venter.


Brig, this is an important statement by Venter, and reinforces my own views that life travels around as microbes. The radiation effects are still a problem. These effects (DNA damage mainly) make it difficult or impossible for individual microbes to surive in space. That is why I am skeptical of the data from the India balloon flights. I think the Mars meteorite data (we are still absolutely convinced we are right about ALH84001, Nakhla, and some others--more papers will follow this year) suggest that the best and perhaps only way for microbes to travel around in space is within a radiation shielding system provided by rocks. The size of the rock determines the degree of shielding, and very large rocks such as whole asteroid masses may be possible for inter solar system travel.

I was not aware of the Edge.org site. It is very nice. I have put your site on my favorites list and will check it periodically. Feel free to alert me by email of new and exciting things. ...Dave

PS: These views represent only my own and I am not speaking as a NASA representative.

0137 PM 1/21/2005 | from Brig Klyce: Dear Dave -- I am very encouraged by your email. Thank you! As for the balloon-recovered microbes -- if comets carry them most of the way (especially if some comets are small enough to go undetected), maybe they weren't exposed for very long, so they might have a greater-than-zero survival rate. Also, even if we found ET isotope ratios in radiation-killed bacteria only, that would still be interesting, wouldn't it?

My son's AP Biology class recently invited me to tell them about panspermia. I proudly told them that I was acquainted with the guy who found the fossils in ALH84001. [...] I will watch for your future papers. Thanks again. Best regards. Brig

20 Jan 2005: Panspermia is how life is spread throughout the universe — J. Craig Venter.

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