COSMIC ANCESTRY | Quick Guide | Site Search | 2014 - Replies Index - 2012 | by Brig Klyce | All Rights Reserved
Science and science journalism are needed. Journalists should portray where the weight of evidence lies, but that is the least they should do, and they should not look to scientists for guidance anymore than an artist asks a bowl of cherries for advice about how to draw them! They should criticise, highlight errors, make a counterbalancing case if it will stand up, but don't censor, even by elimination, don't be complacent and say the science is settled in areas that are still contentious. — David Whitehouse, HuffPost Tech, 12 Jan 2011. Thanks Thanks, Benny Peiser

Replies to Cosmic Ancestry, 2013

Rapid evolution of novel forms: Environmental change triggers inborn capacity for adaptation by Matt Fearer, Whitehead Institute, 12 Dec 2013.

Let's see, now.  A protein normally inhibits expression of genotypic "mutations" (that is, their expression into variant phenotypic traits).  But under stress, production of the protein itself becomes suppressed, and as a result more of the genotypic "mutations" become phenotypically expressed.  And those "mutations", which have been riding along silently in the genome of this fish, having originated we know not how, just happen to include variants (when phenotypically expressed) that are adaptive in the environment that produces the stress.

It's just too pat.  Carrying around a reservoir of unexpressed mutations?  Just for fun? Just "in case"?   Just "by chance"?     I don't think so.  ...Best, Ken

How is it Possible? includes mention of "adaptive mutation".

10:22 AM: Dear Brig, This is what I found in today's 29 October 2013 Russian news. Translation is mine (probably, not perfect).
Russian scientists confirmed that life could be seeded on Earth from space.

"Meteors can bring spores of microorganisms from outer space and they can survive passing through the atmosphere" said Vladimir Sychev, acting Director of the Institute for Medical and Biological Research.

He made this claim on Tuesday at the international conference of the Russian Academy of Sciences marking the 50-th anniversary of the Institute.

Sychev, who leads project Bion-M, recalled that this space probe was launched in the spring of 2013 and stayed in orbit for 30 days. Special module located on the outer surface of the probe contained various microorganisms.

On re-entry the surface of the probe was heated to several thousand degrees. Out of all the microorganisms on board only spore forming bacteria were reliably shown to survive.

"One group of thermophile bacteria still managed to survive. Thus, we get a proof of the panspermia hypothesis", said Sychev.

This test was performed under a wider project called "Meteor". It will be repeated next year, when Photon 4 will be launched.

Bion-M was the first biological satellite put in orbit since 2007. It was launched by Soyuz 2.1a on 19 April and returned to Earth on 19 May.

Maxim Semenov
I can only add that the Institute in question is a leading Russian research body specializing in space medicine and biology. It's a high caliber research center. My father-in-law worked there for several years, and I also spent there a couple of years while working on life support systems. ...Yours Vitaly

Russian scientists confirmed.... is the related What'sNEW article with links, 30 Oct 2013.

10:11 AM: Dear Brig, I just saw this extremely interesting result on DNA repair ( [expired link]) and the reference therein! This probably means that bacterial spores, for example, can travel through space without any other vehicle and continuously be repairing at a low pace the radiation damage they may receive! I think the dose-rate out there is about 1MGy/My so for each Gy of radiation exposure they have about 1 year of repair which may be more than sufficient. Furthermore the microdosimetry of these small particles will make some of the secondary electrons etc be able to escape the spore before making too much damage thus reducing the biological effect even further. And we know that many spores are quite radiation resistant tolerating up to a MGy and more (Micrococcus and Deinococcus radiodurans). So taken together this means that Svante Arrhenius original idea that the light pressure on sub micron particles is higher than then gravity so these spores may readily be blown away from one star-system to the next where in turn the light pressure slows them down for a soft landing hopefully on a suitable planet. I guess that if the light intensity of the sending star system is high for its gravitational pull these spores may reach even higher speeds than, for example, most comets so this may probably be the one and only real space traveler yesterday today and in the future. In the future we may even load them with extra information in their DNA and get the message multiplied at arrival hope fully for intelligent readers to see. With a 4.5 billion year old earth and a 13.8 billion year period since last bang life stated almost certainly else where in the universe not least considering the enormous amount of star system out there. So the first very simple lifeforms surely came in through space travel may be even as designed panspermia produced by intelligent beings elsewhere in the universe.

Kind regards... Anders Brahme | Prof Medical Radiation Physics | Karolinska Institutet | Stockholm, Sweden
...DNA repair mechanisms persist on other icy worlds is the related What'sNEW article, 11 Oct 2013.
Bacteria: The Space Colonists is a related local webpage.
Panspermia Asks New Questions lists various kinds of panspermia, including Arrhenius's.

7:40 AM: Dear Brig, I emailed Phil Plait a couple of weeks ago, complaining about the 'reputation assassination' of Chandra which appeared on Plait's website, which I believe is very widely read. I copied it to Chandra, who suggested that I copy my Plait letter to you too [linked below]. I imagine Chandra would wish to see some correction of Plait's nonsense appear in Cosmic Ancestry, if that were possible.

On another subject, my wife asks me to remind you that you owe her £1. Something to do with the purchase of flowers at Cardiff. Being Scottish, Nancy remembers such things. ...Best regards, Bill 

Bill Napier, "Dear Dr Plait" [local 3-page docx], 25 Sep 2013.
Chandra Wickramasinghe contains an essay by, and links about, this founder of cometary panspermia.

2:15 PM:...The attached disturbing article [linked below] surely indicates that science and journalism have lost their integrity. To have Curiosity scientists say that they discovered water on Mars (discovered by Viking in 1976!) is really outlandish - and to have the journalists merely parrot this false claim without checking is unbearable.  And, even so, the "scientists" refuse to point out the most important part of their measurements - water vapor is emitted from the sample at freezing and just above, signifying the presence of liquid water sufficient for microbial life! ...Gil

Mars water surprise in Curiosity rover soil samples by Jonathan Amos, BBC News, 26 Sep 2013.
Life on Mars! has more about Gil Levin, the Viking LR Experiment, and water on Mars.

3:08 PM: Dear Professor Klyce, you will find a report from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide [Current Biology, linked below] as an attachment with this mail. Whilst not neccesarily in accordance with the idea of cosmic ancestry, i still found it interesting.

It leaves me a little worried for two reasons: The first one concerns the so called "unknown evolutionary mechanisms". There are other mechanisms besides Natural Selection. We know that, because we are just beginning to understand the implications of some other mechanisms (namely Horizontal Gene Transfer). Then again, maybe i am overreacting. Stating that the amplification may be consistent with the Natural-Selection-only-paradigm is not the same as totally discounting any known "unknown mechanisms".

The second concern is that, whilst acknowledging a rate of evolution ranging from 4 to 5.5 orders of magnitude higher than today and at the same time acknowledging that the amplification was consistent through all observed phyla of the fossil record they fail to ask the question "why?" (note "Impact History from 40Ar/39Ar Dating of Glass Spherules", Science Magazine, March 2000) and rather argue for it being an event totally within the limits of the Natural Selection paradigm (Darwin himself had doubts). They even go so far to suggest that an amplification in the order of magnitude of 10 would not pose a problem for the Natural Selection paradigm. Its clearly an extraordinary event, not comperable to anything in the fossil record known so far. But again... they don't neccesarily argue against that, either. They just argue it could be possible under Natural Selection alone. They even establish that its not an artifact, which is something at least, i guess.

I understand that this is a leverage often used by Creationists and maybe that is also a reason of such a defensive posure. That being said, as far as i am aware, its the only study assesing the rates evolution during the Cambrian Explosion, wich is an invaluable insight, even if i have trouble accepting the interpretation such as it is. Not because it is neccesarily mistaken - it isn't - but because it favours Natural Selection as the single evolutionary mechanism, which is misleading at best.

Best regards, Sascha Wageringel

Michael S.Y. Lee, Julien Soubrier and Gregory D. Edgecombe, "Rates of Phenotypic and Genomic Evolution during the Cambrian Explosion" [abstract | pdf], doi:10.1016/j.cub.2013.07.055, p 1-7 v 23, Current Biology, 7 Oct 2013.

6:29 AM: Dear Brig Klyce, I think that you're making a lot of confusion with that article on bionformatics recently posted on your website. You say: "Metabolic systems ...contain a latent potential for evolutionary innovations with non-adaptive origins...." There is nothing new here except for further confirmation of something we've known for decades. As the authors remark, we do know of many cases were this is true, it is well supported by molecular evolutionary theory, and all they do is confirm more cases that confirm the theory.

Biochemists have known for many decades that most enzimes are capable of metabolizing more reactions than the "main one" they are used for in cells. This is predicted both by theory and by experimentation. Only Fred Hoyle and Chandra thought that enzymes were both perfectly tuned molecules that catalized only one specific reaction and at top speed. Neither of those assumptions are true.

Those "pre-adaptations" have been known for ages. It was Stephen J. Gold that coined the term "exaptations" for them back in the 70s. You say: "Traits with "non-adaptive" origins are hard to explain with the mainstream theory of evolution" Could not be further from the truth. The article you link to contains a few references right there in the introduction, and the scientific literature is full of examples of exaptation. Evolutionary theory predicts that many features of organims will be co-opted for other functions as a mechanism for evolution. There are also many features of organisms that have no adaptive value, they evolved neutraly (they are sub-products of other features or were fixed purely by ramdom genetic drifty). There is nothing new here, nor is it a problem for "mainstream" theory of evolution (whatever you mean by that).

The authors state this: "We show that when we require such networks to be viable on one particular carbon source, they are typically also viable on multiple other carbon sources that were not targets of selection. For example, viability on glucose may entail viability on up to 44 other sole carbon sources. Any one adaptation in these metabolic systems typically entails multiple potential exaptations."

This is a good article that confirms much we already knew and gives new insight into it's pervasivness. But I fail to see what is here that chalenges modern evolutionary theory. As long as you have a good undertanding of biochemistry and molecular evolution this should be pretty much standard fare. There is nothing here that creates a problem for ToE neither is anything here that promotes Cosmic Ancestry as you suggest.

My suggestion is that you read less books by Dawkins and more books on Biochemistry, Molecular Evolution, and Ramdom Genetic Drift. You should also make clear to your readers what exactly do you mean by "darwinism" and "mainstream theory of evolution". We've come a long way since the 1940's when neo-darwinism was put forward. Best wishes, Pedro

from Brig | 8:40 AM: Dear Pedro -- Many thanks for your careful reading, now and ever.
from Pedro | 10:05 AM:The pleasure is all mine.

I do not disagree that we have known, since Gould or earlier, that some proteins exhibit "moonlighting." That is, they may have a second job. Or they may be capable of doing another job. Often, if gene duplication is followed by functional separation, that is called subfunctionalization. And often that function was unexpressed before the duplication.
Yes. Actually this is biochemical knowledge from before Gould. Gould was mostly talking about macro-evolution and macroscopic phenotypic features to a crowd of evolutionary biologists who were still deeply ingrained into an adaptationist view of evolution. Gould had little to do with moleclar evolution or biochemistry.

BUT. How a gene acquires a function that it could not have been "taught" by trial and error, is not explained by any mainstream version of Darwinism. (Mainstream would probably exclude people like Lynn Margulis, James Shapiro and others.)
What functions exactly are we talking about? Many enzymes show catalytic activity for more than one reaction. Probably a vast majority do. You'll have to show that a certain gene cannot possibly have evolved a function by "trial and error". No one has shown that until now, including Michael Behe and all the ID crowd (or Hoyle, for that matter). Quite the opposite. I also don't understand what is the "mainstream" version of Darwinism. More on that bellow.

And this statement is false: "Evolutionary theory predicts that many features of organisms will be co-opted for other functions as a mechanism for evolution." Or maybe it does now, after the phenomenon has been discovered. But double-duty genes/proteins were originally a surprise, not a prediction.
False? Not at all. It was proposed by Darwin in The Origin of Species. It's the modification of previous traits into new functions. There would be no Darwinism without it! As for double-duty genes/proteins: I'm not sure what you mean here. As I said, spurious enzymatic, or enzymatic promiscuity, as been know for many decades. There's a whole protein engineering industry based on it, using what is called directed evolution. Has been in use for decades and relies on random mutation and screening for products with desired features. Many protein require minimal modification to increase their catalytic speed or specificity to secondary substrates. None of this is new. Neither was it a surprise to chemists. Was it a prediction for Neo-Darwinists? I don't know, but neo-darwinism was formalized in the 1940s. I'd hardly consider it a modern view of evolution.

So, yes, the problem is not new. But no, it does not support Darwinism. Yes, I am saying something that has been said already. But if I am trying to change a widely held belief, repetition is perhaps helpful.
It does support Darwinism, since it shows the same "pre-adaptation" principles for macro-phenotypes occurring also at the molecular level. On the other hand, if you mean that it was not predicted by Neo-Darwinists, then I agree. But the point is, Neo-darwinism could not possible make any such predictions anyway. It was formalized at a time (the 1940s) when people didn't even know what DNA was doing in a cell, nor it's structure, nor anything really. It was based on comparative anatomy and population genetics. There was no molecular genetics thinking in it whatsoever. And we didn't even have any 3D structure models of proteins either, it was all "basic" reaction-based biochemistry. Modern evolutionary theory is not Neo-Darwinism. That's why I keep telling you to give up on those Dawkins books. That's just a sanitized version of evolution made for layman with a short attention span. It doesn't represent modern evolutionary views in any deep way, except perhaps for zoologists with macro-evolutionary interests. What we are talking here is molecular evolution, a completely different beast that you'll never understand from Dawkins. I don't think he even quite understands it, to be frank.

Besides, the authors of the latest study, themselves, last month, said, ...The pervasiveness of non-adaptive traits may require a rethinking of the early origins of beneficial traits.
The pervasiveness of non-adaptive traits as been proposed for a long time, for example Noboru Sueoka in 1962. It's based on neutral mutations, ramdom genetic drift etc. The most well known proponent is Kimura, who wrote this: "the theory that at the molecular level evolutionary changes and polymorphisms are mainly due to mutations that are nearly enough neutral with respect to natural selection that their behavior and fate are mainly determined by mutation and random drift". According to Kimura, the theory "is not antagonistic to the cherished view that evolution of form and function is guided by Darwinian selection, but it brings out another facet of the evolutionary process by emphasizing the much greater role of mutation pressure and random drift." The above comes from wikipedia. This is a quote from Kimuras book from 1983. The theory itself was proposed in 1968. Add to this the well known promiscuity of enzymes, and I fail to see what is so amazing about this paper. I don't think the authors are quite hinting at what you think they are. Or maybe they are, in which case it seems that these bioinformaticians need a crash course on the history of biochemistry and molecular evolution.

Thanks again for your careful attention. I wish I had more audience like you. Best regards, Brig

No problem, I'm just talking about stuff I like. My colleagues don't care much for this stuff, so you're the "victim". ;) Thanks for the compliment, the pleasure is all mine. ...I hope the discussion was somehow productive. Best wishes, Pedro

Metabolic systems ...contain a latent potential for evolutionary innovations with non-adaptive origins is the related What'sNEW article, 2 Sep 2013.

8:02 AM: Hi We used a very cheap, but effective balloon-carried sampler which consists of a radio contolled drawer into which are placed rows of scanning E/M stubs. The drawer is opened by radio control at a selected height. The opening and closing is videoed. Contol flights show not particles on the stubs, while sampling flights show a range of biological particles and amazingly part of a diatom frustule. There seems no known mechanism to expalin how such a dense particle could reach 22-27Km so we make the case that it is incoming from space. The sampling equipment has been designed by two engineering students who also do the SEM (this is in itself a control, as they have no experience of what to look for!). We can use the system anytime at a cost of around £2000 per launch plus E/m time (this compares with 500,000 for a balloon carried cryosamplers trip. ...No, I have no experience of nanosensors (perhaps, as yet!)... Best Wishes, Milton

British astrobiologists have recovered a diatom fragment from 25 km high in the atmosphere, 10 Aug 2013.

10:08 AM: Hi, On my website, i have made, on 2004, first paper on this enigmatic martian structure. Yesterday, i precise some details, in particular the most similar fossil animal, for the martian structure: it's not a crinoïd, but a much older animal, Funisia Dorothea. Some illustrations in my page: regards... Pr. Dr. R Raynal

Did NASA's Opportunity rover find evidence for life on Mars...? is the related What'sNEW article, 26 Jul 2013.

8:13 AM: Hello Mr. Klyce, I originated and teach a course called Life In The Universe at Hanover College (Hanover, Indiana), a small liberal arts college. It's a very popular course, and I have taught it for the past fifteen years on an almost annual basis. The great bulk of the readings student do in this course come from the work of Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, who are heroic to me in the great body of work they have done because I believe they have provided us with the correct theory about life on Earth, and which regrettably has been largely ignored by both those who buy into the "warm little pond" and supreme being/intelligent design explanations for life on earth. I am completely persuaded by the extraordinarily voluminous work that their "Third Way" is the way we need to address this issue. Students who take my course are always surprised and seem to really like what Hoyle and Wickramasinghe et al have given us on this issue.

To make my point in writing you, I recently logged on to Cosmic Ancestry, for which you are to be greatly praised and thanked. It is a fabulous resource, and I hope you can continue it forever! I read the extensive interchange you recently had with Michael Behe about ID and such and it occurred to me that the whole question of looking for a 'designer' seems irrelevant to the origins of life on Earth and across the universe. Why do we need an origin for life? a designer? In fact, Fred Hoyle warned us to be very suspicious of any theory (referring particularly to the big bang) that requires origins (t=0, he called them). Philosophically, I think he was saying that they are unnecessary, and that the classical Greek cosmological view of eternal time spans was the proper paradigm, and not the creationist largely Christian-inspired view. Scientifically in his (Hoyle, Narlikar, Burbidge) quasi-steady state cosmology (QSSC) proposed in 1994 and subsequent publications, he has called a t=0 moment an embarassment to science in forcing us into an asymmetry in time which physics does not allow. As you know Newtonian mechanics provides us with no preferred direction in time for any mechanical process.

I agree with Hoyle. Arguing about origins, designers seems a dead end. We need to study evolution, genomics, life delivery systems/comets--that's science. Looking for god or gods is not science and thus there is no really useful dialog with IDers. That is not to say that we should not try to figure out how the first definably living things came about, but we should never throw up our hands to the IDers and say we will never know and relinquish the answer to the question to them and their utterly unscientific point of view. Science is about looking for explanations and about humbly admitting science has not--but only as of yet- found the answers. We cannot afford ever to 'throw in the towel' on any question that is amenable to scientific inquiry. Science remains the single most astounding, progressive, and successful pursuit of the human mind. We need to maintain the courage and dedication to pursue it to wherever it takes us no matter what or how other forces--religious, philosophical, political, sociological--try to interfere with our work.

Sincerely, Dr. George Nickas, Chair | Department of Physics and Astronomy | Hanover College | Hanover, Indiana 47243

The referenced exchange with Michael Behe, 12-25 Jun 2013.
The End and the Big Bang is a related local webpage.

3:45 PM: I thought I'd mention to you David Toomey's _Weird Life_,  recently published by W. W. Norton. It's an interesting popular survey of what has been done in exobiology, including a pretty good non-technical account of the reappraisal of data from Levin's experimental package on Mariner.

The chapter on panspermia concentrates on cometary panspermia, shies away from Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, ALH84001 and David McKay, but describes briefly Allamandola's experimental set up and Dyson's descriptions of exotic adaptive intelligence as organized dust clouds that could survive collapse into black holes.  So Fred Hoyle gets only partial credit here for _The Black Cloud_.  Strange.

The later chapters on extradimensional life and the possibilities of an infinite bestiary somewhere in the multiverse are hard to understand, given Toomey's reluctance to take on the current state of the case for a more local and concrete panspermia. 

9:09 AM: Dear Mike - ...In your entry you say, "The major task for a theory of life is to explain the origin of complex functional systems, which intelligent design alone does easily." I welcome any elaboration on that sentence. How does ID explain the origin of complex functional systems? I am truly curious.

To reciprocate – I think science needs to explain what we observe. Complex functional systems come from the genetic programming for them. That programming has not been observed to originate. Why are we trying to explain it? It is reasonable to assume that it always existed. (The big bang by itself is not adequate to overrule this.)

I am at a conference on Mobile DNA. When I bring up problems about Darwinism, conversation quickly grinds to a halt. This is bad for everyone, I believe. Could we have a fruitful conversation? Best regards, Brig

A New Gene Fits in Without a Ripple, the referenced blog entry by Michael Behe, 11 Jun 2013.
Where is the evidence...?, our What'sNEW article preceding this exchange with Behe, 8 Jun 2013.

13 Jun, 2:24 PM: Hi, Brig. I know what you mean about questioning Darwinism at a conference....

Well, this is how I see it. We have known for a long time that complex functional systems are designed. That's what made William Paley's argument so natural and persuasive in its day. Yet it wasn't until comparatively recently that we found out that life itself contains complex functional systems, including at the foundational level of molecules and cells. Thus we are faced with two options: 1) ascribe them to design, as for all other such systems; or 2) ascribe them to some unknown cause (or to no cause). Yet the only reason I can see for taking option #2 is that the systems occur in life: if they occurred anywhere else I don't think anyone would hesitate to ascribe them to design. Thus option #2 strikes me as pretty ad hoc. For this reason I say that design explains complex functional systems "easily" --- it fits in with our uniform experience, and is not posing an unknown, future explanation for something for which there is an obvious candidate explanation. ...Best wishes, Mike

15 Jun, 5:48 PM: Michael, thanks. When we detect design in any other system, say architecture, the obvious candidate explanation includes a known or knowable designer and a process whose steps we can reconstruct from start to finish. To my knowledge, this is not the case for life. Surely you see the difference. And apparently you believe ID is fully scientific.

OK, maybe to you the designer is God. What about the steps? Is it supernatural intervention at one or multiple points?

I think we agree that life evolved. To me this does not prove that genetic programs evolved. Evidence shows that they simply appear. I ascribe them to the whole of existence, I guess. Which itself, with or without a beginning, cannot be ascribed to any natural cause. But I am sounding argumentative, even to myself.

See, if you think that all of life is part of the initial conditions of existence, then we are pretty close. I think science cannot include miracles in the finite past. But I also think that existence, and life, are miracles in the best sense. Please reply only if it doesn't feel tedious. Best regards, Brig

17 Jun, 10:15 AM: Hi, Brig. Actually I do think it's possible life was built into the initial conditions of the universe. (I wrote about that in the last chapter of my second book, the edge of evolution.) If that is the case, then perhaps we are closer than we knew, although I would still ascribe life to design, since I think an intelligent agent (yes, God) set up the universe. Best wishes. Mike
Michael J. Behe, The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism, ISBN-10: 0743296206, [Free Press], 5 June 2007.

New suggestion | 10:03 PM: Dear Michael – If you would look at this brief article and comment, I would be honored. Thank you. Best regards, Brig
...A Third Alternative by Klyce and Wickramasinghe

19 Jun, 11:43 AM: Hi, Brig, thanks for the article. I enjoyed it very much. I'm completely with you on teaching students truthfully about what is known and what isn't. I have to admit that the idea of life floating down from space strikes me as odd (unless it were intelligently designed to do so :-) ), but intuitions can vary from person to person. Best wishes. Mike

1:05 PM: Thanks Mike. Here's a link to some fantasy that would include the intelligent designers you mention. They would be, however, only intermediates. One of my intuitions (gained from Kuhn) is that scientific paradigms only fall when a replacement is ready. Your position seems to discount that. May we please keep talking? Best regards, Brig
How Is It Possible?, the referenced link

19 Jun, 3:34 PM: Hi, Brig. Sure, I'd be happy to continue our conversation. Thanks for the link -- I enjoyed the article. I think I've kind of gestured at that sort of possibility on a number of occasions when telling people that ID does not necessarily entail that the designer is God. As far as paradigms falling when a replacement is in hand and such, I think it's probably true much of the time but not all of the time. I'm no historian, but I've heard that when Pasteur purportedly showed that spontaneous generation was wrong (or so it was claimed), there was no scientific theory for the origin of life at least until the early 1900's when Oparin proposed his idea. I think science can reach a point when most practitioners will agree, grudgingly or not, that a theory isn't panning out, even if no replacement is on the horizon. Best wishes. Mike

5:47 PM: Mike, many thanks. Elsewhere on my website I wonder if the intermediate intelligent designers could advance the project "by their bootstraps" so to speak. I suppose not. In Pasteur's day there was no Big Bang theory and little was known about the history of Earth, so life from the eternal past would have been an option at least. But of course the spontaneous generation lobby did not surrender, and they are dominant again now. (I liked Kuhn a lot.)

I think the main problem is the suspicion that ID is the lobby for a project to supersede science with religion. Not having a scientific alternative leaves this suspicion undiminished. I suspect that is why real dialog within science doesn't happen - only sniping at the fringes. I would like to (help at least to) initiate real dialog within science. And I am not getting far! I invite your additional thoughts. Best regards, Brig

20 Jun, 2:49 PM: Hi, Brig. I'm all for real dialog, too, but not at the expense of what I think is a real candidate explanation for what science has discovered. There's no doubt that some people welcome ID primarily because of its religious implications. Then again, there's no doubt that some people like Darwinism because of its religious, or antireligious, implications. When one discusses such a basic subject as where life came from, any putative answer will have such extrascientific overtones -- it can't help but do so. I don't mind so much being on the outside of a professional community that seems afraid of looking evidence in the face. I'm pretty sure change must come with time, simply because that's where the evidence is heading. I'm reasonably content to just prod things along. Best wishes. Mike

20 Jun, 10:19 AM:Dear Mike -- Many thanks for your patience. Now I have read your rebuttal to Dover, and I realize that this is all ground you have gone over before. But I can't shake a question: is ID scientific, or anti-scientific? If you decline to provide a mechanism, it seems the latter. I say this with only good will. And with some anxiety: that we won't live long enough to see a real paradigm shift. Thanks. Best regards, Brig
Dr. Michael J. Behe, "Whether Intelligent Design is Science" [link], the referenced rebuttal, © 2006.

24 Jun, 10:18 AM: Hi, Brig. That's an excellent question about a mechanism. The short answer is, no, ID provides no mechanism for how the systems are designed, unlike Darwinian theory, which does indeed provide a mechanism. Nonetheless, I don't think that should impact the question of whether ID is scientific or not. Other theories in the history of science have been widely accepted without providing any mechanism. One hallowed example is Newton's theory of gravity. Newton postulated a force, gravity, which acted at a distance, scandalizing the intelligentsia of his time. But he famously refused to speculate on how gravity worked, i.e., its mechanism. Interestingly, before Newton there was a perfectly good mechanism for the motions of the planets -- angels moved them. So in preferring Newton, scientists moved from a theory with a mechanism to one with none. A more modern example is the Big Bang theory. It was consistent with much data, but no one knew of any mechanism by which a universe could pop into existence. I put ID in the same category as these.

As far as paradigm changes in our day, well, with every new ache in my 61-yeal-old bones I share your concern. But paradigms seem to change on their own schedule, alas. Best wishes. Mike

1:23 PM: Mike, thanks for this thoughtful and thought-provoking reply. ...Some IDers seem reluctant to show their colors, but you don't. I admire that. Best regards, Brig

25 Jun, 10:39AM: Hi, Brig. ...I don't think most IDers (at least the ones I know) are reluctant to "show their colors". Rather, most are trying to be scrupulous about what is supported by strictly scientific evidence or reasoning, versus other categories of evidence or reasoning. One of the great pitfalls of this business is overstating one's argument, and I think everyone is trying to avoid that. Best wishes. Mike

Comparing Darwinism, Creationism/ID and Cosmic Ancestry and
Evolution versus Creationism are related local webpages.

4:21 PM: Mr. Klyce, in reference to your recent link to an article regarding possible former presence of atmospheric O2 on Mars, if the evolutionary sequence of events paralleled those thought to have occurred on Earth, it is likely that prokaryotic life forms existed prior to the eukaryotic forms. Based on this line of thought, prokaryotes could still be present if a suitable habitat existed. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to expect that these organisms may still exist in a liquid ground water environment below the surface. The general thought on the tectonics of Mars is that the crust is currently dormant but was active at  some time in the past. Active tectonics implies internal thermal convection and a powerful internal heat source. Even though the heat source may now be insufficient to drive plate tectonics, it is, in my opinion, very possible that at some relatively shallow depth, perhaps anywhere from a few meters to hundreds of meters, that the temperature of the crust would still be greater than the freezing point of water. That is, it is very likely that liquid ground water should exist in the crust at some appropriate depth on virtually any sizeable terrestrial planetary body, Mars included. The seasonal methane plumes observed in the atmosphere of Mars could be related to anaerobic metabolism occurring in the ground water of Mars. It is also likely that such organisms would exist in other large rocky bodies in the solar system and beyond. It is my opinion that this will ultimately be shown to be the case.
Respectfully, Robert Dyer, Geologist | Holland, Indiana

21 Jun 2013: Mars had an oxygen-rich atmosphere long before Earth did.

Life on Earth shockingly comes from out of this world, NR-13-06-02, by Anne M Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (+ + KurzweilAINetwork + Ziff Davis, Inc.), beginning 5 Jun 2013.

9:37 AM: Dear Brig, I have been following the website for more than a decade. Not sure why, but it has taken me this long to send this letter of thanks for your persistence in delivering the message. It has been a constant source of interesting and persuasive perspective on events. Over that time the panspermia argument has become a permanent part of my own perspective and outlook. I am personally grateful for your contribution and dedication to the ongoing scientific argument of panspermia. Thanks so much... please continue for the benefit of others. - Jim
Thanks Thank you, Jim!

11:37 PM: Interesting read from a SETI perspective:
Best (and thanks for keeping us abreast of the Polonnaruwa meteorite news). ...Jeff Krolick

Is An Alien Message Embedded In Our Genetic Code?, blog entry by Ray Villard,, 1 Apr 2013!
Thanks Thanks for additional pointers, Google Alerts and Thomas Ray.
How is it Possible? and What Difference Does It Make? are related local webpages.

2:19 AM: I thought you might like the links on our website: ...I am hoping this is real science and if I can be convinced I would like to build on all your support over the years and motivate a "movement" to help Chandra get the credit he deserves UK knighthood and Nobel prize. ...But first I need to fund some serious peer criticism. Your thoughts are appreciated. ...Best wishes, Bill Smith ...PS link to last Friday's podcast at the top of the website

William E. (Bill) Smith | Victoria, Canada |

9 Apr, 11:24 AM: Dear Bill – Many thanks for your email with links. I especially like the brief video, which I had never seen before: an interview with Fred and Chandra

11:13 AM: Dear Chandra and Richard – I have spent some time surfing the blogosphere lately and would like to report my impressions. Most of the participants are ill-informed, but their interest will help to keep up pressure on the informed scientists, not allowing them to kill the story.

First, they do not like terms like indubitably, unquestionably or whatever. I even agree. I recommend toning down the wording in the papers.

Second, there are always loopholes to deal with. These cannot be ignored. Well, one can – the possibility that the fragments examined do not relate to the fireball that was seen. So what? If they came from space that's what matters. But it really matters. The bloggers want other independent expert besides yourselves to tell than that the fragments are from space. Can't you share out samples, as was done with Sutter's Mill? I think this is imperative.

Similarly with the fossils – are they biological? Here also, other independent experts would add needed credibility to the argument. These people don't know that Richard Hoover is an expert in diatoms. And anyway, both of you are deemed to have a conflict of interest that would lead you to fudge or exaggerate. Bad news, but apparently true.

Finally, are the fossils themselves from space? The possibility of contamination is not going away. The chemical mapping, isotope testing etc. must be focused on the sample, as has been done, I know, but it must be solid. Can outside experts be involved here? If this answer can be nailed down, little else matters.

(Loophole example – even if the rock is from space and the fossils are old, they might be earthly fossils that got mixed in somehow!)

Your priority is established. Your credibility is not. If the case is proven, with the outside/independent help that is apparently necessary, your credibility will be fully restored.

Hoping to be helpful. Best regards, Brig

11 Jan 2013: A carbonaceous meteorite that fell in Sri Lanka on December 29 contains fossilized diatoms.

10:20 AM: ...You may have seen the article below. If not, thought you might be interested.
Alien Slime Found ...after Meteor Strike by Dominic Gover, International Business Times, 19 Feb 2013.

6:02 AM: Dear Dr. Brig Klyce, Please let me introduce this paper: "Entropy: A concept that is not a physical quantity," Published in (SCI-E Journal) Physics Essays (v25 n2, June 2012).
Paper Download:
Report: NASA (ADS,NASA Astrophysics DataSystem Harvard): |
Report(news) |

The Second Law of Thermodynamics is the related local webpage.

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