spontaneous generation and panspermia

Tom Holroyd tomh at BAMBI.CCS.FAU.EDU
Fri Jan 6 17:07:56 EST 1995


Dr. Engstrom has discussed this apparent paradox:

I.  Vitalists were in favor of abiogenesis, or spontaneous generation, since
at least 346 B.C. - "Aristotelian spontaneous generation".

II.  Beginning in the middle 17th century, this principle began to be
challenged.  They did experiments to test the validity of life generated
from inanimate organic matter.  However, clever folks kept coming up with
arguments that the vital force was being destroyed by the experiments.
Very clever experiments by Pasteur and Tyndell demonstrated that denial of
access of microbes was sufficient to stop the "vital force".

III. Now our Swedish friend proposes panspermia.  That is, Earth was fertile
soil, and a "seed" was planted from the space.  Most respond even today with,
fine.  Show it, or forget it.

IV.  Here's where it gets interesting.  The Oparian view of the origin of life
maintains methane, lightning, UV and water generated the first biochemicals.
That is, life came from inanimate organic matter, which came from inanimate
inorganic matter, which all comes from hydrogen.  This is abiogenesis!
Now we have reductionistic biophysics supporting abiogenesis.

V. Meanwhile, panspermia has lain relatively dormant.  But the earth being
contaminated by life from space versus spontaneous generation on the earth
is EXACTLY the kind of thing Pasteur and Tyndell were trying to study.

VI.  However, panspermia begs the question: where did THAT life come from?
If it was generated from inanimate material somewhere in space, that's just
abiogenesis again.  IF WE ARE NOT PREPARED TO ACCEPT ABIOGENESIS OR
VITALISM, WHAT'S LEFT?

The point is, spontaneous generation of life from inanimate material was
seemingly rejected by Pasteur and Tyndell, and many others.  Their
argument, roughly, is that the life has to be introduced from outside
and so is basically the same as the panspermia hypothesis.  In other
words it begs the question of where life came from.  So do we accept
that spontaneous generation occurs, or that some sort of vital force
permeates the universe, or what?

Tom Holroyd
Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences              The basis of
Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL 33431 USA      stability is
tomh at bambi.ccs.fau.edu                                     instability.
The 9th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:
"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be
construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."





More information about the Mol-evol mailing list