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Origin of Life: What Are the Odds?

A mineral chimney and microbe mats on the sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico in one of the newfound scenes that scientists described as otherworldly. Mineral chimneys are associated with sea vents that release oil and gas. The microbe mats are lying on sediments next to the mineral chimney. (Image credit: Ian MacDonald, Texas A&M University)

How life began is one of life's great mysteries.

And it really bothers us. "Many people, perhaps most, hate the idea that life might depend on chance processes," writes biologist Dave Deamer on his blog.

Scientists have hypothesized that it started around hot vents on the seafloor, or that things heated up between the mica sheets, or that it came in a comet (which doesn't really solve the origin problem). But nobody knows.

Those who promote intelligent design — an attack on the theory of evolution thought by many scientists to be a thinly veiled effort to get religious ideas into science classrooms — suggest the the astronomical odds of it point to a designer being involved, rather than pure chance.

Deamer, in a complex argument, essentially suggests this: The odds are not so bad of you consider there were a lot of ingredients to work with. He assumes for his hypothesis that "an enormous number of random polymers are synthesized, which are then subject to selection and evolution."

In that scheme — you'll have to read his blog to get the gooey details — "genetic information can in fact emerge," he argues.

[Read the Full Story at ScientificBlogging]

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Robert Roy Britt
Rob was a writer and editor at Space.com starting in 1999. He served as managing editor of Live Science at its launch in 2004. He is now Chief Content Officer overseeing media properties for the sites’ parent company, Purch. Prior to joining the company, Rob was an editor at The Star-Ledger in New Jersey, and in 1998 he was founder and editor of the science news website ExploreZone. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.