MadSci Network:

Re: Why doesn't life begin today?

Area: Evolution
Posted By: Matthew McConeghy, Faculty Science
Date: Sat Oct 12 10:51:04 1996
Message ID: 843022629.Ev

Here are some sites you can link to connected with this question:
Darwin's Origin of Species
Evolution at the University of California Museum
University of Indiana - Info about Human Evolution

Thanks for the questions, which basically amount to these:

1. - have scientists created life in a bottle, the way they say it 
was created back in ancient times millions of years ago?

2. - if life could originate many millions of years ago, why isn't new 
life originating now?

1. Most biologists are convinced that experiments done starting in the 1950s 
pretty much settled the question of whether reproducible forms could
have originated in the ancient oceans. But actually trying to get this to 
happen could take a long time and would cost a lot. I think somebody will 
try to do this sometime, but it isn't a high priority -- there are a lot more 
pressing needs in biology right now, like how to rescue the millions of 
beautiful and fascinating life forms that are threatened with extinction!  

2. I think a businessman or a stockbroker would be able to understand the 
answer to this question pretty well -- Once the first guy gets in on a 
good deal, then he has an advantage over everyone who comes later!  
It isn't too often that a whole new planet full of yummy nutrients 
and clean water and atmosphere is up for grabs to the first organism that
comes along!  

A billion years ago when early life forms started, there wasn't much   
competition. If the new life organisms were not very efficient or fast, 
if they didn't have
the ability to fight off competitors, if they were bumbling or inept, 
it didn't matter because the competition wasn't any better. Nowadays, 
the earth has been completely settled by some pretty aggressive 
life forms. There are 30,000,000 different forms of life that have been 
developed over many millions of years of tough competition. 
They are so efficient and wide-spread that you can't get away from them. 
Every spot on the planet is covered with seeds, spores, bacteria etc 
just waiting to jump on any available food! 

If a new life form is created and it isn't better, faster and more 
efficient than everything else it will soon become just a memory of a 
good meal! That's why there aren't too many new life forms popping up, 
just the descendants of older life forms who have evolved to meet some
new environmental condition.

Thanks for the questions!


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