Abiogenesis discredited

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Abiogenesis discredited

#1  Postby maichem » Oct 28, 2011 4:52 am

News to me...apparently abiogenesis is discredited. Can someone please enlighten me as to why a dictionary is making this claim

Such an inaccuracy ruffles my feathers since people hold dictionaries up as if they are in biblical light.


http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/abiogenesis
a·bi·o·gen·e·sis   [ey-bahy-oh-jen-uh-sis, ab-ee-oh-] Show IPA
noun Biology.
the now discredited theory that living organisms can arise spontaneously from inanimate matter; spontaneous generation.
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Re: Abiogenesis discredited

#2  Postby Fenrir » Oct 28, 2011 5:14 am

The conflation of abiogenesis with spontaneous generation is rather telling.
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Re: Abiogenesis discredited

#3  Postby ughaibu » Oct 28, 2011 5:16 am

Pieces of cheese and bread wrapped in rags and left in a dark corner, for example, were thus thought to produce mice, according to this theory, because after several weeks, there were mice in the rags.
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Re: Abiogenesis discredited

#4  Postby zoon » Oct 28, 2011 9:27 am

maichem wrote:News to me...apparently abiogenesis is discredited. Can someone please enlighten me as to why a dictionary is making this claim

Such an inaccuracy ruffles my feathers since people hold dictionaries up as if they are in biblical light.


http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/abiogenesis
a•bi•o•gen•e•sis   [ey-bahy-oh-jen-uh-sis, ab-ee-oh-] Show IPA
noun Biology.
the now discredited theory that living organisms can arise spontaneously from inanimate matter; spontaneous generation.


zoon:
As you say, this is in what is supposed to be a reputable dictionary, based on the Random House 2011 dictionary. I think they might fairly be accused of quote mining T.H.Huxley, who is stated in that entry to have invented the word in an essay in 1870.

T.H.Huxley (1870) wrote: And thus the hypothesis that living matter always arises by the agency of pre-existing living matter, took definite shape; and had, henceforward, a right to be considered and a claim to be refuted, in each particular case, before the production of living matter in any other way could be admitted by careful reasoners. It will be necessary for me to refer to this hypothesis so frequently, that, to save circumlocution, I shall call it the hypothesis of _Biogenesis_; and I shall term the contrary doctrine--that living matter may be produced by not living matter--the hypothesis of _Abiogenesis_.


Huxley does spend most of the essay going through the evidence against spontaneous generation, the idea that life is still commonly generated from dead matter. I hadn’t realised how much this was taken for granted until the seventeenth century:

T.H.Huxley (1870) wrote:The proposition that life may, and does, proceed from that which has no life, then, was held alike by the philosophers, the poets, and the people, of the most enlightened nations, eighteen hundred years ago; and it remained the accepted doctrine of learned and unlearned Europe, through the Middle Ages, down even to the seventeenth century.


In 1870, a few people still argued that spontaneous generation might happen, but Huxley concludes that the evidence is very strongly against it:
T.H.Huxley (1870) wrote:
But if, in the present state of science, the alternative is offered us,--either germs can stand a greater heat than has been supposed, or the molecules of dead matter, for no valid or intelligible reason that is assigned, are able to re- arrange themselves into living bodies, exactly such as can be demonstrated to be frequently produced in another way,--I cannot understand how choice can be, even for a moment, doubtful.


Huxley then moves on to the point which the compilers of Dictionary.com seem to have conveniently (for creationists) omitted. He is very clear that abiogenesis probably did happen in the distant past, that ordinary chemicals came together to form living things over long periods of time, and in conditions which were very different from those of today:
T.H.Huxley (1870) wrote:
But though I cannot express this conviction of mine too strongly, I must carefully guard myself against the supposition that I intend to suggest that no such thing as Abiogenesis ever has taken place in the past, or ever will take place in the future. With organic chemistry, molecular physics, and physiology yet in their infancy, and every day making prodigious strides, I think it would be the height of presumption for any man to say that the conditions under which matter assumes the properties we call "vital" may not, some day, be artificially brought together. All I feel justified in affirming is, that I see no reason for believing that the feat has been performed yet.
And looking back through the prodigious vista of the past, I find no record of the commencement of life, and therefore I am devoid of any means of forming a definite conclusion as to the conditions of its appearance. Belief, in the scientific sense of the word, is a serious matter, and needs strong foundations. To say, therefore, in the admitted absence of evidence, that I have any belief as to the mode in which the existing forms of life have originated, would be using words in a wrong sense. But expectation is permissible where belief is not; and if it were given me to look beyond the abyss of geologically recorded time to the still more remote period when the earth was passing through physical and chemical conditions, which it can no more see again than a man can recall his infancy, I should expect to be a witness of the evolution of living protoplasm from not living matter. I should expect to see it appear under forms of great simplicity, endowed, like existing fungi, with the power of determining the formation of new protoplasm from such matters as ammonium carbonates, oxalates and tartrates, alkaline and earthy phosphates, and water, without the aid of light. That is the expectation to which analogical reasoning leads me; but I beg you once more to recollect that I have no right to call my opinion anything but an act of philosophical faith.
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Re: Abiogenesis discredited

#5  Postby Bribase » Oct 28, 2011 9:31 am

Wow, that is fucking ridiculous. You often see creationsists align one with the other in order to discredit abiogenesis but in the dictionary?

I'd love to get to the bottom of this.
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Re: Abiogenesis discredited

#6  Postby Fenrir » Oct 28, 2011 9:45 am

I sent them an e-mail. I wonder if they will respond?
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Re: Abiogenesis discredited

#7  Postby Macros1980 » Oct 28, 2011 9:47 am

I'm thinking of sending them this via their Contact Us page:

Your definition of Aboigenesis is inaccurate. It says:
"the now discredited theory that living organisms can arise spontaneously from inanimate matter; spontaneous generation."

The definition given is for spontaneous generation, which itself is distinct from abiogenesis.

Abiogenesis it the hypothetical process by which biological matter first evolved from non-bilogical replicators. Importantly, this is not a discredited idea. Various hypotheses as to its mechanism have been proposed, a number of which have shown promise under experimental circumstances.


Can anyone tell me if I am being innacurate anywhere? I'm a mere layman. :hide:
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Re: Abiogenesis discredited

#8  Postby z8000783 » Oct 28, 2011 9:49 am

It is not inaccurate it is wrong.

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Re: Abiogenesis discredited

#9  Postby Macros1980 » Oct 28, 2011 9:53 am

z8000783 wrote:It is not inaccurate it is wrong.

John


:oops:

My bad. What would be a correct, succinct definition? I want to make sure any information I sent them is actually right.
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Re: Abiogenesis discredited

#10  Postby Fenrir » Oct 28, 2011 9:54 am

I just C&P'd the first line from the wiki page;

In natural science, abiogenesis (pronounced /ˌeɪbaɪ.ɵˈdʒɛnɨsɪs/ ay-by-oh-jen-ə-siss) or biopoesis is the study of how biological life arises from inorganic matter through natural processes, and the method by which life on Earth arose.


I don't expect them to take my word that their definition is wrong, I expect them to look into it and work out for themselves that it is wrong, and then fix their definition.

Mind you they may be more likely to pay attention if they got 10 e-mails instead of 1.
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Re: Abiogenesis discredited

#11  Postby z8000783 » Oct 28, 2011 9:55 am

Your definition of Aboigenesis is wrong. It says:
"the now discredited theory that living organisms can arise spontaneously from inanimate matter; spontaneous generation."

The definition given is for spontaneous generation, which itself is distinct from abiogenesis.

Abiogenesis it the hypothetical process by which biological matter first evolved from non-bilogical replicators. Importantly, this is not a discredited idea. Various hypotheses as to its mechanism have been proposed, a number of which have shown promise under experimental circumstances.
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Re: Abiogenesis discredited

#12  Postby Macros1980 » Oct 28, 2011 9:59 am

z8000783 wrote:
Your definition of Aboigenesis is wrong. It says:
"the now discredited theory that living organisms can arise spontaneously from inanimate matter; spontaneous generation."

The definition given is for spontaneous generation, which itself is distinct from abiogenesis.

Abiogenesis it the hypothetical process by which biological matter first evolved from non-bilogical replicators. Importantly, this is not a discredited idea. Various hypotheses as to its mechanism have been proposed, a number of which have shown promise under experimental circumstances.


Ah. I'm with you now. Thought you were saying I'd got it wrong. :)

EDIT: I've just spotted a typo in my definition! :o
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Re: Abiogenesis discredited

#13  Postby z8000783 » Oct 28, 2011 10:01 am

Not at all fire it off, it's good.

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Re: Abiogenesis discredited

#14  Postby Macros1980 » Oct 28, 2011 10:07 am

Cool. I've sent it, with your suggested ammendment, John, and with the typo corrected. I wonder if it will do any good?
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Re: Abiogenesis discredited

#15  Postby z8000783 » Oct 28, 2011 10:08 am

Perhaps a few others of us need to do the same as Fenrir suggested.

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Re: Abiogenesis discredited

#16  Postby The_Metatron » Oct 28, 2011 10:11 am

It would be fun, but counterproductive to send:

"That is bullshit!"
I AM Skepdickus!

Check out Hack's blog, too. He writes good.
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Re: Abiogenesis discredited

#17  Postby z8000783 » Oct 28, 2011 10:12 am

:lol: Isn't that a genetic fallacy?

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Re: Abiogenesis discredited

#18  Postby Fenrir » Oct 28, 2011 10:24 am

It's not just dictionary.com though. Lots of them equate abiogenesis with spontaneous generation and many of them assert it is discredited.

Not sure how to address such a widespread misunderstanding/misrepresentation.
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Re: Abiogenesis discredited

#19  Postby z8000783 » Oct 28, 2011 10:26 am

:nono:
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Re: Abiogenesis discredited

#20  Postby Calilasseia » Nov 04, 2011 11:59 pm

In answer to the OP ... from my creationist canard list ...


[12] The Pasteur canard.

We have had several people erecting this canard here, and it usually takes the form of the erection of the statement "life does not come from non-life", usually with a badly cited reference to the work of Louis Pasteur. This particular piece of duplicitous apologetics, apart from being duplicitous, is also fatuous. The reason being that Louis Pasteur erected his "Law of Biogenesis" specifically for the purpose of refuting the mediaeval notion of spontaneous generation, a ridiculous notion which claimed that fully formed multicellular eukaryote organisms arose directly from dust or some similar inanimate medium. First, the modern theory of abiogenesis did not exist when Pasteur erected this law; second, the modern theory of abiogenesis does not postulate the sort of nonsense that abounded in mediaeval times (and which, incidentally, was accepted by supernaturalists in that era); and third, as a methodologically rigorous empiricist, Pasteur would wholeheartedly accept the large quantity of evidence provided by modern abiogenesis researchers if he were still alive.

**************************************************************

In addition to the above exposition, which is apposite to your complaint, your exposition of the modern theory of abiogenesis, whilst simplified, is largely correct. The modern theory of abiogenesis postulates that the first living organisms were ultimately the product of testable natural processes, in this case, chemical reactions. One important reason for this being, of course, that chemistry underpins all of extant life. Millions of chemical reactions are taking place in our bodies every second, and if some of those chemical reactions stop, we stop living.

One of the problems, of course, is that teaching about abiogenesis is woefully inadequate. Apart from the fact that most of the publicly available scientific papers are easily obtainable by anyone who exercises even an elementary level of diligence in this matter, and therefore the evidence supporting relevant hypotheses is there for the reading, certain key elementary concepts are simply omitted from all too many classroom expositions on the subject. Such as the fact that modern abiogenetic theory postulates numerous well defined small steps with respect to the underpinning chemistry, before anything resembling an actual living organism appears, and that the first protocells are postulated to have been vastly simpler in construction than today's modern cells, which have 3.5 billion years of evolutionary development grafted onto the foundations.
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