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Indeed, a sterile thought can, under eolquent advocacy, rule a generation. Hampton L. Carson

Replies to Cosmic Ancestry, 1999

Subject: Panspermia site
Date: Wed, 29 Dec 1999 00:18:11 +0100
From: Jayanti Chotai

This is a wonderful sight - stimulating, informative and encouraging creativity. Thanks for it and hope you continue to update with the progress in this exciting and important field.

Jayanti Chotai, PhD, MD

via regular mail
Date: 28 Dec 1999
From: Don Streever / Savannah GA

Brig -

Panspermia? Interesting. I've always found suspect the idea that life, world, cosmos, whatever had a beginning. If as some claim life is eternal -- or at least can be -- then that must be in both directions, fore and aft. Creation therefore is a figment of man's insistence on having an answer for everything, e.g., a beginning. If one is willing to accept that something is infinite, has existed forever, then one need not invent wild myths about how it all began -- or did not? In fact, laying the rap for everything we can't explain on poor old God poses some serious Qs. Does that mean G is diminished by new understanding? Questions like this seem to raise holy hell in adult Sunday School. Wonder why they don't invite me back....


Subject: The Intelligent Universe
Date: Thu, 16 Dec 1999 11:18:03 -0600 and earlier
To / From: Gert Korthof (GK) / Brig Klyce (BK)

BK: Panspermia is about the origin of life on Earth.
GK: But that is no origin, because pre-existing life is transported from elsewhere to Earth. That is a transport problem.
BK: Right.... Life never originated! It has always been. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
GK: Does that mean discussion is closed?
BK:Of course not. Please show me any real-time evidence that life can originate, and we're in business. (Arguments from the big bang are not acceptable.)
GK: But then your variant of Panspermia is not a theory about the origin of life? Then your theory does not address the same question as 'Evolutionism' and 'Creationism/IDT'..... And the hottest questions in biology are the origin of life and the origin of new information.
BK: I do not doubt that lateral gene transfer and symbiosis work in evolution. But evidence that these major subunits can arise from anything still simpler is missing.... I do not think the term "information" is right for this analysis, but "instructions" might be. I doubt that useful new instructions can come from random processes....

BK: There was a time when how to make gold out of lead was the hot question. At one time people argued about what the Earth was resting on.
GK: So your theory does not address the same question as 'Evolutionism' and 'Creationism/IDT' = origins.... If you read Hubert Yockey, Paul Davies, Stuart Kauffman, William Dembski, Manfred Eigen: they all accept that the crucial question is the orgin of information embedded in life. The rest is only transport of information. I found Dembski's Law of Conservation of Information an eye-opener. (ch 6.5 of his new book). Generation, creation of information is the most interesting question. The transport or transformation or degeneration of information isn't particulary difficult to understand. Compare the writer of a book and a publisher: the writer creates information, the publisher copies it and the postman transport it.
BK: Thanks for the recommendations. I have read something by all of these writers. They make an assumption that I no longer make -- that the instructions must have come into being recently (after 15 billion years ago, say.) But on your recommendation I have ordered what I take to be Dembski's new book. 1999? $13.99 at amazon?

GK: At least humans can create information...
BK: This is an interesting point. Certainly the instructions for symphonies, skyscrapers and computers do not come from space. But perhaps our genetic makeup is so sophisticated that these could count as emergent properties.

Subject: USGS and meteoritic bacteria
Date: Wed, 27 Oct 1999 19:13:01 -0700
From: "Inis Glas Productions"

Dear Dr. Klyce:

In the 1960's Ivan T. Sanderson (the cranky cryptozoologist) noted in one of his books that a USGS geologist had claimed to have discovered bacteria inside of meteorites, and furthermore, that he had cultured these in petri dishes. The USGS said that it must be contamination, since there weren't any bacteria in meteorites.

Have you ever heard of this? Would it even be worthwhile to look into it?

Thanks for a fascinating web site. (What on earth are all of those virus like objects doing in Antarctic (or other) bodies of water?)

Gordon Cooper
Seattle, WA

Klyce replies: Thanks for your compliments. For cultured germs in meteorites, see The Net Advance of Physics.

Subject: Web site
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 1999 11:26:40 -0400
From: Joel MacAuslan
Organization: Speech Technology and Applied Research Corp.

Nice web site.

The RNAWorld page (on your web site) summarizes the difficulties of creating cellular life from non-life in less than, say, 400 MYr -- indeed, perhaps even 10^450 years.

It seems to me, however, that panspermia has exactly the same problem: The universe is apparently less than 3 times as old as the Earth, and the Milky Way has only ~10^10 likely planets available for the "invention" of chemical-based life. So there is still vastly too little time for that number of planets to create life *anywhere* in our Galaxy. Nor am I aware of any plausible mechanisms to invent life in molecular clouds, the other obvious chemical laboratory available in the Galaxy.

I am fond of the panspermia hypothesis, but it seems too conservative (given the magnitude of the "invention" problems you acknowledge). The hypothesis's niche seems to be in those invention paths that need, perhaps, a few billion times as much opportunity as the early Earth provided: far too many to believe in an Earth-based invention, but few enough for one planet somewhere in the Galaxy to have invented life. (I omit consideration of extra-Galactic life -- which would give an additional factor ~10^10, the number of other galaxies --, as there seems to be no plausible mechanism to export it to the Earth, or to the Galaxy in general, in the time required.)

-Joel MacAuslan

Brig Klyce responds:
As for "too conservative," read on. Cosmic Ancestry does not have the same problem as existing abiogenesis theories. You may decide that it has other problems however.

12 Aug 1999, MacAuslan:
Taking Orgel's comment as a starting point: We have the choice of considering EITHER the explanation of the development of, say, bacteria (cellular life in general); OR the invention of life (from non-life). Fine. Both questions are of interest, and one might even attempt to work on both.

It appears, however, that CA mixes the two: Your home page asserts that life has always existed in our universe, yet I see *no prospect* that _cellular_ life has always existed in it: Earlier astronomical conditions were utterly incompatible. At best, you might be able to invent life in molecular clouds instead of planets, but that still (1) confines life to this Galaxy, or possibly its few dozen nearest neighboring galaxies, and (2) falls short of the time that your estimates seem to require for constructing whole bacteria from abiotic amino acids.

If, on the other hand, you posit a larger definition of "life" (say, the entropy definition) that could be appropriate throughout the universe's history, then you have the task of explaining how, say, a proton/photon/neutrino-based kind of life (appropriate to the universe until ~ 3*10^5 years post-Big-Bang) could "evolve" into a molecular-based kind of life, let alone cellular life -- even assuming that protons, photons & neutrinos have (as atoms do) a rich enough set of interactions and stock of species (which I doubt) to form interesting combinations that could be "alive".

BTW: In one way, panspermia can, I think, be slightly strengthened beyond what you assert: Borrowing from the "clay-template" story (if its proponents are correct that DNA is especially suited to interact with clay particles, by virtue of the geometry involved), you might be able to seed the Earth quite effectively, not with functioning bacteria, but just with "carcasses" of them -- or, of course, of fragments of practically anything with the right geometry. This does not, by itself, require a life-based "seed", but presumably a seed with the right geometry AND some of the right chemistry (for the Earth's soup) has a huge advantage over a seed that has _only_ the right geometry, as the clay advocates depend on. By using carcasses, you need to depend more on home-grown (molecular) evolution; on the other hand, there is no lnger a need for a "bacterial" seed that happens to have all of the right chemistry for its new environment.

BTW: What mechanisms are available to get the seeds into space? (Or are molecular clouds the only game in town?) Does panspermia ultimately require a home civilization that can, deliberately or not, scatter seeds through space, or even target individual planetary systems?

You wrote "...I see *no prospect* that _cellular_ life has always existed in it: Earlier astronomical conditions were utterly incompatible...."

I reason this out the other way around. Somehow, cellular life had to survive in the eternal past. The standard big bang theory would seem to rule out the survival of bacterial spores. Could there be something wrong with the standard big bang theory? Of course there could. It gets amended all the time. Do I have the revised big bang theory worked out in detail? No.

[re: carcasses] I think you have a good idea here. The critical thing is the genetic programs, if they are present, and can be turned on by chemical means that are not too unlikely. Nanobacteria may be such carcasses and fragments.

[What mechanisms are available to get the seeds into space?] Enough. Impacts, for example. There is also the possibility that a whole living planet could be cast out of its orbit into deeper space.

...Targetting is not required. But deliberate scattering is not farfetched, as I say in "How Is It Possible?".

...With an astrophysics background, I am well aware of the revisions that the Big Bang has undergone (and continues to undergo). Unfortunately for this hypothesis, however, *all* of them contain an earlier epoch of very high temperatures.

The reason is that the microwave ("3K") background radiation appears to have *only* one physically plausible mechanism: blackbody radiation from an epoch when the universe was totally ionized. (In standard BB models, this continues until ~3*10^5 years post-BB. In non-standard models, of course, the time might be very different -- but the 3K background still seems to demand universal ionization.)

I would have much less problem accepting the evolution (or even the deliberate technological creation!) of cellular life from earlier, non-cellular life than accepting the non-ionization of the universe: The physics is just too well understood back to that point -- no matter how speculative it may be at much earlier times.

...If you wanted to design a calculator without already knowing how, it would be a lot harder if you started with only a slice of silicon than if you had a PC board that could still perform subtraction, even if all of the other calculator functions on the board were damaged and unusable. (As you can tell, I like your web site's calculator example.)

...(1) impacts cannot generally scatter material out of a *planetary* system, they just get it into orbit around the central star. Also, (2) whole planet (extremely unlikely) would still leave the bacteria trapped on its surface, no matter where the planet wandered.

The 2nd point can be improved somewhat, however: "Planet" usually refers to a body after the solar system has "settled down". If you can make the bacteria early enough (which looks possible for the Earth's own history) -- AND if you can do it on much smaller bodies (which might not have enough gravity, however, to provide interesting chemistry) -- then you could kick some of the proto-planets, asteroids, & iceballs out of the system when the bigger planets form: just the mechanism that apparently formed the cometary cloud(s) of our own system.

I think Hoyle has an alternative explanation for the background radiation, but I am not qualified to explain or defend it.

But also, an article: [Frautschi, Steven. "Entropy in an Expanding Universe" p 593-599 v 217 Science, 13 August 1982] suggests that dust, which could easily include bacterial spores, could persist, away from the action, through cycles of big bangs.

Finally, I am just not willing to let cosmology rule, when it violates the principle that life comes from life. Cosmology today is where geography was in about 300 BCE.

[re: "impacts cannot generally scatter material out of a *planetary* system, they just get it into orbit around the central star."] -- But comets could pick up from there. They can occasionally be tossed completely out into interstellar space.

[re: "(2) whole planet (extremely unlikely) would still leave the bacteria trapped on its surface, no matter where the planet wandered."] -- True. Something else would have to scatter the germs.

17 Aug, MacAuslan:
Brig Klyce wrote: Finally, I am just not willing to let cosmology rule, when it violates the principle that life comes from life. Cosmology today is where geography was in about 300 BCE.

I believe you are on the wrong side of Occam's razor here: The observations -- and the physics (not just the cosmology) -- are extraordinarily well established. Various theories about the BB differ in their extrapolations at *far* earlier times than the ionization stage.

OK. But how are you sure that after the ionization stage, nothing enters "the" universe from outside it, just as things can enter a black hole from outside it, even the though the black hole is geometrically closed? -- Actually, stuff enters all the time (according to the standard, fairly simple models) -- but it's just "more of the same". The reason is simply that some parts can get cut off from other parts during the initial moments of the BB. As the expansion decelerates afterward, light travels to regions that were formerly cut off. But they were all part of the same "universe" initially. (Even if there were an "edge" where new stuff *could* enter, we are not close to it: Even light has had barely enough time to reach us from the distant parts of the universe.)

The problem comes with having a "place" for new, different stuff to come _from_. There is at least one work-around, but it's probably a cure worse than the disease: *IF* (as some unified-field theories suggest) space-time is 10- or 27-dimensional, with all but 4 dimensions of our universe being virtually infinitely thin, then it is easy to pass stuff from one thin universe to another, using the thin dimensions. (Yes, this is exactly the story of the famous "Flatland".) Unfortunately, even if the new stuff were 4D, so it would "fit" in our universe, it would be essentially impossible to get something as complex as a cell to work in the new universe, with its vastly different *physics*. (Not just different environmental conditions, like ionization, but different laws of nature -- like magnetism & radioactivity.)

As for Occam's razor, it is often wielded against me. But I say that it is the fans of abiogenesis who are on the wrong side. There is no evidence that cells can, by natural processes, emerge from nonliving chemicals. The abiogenesis fans say that nevertheless, cells can. They are affirming a phenomenon that has never been observed. I'm in the conservative position of advocating only what has been observed over and over -- life from life. Where should the razor cut? -- Your final question is an excellent one, and often unappreciated. (I have occasionally even used the very same words on the subject as you did!)

In this case, though, I think it cuts pretty clearly. The reason is simply the huge advantage that the physicists have over the biologists, in the simplicity, experimental support, *and interconnectedness* of their science. If the choice is between accepting "life from non-life" and "Newtonian gravity & thermodynamics" (*in its domain of applicability*), then Occam favors the latter: If it is wrong, then we are forced to abandon far more observations, and the ties to far more supporting theories (with their own well established observations), than if we admit that we are more ignorant of complex carbon chemistry than of classical physics.

[But if your preferred principle _were_ wrong, how would you ever know?] If it is possible for cells, by natural processes, to emerge from nonliving chemicals, one demonstration of it would render my theory entirely superfluous. Take any mix of chemicals you prefer. Seal it in pyrex. Sterilize it for an hour at 500 degrees C. Wait as long as you like. If cells ever appear, I'm dead.

You are right, of course. However, that is, at heart, exactly the argument against evolution: "We have never seen new Orders, much less Kingdoms, evolve" -- nor even complex single species like humans or sponges. By itself, that is not a good enough argument against evolution: It is easy to estimate the mean time between origins of species, orders, and kingdoms, based on *non-biological* evidence (like polymer chemistry, radiochemical dating, modern sediment deposition rates in various marine environments, etc.) -- and that time is simply much longer than we have been looking for evolution.

To take your offer: Suppose that I had some great theory of the creation of life, and I could show mathematically that I would need a mere 10^5 years(!) for your pyrex bottle to evolve life. You seem to be asking that we bet $100 on our theories, with me paying $100 now -- and you will repay it, and pay your $100, when the life evolves. I would find this unsatisfactory! ;-)

[re: "However, that is, at heart, exactly the argument against evolution: "We have never seen new Orders, much less Kingdoms, evolve...."] -- OK, but then shouldn't evolution by neo-Darwinism then be considered speculative instead of well established? Shouldn't other theories be considered?

Actually, aspects of evolution such as symbiosis, and of course microevolution, as when new strains of germs appear, have been observed in real time. And DNA sequencing has produced good evidence of evolutionary steps such as the key one behind our mammalian immune system (new genes became installed.) But neither DNA sequencing nor real-time observation adequately supports the notion that new genes for new features and systems arise from old genes by the accumulation of point mutations and recombination events. I actually do reject this theory. If not enough time to observe it has elapsed, should we simply waive the requirement for observation?...

22 Aug, MacAuslan:
Brig Klyce wrote: shouldn't evolution by neo-Darwinism then be considered speculative instead of well established? Shouldn't other theories be considered?

If the only evidence for (or against) it were observation of its occurrence, it should certainly be considered speculative. (Of course, it might still be considered speculative _anyway_, for other reasons, even if that evidence existed.) Other theories can indeed be considered; all of them must be consistent with, say, physics & chemistry, however, and neo-Darwinism is on fairly strong ground here. (Its weaknesses, if any, appear to lie elsewhere.)

In the same way, we have never seen a star age; at best, we have seen a few, a very few, undergo just one of the transitions from one long stage to another long stage -- collapsing cloud to Main Sequence (by blowing away the remnants of the cloud in the T Tauri stage), or red supergiant to neutron star (via supernova). Yet the life cycles of stars are extraordinarily well established because they ultimately rely on the extraordinarily well established laws of (mostly classical) physics & chemistry. The latter has a huge body of rock-solid observations, which stellar evolution "inherits".

In this sense, stellar evolution is really just a coherent "story" consisting of rigorous conclusions drawn from *reliable science* (regardless of which conventional discipline claims the credit for the science: "gravitational physics", or "molecular chemistry", or whatever).

To the extent that some theory of evolution depends directly on, say, chemistry, geology, or radioactive decay (physics), it can be said to inherit reliable underpinnings, with or without direct observation of the conclusions. That is, it constructs a coherent story consisting of rigorous conclusions drawn from reliable science.

The sticky part comes from the word "rigorous": Tying the reliable science together with speculative hypotheses makes the conclusions themselves speculative. That's where new, directly relevant observations become necessary.

Actually, aspects of evolution such as symbiosis, and of course microevolution, as when new strains of germs appear, have been observed in real time. -- Yes. That's why I used the example of Orders & Kingdoms. The time-scales for new germs seem to be short enough to observe comfortably.

And DNA sequencing has produced good evidence of evolutionary steps such as the key one behind our mammalian immune system (new genes became installed.) -- I wasn't aware of that, but it's an attractive story to account for the rapid evolution of such a major change.

But neither DNA sequencing nor real-time observation adequately supports the notion that new genes for new features and systems arise from old genes by the accumulation of point mutations and recombination events. I actually do reject this theory. -- Hmm. I would have thought that the _existence_ of both of these mechanisms was pretty well established. What is (to my limited knowledge) *not* well established is the _adequacy_ of these mechanisms to account for some of the big questions -- notably, the original question: the origin of species. The origin of species seems to require more than the chance accumulation of "point mutations and recombination events", because these seem to be far too uncommon to explain most such origins.

If not enough time to observe it has elapsed, should we simply waive the requirement for observation? -- As with stellar evolution, we must demand more rigor in the logical reasoning that one uses to tie the better-established parts of the story together. Observations may still be needed at some points, where that reasoning cannot be supplied.

This is why the _observation_ of installing new genes is important. But it is also why invoking "point mutations and recombination events" was not sufficient: Other observations show that one of the conclusions (getting enough such occurrences all at once) may be too improbable to be an acceptable explanation for the origin of most species.


Subject: WHAT IS LIFE?
Tue, 10 Aug 1999 06:26:50 +1000
From: "Grahame Fallon"

I don't agree that LIFE IS CELLS. Without wishing to give offense, I consider it simplistic to put it thus. I regard "life" as a quality of certain molecular forms of matter. Such "forms" have been described as "giant molecules," ranging in complexity from prions and viruses to our genes and the brains that stem therefrom.

As you said, "Viruses and prions are not alive." But they have the potential (electromagnetic potential or biotic potential) to "spring into life," as it were, or to start reproducing themselves as soon as they can find, invade and "parasitise" or take control of appropriate host cells. I have described them as "genes on the loose." They don't have a cell wall, as such, but they do have a self-boundary of some kind, which affords them some protection in the "free-living" state between host cells.

Erwin Schrodinger was one of the first eminent person to consider "What is Life?" ( 1945). What living organisms "feed upon," he concluded, is INFORMATION. My mentor Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ said much the same thing back in 1926. Likewise, G.C. Theodoridis and L. Stark in 1969 proposed "Information as a Quantitative Criterion of Biospheric Evolution" - Nature (Lond.), 224:860-3.

In that regard human beings excel - in our potential competence to harvest, process, digest, store, retrieve and utilise information. By way of our genes and the brains that stem therefrom (if we choose to use them), we are able to gain reflective insight into the inner form or information of everything - even the depths of God!

Linked by a world-wide-web or internet of natural and man-made communications media, our brains ( 6-billion+) constitute the noo-sphere of Earth's "thinking" or reflective matter - concentric with Earth's litho-, hydro-, atmo- and bio-spheres of solid, liquid, gaseous and "living" or reproductive forms of matter. Together, our brains constitute the reflective heart or core of the cosmic whole - a cosmic mirror, so to speak, reflecting the image, likeness and majesty of the Creator.

Grahame Fallon

What Is Life? is the related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.

Subject: Re: Molecular evolution modelling
Sat, 15 May 1999 21:18:11 +0100 (BST)
From: Tim Tyler


In article <7hf6t5$gof$> you wrote:

I have three articles about computer models of evolution at and the two "next" pages. They give lots of references.

Having looked at these pages, I believe you may find it appropriate to link to the address in your "Related web site" section. This contains a Java applet which performs an unusual evolutionary process within a cellular automata.

Computers can model many aspects of life, but they cannot produce evolutionary progress in a closed system, IMHO.

Computers are (thermodynamically) open systems. Even if they weren't I'd probably be inclined to disagree - but I'll hold my tongue on this occasion ;-)

Best wishes,
Tim Tyler | The Mandala Centre | |

Subject: panspermia
12 May 1999
From: Brig Klyce
To: (Robert Shapiro)

Dear Robert --

I saw that you mentioned my interview with Fred Hoyle in your new book [Planetary Dreams]. Thanks. I hope the book does well for you.

In it you mention meeting Chandra Wickramasinghe at a conference in 1997, and asking him about a mistake in his spectroscopic evidence. I met you briefly at the SPIE conference in San Diego in 1997, with Chandra, and I think I witnessed your conversation with Chandra. I couldn't disagree with your description of it, because I wasn't a participant and I didn't hear it all.

I would like to understand the issue of the spectroscopic evidence. Can you explain it to me, or point me to a discussion of it? I will be grateful.

Brig Klyce


[Shapiro replies] 12 May 1999
Dear Brig,

The best place to get the information you want is in my book "Origins: A Skeptics Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth" (Summit, 1986; Bantam, 1987). Unfortunately, this book is no longer available from the publisher, but most libraries seem to have a copy. In Chapter 9, I go into the scientific errors of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe in detail. If you cannot locate a copy of this book please let me know, and I will send you the relevant pages when I get a chance.
Best wishes,
Robert Shapiro
Professor of Chemistry

[Klyce] 13 May 1999
Dear Robert --

Thanks for your prompt and useful reply. By good fortune, I have a copy of your earlier book. I read it when it was new. I have just re-read chapter 9.

One reaction I have is that things have moved significantly in favor of panspermia since 1986. For example, "any microorganisms of the type we know on earth would be killed by the radiation hazards, cold and vacuum of outer space," is no longer believed. Also, the chance that comets delivered our oceans and maybe our atmosphere is viewed more favorably now, as is the presence in space of organic compounds related to life. But you know all that.

I had thought that the disagreement you had with H&W was more specific, such as -- the spike at [xx00] angstroms that H&W said to be evidence for [something related to life] is better explained by [something unrelated to life], and this was known before H&W published their piece. But in chapter 9 the disagreement seems to be more general -- they changed their minds often, and you can't tell much from the broad bumps on interstellar spectra anyway. I can forgive the changed opinions, and even admire the analysis they did of the bumps (low index of refraction, grains of a certain size range, etc.)

I sometimes tend to come across as argumentative, for which I apologize.

Thanks again.

[Shapiro] 13 May 1999
Dear Brig,

One good argument deserves another. I agree that the possibility of panspermia looks better now than in 1986, but the question of whether it has actually taken place remains an authentic unknown. In my opinion, the spectroscopic studies of H&W from about 1977 on are of zero scientific worth, though they have contributed to awareness of the question. The collection of organic molecules observed in space so far has little in common with the group important to life here, except that both contain carbon. Our oceans and atmosphere obviously got here somehow, but whether they arrived by comet or outgassing is a detail that doesn't tell us how life got started. It is not hard to collect small organic molecules. The problem lies in figuring out how self-organization took place.

Robert Shapiro

[Klyce] 13 May 1999
Dear Robert --

Thank you.

Are you willing to consider the possibility that life has no origin "in the first place?" I think the evidence is pointing toward that scientific possibility.

[Shapiro ] 13 May 1999
Dear Brig,

We have hardly even started to collect evidence. Most of the Universe lies unexplored. I would classify many of the origin-of-life studies published to date as studies in intelligent design, rather than as authentic prebiotic simulations. We can come to conclusions much, much later, when we have collected many more facts. It does not seem unreasonable to me to suppose, however, that the Universe was lifeless at some early point, and that life therefore had an origin

Robert Shapiro.

1999, May 18: Planetary Dreams is a What'sNEW item reviewing Shapiro's new book.

Subject: Re: SOLIS
Date: Tue, 04 May 1999 08:53:10 +1200
From: Michael Mautner

Dear Brig: Thanks for including SOLIS in your what's new list. We are still working on the site.

Another item that may be useful in your Cosmic Ancestry site are the results that give the, to my knowledge first, experimental proof that microorganisms can indeed grow on carbonaceous chondrite organics. The same materials will be also in comets. The results show that microbes can indeed grow in comets as vehicles, whether they are there naturally as per Hoyle/Wikramsinge, or if we put them there as I am proposing. In science, of course, experimental proof is paramount, and your readers may benefit from knowing that this evidence now exists.

I may have sent you some of these papers. If you would like to include the references in your site, they are

"Biological potential of extraterrestrial materials. 1. Nutrients in carbonaceous meteorites, and effects on biological growth", M. N. Mautner, Planetary and Space Science 1997, 45, 653 - 664

"Biological potential of extraterrestrial materials. 2. Microbial and plane responses to nutrients in the Murchison carbonaceous meteorite", M. N. Mautner, A. J. Conner, K. Killham and D. W. Deamer, Icarus 1997, 129, 245 - 253

"Formation, chemistry and fertility of extraterrestrial soils: Cohesion, water adsorption and surface area of carbonaceous chondrites. Prebiotic and space resource applications", M. N. Mautner, Icarus 1999, 137, 178 - 195.

Best regards

Michael Mautner | Research Professor of Chemistry | University of Canterbury
Christchurch | 8001 | New Zealand
Fax: (64) (3) 337-0390 | Home: (64) (3) 337-0390 | Work: Fax (64) (3) 364-2110

1999, April 27: SOLIS, The Interstellar Panspermia Society, is online. is the related What'sNEW item.

Subject: Lamarck's Signature
Date: Fri, 16 Apr 1999 15:43:36 +1000 (EST)
From: Ted Steele

Mr. Klyce :

I have noted your Internet Website with interest. I hope you do not mind me bringing to your attention our just published book, "Lamarck's Signature", which discusses and outlines the molecular evidence for the soma-to-germline flow of acquired genetic information in the immune system - and thus contradicts one of the pillars of contemporary neo-Darwinian theory. The book is available from Perseus books (US) or Allen & Unwin in the UK. It has been discussed by Gert Korthof ( a prototypical "general reader") at

An opinion piece by us will also appear shortly in the Internet journal HMSbeagle.

Yours sincerely

Dr.EJ Steele
Associate Professor | Department of Biological Sciences
University of Wollongong | Northfields Avenue
Wollongong NSW 2522 | AUSTRALIA

[Klyce replies] 12 May 1999
Dear Ted --

I read your book. Wow, there's lots there. I was glad to learn so much about the immune system. [...]

Science already acknowledges that retroviral genes can also become installed into the germ line. Whether this happens by your mechanism, I welcome your insight about how antibody genes could become inherited. However, I doubt that your example of Lamarckian evolution can be generalized, not to explain evolutionary progress, anyway.

The immune system can respond to billions of different antigens because 1) it has the ability to reorder antibody genes into that many different combinations, and 2) the channels for expression for these genes are already in place.

The antibodies the immune system generates to bind antigens are analogous to combinations for combination locks. Similarly, one could imagine a computer that could generate and call ten million local phone numbers until it finally found the police department. But the same computer could not independently write new computer programs for new applications. Neither could the reordering of genes, as done by the immune system, create new genes for new biological systems or features.

New biological systems or features require new instructions. New instructions exist in a sequence space that is sparsely populated with viable members -- most sequences don't work as instructions. What the immune system creates is more like new data. All members of all sequence spaces can count as data. Furthermore, the immune system has time to entirely explore its peculiar sequence space. There are billions of potential antigens, and billions of antibodies. This is a far smaller sequence space than that of the average single gene, even after a high allowance for error tolerance.

How the new instructions for acquired caloussing could ever become encoded into genes is not clear, unless they were in genes installed by communicable germs, which possibility I wouldn't rule out!

Comments welcome. And thanks for writing a good book!
Brig Klyce *


[Steele replies] 13 May 1999
Dear Brig:

Thank you very much for your thoughtful response to our book "Lamarck's Signature".[...]

First let me state that I do not see panspermia being in opposition to "Lamarck". Even under a cosmic origin of life (then seeded on earth) there would still be "evolution" and evolutionary genetic processes. Soma-to-germline transmission channels for multicellular organisms (particularly animals) are viewed as one of possible several evolutionary genetic processes.

We have also tried to separate the analysis and conclusions for the V-genes of the immune system from 'how general' the process might be (for other non-antibody genes ie. the "housekeeping" genes). We are establishing a "genetic principle" : that soma-to-germline feedback involving a retrogene mechanism has to be taken as a serious genetic option in evolutionary explanations for the immune system.

Is this the thin edge of the wedge? We would have been derelict if we had not explored the possible generality of the retrogene process. Please note that In Chapter 7 "Beyond the Immune System" all of the titles of the subsections are posed as questions. I admit that this chapter contains an eclectic collection of "apparent acquired inheritance phenomena" which may or may not be related mechanistically but the subsections "Beyond the immune system - can retrofection be generalised?" and "The Rothenfluh memory B lymphocyte migration model : implications for housekeeping genes" are rigorously argued and supported by evidence. That most single/limited-copy number housekeeping genes have multiple integrated retrogene homologous copies is a striking fact : which a germline-only "Vesuvian model" does not really come to grips with. Indeed our explanation also provides a way for new polymorphic alleles to be generated in a population (each one has undergone Darwinian testing in a somatic cell prior to its integration in the germline - if the somatic mutant is 'inappropriate' the somatic cell dies). That is our view anyway - and the truthfulness of the proposed generality of "Lamarckian inheritance" will only come out in the fullness of time.

I should reiterate what the "Evolutionary significance of a soma-to-germline feedback loop" might be (page 183-185) - its role in extant organisms is the maintenance of a functional (= open reading frame) and diverse germline V gene repertoire. Multigene families of this type are subject to random mutation and genetic crippling and thus need to be "maintained" in a functional state over evolutionary time.

The possible inheritance of acquired callousing is another matter! As we indicate we have no idea how that might happen - and we had not even thought of the possibility you raise ( obvious now in retrospect) that a "communicable germ" could be the gene vector!

On the other point you raise "Neither could the reordering of genes, as done by the immune system, create new genes for new biological systems or features." - I think this is possible but we we would need the direct evidence. Certainly the whole phenomenon of "Abzymes" , monoclonal antibodies generated and selected for a particular enzymatic activity means that a major facet of that hypothesized process is not precluded.

I do not fully understand your paragraph begining with "New biological systems or features require new instructions. New instructions exist..... ". I will not try to attempt a response to this.

Thanks again

Ted Steele

1999, May 12: Lamarck's Signature: How Retrogenes Are Changing Darwin's Natural Selection Paradigm is the related What'sNEW item.

Date: Sun, 11 Apr 1999 17:53:07 -0400
From: fred niell
Subject: Yo

Brig, I just visited your website to get caught up a bit on what's hot in biology, and was blown away. You continue to offer a strong and excellent service to people interested in cosmic ancestry. I am very impressed by your dilligence and by the overall look of the site. Congratulations and good luck in Orlando! Nice paper. Very understated. AND btw [..]

Best regards

Fred M. Niell, Jr., Headmaster
St. George's Episcopal School
1102 Placid Rd | Griffin, GA | 30223

Subject: Astroinfect Effect
Mon, 15 Mar 1999 11:00:40 +0200
From: Institute of Radio Astronomy
Organization: Institute of Radio Astronomy

Dear colleagues,

Hoping the following publication could be interesting for you.


Alexey V.Arkhipov, Ph.D.

[Journal of The British Interplanetary Society, vol.52, No. 1, pp.37-40, 1999]

The computer modelling of the diffusion of space debris into the interstellar medium and the possibility of interstellar panspermia by interplanetary pollution are considered. It is shown that the Earth can be a natural collector of extraterrestrial non-sterile space debris, which could spontaneously fall on our planet. New estimation of the panspermia threshold for interplanetary pollution is obtained at more realistic conditions. The technogenic interstellar panspermia is quite possible for the new model.

Subject: Re: Retroviruses and human evolution
Mon, 08 Mar 1999 11:16:48 +1100
From: (John Wilkins)

I have it that up to 40% of the average mammalian genome is ERV derived. Little if any of it is expressed AFAIK, but it is there.

Here are some refs I have, but the 40% figure comes from another paper in storage right now (damn I hate this - I'm never building another house so long as I live...).

Hohenadl, C., C. Leib-Mosch, R. Hehlmann, and V. Erfle III. 1996. "Biological significance of human endogenous retroviral sequences." Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes & Human Retrovirology 13 (1):S268-73.

Patience, C., Wilkinson D. A., and Weiss R. A. 1997. "Our retroviral heritage." Trends in Genetics 13 (3):116-20.
John Wilkins | Head, Graphic Production |
The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research | Melbourne, Australia

1999, March 3: Up to 1% of the human genome is represented by human endogenous retroviruses... is the related What'sNEW item.
Viruses: Imported Genetic Software is the related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.

Subject: Cosmic Ancestry Website
Thu, 04 Mar 1999 14:36:40 -0600
From: Laura Hinton

Your Cosmic Ancestry Website is one of the best informational sites I have seen. Upon coming to your site, I knew absolutely nothing of Cosmic Ancestry. The articles posted guided me through the ideas and the proofs of this new theory. I really enjoyed reading about a theory which in some ways is more satisfying than either Darwinism or Creationism. I appreciate the time and effort you have spent to make this information available to web wanderers like myself.


Subject: Excellent
Wed, 10 Feb 1999 13:43:56 -0700
From: "Jim Branson"

Thanks so much for your efforts. The late special on The Learning Channel seems to have caught a lot of people's attention. I hope Chyba and Chandra get the attention and funding necessary to pursue this very valuable research.

I did not note a biography for you, the site creator, but you must be a fine representative of our human population.

Best regards,
Jim Branson / Sr. Research Engr. / Manufacturing Knowhow, Inc.

Subject: Comments on Cosmic Ancestry (CA)
Tue, 12 Jan 1999 18:46:18 +0100
From: "G. Korthof"

[Klyce's responses are spliced in]

Dear Brig,

After finishing the fourth version of my Spetner review, I am returning to Cosmic Ancestry (CA). I did some thinking and I come to 5 problems/basic questions which CA has to solve/answer:

1. How to identify cosmic DNA sequences in organisms on this earth when we cannot compare them with the original?
2. How to identify DNA sequences in need of an alternative non-Darwinian explanation?
3. Darwinism is not necessarily incompatible with CA.
4. What is the use of DNA-sequences out of the planet earth context of the planet earth?
5. Stars and species have life cycles.

1. Since hypothetical extraterrestrial DNA-sequences are reproduced many times since their arrival and inclusion in earthly genomes, one cannot use any physical characterisation of those sequences (unique atoms, etc.). So we need the sequences of bases themselves. But how to recognise such a sequence ? We have nothing to compare with, because we don't have the original.

[I am not advocating a scenario where there are two kinds of life, earthly and cosmic. Rather, there is one kind -- cosmic. So the sequences would not be distinguishable as you suggest. However, there are proposals to look for different isotope ratios in organic matter (and bacteria?) recovered in the high atmosphere and in meteorites. Different isotope ratios have already demonstrated that the amino acids in the Murchison meteorite, for example, are unearthly. (And they are also predominantly left-handed. Such "chirality" is a signature of life, not chemical processes.)]

2. How to identify DNA sequences in need of an alternative non-Darwinian explanation? Even if some is of cosmic ancestry, not necessarily all DNA in earth genomes is of cosmic ancestry. For exactly which sequences is CA claiming that it cannot be explained by neo-Darwinism?

[Every sequence that isn't derived from a very similar preceding sequence. There are many slightly different versions of the gene for cytochrome-C throughout life. They could easily be derived from a single predecessor. But it, the _first_ one, is unlikely to have been produced by the neo-Darwinian method. Similarly, there are several versions of some of the Canterbury Tales. The ones that came after the original are obviously copies of the original, with minor modifications. But the original was not a copy of anything.]

3. One does not need to demonstrate that neo-Darwinism is false, in order to defend CA: both can be true, both can be false, or only one of them can be true. I do not see why CA contradicts neo-Darwinism. CA could be an addition to Darwinian evolution, just as Kimura's Neutral Theory and Lynn Margulis symbiosis theory are additions to neo-Darwinism.

[I agree almost completely. The main point of departure is that CA does not believe that neo-Darwinism can produce the progressive, constructive, apparently unlimited macroevolutionary progress that leads from bacteria to humans. ND can do the sideways and regressive changes just fine.]

4. The problem of the genetic code. CA assumes that the genetic code is universal. However the genetic code is arbitrary, there are many ways to assign 20 amino acids to 61 codons. And evidence exists that it is not even universal on this planet earth: there are exceptions. A mismatch of extraterrestrial genetic and our genetic code will produce if anything nonsense proteins. Furthermore genomes on this earth evolved to produce a metabolism fit for earth conditions. Who knows what the conditions on other planets are? Evidence from Denton(1998) in some respects supports universality of DNA structure (biocentric universe).

[A mismatch produces no interaction usually. But if earthly life is cosmic life, we should not be surprised if genes work the same way everywhere. As for a metabolism fit for earth's conditions, consider the huge, unexplored variety of archaebacteria. They can live at pressures, temperatures, pH levels, chemical environments, radiation environments, etc., that we couldn't have guessed ten or twenty years ago. It rather seems that nature fires a scatter shot, and adopts to the environment it finds. However, it took a long time after bacteria became established here before higher life such as mammals could emerge. CA thinks that Gaian processes that make a planet more earthlike may also be universal.]

5. Stars and biological species have life cycles: they are born, live and die. This looks like a problem for life without a beginning.

[That stars expire would be a good reason for life to spread through interstellar space. As for species, 99% of the ones on Earth have already gone extinct, by some estimates, yet we still have millions. The problem that most people raise is the big bang -- nothing could have been alive before that, they say. I agree that life as we know it couldn't survive inside the sun, say. But the big bang theory reminds me of the Ptolemeic universe theory. I don't think it has much legitimate authority, yet.]

I don't know if these problems are answered somewhere, or may be new, anyway I hope you will find them stimulating!

[Yes, thanks!]

Gert Korthof

Subject: News on ALH 84001 and Mars
Mon, 11 Jan 1999 11:00:16 -0500 (EST)
From: (Barry Digregorio)

Dear Brig,

Happy new year. There are two news items concerning life on Mars that should be making major headlines but are not:

First, Dr. Benton C. Clark of Lockheed Martin Astronautics has published a new paper in JGR supporting indirectly Dr. Gilbert V. Levin's LR Mars data. The new paper (issue devoted to exobiology) appears in the November 25th 1998 issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research (Volume 103, No. E12, Pages - 28,545 - 28,555) "Surviving the limits to life at the surface of Mars". Dr. Clark outlines how some specialized terrestrial microbes could adapt to Martian surface conditions, let alone any organisms that evolved on Mars! He even shows how it is possible for photosynthesis to occur in the surface soil layers of Mars. This is an extremely important paper, Brig. After you read it, please post it in What'sNEW.

Also, at Dr. Alan Trieman's ALH 84001 Website at the LPI "On TheQuestion of Martian Meteorite ALH 84001" a number of new scientific abstracts are online from the Mars Meteorite Workshop that was held in November. One of these papers "Chains of magnetite crystals in ALH 84001: Evidence of biological origins" by Dr. Emre I. Friedmann et al. concludes:

"We suggest the following scenario. Decomposed remains of dead Martian magnetobacteria, possibly suspended in a carbonate-rich fluid, penetrated the fissures of ALH 4001, already crushed by previous meteorite impact..." .

Then! If you go to the Mars Pathfinder WebSite and click on the abstracts from the "29th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference" you will find scores of abstracts on Mars Pathfinder science results. One paper by Dr. Timothy Parker and Dr. Henry J. Moore et al presents direct evidence of sedimentary rocks at the Mars Pathfinder landing site. Look it up Brig. The paper is entitled: "Petrogenic interpretations of rock textures at the Pathfinder landing site"

If the rocks at Pathfinder are sedimentary in origin it has very exciting implications for my theory of trace fossilsat the Viking 2 Landing site. Viking 2 landed in what is now believed to be the shoreline of an ancient Martian ocean!

Finally, the International Committee Against Mars Sample Return (ICAMSR), my organization effort comprising 150 professionals so far, goes online January 31st (hopefully). The ICAMSR oppsoses the current NASA/France concept of returning Martian soil samples via their Passive Earth-Entry capsule design which will not have a parachute to slow its decsent. It will enter Earth's atmsophere directly from Mars and aerodynamically crash into the Utah desert.

The ICAMSR fully supports the examination of MSR samples on board the International Space Station as a precautionary measure to ensure that Earth's biosphere is not contaminated with pathogenic bacteria or viruses from Mars. We are calling for the MSR samples to be examined and certified "biosphere safe" before transfer to the Earth's surface laboratories. This will entail NASA building a special CDC biohazard containment module for the ISS, but so what? Planetary Protection of our biosphere and ecosystems deserves the best we have to offer, not this "faster, better, cheaper" philosophy -- not when it comes down to alien biology.

Would you be so kind as to mention ICAMSR on your website if I send you a copy of the ICAMSR document and petition that will go online? Perhaps you would publish the entire document complete with petition as a newspiece? If so, please provide me with your snail mail address.

Sincerely yours,
Barry E. DiGregorio [author of MARS: The Living Planet]

PS: The ICAMSR is not against the concept of MSR, just the way NASA/France are preparing to do, cheap, cheap! This is not good science. Almost everyone I have talked with in my lectures about life on Mars agree that examination of Martian soil samples on the ISS is a scientific and wise move. MSNBC, ABC, and various media are all planning to cover the ICAMSR to some extent. I hope after reading the ICAMSR homepage document, that you will join us Brig. Also, perhaps you might consider putting the ICAMSR Home Page document up on Cosmic Ancestry as a mirror site?

ICAMSR / PO Box 831 / Lockport, NY 14095 / USA

Life on Mars! is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.

Subject: RE: evolution, big bang, etc.
Fri, 8 Jan 1999 17:34:22 -0500
From: "Corey, Peter"

Dr. Klyce:

"Cosmic Ancestry" is the most impressive site I have visited on the Internet -- "perused" would be a more appropriate word than saying merely "visited."

I was wondering if you are acquainted with a recent book by Professor Michael J. Behe, titled "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution?"

I am also including two links below, by mathematician/author David Berlinski (who recently published "A Tour of the Calculus"). The articles appeared in "Commentary" magazine in 1996 and 1998, respectively. One of the things I like about "Commentary" is the generous space they devote to responses by readers to controversial articles (and the final response to the readers by the author), so I am including links to those as well.

I came across the articles while surfing through sundry Creationist sites, though the articles themselves are skeptical and polemical, not Creationist. Despite various simplifications Berlinski has had to make for the sake of the readers, I think they are well written.

I hope you enjoy them.

Peter Corey

The Deniable Darwin, Commentary Magazine 1996 / Readers respond/Berlinski responds
Was There a Big Bang?, Commentary Magazine 1998 / Readers respond/Berlinski responds

Subject: website
Date: Fri, 08 Jan 1999 12:56:05 -0500
From: Cindy James

Dear Brig,

This is the most wonderful web site that I have seen in AGES! As a Ph.D. fellow in Biochemistry at the University of Akron, I have often wondered if my interest in evolutionary biochemistry would conflict with my faith (I have attended a christian college as an undergraduate and have a minor in both theology and biology). Your web site should be better advertised to provide young scientists with an opportunity to expand their boundaries of evolutionary thought!

I loved it...please keep up great work!

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