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Bioethics

It's Life, Jim, But Not As We Know It

WaPo reports (as does WSJ):

All life on Earth - from microbes to elephants and us - is based on a single genetic model that requires the element phosphorus as one of its six essential components.

But now researchers have uncovered a bacterium that has five of those essential elements but has, in effect, replaced phosphorus with its look-alike but toxic cousin arsenic.

While "the discovery does not prove the existence of a "second genesis" on Earth," it "very much opens the door to that possibility." Since we don't actually know if the microbe replaced arsenic with phosphorus in its DNA structure always possessed arsenic instead of phosphorus, the possibility exists of a theorized "shadow biosphere" on Earth - that "life evolved from a different common ancestor than all that we've known so far."

We are witnessing (or discovering) history - even if in its most minute progression.

Categories > Bioethics

Discussions - 3 Comments

Read Mark Twain's ROUGHING IT and his description of his visit to Mono Lake. Besides being thoroughly entertaining (particularly if you've ever been there and can relate in that way) it's funny how you can sort of see Twain coming to a similar conclusion by virtue of his macroscope . . . not needing a microscope.

It's a fascinating discovery, to be sure.

Some of the headlines I've seen -- not stories -- seem to mildly suggest that this "new life from" being discovered by NASA on some other planet. They don't say that, but their headlines imply it ever-so-gently.

I predict a wave of stories and columns about how this disproves the Genesis story, or proves God doesn't exist. It does nothing of the sort, of course ... but that's what I predict we'll see.

I'm of the belief that God looks down upon us and gently smiles and thinks, "Yes, they are ready for another mystery revealed." :-)

I'm with you, Don. I read the story and decided some people are getting a lot of exercise jumping to conclusions. I wrote this to WSJ's online bulletin: "It's one thing to learn a bit more about chemistry; it's a lot more to think that this fact alters our whole view of
the matter."

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