From the July 2018 issue

One step at a time

Walking a not-so-mysterious path to life.
By | Published: July 26, 2018 | Last updated on May 18, 2023

Few words in science can provoke quite so visceral a reaction as abiogenesis. I get it. The idea of life arising unbidden from nonliving matter can be hard to wrap your head around. But like any idea, it deserves to be examined honestly on its merits. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t.

Probably the biggest misconception about abiogenesis is that it requires some absurd event like atoms randomly sticking together one day to make a living thing. A willfully dishonest criticism, common in some circles, often reads something like this: “Biophysicist Harold Morowitz says that the probability of a simple cell forming by chance is 1 in 10340,000,000. Even scientists know that abiogenesis is impossible!”

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