Philae finds organic molecules on comet: what’s the big deal?

19 Nov

Panspermia? Maybe not.

Why Evolution Is True

Everyone is excited that organic molecules have been detected by the probe Philae on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  This, people say, could explain the origin of life on Earth: the planet was seeded by the carbon-containing molecules on comets, and those organic seeds help create the first replicators that eventually became things that were indubitably “alive.”

But wait: we already had carbon-containing molecules on Earth, and we have no idea what molecules Philae found. The cometary compounds could, for example, be methane (a simple molecule with one carbon and four hydrogen atoms)—a molecule unlikely to have played a major role in the origin of life. Ditto for carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide (CO and CO2 respectively). The early Earth alreadyhad carbon in those molecular forms in the atmosphere, so why did we need to get them from a comet or asteroid? There were also physical forces on Earth, like heat and pressure around thermal vents, that could…

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