Saturday, October 27, 2007

Out of context: An 'origin of life' paper is retracted after 52 years

A paper discussing the origin of life has been retracted after 52 years. Why? Its becoming a favorite for Creationists, who are taking some quotes out of context.
In January 1955, Homer Jacobson, a chemistry professor at Brooklyn College, published a paper called “Information, Reproduction and the Origin of Life” in American Scientist, the journal of Sigma Xi, the scientific honor society.

In it, Dr. Jacobson speculated on the chemical qualities of earth in Hadean time, billions of years ago when the planet was beginning to cool down to the point where, as Dr. Jacobson put it, “one could imagine a few hardy compounds could survive.”

Nobody paid much attention to the paper at the time, he said in a telephone interview from his home in Tarrytown, N.Y. But today it is winning Dr. Jacobson acclaim that he does not want — from creationists who cite it as proof that life could not have emerged on earth without divine intervention.

So after 52 years, he has retracted it.

The retraction came about when, on a whim, Dr. Jacobson ran a search for his name on Google. At age 84 and after 20 years of retirement, “I wanted to see, what have I done in all these many years?” he said. “It was vanity. What can I tell you?”
Actually its cool that Homer Jacobson was googling his name to see his impact. And if you can't be found on Google, did you ever really exist? Ok, that is a different issue. But which Creationists are really quoting him? Its our Muslim Creationist, Harun Yahya!, for example, says Dr. Jacobson’s paper “undermines the scenario that life could have come about by accident.” Another creationist site,, says his findings mean that “within a few minutes, all the various parts of the living organism had to make themselves out of sloshing water,” an impossible feat without a supernatural hand.

“Ouch,” Dr. Jacobson said. “It was hideous.”
Actually, we shouldn't be too harsh on Harun Yahya. He has only now gotten to the scientific literature of the 1950s. Soon, he will learn about the importance of the RNA, the extremophiles living near volcanic vents, etc. May be then he will also gain some understanding of the science behind evolution.

Read the full story here.


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