Alien Amino Acids

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Organic chemistry lab in a meteorite sparks speculation about the origin of life.

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No one is talking about life in outer space this time. But examination of the Tagish Lake meteorite which fell on British Columbia in 2000 has prompted proposals that earthly life got its building blocks from chemicals birthed in the early days of the solar system. Planetary geologist Christopher Herd proclaims, “What we're seeing are the ingredients of life.”

Meteorites are classified according to their chemical composition. Many contain evidence of chemical reactions involving water. About 5% are classified as carbonaceous chondrites. Carbonaceous chondrites are believed by those who accept the nebular hypothesis to reveal much about the chemical soup of the proto-solar system.

Herd’s team found twelve different amino acids in the meteor as well as chemicals seen when heated organic compounds react with water.1 They believe that the 850 grams of fragments are uncontaminated because the collector kept them in a plastic bag in his freezer for the six years it took to negotiate a price for the valuable rocks. (Since the amino acids present are not the left-handed molecular form found in living things, and since one is a type not found in proteins, the absence of biological contaminants seems reasonable.)2

Organic compounds are not unique to earth. But the investigators are excited because the products of several steps in chemical reactions are represented in the meteorite. The investigators suggest the heat energy to drive chemical reactions between minerals and the water frozen in the rock came from radioactive3 decay.

The claim here is rather that the amino acids—molecules of “prebiotic importance”—may have reached earth as a result of chemicals knocking around in the nebula that supposedly spawned our solar system.

Notice that there has been no claim that these amino acids have been assembled into proteins or organized in any meaningful way associated with life. (Living organisms contain a genetic code, which instructs cells to assemble amino acids into proteins.) The claim here is rather that the amino acids—molecules of “prebiotic importance”—may have reached earth as a result of chemicals knocking around in the nebula that supposedly spawned our solar system.

We should not be surprised to find the chemicals needed to assemble living things in the non-living components of earth and space. God created those elements and molecules and the chemistry that governs their reactions. Therefore, finding amino acids along with chemically related substances is no surprise. God’s eyewitness account of the solar system’s birth tells us that on the fourth day of creation, having already made the earth, He made the sun and moon. And that took place only about six thousand years ago.

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  1. Iain Coleman, “Asteroid Served ‘Custom Orders’ of Life's Ingredients”, Cosmos, June 10, 2011,
  2. Christopher D. K. Herd et al., “Origin and Evolution of Prebiotic Organic Matter As Inferred from the Tagish Lake Meteorite,” Science 332, no. 6035 (June 10, 2011): 1304–1307, doi:10.1126/science.1203290.
  3. Jeffrey Kluger, “Space Discovery: Long Before Earth, Asteroids May Have Served as Incubators of Life,” Time, June 9, 2011,,8599,2076420,00.html.


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