Sunday, June 05, 2016

NASA, Jesus, and Templeton...,

HuffPo |  More of NASA’s astrobiology strategy for the next decade can be found in its latest roadmap: Astrobiology Strategy 2015. Lindsay Hays of California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is editor-in-chief. 

Microbes are given some attention in a section titled: “How Does Our Ignorance About Microbial Life on Earth Hinder Our Understanding of the Limits to Life?” Curiously, however, there’s not a word in the entire 256-page document (including the glossary) about the existence of viruses — the biggest part of the biosphere — let alone their consortial and persistent nature, when the new thinking in science is “virus first“ and that persistence may be just as crucial to life as replication.
Templeton last year also awarded $5.4 M for origin of life investigations to the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, with funds being administered by FAME synthetic biologist Steve Benner (who once quipped, “If you don’t have a theory of life, you can’t find aliens — unless they shoot you in the leg with a ray gun.”) AND $5.6M to ELSI — the Japanese government’s earth science institute in Tokyo - for its ELSI Origins Network, headed by astrophysicist Piet Hut also of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
Steve Benner is listed as a reviewer on NASA’s latest roadmap and is on the editorial board of Astrobiology Journal whose senior editors include NAI’s new chief Penny Boston as well as ISSOL (International Society for the Study of Origin of Life) president Dave Deamer.

Astrobiology Journal is put together in the Kennewick, Washington home of Sherry Cady, a geologist who serves as editor in chief, and her husband Lawrence P. Cady, a fiction writer who serves as the journal’s managing editor and copy editor — according to LP Cady. The magazine is one of 80 of Mary Ann Liebert Inc.’s “authoritative” journals and has close ties to other NASA-funded scientists who serve as reviewers.
If anything substantive is likely to happen as a result of (or in spite of) Templeton funding on origin of life, I would expect it to come from Steve Benner’s project, which includes people like George E. Fox who collaborated early on with Carl Woese on Archaea, and Harry Lonsdale origin of life research funds recipient, Niles Lehman — plus Benner himself and eight others.
On the other hand, I have serious reservations about the NASA award of $1.1M of public funds to CTI. What ever happened to the separation of church and state?