"Origin of Life Thru Chemistry"

[From Bryan Thalhammer (2006.03.04.1520 CST)]

Hi all,

An interesting 1-page article in March 2006 National Georgraphic, p. 31.

The Origin of Life Through Chemistry
by Joel Achenbach

OK, its like 6 paragraphs, stated here in summary:

* The initial germ of life is still the biggest unknown in science,
* A theory by Harold Morowitz of George Mason argues that metabolism provides a long fossil record of Earth life,
* A central set of chemical reactions has been in place since the beginning,
* Only 11 small carbon molecules, such as citric and acetic acids, would have been abundant on the young Earth.
* These molecules played a role in other chemical reactions that led to teh development of biochemicals such as amino acids, lipids, sugars, and RNA and protein replicating molecules.
* Metabolism came first--before cells, before replication, before life as we know it (i.e., a living control system).
* A molecular natural selection was happening before RNA.
* A competition took place at the chemical level (not life or pre-life).
* Those chemicals that life needs resulted from this natural process.
* Not a freak accident, not random in the misunderstood sense, but based on the nature of physics and chemical attributes. That is, life is a likely outcome of the interaction of the molecules and mineral of the Earth.

So the thing is, our culture and language are erroneously wired to control for "the first dog," "the first cat," "the first human," and "the first life form." But no, the article says, it is all of one cloth. Therefore there was never a point in space where the first cell pinged into being, but a range of time over which self-organization got sorted out according to reactive evolution. Got it? This article suggests that life is not an exception, but merely a part of the natural composition of a typical rocky planet like Earth (and perhaps even a gas giant or one of its moons).

First thing I thought was of the HPCT network of control systems that have their interface with the chemical reactions going on in the human body. So life is built on existing metabolic reactions including those of replicating molecules. Or is it a summation of reactions and replications (kinda like stabilization and therefore control of reactions?). Kinda like another way of saying Gaia. Get the right combination of chemicals, energy, temperature, and rate of change, and bingo, life emerges. Mars and Venus may have the right chemicals, but the wrong energy, temps and rates of change, so maybe if Venus was cooled down, or Mars warmed up and wetted down, then over gazillons of years, we would have some nice cousins.

Well, I don't know, not great revelations of course, but it was an interesting moment over my blackberry-sage tea at Borders. I did buy the mag.




Morowitz, Harold of George Mason (biologist).

Smith, Eric of Santa Fe Institute (biologist?)
Physical and Chemical Self-Organization � Origin of Life � Money, Markets, and Institutions � Biomolecular Information and Evolvability

Hazen, Robert (2005). Ge-ne-sis:The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins. Joseph Henry Press. ISBN: 0309094321. US$27.95 (avail at $19 on Amazon).

[From Dag Forssell (2006.03.05.1300 PST)]

[From Bryan Thalhammer (2006.03.04.1520 CST)]

Hi all,

An interesting 1-page article in March 2006 National Georgraphic, p. 31.

The Origin of Life Through Chemistry by Joel Achenbach

As I read your report, I relate to



The origins of purpose: the first metasystem transitions,

which is the last item on the web page, plus item 5

The Neglected Phenomenon of Negative Feedback Control

You may enjoy these papers if you have not already.

Best, Dag