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Origins of life

Updated on January 31, 2015


The big question about the origins of life is: how does inanimate matter become biological? It's an unanswered question so far. But I think we can begin to get a handle on how the process works if not yet the exact mechanism.

At the origins symposium Richard Dawkins was asked whether he thought there was a precursor to evolution, and his answer was no because, to paraphrase him, the world outside biology does not include natural selection. But I disagree and will attempt to explain why.

To me there seems to be a disconnect between the fields of chemistry, biology, and physics. It seems to me that chemistry and biology can only go so far back without physics and I think physics doesn't realize that it is the field which can perhaps do most to clarify this question.

While biology and chemistry work backwards toward an answer, physics is in the unique position of being able to work forward.

In the Big Bang model we start with free particles that merge into the first atoms. From there clouds of atoms cool and condense to produce the first stars. In those stars new atoms are formed. When those suns go nova the new atoms are released and form new suns. Clouds of atom rich matter left over condense and form atom rich planets which begin to interact and form new substances.

What made all these events happen? We can put down all these events to the laws of physics. Particularly we can site the laws of conservation and of course entropy as the engines of this evolution.

And yes I am suggesting that the laws of physics produce this evolutionary process.

What is natural selection? In a very real way natural selection is just what mutations are possible and viable and which mutations or changes are not. Natural selection follows rules of cause and effect. In fact it follows what we have called the laws of nature. A species can adapt to new conditions or it can not. Nature does not so much select as allow or disallow specific traits and behaviors.

It seems obvious to me that both the laws of physics and those that surround natural selection are not only intimately related, but just variations of the same thing.

What I am saying is that both natural selection and the way the atomic world works is through coercion. Reactions to interactions are forced by the nature of the interacting material or in deed by the environment interacting with the nature of material or biological systems.

This nature is really a code. The laws of physics and the laws of nature are already like a genetic code of nature inherent in all things.

Now we do not need the BB to be the correct model for this to work. After all, the laws of physics are what they are regardless, and formation of atoms within stars is well known fact.

It is also a fact that the laws of physics are what force interactions and mergers which create ever more complex substances and structures. In fact we can see how those laws affect human beings and our behavior. It is through need that anything does anything. Without stimulus we wouldn't move or bat an eyelash. An atom merges with another out of need as well.

The need is in the form of the atom's tendency toward their lowest energy output. Interaction with other atoms and particles throws the atom into a higher energy bracket. It compensates for that if it can. That is why if one atom catches a stray electron, for example, it throws it at another atom and they are instantly bonded together. This bond then creates a new substance on the next level of existence: the macro world.

So it is clear that the laws of physics are responsible for ever more complexity from the simple. It should also be obvious to us then that the laws of physics govern the laws of nature and indeed, the formation of RNA and DNA.

What the exact processes are is the million dollar question. But to me it is going to be more productive to think of the laws of nature as the code that produces the code: DNA/RNA, and that natural cause and effect is the same as natural selection. Natural selection then being the more complex version evolved from the simple. Well, relatively simple.

I think we can see this in may places. For one, in the idea of automatic response being the precursor to instinct, which is the precursor to conscious deliberation. All of which are coerced.

That's why I think it is physics that stands the best chance of finding the laws that govern the creation of DNA/RNA and finding the logical framework of the so called inanimate to the biological thereby giving chemistry and biology the tools that are needed to find the specific processes involved.

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    • f_hruz profile image

      f_hruz 6 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      Thanks so much for your kind remarks ... I enjoy picking up new insights from such highly informative hubs as yours.

      I have noticed though, there are some ideas being discussed on other hubs which are not even clear about what matter really is and why pure matter only exists as an abstract idea.

      I feel it would be very helpful to have a more open public, every-day discussion about what has become a fact of reality no matter which branch of science it came from in order to sort out all the irrational mind pollutants floating around.

      While there is no law against stupid ideas, stigmatizing the carriers of such brain dead infectious mind deceases is also not a criminal act ... :)

      Just like the Periodic Table ascribes to each chemical element clearly defined qualities, I can't imagine any form of matter, dead or alive, to not have some sort of life sustaining or life supporting capacity in the larger scheme of things or it wouldn't exist in nature.

      One question I'd like to ask - maybe when you have more time - how do you think natural processes develop from the exchange of material qualities so as to provide for an intelligent life support system to even evolve?

      Having a spark of ingenuity, life or culture of any kind is one thing. Developing a selectively reproductive system which builds on what sustains a natural support system and a prolonged connection to it, despite what contemporary mass entertainment tries to offer us as valuable information, would also be an interesting question ... :)

    • Slarty O'Brian profile image
      Author

      Ron Hooft 6 years ago from Ottawa

      chasuk

      Always good to see your comments. And you are right, of course.

    • Slarty O'Brian profile image
      Author

      Ron Hooft 6 years ago from Ottawa

      pcunix

      Exactly so. But the sciences have compartmentalized and don't even try to merge.

      Its a real shame and something that needs to somehow be rectified, in my opinion.

    • Slarty O'Brian profile image
      Author

      Ron Hooft 6 years ago from Ottawa

      Hi Winston

      Yes, That's exactly how it looks to me too.

    • Slarty O'Brian profile image
      Author

      Ron Hooft 6 years ago from Ottawa

      f_hruz

      Well it was your question to me on the tree of life hub that made me write this. So thank you. It just got too long to post as a response so now it's a hub. I have been really busy with a new job lately so it's been hard to get on line. But I will be answering all your great comments when time permits.

      I'm in Ottawa by the way. Nice to see other Canadians on here.

    • profile image

      AKA Winston 6 years ago

      Virtually all human chemical reactions are based on negative feedback loops - sensor cells find chemistry out of balance and spur the body to compensate.

      This sounds to me much like the shared electrons you mention - movement toward equilibrium.

    • f_hruz profile image

      f_hruz 6 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      Great topic!

      I'm sure, you are quite right about the disconnect ... even between inorganic versus organic chemistry, biology and psychology do the laws of physics play an important part.

    • profile image

      Chasuk 6 years ago

      The human body transforms dead matter into living matter all of the time. How does it do this? Via chemistry, of course. Complicated, somewhat inscrutable cellular-level chemistry, but chemistry, nonetheless.

      Good hub.

    • Pcunix profile image

      Tony Lawrence 6 years ago from SE MA

      I said exactly this some time ago. Chemistry is the result of physics and life is the result of chemistry. It should be obvious,

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