Origin of Life

The first chapter of Genesis contains the Christian account of the origin of life. It tells of God creating the heaven and the Earth, plants and animals, and then man in God’s image. All in six days. The Bible doesn’t state when this creation occurred, but most early Christians probably assumed that this did not occur too long ago. In the 1600’s, the Anglican bishop James Ussher fixed the date of creation at 4004 B.C.E. This is the established biblical view that continues to the present.

Physicists tell us, however, that the universe began between 10 and 20 billion years ago, at a moment in time they call the Big Bang. As soon as there were rocks to record the existence of life, we find evidence that life is there. How did this diversity of life appeared on Earth in a very short time span (from a geological point of view)? This is the materialist view that I try to explain in this series of articles on the origin of life.

In the Beginning: The early planet Earth was a really miserable place. The way that the planet was formed, with ever larger and larger chunks of material slamming into it, created an enormous amount of heat. When the planet first formed it was melted. It was no place where one could ever conceive the origin of life. Less than a billion years later, however, the fossil record clearly shows that life was there.

Miller’s Experiment: In 1953, Stanley Miller conducted his famous (or infamous) experiment. For decades, scientists had speculated whether the complex organic compounds characteristic of living things could have somehow been generated spontaneously on the early Earth. Spontaneous generation of organic compounds can’t happen today. This is because organic compounds are too fragile.

Polymerization: The significance of Miller’s experiment was simply to show that non-biological processes could result in the formation of organic molecules, including amino-acids and nucleotides. These molecules that Miller got, however, were still relatively simple. They thus only represented a first small step.

Primitive Cells: We know that the organic molecules that make us up are not just a jumble of things floating around in a primordial soup, they are highly ordered. They come in highly ordered packages. There are many such packages in living systems, but the most fundamental one is what we call the cell. All living things are made of units called cells. Minimally, for something to be living, requires a barrier between the living part and the non-living part. That barrier is what would define the cell.

The Genetic Code: How does a living system reproduce? What minimally do we need to get reproduction? How reproduction arose is an especially tricky problem. It is the problem that is most debated today in the area of the origin of life.


sarah lee said...

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. See the link below for more info.


Leslie Lim said...

Now this is the kinda of stuff i like to read about thanks for brightening my day


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