Some Steps Toward Abiogenesis, Part 1

There is more evidence that it is possible than that it is impossible.

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Abstract

Large portions of the following text were posted in 2006 at this web site discussion:
http://www.evcforum.net/cgi-bin/dm.cgi?control=msg&t=8631
The text included here, from that discussion, was written by someone who chose the handle “FutureIncoming”. I have acquired that author’s permission to expand upon it, replace bad links, and otherwise revise it as appropriate to create this Knol.

Introduction

“Abiogenesis” is the name for any process that could allow a living organism to come into existence by a non-biological pathway. This pathway is generally expected to involve “somewhat” random interactions among “ordinary” chemicals. The two words that were quoted in the previous sentence now need some explaining.

Regarding “somewhat” random, it should be noted that if Chemistry was completely dominated by pure randomness, then weird compounds such as “neon carbide” should be possible. But in actual fact there exist some limits on the ways that various chemical substances can interact with each other. It is not possible for neon carbide to exist. Therefore, because some non-randomness exists in Chemistry (more about this later), the word “somewhat” needed to be used in the previous paragraph.

Regarding “ordinary” chemicals, suppose we examine a particular compound known as “urea”. This organic molecule has just 8 atoms in its structure, and was isolated from urine in the late 1700s. Few people were upset by the discovery, since at that time there was assumed to exist some sort of division between chemicals associated with Life, and chemicals associated with non-living things (like rocks). This assumption/concept was known as “vitalism”. However, in 1828 urea was synthesized in a laboratory from purely inorganic compounds, and quite a few people became upset because the assumed division between Life chemicals and non-life chemicals had just been destroyed –although, of course, years passed before die-hard believers finally accepted the indisputable facts. For more information, see this link: http://www.humantouchofchemistry.com/urea

The definition of “ordinary” is rather arbitrary, therefore. In the case of abiogenesis, if there are some chemicals that can directly combine to form a living organism, then so far as we know they need to be rather significantly complicated chemicals (probably rare in Nature), even if none were individually formed as a result of Life. It is typical, however, for people talking about abiogenesis, to start with very simple chemicals such as water and methane and ammonia and carbon dioxide and so on. These simple substances are very common in Nature, and while Life as we know it is known to interact with them, they cannot, all by themselves, be mixed together to directly obtain a living thing. If abiogenesis can ever happen from such a starting point, then a number of intermediate stages, involving the production of more-complex chemicals, is required. Anyway, “ordinary” usually means “simple” when the topic is “abiogenesis”. One purpose of this Knol is to offer a reasonable/possible description of several of the initial stages.

In all the years since the synthesis of urea allowed the idea of abiogenesis to begin to exist, various people have expressed doubts about the possibility. Most of the disagreements are simplistic, one way or another, such as, “By experimental observation, Life can only begin as a result of some action by some other Life-form.” The reason this is simplistic is because it assumes that all possible relevant experiments have been conducted, and, actually, they haven’t.

Another simplistic objection mentions something known as “entropy”, and how as time passes, complex things in any environment or “system” tend to break apart, rather than become more complex. Some links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entropy_(classical_thermodynamics)andhttp://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=system+definition&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq= The reason this objection is simplistic is because it ignores all of the wide variety of things that are possible when a system has energy constantly pumped into it from outside. The world-wide system called “Earth”, to offer just one example, is known to experience sunlight that regularly moves billions of tons of watermuchhigher than merely “uphill” (via evaporation), where the water condenses and then flows downhill. It should be obvious that if entropy was the only factor in worldwide events, then no rain should have fallen anywhere on Earth for billions of years!

Another simplistic objection focuses on the complexity of Life, and how so many components are observed to interact in unique ways, that it should therefore be impossible for Life to spontaneously begin. The claim is extended, that such complexity can only begin to exist as a consequence of some sort of pre-existing complexity, usually called “an Intelligent Designer”. (Note this objection is technically equivalent to the first, that “Life can only begin to exist as a result of some action by some other Life-form”.) The reason this argument is simplistic is because it fails to specify the origin of the complexity of the Intelligent Designer. Wheredidthat complexity come from? Some other Designer? Well, where didthatcomplexity come from??? In essence, this objection to abiogenesis simply pushes back the ultimate origin ofenoughcomplexity for Life to begin to exist –it isnotan actual answer to the problem of the origin of Life’s complexity!

Before concluding this Introduction, it might be noted that there is another way of phrasing the previous objection. Basically, the overall claim is that the complexity of Life has always existed in some form or other. Unfortunately, this claim runs into a problem with respect to the age of the Universe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_the_universe In whatformcould complexity exist, prior to the beginning of the Universe? And what is the experimentally repeatable evidence supporting the existence of such a form-of-complexity? So far:none.

Ignoring such problems, even it the claim/hypothesis was completely true (that complexity equivalent to that of Life has always existed), it does not necessarily and automatically mean that abiogenesis is impossible. The hypothesis is merely a way to say that abiogenesis is not required to explain the existence of Life. But until all other possibilities have been explored and exhausted, that hypothesis cannot so far be accepted as theonlyway for Life to begin to exist. That is, paraphrasing something previously stated, the claim assumes that all possible relevant experiments never need to be conducted, and, actually, they do.

Such experiments are the only way that Science can rule out all other explanations, than the mere claim of Intelligent Design. Because the biggest problem with that hypothesis is the lack of directly-supporting evidence –it is Evidence that elevates a mere Hypothesis (“guess”) to the exalted level of “Theory”. A link: http://chemistry.about.com/od/chemistry101/a/lawtheory.htm Just aboutallthe “evidence” which supposedly supports the notion of Intelligent Design is actually nothing more than a list of objections to various details of how Life might have originated in some other way. It doesnotnecessarily follow that if some proposed abiogenesis pathway is flawed, then the hypothesis of Intelligent Design is thereby supported.Everyalternate pathway must be proved flawed, for that logic to work! Which again means that every relevant experiment needs to be conducted!

Variations On Life’s Complexity

A definition of “Life” may now be in order. In a fundamental way, the simpler the definition, the less complex Life needs to be, in order to exist at all. On the other hand, a too-simple definition means that something widely considered to be unalive, like fire, would pass muster as fitting that definition. And on the gripping hand (a term originating in science fiction, which does a lot of speculating about types of Life), a too-complicated definition

mightcause something to be excluded from acceptance as being “alive”, when actually it should be accepted. To consider just one example, refer back to the hypothesized Intelligent Designer –what are the details of its complexity, such that it can be considered equivalent to Life? Some relevant links about speculation on Life:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mote_in_God’s_Eyehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Devil_in_the_Darkhttp://www.technovelgy.com/ct/content.asp?Bnum=1779http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Von_Neumann_machinehttp://sfbook.com/code-of-the-lifemaker.htmhttp://www.jamesphogan.com/books/info.php?cmd=reviews&titleID=28http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berserker_(Saberhagen)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metamorphosis_(Star_Trek:_The_Original_Series)https://web.archive.org/web/20070528073950/http://www.holisticjunction.com/articles/1851.htmlIn general, Life is associated with certain characteristics, and something might be accepted as being alive if it exhibits most of those characteristics:

1. It is a system of subsystems. In the simplest type of Life, none of the subsystems will qualify as being alive, but the overall system will qualify.

2. It interacts with its environment in a way that allows it to maintain its existence (survive). There are at least two major aspects to this characteristic. A. One aspect is a consequence of Entropy; a life-form that just sat there would gradually deteriorate due to the action of, if nothing else, natural energetic radiation. A relevant link: http://www.bautforum.com/archive/index.php/t-39255.html Every living thing must have at least one subsystem that fights Entropy to maintain its existence. B. The external environment is subject to change, which might temporarily deprive a living thing of access to survival resources. Therefore living things tend to have at least one subsystem able to accumulate important resources internally, for use in times of external scarcity. This leads directly to the next major characteristic.

3. It tends to grow larger as time passes and it continues to interact with its environment. As just mentioned, however, periods of external scarcity sometimes affect living thing, so during such times the organism tends to grow smaller. Growth is a survival strategy, two different ways –of which the second way is the next major characteristic.

4. It generally includes at least one subsystem devoted to reproduction. Growth is often an important component of the reproductive process, since for a living thing to construct some sort of offspring-organism, the parent often first needs to grow by accumulating the necessary resources. (In times of scarcity, as previously noted, resources stored for reproductive use tend to be automatically repurposed for survival.) It happens that the mere existence of reproductive processes may qualify as evidence supporting the notion that abiogenesis might explain the origin of Life, via Evolution of imperfectly replicating molecules in the Original Primordial Soup. That’s because detailed studies of reproductive processes have led to the discovery that reproduction is a special kind of survival strategy –butonlyfor the reproductive subsystems of an organism. A link:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Selfish_GeneAnd so, no matter what exalted things that “higher” organisms might be capable of, the perspective of all reproductive subsystems is that each overall organism exists to make copies of those subsystems. It is this “low” description of Life that can link its origin to semi-random molecules getting copied in the Primordial Soup –Life originated as nothing more than a more-efficient way to make lots of copies. And that description is supported by the known facts that not only are the reproductive subsystems independent from the subsystems that help a life-form survive, they also can actually work at cross-purposes to any survival goal of the whole organism. For example, many organisms die shortly after reproducing, yet some can significantly extend their lifespans by simply postponing reproduction. A link:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monarch_(butterfly)Such evidence suggests that if the definition of “alive” is approached from the moral high ground, then the ability to reproduce is not absolutely required for something to meet that definition. Some organisms are well-known to be alive yet unable to reproduce, after all –the word “mule” is almost synonymous with “infertile”. On the other hand, a mulehasa reproductive subsystem; it is simply a flawed subsystem.

Employing the preceding requirements, it can be seen that “fire” does not qualify as alive, because it lacks the complexity of Item 1 (“a system of subsystems”). A virus also does not qualify, because it is basically just a subsystem. A virus also fails because of Item 2A; it can become nonfunctional if damaged by radiation. But a complex-enough electronic/mechanial device (with self-fueling and self-repairing functionality) might well qualify as being as much alive as a bacterial cell.

In this Knol, since it is about abiogenesis, it is necessary to follow the “low” route that links reproduction with the origin of Life. Meanwhile, those who like the Intelligent Design hypothesis might consider some logical consequences of claims of “Infinite Capabilities” that are sometimes made about the Designer. For example, if Life can be Constructed by a such a Designer, then a mere finite subsystem of the Designer –too small to be noticed when compared to Infinity– could be permanently reserved to automatically Construct ordinary –and certainly finite!– life-forms. Whole-world ecosystems full of life-forms could easily be Constructed that way, andnosingle life-form on any world would ever needs to incorporate a reproductive subsystem! Furthermore, considering that the Designer is also claimed to be Perfect, why couldn’t those life-forms be Designed to be immortal (a kind of Perfection)? And note there would be no need for life-forms to be competitive, especially to the extent of eating each other. Also, any life-form that dies by accident could simply be replaced by a new Construction, because the effort to Construct any finite thing isalwaysequivalent-to-nothing when compared to Infinity. A relevant link:http://www.mathdb.org/notes_download/elementary/algebra/ae_A10.pdfWhy, then,doall known life-forms incorporate (imperfect!!!) reproductive subsystems, lack individual immortality*, and compete viciously for resources, thereby making a Designer/ Constructor totally unnecessary? Perhaps the Designer is not-so-Infinitely Capable or Perfect, after all? Perhaps a Designer never even existed in the first place, and the proponents of that hypothesis haven’t a clue, regarding the logical consequences of what they are talking about!

(*Bacteria are sometimes called “immortal”, but in actual fact, when an individual bacterium divides, its offspring are not always absolutely identical to the parent, else bacterial Evolution –such as is associated with resistance to antibacterial drugs– would be impossible. Saying, “the parent isreplacedby the offspring” is the more-accurate way to describe this kind of reproduction-related non-individual pseudo-immortality.)

Some Crude Complexity Calculations

There is some dispute that Evolution cannot have yielded the enormous complexity represented by Life. The following delimited text contains assumptions regarding that claim, and calculations based on those assumptions. The author (“FutureIncoming”) claims that when it was first written, the assumptions were made blindly, not knowing in the least what the result would be. The starting point was to simply try to make reasonable assumptions. At the end of the text is an invitation for others to refine the assumptions and calculations, as may be appropriate.

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Let’s pretend we have a group of simple molecules. Let’s now make two assumptions, that after Energy and Time have affected those molecules, one tenth of them will have combined to make molecules that are twice as complex. {We do have experimental verification that Energy and Time can indeed provide opportunities for simple molecules to combine into more complex molecules.} After more time, one-tenth of those more-complex molecules combine to create more new molecules, again twice as complex. Suppose we extrapolated that trend, until “complexity-of-Life” resulted; how many original simple molecules are we talking about?

Well, first let’s arbitrarily pick something as an example of life’s complexity: mitochondria, which are bacteria-like things that exist inside most eukarote cells (like those of the human body). Mitochondria can reproduce and by themselves meet a number of characteristics of living organisms, but they are also somewhat stripped-down, being symbiotic with the cells that they inhabit. They do not need much in the way of defenses against other organisms; the eukarote host cells do that for them. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondria

So : a mitochondria has roughly 16,500 bases with 13 recognized genes in its DNA, and physically is, roughly, a cylinder ~1 micrometer in diameter and ~1-10 micrometers in length –let’s use 5 micrometers of length. Next, how many atoms can fit inside a cylinder of that size? Well, an atom is measured in Angstrom Units, a ten-billionth of a meter (1 micrometer is 10,000 Angstroms), and most atoms range in diameter from 1 to 5 Angstroms. http://mimp.mems.cmu.edu/~ordofmag/atomsize.htm. Since the molecules associated with Life are overwhelmingly more often small than large, we’ll select 2 as the average. The occasional big cesium atom that some life-form might require is more-than-balanced by many many tiny carbon and hydrogen atoms.

Now to compute: The formula for a cylinder is (height)*(pi)*(radius-squared). If we convert the chosen mitochondria cylinder to Angstroms we get: (50,000)*(3.14)*(500-squared), or 39.25 billion cubic Angstroms. The formula for a sphere is (4/3)*(pi)*(radius-cubed), so using that on our chosen average atom-size we get (4/3)*(3.14)*(1-cubed), or 4.187 cubic Angstoms. Dividing that into the other number tells us how many atoms fit into the mitochondria cylinder: 9,375,000,000 (9.375 billion). If we assume a simple molecule has four atoms (water has three, ammonia has four, methane has five), then we divide again to see how many simple molecules could have been combined, in multitudinous ways, to make up the complex parts of a living mitochondria cell: 2.344 billion.

Let us now pretend that that is equivalent to one huge complex molecule, and go back to the very first assumptions of this exercise: One tenth of a group of simple molecules combine to make other molecules that are twice as complex. If that happens in stages multiple times, and the end-result is a complex that started out as 2.344 billion simple molecules, how many total molecules did the very first stage start with? This is easy to compute, by first figuring how many doublings occurred, to yield that complex of 2.344 billion combined molecules: 31-and-a-fraction; call it 32. (That is, if you start with any single thing and double it 32 times, you will end up with well over 2.344 billion of them Alternately, if you start with some exceedingly complex thing that contains 2.344 billion combined molecules, and cut it in half 32 times, you will have divided it into separate small molecules before the last cut is finished.)

The pretense involved here is the assembly of billions of small molecules into a complex whole. The above phrase “one huge complex molecule” should be seen as at least partly equivalent to “the right parts in the right places”. Especially when we include the fact that much of molecular biology is simple key-in-lock mechanics, and that most “wrong” molecules just don’t fit (can’t become part of the complex whole; this is related to the fact that Chemistry is not totally random).

Next, because we’ve associated each doubling of complexity with one-tenth of some initial quantity, then when we consider such events in reverse we need to multiply that combination of 2.344 billion molecules by ten, 32 times, in order to discover how many individual molecules were needed at the very start of the complexification process: 2.344 x 10-to-the-41st-power.

That’s a lot, but we need a better mental picture of it There is a unit in Chemistry called “the mole”, which is 6.02 x 10-to-the-23rd; it is a factor that lets Atomic Weight be converted into grams (a mole of hydrogen atoms weighs about 1 gram; a mole of oxygen atoms weighs about 16 grams, and so on). We need a reasonable weight for that “average” 4-atom molecule, and might arbitrarily choose 26, the weight of 4-atom acetylene. The hope is that this number is more than what a more-rigorous version of this computation would use, so that it could not be said that we were too lenient in these assumptions. (Note that for most living cells, more than 80% of their molecules are plain uncombined water, which weighs about 18 grams per mole –and these calculations are including those water molecules as if they were all part of the final super-combination, after 32 stages of complexification. So, the presence of that water balances the presence of other/heavier simple molecules, when an average molecular weight of 26 is used.)

Okay, we now compute: divide 2.344x10E41 by 6.02x10E23 to see how many moles of simple molecules we have been playing with: 3.89x10E17. Multiply that by 26 to find out how many grams that is: just over 10-to-the-19th power (10E19). Divide that by one million to convert grams to metric tons: 10E13, ten trillion metric tons of simple molecules. How does this compare to all the organic matter (made from simple molecules!) at the Earth’s surface regions? One estimate is 10E16 tons (or 10E19 kilograms), or one thousand times the amount needed by the above calculations. A link: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11860&page=88 Therefore it seemsmathematically reasonablethat upon the Earth enough simple molecules existed (by a factor of a thousand!), which, under the influence of Time and Energy,couldhave combined to form more complex molecules, at a rate of one-tenth-per-doubling, until complexities equivalent to that needed by Life was achieved.

Yes, that is not the same thing as Life itself forming, but at least we can see that the background requirement –some minimum quantity of pre-complexity molecules needed to exist long before Life could, eventually, use a small fraction of them, after complexification– appears not to be prohibited! And, of course, the Earth is not considered to be the only place in the universe where simple organic molecules have had opportunities to combine into more complex ones. The Panspermia hypothesis increases the chance that Life came about, during interactions between complex molecules, by multiplying the preceding result by however-many planets were brewing complex molecules over billions of years. Could be millions or billions of planets in this Galaxy alone. Some links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panspermiaandhttp://news.discovery.com/space/kepler-scientist-galaxy-is-rich-in-earth-like-planets.html

Rephrasing some of the preceding (an attempt to simplify it), we are talking about the complexity of life as compared to the simple molecules which combined to yield that complexity. So consider a simple three-layer pyramid: (1) the bottom layer has 400 molecules at first. (2) Forty of these combine to make twenty molecules that are twice as complex, the second layer. (3) Two molecules from the second layer combine to form one new molecule for the third layer, also twice as complex as before. That’s using the main assumption, that one-tenth of the molecules combine to make twice the complexity. The above calculations started with complexity-of-life, one organism, at the top, figured out how many pyramid-layers it was from the bottom (about 32), and then computed how many simple molecules had to exist at the bottom layer: Ten trillion tons of them. Which is a thousandth of the estimated existing organic matter in the world.

In defense of the definition of “complexity” used here, we’ve made part of the problem harder than that simplification suggests by itself. Something like 80-90% of a living cell (depending on what you are measuring) are simple uncombined water molecules, after all, yet we have included that in the “total complexity”. Next, note how “all the organic matter at the Earth’s surface regions” is compared to the complexity of a life-form in a way that lets us pretend that the water inside a life-form counts as organic matter–when of course it actually isn’t. And we used a medium-sized mitochondria cell, whereas the simplest known bacteria are rather smaller (and the very first bacterium would logically have been simpler yet, not having evolved defenses against others). It is partly because of those kinds of assumptions/pretenses that others are invited (below) to use different ones that might be more appropriate/accurate. The goal here-and-now is to get a ballpark figure more than anything else. If the early Earth had, according to this result, materiel allowing a thousand different places simultaneously where molecular complexity could approach Life, then those more accurate calcs should yield many times more opportunities. And that, combined with molecular biology’s key-in-lock stuff that derives from the non-random parts of Chemistry, is what the pro-abiogenesis people have going for them, when some different interpretation of “complexity” is introduced.

Finally, we could note that none of the above pays attention to how much time each step took place, where the assumed one-tenth of molecules combined into double complexity. However, if it can be assumed that the first step took one month, and each succeeding step took twice as long, then the total time is about 2-to-the-33rd-power months, which is somewhat more than 700 million years. A decent chunk of Geological Time, that. Well, actually we have evidence for a faster speed of the first appearance of Life on Earth; it is known that Life did appear almost as soon as it was possible (the Earth had to cool from the molten state first, and the oceans had to stop boiling as fast as the rain fell). Perhaps as little as two hundred million years after the oceans stabilized, the evidence suggests. That would be more like counting doublings of weeks instead of months (about 165 million years). http://www.accessexcellence.org/BF/bf02/awramik/bf02a3.php

{This delimited block of text is freely offered to anyone who would like to post it elsewhere, for anyone who might like to apply more rigor to the ideas/assumptions therein.}

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There is one relevant factor, regarding the time-scale for abiogenesis, that was not mentioned in any of FutureIncoming’s postings. This factor is the temperature of the oceans. While it was mentioned that the Primordial Soup could not exist until after the oceans stopped boiling as fast as the rain fell, it logically follows that for some significant time after the oceans stopped boiling, the average temperature of seawater was rather higher than it is today. And it is extremely well known that chemical reactions of all sorts can happen more quickly at elevated temperatures, compared to low temperatures. Those two facts could allow at least some of the steps leading to abiogenesis to occur much more quickly on the early Earth than when considering the requirements relative to today’s Earth. And even though some steps leading to abiogenesis may be precluded by high temperatures –(because important proteins can be destroyed by heat; too much of a good thing is always a bad thing!)– the slowly cooling Earth obviously could offer conditions allowing such steps to eventually occur. On the other hand, keep in mind that some bacteria are quite happy in near-boiling water; not all life-related proteins get destroyed by heat! http://serc.carleton.edu/microbelife/extreme/extremeheat/index.html

Some Other Observations by FutureIncoming (edited by Vernon Nemitz)

I am getting the impression that some particular explanation is being referenced as “the theory of abiogenesis”, even though it is not detailed. But without such details, just about anything could be called a “theory of abiogenesis”. Consider the Intelligent Design notion: The Designer plays with ordinary building-block molecules until an assemblage of them can be “activated” (kind of like starting a fire). Obviously (and solely because all the building-blocks were unliving) the assembling/activation-processcouldbe called “life from non-life” or “abiogenesis”.

The non-I.D. version, of course, simply assumes that if enough building-blocks are lying around, and if they are able to interact in enough different ways, then an equivalent assemblage will eventually form, with “activation” merely being the perfectly natural result of interaction between that assemblage with various independent/loose molecules.

In either case we are essentially saying that abiogenesis is a fact. If it is not a fact, then what is the alternative explanation? It must account for both the origin of Life, when every studied molecule in every Life-form, by itself, is an unliving thing — and it must account for the fact that Life does a huge amount of interacting with unliving molecules.

One objection to abiogenesis was phrased this way (by a poster using the handle “Lex_Luthor”): “inanimate matter bouncing off each inanimate matter results in inanimate matter”

Such a statement is an attempt to claim that animate and inanimate matter are inherently different from each other (“vitalism” is not yet dead!!!). If so, then a truly crucial Question might be this: “Is it considered a fact that the animate form of matter, called Life, could have started its animation spontaneously?” Lex_Luthor is clearly claiming the answer is “NO”, that some Outside Initial Event was required to start the animation of Life, while others and I would argue that the answer is “YES”.

Because mere bouncings are not the only things that can happen. Sometimes they stick/combine. Sometimes both collidants break apart. Sometimes the pieces recombine in different ways than before. And one thing that is known to happen occasionally is Spontaneous Combustion, when certain conditions are met. Next, while the phrase “chain reaction” is most often used with respect to nuclear reactors, the phrase is also applicable to such things as campfires (the fire burns one fresh piece of wood at a time) and chain-smoking. Well, a living organism encompasses a chain of chemical reactions, also, and merely “burns” slower than a fire. Certainlysomeof those reactions could have started spontaneously, simply because we know that Spontaneous (and rapid) Combustion is possible. Note we also know that spontaneous dead-slow combustion is possible (rusting iron). It should therefore be logically sensible that low-speed (or modest-speed) combustion (as Life) could also occur spontaneously. After all, there aren’t any Natural Laws or Constants that apply to both extremes but not the middle!

Also, consider the cliche` “Nothing lasts forever.” The logical corollary is, “Nothing has ever lasted forever.” Thus, if the cliche` is a Truth, then it is inescapable that at one time biological Life did not exist (else it must have lasted forever). And the consequences of that Truth is that abiogenesis of some variety would have to be a fact.

Possibly the most significant objection, regarding the above calculations, is that they are simplistic in the sense that the “complexity” it examines is rather more generic than specific. A major argument against abiogenesis, after all, is that Life containsorganizationalcomplexity, not just molecular complexity. Very specific molecules do very specific things (and often in a very specific sequence) in a life-form, after all, and these molecules could easily be lost in the vast numbers of possible molecules that are equally complex, yet useless for Life.

On the other hand, here is a link describing some very special experimentation that has been done, which possibly has yielded one of the most important discoveriesever , with respect to the power of Evolution, by a fellow name Adrian Thompson: http://cs.nyu.edu/courses/fall10/G22.2965-001/geneticalgex The discovery that was made is simply the fact that Evolution can, with materials that happen to be available, accomplish unexpected and extremely subtle things. Evolution does not insist that certain special gross characteristics must exist in advance of the result that gets achieved by the Evolutionary process. It means that although various (or even all) existing life-forms might happen to use one particular set of molecules, in a certain sequence to accomplish a certain thing (as a “subsystem”), there could be other molecules/sequences/subsystems that can also work to accomplish it. One well-known piece of evidence, supporting the truth of that, can be presented as two words: “hemoglobin” and “hemocyanin”. Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemoglobinandhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemocyanin (And for a variety of other subsystems that are different-yet-equivalent: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaea )

The aforementioned discovery is so significant it will be mentioned more than once in this Knol. That’s because a major assumption of the opponents of Evolutionary Theory is that the subsystems of molecular biology seem too fine-tuned to be a consequence of semi-Random molecular mixing and Environmental Selection. For example, can billions of years of Evolutionary competition (not only among themselves, but also against viruses)really explain how even the smallest bacteria are doing complex and subtle things, like making a variety of proteins that can handle two different precision jobs, not just one? Some links: http://www.che.tamu.edu/news/2011/01/14/research-shows-bacteria-provide-example-of-one-of-natures-first-immune-systemsand/http://scitechstory.com/2010/05/12/confirmation-quantum-entanglement-in-photosynthesisand/http://www.physorg.com/news181239259.html Yet Thomson learned that an equivalent Evolutionary process could achieve very significant subtlety and fine-tuning, with a subsystem involving electronic circuitry, in only 4100 generations. What might Nature have accomplished with molecular biology in its first 200 million years? Although bacteria must first exist in order to divide, it is notable that many varieties of bacteria can swap genes cross-species, and many can also divide (produce the next generation) at a rate of once per day: http://www.genethik.de/gene_swapping.htmandhttp://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100318141544.htm There could have been the equivalent of a lot of generations in the roughly 200 million years that preceded the appearance of the first bacterium on Earth….

Please now recall something written early on, that some objections to abiogenesis are simplistic in that they assume all possible relevant experiments have been conducted. Obviously a thoroughly observed experiment in a laboratory, involving ten trillion metric tons of simple and organic molecules, and 200 million years of time, has yet to be done!

(End of Part 1. This article had a length problem that was not apparent when it was originally converted from a Google Knol. The problem was discovered only when some new material was added to it a few months ago –the tail of the article got chopped off. As a result, it became reasonable to choose a specific break-point, and divide it into a two-part article. Therefore, please continue reading in Part 2.