On the origins of life - (Nov/03/2013 )
Current definitions of life find it difficult to normally include viruses and prions without adding sub-definitions, exceptions, etc. Viruses and prions are the simplest known organisms and one idea is to study the functions of the most simple organisms and let them dictate what is life and build a new model and accommodate it in the larger scale. As we know, viruses as living beings exist only in a changing state.
But all life exists only in a changing state and living material can be further reduced and divided till the point we have a single chemical reaction. So , life is a sum of countless chemical reactions. Obviously in the past they were much fewer so we must assume that a source of energy (sun) caused a burst of reactions in terms of number and complexity. But giving energy to increase the number of reactions just leads to mindless chaotic and random reactions. It also suggests that each organism is a system of random chemical reactions, or else a chemical mindless automaton.
This seems pretty naïve as a conception because we know that reactions follow very precise patterns and in fact, can be viewed as being directed by other complex processes and pattern driving structures. But..a) If we consider the whole living system as a unique individual entity, it seems not to have any specific pattern and b) remember who is the reference frame! YOU! Or else a sum of chemical reactions, inside the system which it judges. The cause observed by the result.
After all, what would happen in a growing number of random chemical reactions after billions of years? A) Eventually some sticky reactions would lead to adhesion of molecules that would attract others as well, converting the procedure from diffuse to multifocal, allowing forms to be created, B) the reactions with repeatability that occur in a somewhat cyclical manner would survive in the long term, because they will not lead to a dead end and c) the reactions that will survive after billions of years will do it because these specific reactions pose surviving capacities over other. From our point of view (perspective) B is perceived as reproduction and C as evolution. What I try to say is that even we were indeed some automaton chemical reactions, even the fact that these reactions continue to happen makes them successful to our eyes regardless of how this happened. These reactions survived and there was a history behind this.
Human position in the system can explain everything. Both life and fire are chemical reactions but fire is very simple with no functional resemblance with us to perceived as life.
Proposed experimental testing:
Due to the fact that even the most simple organisms are very complicating and their precise interreactions with the environment are difficult to be estimated, it is difficult to create an experiment to test IF living beings actually behave as chemical automatons. Here are some ideas though:
A If a living organism is a sum of chemical reactions, then the components of food intake are the first substrates and the excreted products are the last elements. By changing the food and also the pace of feeding, one can observe the way the organism performs some functions, for instance if the organism is an automaton, in certain feeding conditions one can observe extreme outlier values. The latter won’t be observed if the organism is self-regulating (self sustained).
B) Testing if feeding identical organisms (clones) with the same food in an identical manner and under identical conditions would produce exactly the same amount of waste products plus the error factor ε, or noise, produced by various unpredictable factors. Only if the organism is a system of random chemical reactions, it will behave mechanistically and will produce reproducible results.
The factor ε must follow a normal distribution as known by statistics.
C) If we have clones of the same simple organism and we study them into the same conditions and we give the exact food, then if these organisms are just random chemical reactions, their lifespan could be predicted as a result of multiple linear regression. The dependent variable y (or else the lifespan) would be: y=a+a1x1+a2x2+…….aνxν+aωxω+ε where ε is the error variable and x1,x2…xν the various explanatory variables and a,a1,a2…av the effects or regressor coefficients and aωxω measures the feeding speed effect.
If these clones share everything in common(e.g environmental factors, temperature etc) except the pace with which they are fed and if we secure that actually these organisms absorb exactly the same nutrients, but differ only in the pace they absorb them, then all the parameters of the linear regression will be the same for all clones except the speed factor, or else lifespan=y=aωxω+B+ε (where B=a+a1x1+a2x2+….avxv and it is the same for all organisms), or else we have a simple linear regression. Thus, if we avoid extremes in feeding pace and we assume no collinearities caused by it, then at a certain pace range we would expect lifespan to be linearly correlated with the feeding pace. (ATTENTION: The regressors x do not represent the reactions, but rather represent the effects of some “x” factors. Once again, if the organism is a system of random chemical reactions, it will behave mechanistically and will produce reproducible results. I agree that it is difficult to completely isolate the system from all possible disturbing factors, but if their influence is chaotic and random for all experimental individuals, i think that their influence as a total can be satisfactorily represented by ε , or else the error term or noise in the formula of the final linear regression.
D) One can also test the way the living forms and their functions are decaying when they move to more hostile conditions on earth, such as extreme temperatures, deep ocean etc. Do they decay as if they where random chemical reactions or in an other way, e.g. self-sustaining organsms?
And your point is???
All your experimental designs are completely untestable, and as such unscientific...
Take for instance Krebs Cycle. It is insanely complex! And it is only one cellular process. If you add all the reactions in the human organism, i don't know if the days of earth would have been enough even if one novel reaction was created every single day! What is funny though is that we are the ones that study the process. For observers not involved in the living system (e.g. a space rock), Krebs Cycle reactions are only meaningless reactions...
I want to ask you your opinion.
Are these reactions extremely sophisticated, or we have a case here in which the causes are observed by the result?
There's nothing novel in this thinking - it has been around at least as long as people have been thinking about the possiblity of extraterrestrial life. How would we recognize a silicon based life form? for example. Check out Carl Sagan's books for more.
The reality is that evolution and creationism are one and the same. Everything is constantly being created, and that creation is always something new and different. Nothing stays the same, not even for a split second. We feel a need to break down and label every single aspect of creation, but the reality is that the term “is” is the only label we need. Everything just is, exactly as it is, in every single moment. Everything influences everything else, and what everything becomes is dictated by what everything currently is all together. Anyway, I really like the post and enjoy the thoughts you share. Keep on sharing great posts!
well, as i see, we agree that our specific perception (caused by the fact that we ourselves are reactions) influences the way we perceive biological phenomena and in extreme cases we can even blur the limit between life forms and simple chemical reactions, especially when they are not close to our own way of functioning. Moreover, as i explained in the beggining of this post, even complex random reactions can be perceived as sophisticated if the reference frame is the result of these reactions. In this case we don't we assume that life is just a sum of chemical reactions spontaneously and randomly occuring on earth, and its only us that get tricked due to our position inside the system.
Simple as that!! No need for smart genes, selfish genes, meteorites, primrdial soups, RNA world and other non working theories.
And apart from the answer it provides to our questions, this is also a knowledge with practical
meaning. I will explain:
If life is a system of random reactions, this means that genes are only a part of the system of reactions, not the starting point. This explains why till now there have not been developed any gene therapies, as was expected. Replacing a gene rarely fixes everything. Molecular therapies in cancer were also marked with limited success despite high initial expectations. We see lately that tumor cell-stromal interactions are more important that any single tumor cell genetic deregulation. This also means that even second generation sequencing will provide only modest benefit in treating diseases, despite the enthusiasm. Not to mention the limitations in regenerative medicine and life extension research if the random chemical reaction system is the true one. Waste of time, especially for the latter.
Only the whole mapping of reactions can significantly alter the future of humanity and technological leaps during the last decades convinces us that it is only a matter of years. All other efforts are doomed to limited success!
Possibly you were referring to Greame's post rather than mine... However:
The definitions for life as we know it are relatively constrained - it must metabolize, be self-replicating, homeostatic, self-organizing, adapitive and respond to stimuli, but this still doesn't easily include things like viruses (which most people would recognize as life forms), but does exclude things like prions (thought to be chemical reactions). Your thought that we are tautologic, is as old as Descartes (Cogito ergo sum), but still doesn't exclude those models we have for the origins of life - all of them assume that there was a random start to life!
The fact that we can see the same result every time we trigger a certain gene (in isolation) means that there is indeed hope for gene therapy (there are a few that work in mice, but it takes an incredibly long time, 20 years or more, to get them through regulatory environments. We have many that work in plants!), the major problem is that we just don;t know enough about the total environment, and have few means (yet, they are coming) of working with the multivariate systems that all cellular environments are. So the fault is not with how we perceive our chemistry, but rather that we just haven't developed the tools far enough, and as yet don't know enough about all the reactions that are going on (investigate the expansion of the "omes" such as the proteome and metabolome, in biology lately)