I was reading my latest Scientific American. I started off with a cover story, an article about a new theory on the origin of life. And for once in my life, I actually had something to add to their theory.
Here’s the jist of the article: whereas, in the past, most theories about the origin of life had been based on the idea of the spontaneous generation of RNA (ribonucleic acid), which has the curious property of being able to copy itself under the right cirumstances, but is hugely unlikely to arise at random, the writers of the article propose that life actually may have begun as simple self-sustaining chemical reactions. For example, suppose that one of these primitive organisms consisted of chemicals A, B, and C. The organism takes X from the environment, and in a reaction, converts X to Y, releasing energy, and re-creating the initial reactants (this time in greater number). Such a chemical organism would be able to utilize energy and reproduce in the traditional sense, and does not require the highly unlikely spontaneous generation of RNA.
Later, while I was thinking about the concepts in the article, I began to wonder what might happen if two of these primitive metabolic organisms were to merge by accident. If there was any chance coupling of some of the reactions taking place in the individual organisms, there might be some benefit to be had in their union. Thus, the evolution of such organisms could take place at a very fast pace, and such unions might also help explain how metabolic reactions became so complex.
I know you’re tired of hearing it, but I’m going to say it anyway: just food for thought…