Fin al word

The origin of life is a topic that strains the boundaries of science, for reasons we outlined earlier in the chapter. There is far more speculation and argument than evidence. Some readers might therefore consider the subject unworthy of serious consideration.

However, a comment by Morowitz is worth quoting: all today's cells in all today's organisms are genetic and metabolic fossils of the earliest life. The way we are made carries the stamp of our origin. Life on Earth has memory and it remembers its birth. If we are to understand life completely, we need to understand its origin.

Moreover, investigating the origin of life has produced interesting and provocative ideas. No matter how sceptical we might be about (for example) the Miller-Urey experiment and the RNA world hypothesis, these and other contributions to the field have stimulated sound scientific work that has yielded useful knowledge in chemistry and other fields. Many debates about the origin of life have brought together information from astronomy, geology, biology and chemistry in novel and informative ways. This synthesis would not have happened otherwise. And as we said in the first chapter of this book, ideas are enjoyable in themselves if we can hone them by rational debate; particularly when the ideas concern such an intrinsically fascinating topic as the origin of life.

But the ideas that have blossomed indicate that most of our thinking on the subject has progressed significantly only at the molecular level. We seem to be as far as we ever were from understanding how the collective structure of the cell came into being. In this respect, Prigorgine's and Kauffman's ideas hold a special place in the literature. If they can be combined productively with (say) the Cairns-Smith model, as we speculated, then there might be truly radical progress in our understanding of the origin of life.

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