The automagically unconstrained origin of life

Science 17 January 2014: Vol. 343 no. 6168 pp. 259-260 DOI: 10.1126/science.1246704

Perspective /Biochemistry

Many Paths to the Origin of Life [subscription may be required]

Excerpt: The great benefit of the demonstration of prebiotic amino acid synthesis from a simple gas mix and an electrical spark was not that it was a cookbook for how things occurred, but rather that it was the identification of a plausible path to an origin of life that would continue to bear experimental fruit.

This simple-minded wild speculation across disciplines ignores biophysical constraints that Darwin referred to as ‘conditions of life.’  Life is automagically unconstrained despite that fact that we now know biophysical constraints prevent self -organization and self-replication of genes in living cells. For example, amino acids are required for the de novo creation of genes in cell types that are subsequently epigenetically differentiated.

Prebiotic amino acid synthesis may appear to be a plausible path to an origin of life.  But only for those who ignore “…the unexpectedly essential role for sodium-coordinating amino acids as efficacy switches…” in the glucose-dependent ligand-receptor binding that enables nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled ecological adaptations. These ecological adaptations occur after unicellular organisms with the ability to control the epistasis of protein folding somehow automagically arise from what is typically represented as a biophysically unconstained prebiotic chaos.

Thus, the question arises: Were the epistatically-controlled thermodynamics of intercellular signaling and organism-level thermoregulation apparent before or after amino acid substitutions in viruses such as what’s known today as the human influenza virus enabled viral epistasis via self / non-self recognition and the automagical manifestation of antigenic properties? As always, there will be little discussion of why the simple gas mix and electrical spark did not vaporize the sodium or the sodium-coordinating amino acids that enabled the required protein folding that led to the first cell membrane and everything else. It just happened is all the explanation that’s required because that’s what’s being taught about mutation-driven evolution, since natural selection has been extracted from that ridiculous theory. “…as random mutations arise, complexity emerges as a side effect, even without natural selection to help it along. Complexity, they say, is not purely the result of millions of years of fine-tuning through natural selection—the process that Richard Dawkins famously dubbed “the blind watchmaker.” To some extent, it just happens.

It’s fitting to add back something automagically unconstrained to the theory of the origin of life that also “just happens.” That way, everything about the origins of cells and nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled organismal complexity that results from ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction can simply be attributed to whatever happened to “just happen” to result from a simple gas mix and an electrical spark. No matter how much that sounds like unadulterated nonsense, it will be taught to students along with the theory of mutation-driven evolution. Adding theory to theory is what people who do not understand science must do. Most scientists are biophysically constrained from doing that.

Author: James Kohl

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