Origin of Life theories attempt to account for the transition from prebiotic matter to biotic matter. Beginning with Darwin’s warm little pond and continuing through the present day, scientists have tried to explain how this intuitively unlikely jump could have been made. In his wonderful article On the Origins of Life (here), David Berlinski summarizes some of the more important assumptions scientists must make in trying to resolve this weighty question:
“First, that the pre-biotic atmosphere was chemically reductive; second, that nature found a way to synthesize cytosine; third, that nature also found a way to synthesize ribose; fourth, that nature found the means to assemble nucleotides into polynucleotides; fifth, that nature discovered a self-replicating molecule; and sixth, that having done all that, nature promoted a self-replicating molecule into a full system of coded chemistry.”
As I was contemplating this issue, something occurred to me. Why are scientists taking on such a hard job up front? Why not start with an easier problem and gradually increase complexity. Instead of starting from nothing and trying to work forward to a full-blown living being, why don’t they start with “almost everything” and work their way backwards?
This is what I mean. Some enterprising researcher eager for a trip to Oslo should take the very simplest single-celled critter he can find and bump it off. Then he can take the recently bumped off critter and zap it with electricity or something and make it come back to life. The critter was, by definition, not alive, so in a sense we can call it prebiotic matter. But after the zapping stage of the experiment, the critter will be alive (or at least undead). This will prove that living things can come from non-living matter.
This experiment should be easy. There are gazillions of very simple single-celled critters running around who, I am certain, would be honored to help advance our understanding of science. Some of them may even be publicity hounds and therefore eager to be the subject of a Nobel prize winning experiment. Not even PETA would object to bumping off a couple of these wee beasties in the interest of earth-shattering scientific progress.
On the other hand, it seems like this experiment would involve a huge risk for metaphysical materialists. In my experiment the non-living matter has every single building block of life readily to hand. Unlike present origin of life research, no one has to conjure up any critical ingredients through convenient assumptions. The only thing that is missing is the mysterious “anima” of living things. But if the researcher can’t make this stuff come alive (or undead) under such ideal conditions, isn’t the attempt to come up with a plausible origin of life scenario under far less propitious circumstances utterly doomed to failure?
I’m sure I’m not the first person who has thought of this. What say our intrepid readers?