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Could original life forms have been completely different from today?

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Physical organic chemist Michael Page asks that at The Conversation:

Living systems are chemically based and therefore must obey the laws of science. Life appears to be just a series of chemical reactions – and we now understand how these reactions work at the molecular level. So surely this should tell us how life came about?

But what are the laws of science?

We are still looking for dark matter, and some would wish away the current Higgs boson.

The assumption that early life forms must have been similar to what we see today may be preventing us from answering this question. It’s possible that there were many unsuccessful precursors that bore little resemblance to present-day life. There has been speculation that primitive starting points could even have been based around an element other than carbon (the substance at the heart of all life today). Some researchers suggest that life may have originally evolved in liquids other than water. These alternatives are fascinating, but it’s difficult to find a starting point for researching them because they are so unfamiliar.

It’s the same problem as with intelligent non-carbon-based life forms or alternative universes that don’t obey our laws of physics. It may be true but…  then how does one research it?

A key trait that sets life apart from inanimate matter is its reliance on organisation. Molecules must be arranged in a specific way and replicate according to a detailed pattern. But the natural tendency of the whole universe is towards a state of equilibrium, or balance – where everything is spread out and nothing is ordered. Maintaining an ordered structure means life is constantly off-balance and this requires energy, which organisms must extract from their surroundings. More.

Which is why some think that the answer lies not in chemistry but in a better understanding of information (Page calls it “organisation” above).

See also: What we know and don’t, about the origin of life


What is information anyway? Some proposed answers

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jimmonyg, your #2 : There actually COULD be unicorns. We don't actually KNOW FOR SURE that there aren't.... etc, etc, etc. Anything but that foot in the door... Axel
I heard what seemed an extraordinary thing last night; or so it seemed to me, in the light of the discussions on here. I was talking on the phone to a cousin of mine, who is a retired solicitor, and one day a week gives her services as a kind of guide to school-children around a science museum. She's not particularly 'into' science or anything like that, and told me she didn't, herself, know anything about Einstein or 'that sort of thing'. So, I said to her, rather tentatively, did you know that Evolution was a myth ? To my amazement, she laughed and said everyone knew that ! And by the way, she's not particularly religious. How about that ? Things are really moving, it seems. The requisite number of funerals of scientists must be reaching its threshold for that long overdue acceptance ! Axel
PS, we will need a metabolic automaton, with a complex array of often endothermic reactions,often involving promoters and energy batteries. This will require encapsulation to shield from a hostile environment, with gating for taking in and putting out. And an integral self-replication facility. It is unlikely these will all handily come with one molecular species, so the self replication will have to be a code using von Neumann kinematic self replicator that codes for the components. At least to be relevant to life as observed. kairosfocus
GP, fact, Fact, FACT, mon! KF kairosfocus
The simple truth: No form of autonomous life simpler than prokaryotes is known. gpuccio
Newton, General Scholium, Principia: >>I have not as yet been able to discover the reason for these properties of gravity from phenomena, and I do not feign hypotheses [= Hypotheses non fingo]. For whatever is not deduced from the phenomena must be called a hypothesis; and hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, or based on occult qualities, or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy. In this philosophy particular propositions are inferred from the phenomena, and afterwards rendered general by induction.>> kairosfocus
I really have a problem with this type of mindset. The " Maybe molecules behaved differently than they do now" mindset. " It’s possible that there were many unsuccessful precursors that bore little resemblance to present-day life." I find it remarkable what they will say to protect the atheistic worldview. Like "We just haven't discovered the mechanism yet that proves that something can come from nothing." The "Evolution did it", mantra. Millions of life forms here on Earth, millions throughout history. Yet they all developed from the two forms of bacteria found in the fossil record 3.6 billion years ago. Here is something else I've wondered about. When a new species does evolve, why doesn't it just interbreed and cause it's own extinction? Where would it's necessarily huge gene pool come from? It is a worldview that takes Faith, just the same as religion does. Whether they like it or not. This isn't the same kind of faith when we assume that the Laws Of Gravity work just the same on the other side of the Universe type of faith. It is the kind of faith that claims that since my Atheism is true then it MUST be this way and that is religious type faith if ever there was one. To believe in a Worldview that you cannot possibly prove is true creating beliefs based upon said view without any scientific proof is Faith. jimmontg
They could have been but it all depends on what Darwinists are going to come up with... With the fast emerging evidence, more and more hardcore Darwinists will retire, just like Coyne recently did, and some of the shameless ones will delete their posts and pretend that they never predicted things. I actually have screen pictures of Coyne, Moran, Graur, really committing to junk DNA. Unfortunately, they already seem to have a back plan as to what function means and is. When someone is married to his or her beliefs, he/she will ALWAYS find an excuse not to face the reality. Nobody can help them. Even God. Why should He? J-Mac

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