In “Harvard University and The Jeffrey Epstein Foundation Search for the Origin of Life” (Business Journals May 14, 2012), we learn:
“Prelife morphs into life when replication occurs,” Martin Novak asserted, Director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics and Professor of Mathematics and Biology at Harvard. “There are many attributes necessary for life,” he explains, “and it’s not clear whether metabolism came first or replication. But replication sets evolution into full motion, dramatically distinguishing life from prelife. It’s the mechanism that allows for efficiency and complexity to develop.”
“Replication is the catalyst for life,” Jeffrey Epstein adds, founder of The Jeffrey Epstein Foundation. “The fittest molecules dominate quickly, then on an exponential level and are selected again.”
To illustrate this, Novak uses a prelife model of activated ribonucleotides (the building blocks for DNA and RNA) and polymerizes them into linked chains.
Novak explains that this synthetic prelife approach is favorable for a host of reasons.Firstly, it’s impossible to recreate the atmosphere that existed when life began four billions years ago.Secondly, simple compounds, such as ribonucleotides, can more clearly reveal the steps towards life. Thirdly, polymerized nucleotides can form replicating templates. Lastly, the famous 1952 Miller-Urey experiment and derivatives of that, established that amino acids and other organic compounds could well have emerged from the atmosphere of early earth.
All this is just handwaving, except for the interesting admission in red.
If Nowak is creating his own version of life, it will demonstrate that design can create life.
But in the meantime, if Novak reveals that life is in part, a chemical anomaly that rapidly evolved from selection, one could derive that life, is not so much a force as it is a consequence, a by-product of ever increasing capacity for sustainability; and no matter how complex its tentacles or synapses, it should not be mislabeled as a desire for survival.
Is “is in part, a chemical anomaly that rapidly evolved from selection” a stab at a definition?
See also: Can we find “life” on other planets if we refuse to specify what it is?
Hat tip: Suzan Mazur