But according to Nautilus, “life on the planet Earth may owe its existence to one freakish event”:
There are many possible explanations, but one of these has recently gained a lot of ground. It tells of a prokaryote that somehow found its way inside another, and formed a lasting partnership with its host. This inner cell—a bacterium—abandoned its free-living existence and eventually transformed into the mitochondria. These internal power plants provided the host cell with a bonanza of energy, allowing it to evolve in new directions that other prokaryotes could never reach.
If this story is true, and there are still those who doubt it, then all eukaryotes—every flower and fungus, spider and sparrow, man and woman—descended from a sudden and breathtakingly improbable merger between two microbes. They were our great-great-great-great-…-great-grandparents, and by becoming one, they laid the groundwork for the life forms that seem to make our planet so special. The world as we see it (and the fact that we see it at all; eyes are a eukaryotic invention) was irrevocably changed by that fateful union—a union so unlikely that it very well might not have happened at all, leaving our world forever dominated by microbes, never to welcome sophisticated and amazing life like trees, mushrooms, caterpillars, and us. More.
This is, of course, belongs to the “just by chance” school of thought on origin of life. Of course, symbiosis probably sometimes occurred. But put in this grandiose way, the theory suffers from the same limitations that all such theorizing about human history does. (For example, if George Washington had never been born, other Americans would never have thought of the idea of a democratic republic …)
More sophisticated approaches to history, of life or humans or nations, tend to assume that things follow certain patterns, triggered at times by individuals or events—but not simply at random.
Anyway, for more on “pure chance” theories of origin of life, check out: Can all the numbers for life’s origin just happen to fall into place?
Origin of life: Could it all have come together in one very special place?
Anyway, this new theory sure won’t be lonely. See: Maybe if we throw enough models at the origin of life… some of them will stick? Just look at all the ones that have been thrown!
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