Science is overflowing with insane theories that are yet to be proven, such as “How do ants & Garden exist?“. Do science have the ability to persuade.? Earthly life began all at once, with no incremental measures.
What’s the idea?
Life on earth did not arise slowly, one building block carefully stacked on top of the other, but rather quickly clumped together into one wonderful mash of molecules with everything about already in the right place: spheres that kept the outside world outside with a layer of fat, with on the inside chain-shaped building blocks that together could keep a chemical reaction going; a primitive cell, so to speak. At least that is the most likely scenario, according to scientists such as John Sutherland and David Deamer. Both have come into the pen in recent years to promote the all-in-one theory.
What’s so wild about it?
It is common in science to understand something by breaking it down into small pieces. For more than a century, biologists have been struggling to reconstruct how even one step towards something living could take place.
And that turns out to be difficult enough, says professor of systems chemistry Sijbren Otto, who is tinkering in the lab on ways in which life could have originated. Something alive must have taken about three steps. One person, for example, thinks that an energy reaction had to be started first, a primitive metabolism. The other thinks again that precursors of DNA came together first. The chance of having one step succeed in a laboratory is very small, so the idea that all three took place roughly at the same time soon becomes very difficult to imagine. ‘
Why could it be right?
Sutherland and Deamer themselves have struggled for years with mimicking individual steps in the lab and now think that all steps are easier to achieve if all the ingredients of life co-existed in one place at the same time. They could thus reinforce each other.
And yes: there are clues to be found. For example, Deamer suspects that muddy volcano pools are ideal for the all-in-one theory. He has already shown that small primitive cells with a greasy shell develop relatively easily there, with building material chains on the inside, according to Deamer in the journal Astrobiology .
Sutherland thinks that meteorite craters may have been the ideal nursery, where small streams allowed crucial building materials to clump together, he writes in Angewandte Chemie . The first ingredients can come from such a meteorite itself: for example, the space rock Murchison contains both DNA and protein building blocks.
What contradicts the theory?
Otto is tempering expectations. ‘I don’t know if we can ever say, of any theory, this is how it must have been. There is simply too little surviving from the time when life originated to prove or disprove one theory. ‘
Otto also sees a fundamental problem with the all-in-one theories. If the first life was immediately in a cell with a layer of fat around it, it might cut itself off too much from the outside world. ‘To survive, the first life had to be flexible and be able to exchange building blocks and genetic material quickly. Then such an outer layer limits too much. ‘