Reflections on the origin of life: More than an 'evolutionary' problem


Abstract


This paper argues that the question of the origin of life cannot be explained by appealing exclusively to Darwinian evolutionary mechanisms, as many experts tend to assume, but requires a profound change in perspective. Accordingly, we highlight the fact that, in order to operate as a diversification force (and indirectly, a force for a potential increase in complexity), natural selection requires a number of conditions to be met in order for it to be possible: specifically, self-sustained and self-(re-)productive chemical organisation within a sufficiently large phenotypic space (that is, a wide range of functions). Therefore, we suggest an extension of the «self-organising» paradigm towards a «self-(re-)productive» one as an alternative to the main proposals regarding the origin of life, based on molecular populations (typically RNA) subject to Darwinian evolution. Such a paradigm would adequately portray the specificity of the biological phenomenon (particularly, its metabolic and cellular dimension) and would be relevant before, during, and after natural selection started to operate.


Keywords


Self-organisation; protocells; metabolism; phenotypic/functional diversity; open evolution

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