The theory for the origin of life that emerges from bioepistemic evolution is further developed on the author's newer site - Evolution and Origin
In its rank0 section, that site includes all the origin of life work given here and also extends it to describe chemical, evolutionary mechanisms for the emergence of "bacterial protocells;" although lacking genetics, such protocells would otherwise have resembled bacteria, both chemically and morphologically.
Origin of Life through the Evolution of Prebiotic Oscillations
This concluding chapter reiterates that the theory of prebiotic oscillations is based on purely chemical and physical principles. Its parsimony and richness of content, compared with competing theories is reiterated and its main contributions are summarised. Suggestions are offered for further investigation.
Theory of Prebiotic Oscillations
Discussion and Conclusions
The purpose of this essay was to apply bioepistemic evolution to the prebiotic situation and it is not surprising that the resulting study seems to offer the most parsimonious theory of prebiosis yet presented and imparts a little transparency to Behe's "Black Box" of evolutionary origin.
Its main contributions are
- Providing a possible mechanism for the evolutionary origin of life that depends purely on chemistry and physics.
- Separately considering data and power inputs into evolving systems and so concluding that, in prebiotic evolution, a high-power input must be modulated to become a high-powered data input.
- Recognizing that, in any data system, a low powered data input, separate from the power input, is evidence of design – either a history of previous adaptive design or intelligent design. This topic is closely linked to the discussion of machines as data amplifiers and to the suggested mechanism for the emergence of self-oscillating reactions.
- The distinction between uncontrolled and controlled chemistry and its suggestions as to how controlled chemistry can emerge from evolutionary selection.
- The recognition of the role of amphiphiles in the self-bounding of evolving systems and the emergence of catalysis.
- The theory of prebiotic oscillation itself and the resulting theories for the origin of allosteric, oscillatory and cyclic metabolic pathways.
The unifying thread of this study has been bioepistemic evolution, evolutionary theory on data rather than genes. The aim here was simply to apply bioepistemic evolution to the prebiotic situation. The author has not previously worked on prebiosis and claims no specialized knowledge of earlier theories for the origin of life but the resulting ideas do seem to be original. Internet searches, literature reviews and attendance at conferences have revealed no comparable studies. Moreover, some parts of this study are necessarily original, since bioepistemic evolution has previously been applied only to cultural aspects of evolution - social organization, sexuality and the theory of humour. It is remarkable and encouraging that one can apply it, with any success, to prebiotic evolution, a field far removed from its epistemological roots.
When compared with other theories of prebiosis, the theory of prebiotic oscillations is unusual for its detail and the number of steps that can be incorporated into its development. It is bioepistemic evolution itself that confers this richness of content onto the work, as successive stages utilize one bioepistemic principle after another. For example, the discussion of data and power sources arises from the systems view of evolution, while oscillations are introduced to meet the need for an interpretation of a data input; the bioepistemic requirement for self-bounding leads to the ideas of chemical space and also to the discussion of amphipathic chemicals. All these successive stages arise from bioepistemic principles and the ability to apply them seems a good demonstration of the advantages that accrue from constructing evolutionary theory in an axiomatically correct way, from data, rather than from genes. The theory of prebiotic oscillations does seem a very plausible and rich theory. Nonetheless, it could not have been constructed without bioepistemic evolution as a guide. As such, it illustrates well the potential productivity of the bioepistemic approach.
Other theories of prebiosis begin with biology and work their way backwards, creating elaborate assumptions in their attempts to squeeze biological concepts into a chemical, physical or IT moulds. The theory of prebiotic oscillations is better and more parsimonious because it works the other way round; it begins with chemistry, physics or IT and identifies selective processes and evolution occurring within purely chemical mixtures. Thus it is, conceptually, a physico-chemical theory of evolution that works its way forward toward biology.
Although new, interesting and an improvement on earlier work, the theory of prebiotic oscillations remains only a theory, still subject to all the uncertainties to be expected in a field like prebiosis with its congenital lack of observational support. Even as a theory, there remain unanswered questions. For example, the nature of the selections being proposed is not precisely described and neither is the nature of optimal protection. One could improve the theory by describing the selective processes and the nature of protected and unprotected environments more clearly and by specifying criteria for optimal protection. The problem is that it is not clear exactly how to do these things and one feels that more operational approaches using models might be better. For example, it would be possible construct simulated environments in the laboratory or on computers. One might even be able to model some very simplified systems mathematically. In addition, this essay has carefully avoided discussing the exact chemistry of any particular observation. At some point that bullet will have to be bitten and become the subject of laboratory investigation. However, this author is primarily concerned with evolutionary theory itself, rather than prebiosis, and does not plan such studies, which would distract from that primary work. Accordingly, the present investigation is likely to rest where it stands.
Even in the absence of such extensions, the theory of prebiotic oscillations seems attractive. As a theory, its underlying assumptions are much more parsimonious than are those of competing theories, with little in the way of ad hoc content. The theory coheres well with the rest of science and, in bioepistemic evolution, has an analytical base that confers upon it a richness of content that accords with general biochemical and biological observation. Finally, this approach suggests avenues for further investigation. On each of these grounds, the theory of prebiotic oscillations is commended to the reader for consideration.
© John A Hewitt MA PhD (Cantab.)
The work described here was performed as an independent investigation by John A Hewitt who asserts the right to be recognized as its author and as the originator of the novel ideas presented here. The topics to which this claim applies include, but are not limited to, the application of bioepistemic evolution to the prebiotic situation, the discussion of the sun as a data and power source for prebiotic evolving systems, the recognition of sun-induced chemical oscillations as information carriers subject to evolutionary selection and to the theories for the origin of biochemical pathways and self-oscillatory, allosteric and cyclic biochemistry that result.
This study is a greatly extended version of a poster originally presented at the Royal Society meeting on conditions for the emergence of life on the early earth, London, 13 & 14 February, 2006. This internet version was made available on 6 September, 2006. Comments and criticism are solicited - see the "contact & copyright" link for contact details.