Origin of Life: A New Paradigm
by Reason McLucus
I'm tired of the traditional debate between
creationists and evolutionists. They sound too much like politicians. Instead
of trying to prove their beliefs, they say "you should believe us
because the other side is wrong." The following essay will look at how life might have developed from a systems perspective.
From a systems view, the cell, the basic unit
of biological life, resembles a computer. This resemblance provides a possible
explanation for how life could have developed.
Both traditional explanations have serious
logical flaws. Creationists fail to explain why God would go to the trouble
of designing life so that a microscopic cell could develop into a human
being or an elephant and then initially make everything full sized like
Dr. Frankenstein building his monster. Isn't it more likely He would have
designed the cells for each species and then placed them in the appropriate
aquatic environment to develop?
Evolutionists ignore the virtual impossibility
of life developing through various stages without the direct continuous
intervention of an intelligent being. Development of one species from another
through random mutations would require extremely large populations. Changing
simple species into more complex species would be the procedure an intelligent
being might use. This approach is often used for machines and computer
Ironically, the idea that life developed without
the intervention of an intelligent being would make more sense if the basic
species developed at the same time. A process capable of producing one
type of animal or plant should have been capable of producing a wide variety
of different species. Charles Darwin's suggestion that once upon a time
a cell developed and then through millions of miraculous mutations changed
into all the species sounds too much like a fairy tale.
These essays will ignore the issue of whether
God or some other being created life and concentrate on how life might
have developed with or without intelligent intervention. I say might have
developed because there is a possibility that extraterrestrials could have
brought various life forms to earth.
Any scientific theory to explain the origin
of biological life should begin by examining what biological life is from
a systems standpoint. The basic unit of biological life is the cell. Scientists
are currently working on procedures that would allow them to develop any
life form, including humans, from a single cell.
Individual life forms consist of one or more
cells. In complex life forms a variety of different cells operate in a
coordinated fashion to maintain the functions of the life form.
The cell itself is a system that receives inputs
and produces outputs. Individual cells may pass through certain cycles
such as changing shape, but during normal operation each cell remains the
same much like a mechanical device.
In its internal operation, the cell receives
an input, accesses its memory for the appropriate instruction, acts on
that instruction to produce an output and then looks for the next input.
Memory consists of chains of DNA molecules, or chromosomes, organized in
a series of links composed of two molecules each. The number of links required
for each instruction, or gene, varies.
The molecules that comprise each link consist
of one of two different sets of two bases each. Thus each link consists
of one set of bases(0) or the other(1) with one member of the set(0) or
the other(1) attached to a specified side. Biologists refer to the bases
by four letters, but from a logical viewpoint the arrangement of the bases
can be portrayed with zeros and ones.
Thus, the cell can be described as a biochemical
computer with molecular memory. Most people think of computers as electromechanical
devices. However, a computer is actually a logical device rather than a
physical one. Physically a computer may use vacuum tubes or integrated
It is the logical operation rather than the
physical makeup that makes a machine a computer. The idea of the computer
and the first programs were developed long before the technology was feasible.
The zeros and ones a computer uses may indicate
a switch being opened or closed or the presence or absence of a hole on
a punched card. The terms "zero" and "one" merely refer to a dichotomous
physical condition. The arrangement of molecules in the DNA molecule can
be portrayed as dichotomous conditions.
If the cell is a computer, then it is possible
to suggest a way in which the cell and biological life could develop. Modern
computers are so easy to use that most people don't bother to think about
what happens to make computers work. They just turn the computer on and
start using it.
Early computers didn't know what to do when
they were turned on except to read a punched card or maybe a piece of paper
tape provided by the operator. This card contained something called a bootstrap
loader with the necessary instructions to read the contents of the card
into memory and begin loading a more sophisticated loader. Personal computers
still need a loader, but the process doesn't require any special action
by the user.
Creationists and evolutionists generally agree
that plants developed before animals. Plants differ from animals in that
plants use basic elements or simple molecules like water and carbon dioxide,
but animals need more complex compounds. Plants use basic energy such as
light, but animals use chemical energy in the form of complex carbon molecules.
To simply the discussion I will treat life forms as either plants or animals
having the above differences and ignore such species as carnivorous plants.
RNA and viruses both have the capacity to function
as bootstrap loaders. RNA can duplicate itself and produce other chemicals.
Viruses often can load themselves into an existing cell. With the proper
sequences, a virus might have the capacity to initiate the development
of a simple cell, or cell like entity.
RNA could potentially have the capacity to construct other molecules, including
reproducing itself, from the basic elements. Whether or not RNA could develop
naturally is unknown. An intelligent being might create only one form of
RNA, but it's more likely a variety of different RNA sequences would be
provided. An environment capable of producing one RNA sequence would be
capable of producing a variety of sequences.
stage of development might have involved creation of simple cell like entities
that combined to form more sophisticated cell structures.
provide a better environment for development of RNA because of a more controlled
chemical environment without corrosive chemicals. RNA, or DNA, in the form
of viruses could have arrived on earth via meteorites over a period of
We usually think
of viruses as disease organisms because current viruses tend to create
dysfunctional conditions in those infected with viruses. However, modern
medicine is experimenting with using man made viruses to correct genetic
problems. Viruses could have provided the initial RNA or supplemental DNA
for more complex life forms.
Simple RNA sequences
could have created additional sequences in a random fashion either by varying
the order in which the bases were added or by creating variable length
strands that could combine in a random fashion. Much of the resultant DNA
might remain dormant until some event activated it. Cells with functional
DNA would develop into more complex life forms.
have developed on both land and water. Water plants could have created
a favorable chemical environment for development of cells capable of consuming
cells for animals might have developed using a comparable procedure to
that of plants with the exception that the RNA would likely have used plant
produced chemicals rather than producing them from scratch. Viruses might
have taken over plant cells and then modified them.
of new viruses on a meteorite could explain development of groups of new
species in the past. Mutations cannot provide an adequate explanation for
many new species because a mutation would add a new feature by changing
an old one. The old feature would cease to exist without the addition of
new DNA. The suggestion that DNA was duplicated and then changed to provide
the necessary instructions for new features is too improbable to be believed.
involving artificial life demonstrate the possibility that random acquisition
of instructions could establish life forms in a computer environment. Some
experiments involving simple organisms have used random assignment of instructions
to various computer programs with some surviving and some not.
"organisms" that receive a set of workable instructions survive. Early
cells would have had to have a set of functional instructions to survive.
Viruses could have provided such instructions to a cell computer.
indicates that humans and other species have more DNA than they actually
use. This so-called "junk DNA" could simply code for outputs that are not
called for by currently existing inputs.
through a series of stages that are triggered by some event. Fertilization
causes the initial development of the cell into more cells. At various
points events happen to trigger differentiation of cells into different
components of the body.
In most species
the most significant changes, or gestational stages, occur in the womb
or the egg. However, in some species such as toads, one developed form
of the animal(i.e., a tadpole) ay change into another form(i.e., a fully
developed toad) by discarding features like the tail and growing legs.
The initial development
of species could have occurred in a similar fashion. The early species
might have continued to function as single cell life forms even after acquiring
DNA that would code for multi-celled life forms. The single daughter cells
could have continued to accept new DNA either through acquisition of viruses
or incorporation of DNA from other cells consumed as food.
would have continued to divide to produce independent copies of themselves
until some event, such as a change in the chemical environment or acquisition
of an essential gene, caused the divided cells to remain attached. This
event might have required the cell to become better organized with much
of the DNA collected in the cell nucleus.
species might have passed through various stages of development changing
from fish like forms to forms able to walk around on dry land. Subsequent
events might have caused offspring to gradually access different DNA for
skeletal development. The transitions from one form to another might have
occurred over an extended period.
Evolutionists treat skeletal differences as indicating different species. This practice ignores the fact that changes in the skeletal structure might depend on a few minor genetic changes rather than the type of changes that would be needed to produce a genetically different species. The demise of the dinosaurs could have involved the addition of a gene limiting growth such is commonly found in mammals.
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