Posts Tagged ‘life’

Where did life come from?

One of the great mysteries in the history of mankind is that of life itself. Did you ever wonder where biological life actually began?  Or why it did begin? What made strings of atomic elements organise themselves into simple organisms and then evolve into plants and animals? What then triggered the tree of life that culminated in us, complex, independent and conscious beings? This is actually one of the greatest puzzles of all. It is also one that science cannot, despite desperately trying, answer at all. They can tinker with existing cells to make new combinations, but they are unable yet to create life from scratch. Where did it all start and why did it? Also what does the fact that it did start say about the truth of our reality?


The mystery of life

As before mentioned, (Aspects of reality-the mystery of life (1) ) the existence of life is probably the most puzzling aspect of reality of all. The real mystery is, where could life have come from? Why life? Could it have been just a random accident? What made a bunch of seemingly random, naturally occurring, substances form themselves into the primitive cells that eventually became us? It is all very unlikely when you think about it, but here we all are.


What do you need for life to happen?

On our world anyway, life is generally carbon based. To make the simple cells of our primitive ancestors, amino acids, sugars and lipids are needed.. These are quite complex substances in themselves. Where did they come from? Why did matter organize itself into these particular forms? Why did then this lead to complex life form and indeed us?



The theory is that all life evolved from primitive one cell creatures that first inhabited the earth, as a result of a long process called evolution by natural selection. Charles Darwin published his book “ On the Origin of Species” in 1859 . This set out what he saw as the natural evolutionary process.



To try make sense of this we really have to look at what evidence is out there. The truth is that even if all the raw ingredients for life are available, it is currently not known why this random mix of things suddenly become the primitive replicating cells which are the basis of all life on earth. Darwin may explain how, but he does not explain why.


Artificial life

Biochemists today are trying to create artificial life forms in the laboratory. They stated recently that they had succeeded. Craig Venter’s laboratory managed, after years of careful experimentation, to create a new genome by putting together fragments of DNA. They then injected the new genome into an existing bacteria cell. The genome took over the host cell and started replicating. This was hailed as creating new life, but in fact had to use an existing cell. It is no nearer solving the mysteries of how random matter manages to organize itself into replicating life from scratch. The how and why are still dark mysteries.


Stanley Millar managed to recreate what was thought to be the prehistoric composition of the earth’s sea and climate in a laboratory in America. Surprisingly, by creating a spark to mimic the lightening strikes on earth, primitive amino acids began to form in the lab vessel. This is interesting, but does not give any clue why these amino acids suddenly might organize themselves to become life.


Where did it begin?

There is no consensus from the scientific community. It is generally thought that life began spontaneously in the shallow seas. There are also theories that life may have started in the deep oceans, away from sunlight, but with high pressure and temperature.


Where else could it have come from?

It also may have been seeded deliberately or accidentally on the earth. For instance, a meteorite landing in Victoria Australia in 1969 was found to have amino acids in its composition. Could meteors landing in the seas triggered life? Could aliens or an intelligent designer have deliberately seeded the seas to start life off? Or did things happen completely differently?



Scientists can describe how life developed, but not why it did so. If it began as mainstream science thinks it did, then does this mean that the “recipe” for life was encoded somehow in the physics of the universe? This is an intriguing and puzzling aspect of reality.


What is life?

When looking at my third aspect of reality, I think that the biggest question, and mystery, that jumps out for me, is the matter of the existence of life. What actually is it, how can it be defined and where could it have come from?


What is life?

Why are we different from all the rocks and stones that are around us and share much of our chemical make up? Defining life is trickier than you might think. When asked generally people would perhaps say, I know I am alive because I feel I am alive and I can talk to you. We know things are alive because they seemingly interact with the environment to sustain themselves in a way that rocks and stones do not, or do not need to. Life usually, but not always, moves independently in some way. It usually grows and reproduces itself in some mechanism. It is a closed and independent system. It takes in nutrition from the environment to sustain itself. We know it when we see it, without necessarily being able to explain it. All we can say is that on earth it is generally cellular based. Cells are the building blocks of so called organic life. All life on planet earth seems to be organic, made of either one cell or a collection of cells.


A scientific definition

Cell structure fulfills the basic scientific criteria that is used to distinguish life ( animate) from non life (inanimate). These criteria are, firstly, the ability to metabolize and release the energy stored in molecular bonds. This is what we do when we eat food and convert it to energy to power our bodies. Secondly, the ability to form boundaries. The cells that make all living things are enclosed structures, usually by some form of membrane. Thirdly the ability to reproduce itself/ourselves. This can be by just splitting or copying cells or by some form of sexual reproduction. Non live, or inanimate, objects cannot do this.


Where could life have come from?

Firstly, if you favour the religious creation theories, then the answer is simple. Life is a gift of a creator being. It needs no further explanation.


Secondly, things, funnily enough, get more difficult if you lean towards the purely scientific explanation for our origins. The really strange thing is though, science can describe life, interfere with it, even clone it, it cannot really understand or replicate why bunches of chemicals gradually became live organisms. There is a leap there that is even beyond scientific human understanding at the moment.



As ever we are back to the beginning. Life on earth is said to have evolved over millions of years. The more you think about it, the stranger the concept seems. Until we properly understand the big picture though, and know why we are here and what is our purpose, if any, the generation of life will always remain a profound mystery. The existence of life  is, however, a fascinating aspect of reality.