Published in bio.philica.com
In this article i am arguing that life is an open system of chemical reactions that is getting energy from the sun. But i am also arguing that if you consider life as a WHOLE (without dividing it into species, organisms, etc), you get a sum of just randomly occurring chaotic chemical reactions without any specific pattern or purpose. The natural history of these reactions led to the forms we see today. Through our perspective, while we are studying this history, we see it as evolution.
In a similar manner, if you place some random chemicals in a flask and in some way you manage not only to avoid equilibrium, but also to create a system of constantly increasing complexity, then after a huge amount of time in this system there would be some sort of “evolution of chemical reactions”. For instance, those with repeatability will prevail, and in general the resulting systems will survive because they are more prone to survive over other systems. Through the eyes of the resulting reactions, this system will pose some life-like properties, for instance repeatability will be perceived as reproduction etc.
But if we ourselves are resulting chemical reactions of our own system and we are definitely the observers of the phenomenon of life, a reasonable question arises. Are we the same thing? Can any complex chemical reaction system perceive itself and the system it belongs as life?
When somebody is studying the phenomenon of viruses, he can see that when viruses are not coming in
contact with a host organism, they are a sum of just chemical compounds that do not fulfill the criteria to
be considered alive. While on the other hand they start reacting with a host, or in other words they start
making chemical reactions with the compounds of the host, they are considered alive. The same thing
happens with prions, which are proteinaceous compounds that only while they react with proteins of the
host, they become alive in a way…..
Viruses define what is life. Or else, no living organism is possible to remain unchanged structurally. What
would the result be?
If we want to see the consequences of our hypothesis in the nature we first meet the question: What is the
least that can be
considered as life? For example, a mitochondrion can be considered life according
to what we said, but a simple chemical molecule cannot, unless it reacts with
another molecule or substance. At the moment of the reaction these two
substances are the least that is considerd life. So, a simple chemical reaction, while happening, is the
form of life, or else, the sparkle of life, according to our hypothesis. This means that all organisms are
summations of chemical reactions. But this definition poses serious problems because we have to accept
that any complex system of chemical reactions, and actually any chemical reactions are nothing different
This means that everytime some resulting reactions of a complex system is the observer (reference
frame), then the whole system of chemical reactions in which it belongs and leaded to its creation will be
perceived as life by this observer, exactly the same way like us.
How can we accept this as we know that chemical reactions of life are anything but random?
But if this is the case, then how life was created in the first case? Can this hypothesis have anything to do
with the real world?
First of all, lets take a second look into what will happen in any system of chemical reactions of constantly increasing complexity.
To make things clear, imagine that with the help
of a source of light or other kind of external energy we cultivate in a way, some appropriate chemical reactions in a small place. After a
period of time, they are getting more and more complicated. Lets hypothesize that
someday, after eons the whole system becomes extremely complicated. We get to a point where
we see nothing more but a mixture of colours and shapes. But if a small resulting proportion of reactions of that is a part of
this complicated system is the sole observer (like we are in our system), this means that it is very difficult for him to perceive the system in an objective
way, because he is running inside the whole system. It is all a matter of
perspective. It is clear from this point of view that
the system does not promote a certain form of patterns, but what we
see, is the result of the sum of the reactions that happened through history. The
complex compounds and reactions that are composing the systems that we see after eons, are the results of many years of reactions, or else they are the results
of the reactions from the beginning of all the reactions till today.
Through the eons, in a chaos of chemical reactions, only those with some kind of repeatability and
periodicity will not lead to a dead end and will be able to continue happening in the long term. Additionally,
many chemical reactions will eventually lead to some molecules with the ability to adhere with other
molecules and also with surfaces. These reactions will eventually prevail and become the basis for further
complexity, because the chemical compounds will not diffuse around and lead to dead ends. This will make
the process multifocal rather than diffuse, enhancing its ability to thrive. Thereafter, these focal sites of
increasing complexity will interact with one another and the systems with the greatest capacity to survive
will continue happening in the long term and will become more complicated. Additionally, more stable
compounds will be formed and so gradually what we know as organic compounds with be formed. Also, the
reactions with the ability to promote their own existence would prevail and continue to exist, in a process
which is a kind of natural selection and survival of the fittest reactions.
Random chemical reactions does not promote a certain plan or any kind of order, but what we see, is the
result of the sum of the reactions that happened through history. However, their end results are reactions
that are characterized by survival capacities over others. And suppose that these end results are the
observers of the whole system. Virtually they are composed from some chemical compounds, which are
constantly changing. However, everything that happens leads to them.
Everything is a matter of perspective. If they analyze their own reactions they will have a very good view to
their homeostasis. As we said they are seeing the system from inside, or else in a mirror like direction,
because they themselves are part of things, so they appreciate things from its results. They think that
homeostasis is a very perfectly sophisticated and stochastic mechanism, because they are the result of
homeostasis, but the theory that we analyzed says that homeostasis simply is the catalogue of the chemical
reactions that are still happening, and just because they keep happening, the organism is alive.
In other words these systems would have exactly the same perspective as we ourselves have while thinking
about what is life, evolution, reproduction (repeatability of reactions).
Thus, random reactions and life can be the opposite sides of the same coin at least theoretically.
Question: How can this hypothesis be experimentally tested?
Answer: In any way that you show that living systems actually behave as chemical automatons.
A general approach is summarized below:
If we have clones of the same simple organism and we study them into the same conditions and we give
the exact food, then if these organisms are just random chemical reactions, their lifespan could be predicted
as a result of multiple linear regression. The dependent variable y (or else the lifespan) would be:
y=a+a1x1+a2x2+…….aνxν+aωxω+ε where ε is the error variable and x1,x2…xν the various explanatory
variables and a,a1,a2…av the effects or regressor coefficients and aωxω measures the feeding speed effect.
If these clones share everything in common(e.g environmental factors, temperature etc) except the pace
with which they are fed and if we secure that actually these organisms absorb exactly the same nutrients,
but differ only in the pace they absorb them, then all the parameters of the linear regression will be the
same for all clones except the speed factor, or else lifespan=y=aωxω+B+ε (where B=a+a1x1+a2x2+
….avxv and it is the same for all organisms), or else we have a simple linear regression. Thus, if we avoid
extremes in feeding pace and we assume no collinearities caused by it, then at a certain pace range we
would expect lifespan to be linearly correlated with the feeding pace. (ATTENTION: The regressors x do not
represent the reactions, but rather represent the effects of some “x” factors. Once again, if the organism is
a system of random chemical reactions, it will behave mechanistically and will produce reproducible results.
I agree that it is difficult to completely isolate the system from all possible disturbing factors, but if their
influence is chaotic and random for all experimental individuals, i think that their influence as a total can be
satisfactorily represented by ε , or else the error term or noise in the formula of the final linear regression.
If this hypothesis is proven correct, what are the implications in the way we see the world?
Life seems to be more an invention of
us, or else a term that we use to describe anything that looks like us
functionally. This is the reason why simple chemical reactions in the lab, or
even fire are not considered life , even though they are chemical reactions
too. The are way too simple , and they don't resemble us enough functionally so
they can be perceived by us as alive. An organism is the reactions that we see, and
we think they are something amazing because we see them
separately from all the other reactions that are happening in the world.
Of course, when we are talking about chains of
chemical reactions, we do not mean it in the simplistic way, that they are
in a chain, and everything is happening in an order, where the formed
substance goes to the next position to react with the next substrate etc. Things in
nature are much more random, and it is difficult sometimes for us to detect which
is the next step. One of the major difficulties are some passive phenomena that
happen, such as plasma flow, passive diffusion through membranes because of
differences in concentration, or electrical gradients, excretion through ducts,
etc. The latter are phenomena that happen passively due to the laws of nature
and are not defining life, the way the chemical reactions do. To be more symbolical,
they play the role that scientists play in a chemical lab: they transfer the
substances from one tube to another, arrange the conditions, etc. But the chemical
reactions are the big difference.
Somebody might ask: ok the basic forms of life is
chemistry , but as we go higher, we find levels of organization.
no!!there is no organization the way we mean it. Functions
like killing, walking ,talking etc gives some reactions an advantage to survive
over others. But, surviving can only important because of us. If you ask an
observer outside the system of life, it will not find any organization in these
functions, because their results mean nothing to them
Information about this Article
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This Article was published on 7th May, 2015 at 17:09:42 and has been viewed 3335 times.
1 added 8th March, 2016 at 20:31:01
Suppose we have a flash full of various chemicals and we continuously provide external energy to the system. Chemical reactions naturally, if isolated (e.g. there is no external source of energy), will eventually move towards equilibrium. However, due to the diversity of this particular system, which will be further enriched by different additional resulting substrates, and so on, will be composed by a great diversity of chemical substances. This system will be constantly changing and various aspects will determine its fate and its final phenotype. Let’s see some of those factors.
At some point, the first organic molecules will be formed. Due to the fact that they are more stable, their number will constantly increase in the system and they will prevail in the long term. Additionaly, due to their properties, and especially when relatively stable organic macromolecules are formed, they pose a huge variability of different stereotactic isoforms. These infinite possible spatial conformations offer the variability and mechanics needed, in order to avoid chemical equilibrium. Therefore, those reactions will avoid equilibrium and thus, will continue happening inside the system, while others reach dead ends.
Moreover, slow reactions will prevail, because they last longer. Fast reactions will also occur, but the slow ones will have more chances to be in the final mixture.
Additionaly, hydrophobic interactions will shape the mixture and determine much of its fate. Hydrophobicity is responsible for hydrophobic bonds, spatial configuration, separation and isolation of chemical systems, creation of membranes, etc.
Apart from that, another crucial parameter is the property of some molecules to strongly adhere to each other, or to adhere to membranes. Actually, if you want to see how the whole system will evolve, a good way is to follow the “stickiness”. For instance, random systems resembling the sponges can be created. The strong adhesions between molecules (as well as multiple other factors) can make those systems sustainable for millennia. Also, they could serve as something like “chemical labs” performing chemical experiments in a way, for thousands of years before they die. Any accidental chemical novelty that can sustain itself will survive and will be selected. And we know today that reproduction is one of the best strategies for that.
These reactions that offer adhesion and structural stability will eventually prevail and become the basis for further complexity, because the chemical compounds will not diffuse around and lead to dead ends. This will make the process multifocal rather than diffuse, enhancing its ability to thrive.
Apart from that, any repeatable or periodic events will be favored, as it is more unlikely for such a system to reach a chemical dead end.
In general, any combinations or groups of reactions with the ability to promote their own existence, would prevail and continue to exist, in a process which is a kind of natural selection and survival of the fittest reactions.
The abovementioned chemical reaction system in the flask does not promote a certain plan or any kind of order, but what we see, is the natural history of the reactions. However, their end results are reactions that are characterized by some sort of survival capacities, because those were the ones that continued and prevailed every time.
2 added 18th April, 2016 at 20:00:31
I have previously described what will happen in a flask of chemical reactions in the long term. There is not a certain plan that is favored, however the system will continue happening, and this is why life continues. The final resulting reactions will appear to have survival capacities if the observers are exactly those resulting reactions. Everything that happened lead to them. So the final combination of reactions will be the most sustainable of all combinations, given the particular conditions, because that’s exactly what happened. Those reactions prevailed in the long term.
The other factor that might help the system to sustain itself theoretically is repeatability. However, there is problem with repeatability. How can arbitrary reactions gain, or even more amazingly, sustain their repeatability? Although in theory a process that can protect some repeatable reactions can evolve and be selected, another option is possible, that personally I think is more likely to be the case.
And to the second thing is this: Are there trully repeatable processes in nature? For instance, if a descendant is 99% the same as its ancestor, and they are both composed of 100 trillion reactions, this means they differ by 1 trillion reactions. Also, if you have two systems of 100 organic compounds with various stereochemistries that interact with each other and they become increasingly complex to the point that each system becomes 100 trillions of different compounds, then one would expect that 99% percent of the compounds of one system will be somewhere present in the other system as well, only as a result of pure chance.
Now if two systems of 100 trillion reactions or possible interactions are exposed to the same chemical laws and conditions (variability prevails, hydrophobic bonds, adhesive properties prevail, stable molecules prevail, influx of external substances, same temperature, etc etc, then the two systems that will be mainly composed of the same substances, will share approximately the same fate, at least to our eyes. Because if by 95% the same thing happens in both systems, this means they differ by many trillion reactions, but for us, it is enough to consider the two processes identical.
So to conclude, anytime it may be possible for a group of organic chemicals to burst complexity and development, but this can’t happen indefinitely, because of various internal and external obstacles, so the process is regulated in a way. Only in some circumstances this happens (etc development, cancer, rehabilitation, etc). Theoretically, this can be the case everytime the process finds the opportunity.
(Important note: The numbers used (trillions etc) from now on, are rough approximations and their sole intent are to better explain my thoughts and underscore the effect of big numbers. Don’t focus on the particular values…!)