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Shane McKee shane at reservoir.win-uk.net
Fri Jan 13 19:46:38 EST 1995

In article <9501110411.AA29897 at bambi.ccs.fau.edu>, 
  Tom Holroyd (tomh at BAMBI.CCS.FAU.EDU) writes:

>Well, so far the response has been that abiogenesis (spontaneous
>generation) is OK as long as the form that appears is undifferentiated.
>Maggots or even bacteria cannot spontaneously appear; they are too
>complex.  So that leaves us with: what is undifferentiated life?  Is an
>autocatalytic set sufficiently generalized and undifferentiated?  Is it
>alive? Or is some measure of compartmentalization required to define a
>discrete entity?  That would probably constitute a differentiation, though.
>Perhaps the entire primordial ocean (or maybe just the ocean bottom)
>could be considered alive, with the entity's boundaries being supplied by
>pre-existing structures.  No DNA, no RNA, no genetic material at all,
>just a lot of metabolism in a big chemical reactor.  Is it alive?
>Has abiogenesis occurred?

Sorry to re-post most of Tom's article. When I use the term 'life'
in the context of abiogenesis, the property I am trying to define
is self-replication (or at least near-self-replication). Once we
get the replicators going, we can start arguing about the meaning
of life, our current definitions of life etc. At the origin, life
means replicator. 

I think this probably requires some degree of
compartmentalization, and certainly don't think that something as
diffuse as a giant metabolizing system, such as the ocean, should
be considered 'alive' in the sense mentioned above.

I'll restate my point: When we're talking about the *origin* of
life, Life = replicator. No replication, no life.


 \  Shane McKee [Shane at reservoir.win-uk.net]   \
   \ " Art becomes Science when you start trying \
    \   to figure out what the heck you're doing."\

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