NEW YORK, May 17 (UPI) -- A U.S. scientist disagrees with the widely held theory that life began with a spontaneous appearance of a large, replicating molecule such as RNA.
Robert Shapiro of New York University instead raises an alternative he says doesn't depend on a "stupendously improbable accident." Shapiro presents "the more plausible" idea that life began within a mixture of simple organic molecules, multiplied through catalyzed reaction cycles and an external source of available energy.
"The diversity of organic chemistry, with its harvest of competing, interconnected reactions, becomes an asset rather than a liability in the case of the energy-driven system," explains Shapiro. He offers the idea of a "driver" reaction, linked to a free energy source, that helps convert an unorganized mixture into an organized, self-regulated metabolic network.
"If we wish a more plausible origin of life, then we must work with the assumption that life began, somehow, among one of the mixtures of simple organic molecules that are produced by abiotic processes," said Shapiro. "Nature will be instructing us, rather than we attempting to impose our schemes onto it."
His research will appear in the June issue of The Quarterly Review of Biology.