Big Question 1: How did life begin?

One of the questions I’m frequently asked by students when we study evolution concerns the origin of life.
Importantly, we must avoid the misconception that evolution is somehow meant to explain how life arose. It can’t; that is the role of the theory of abiogensis.

The video on this page (summarising the work of Jack Szostak at Harvard) explains how very simple organic molecules can spontaneously combine through simple chemical processes to produce structures that can grow, divide and replicate, passing on information to the next ‘generation’.

I can’t understate the importance of understanding that the origin of life doesn’t need to be explained by supernatural causes. The comments from other readers of that page shed more light on the source of some people’s confusion: namely, that an understanding of the mecahnism of evolution can help you understand how life began, but it doesn’t explain how life arose.

That explanation is the role of the theory of abiogenesis and the video above explains it beautifully.


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