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Causation and the origin of life. Metabolism or replication first?

Department of Chemistry, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva 84105, Israel.
Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres (Impact Factor: 1.83). 07/2004; 34(3):307-21. DOI: 10.1023/B:ORIG.0000016446.51012.bc
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The conceptual gulf that separates the 'metabolism first' and 'replication first' mechanisms for the emergence of life continues to cloud the origin of life debate. In the present paper we analyze this aspect of the origin of life problem and offer arguments in favor of the 'replication first' school. Utilizing Wicken's two-tier approach to causation we argue that a causal connection between replication and metabolism can only be demonstrated if replication would have preceded metabolism. In conjunction with existing empirical evidence and theoretical reasoning, our analysis concludes that there is no substantive evidence for a 'metabolism first' mechanism for life's emergence, while a coherent case can be made for the 'replication first' group of mechanisms. The analysis reaffirms our conviction that life is an extreme expression of kinetic control, and that the emergence of metabolic pathways can be understood by considering life as a manifestation of 'replicative chemistry'.

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