The synthesis of primitive ‘living’ forms: Definitions, goals, strategies and evolution synthesizers

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Abstract

The arbitrariness of the definition of life is discussed in relation to both the archaic biological entities that preceded cells during the Molecular Evolution era, and the hypothetical, primitive, ‘living’ entities that presumably can be synthesized in the laboratory. Several experimental approaches to the synthesis, detection, and characterization of ‘living’ entities are discussed. The experimental approaches considered for the synthesis are the constructionist strategy, the whole-environment strategy, and the modular strategy, which is a combination of the first two. The whole-environment strategy is discussed in more detail and the establishment of an Evolution Synthesizer, based on this strategy, is proposed and rationalized. The guidelines for the detection and characterization of populations and processes of ‘living’ entities include chemical and physical analyses, but are based mainly on the reproductive characterization of these entities. It is expected that the higher the evolutionary level of the ‘living’ entities, the longer and more difficult it will be to synthesize them, but the easier it will be to detect them.