Life’s Beginnings — Origin or Evolution?

  • John Keosian


A fundamental question is whether inanimate matter gave rise to life more-or-less suddenly, or whether life gradually evolved through stages from inanimate matter. In the first case, a precise definition of life is of paramount importance for it becomes both the experimental goal and the identifying criterion for recognizing life produced experimentally. In the second case, neither definitions nor criteria of life are of particular importance for there is no longer any single goal. Rather, the objective should be a quest, first, for spontaneous formation of multimolecular systems, and secondly, a study of their properties, and finally, the determination of the physical and chemical mechanisms involved in driving each successive stage to a higher level of organization. In such a progression, it becomes meaningless to draw a line between two levels of organization and to designate all systems below that line as inanimate and all systems above as living. The meaninglessness of the terms life and living on other grounds was long ago pointed out by Pirie (23).


Hydrogen Sulfide Evolutionary Biochemistry Living Thing Hydrogen Cyanide Spontaneous Generation 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Keosian
    • 1
  1. 1.Marine Biological LaboratoryWoods HoleUSA

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