Life Without Carbon

  • Rob Hengeveld
Part of the Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology book series (COLE, volume 22)


This chapter discusses the advantage of a deductive approach to biogenesis over the current inductive ones. It first describes the precipitation of crusts necessary for generating the energy required for running the biochemistry of cells, however primitive these cells may be. Then it discusses the way the properties of chemical elements could have determined the earliest and subsequent evolution of life: trends in biological evolution must have followed those in the Periodic Table of Elements. Next, a systems approach applied to biological organisms determines rules set to their dynamics as complex systems. Finally, systems are not only subjected to general rules of internal systems behavior, but are themselves subject to the environment in which they happen to originate and maintain. Although they have to follow changes in the environment, systems resist change. System components, that is, a chemical element, will be replaced by one with similar properties without serious consequences to the functioning of the system, but the resistance comes from the impossibility of changing the chemical interactions that constitute the system. A change in the pattern of interactions would destroy the system. Thus, only those systems that do not change this pattern survive. Moreover, this also means that their survival suggests that physical conditions of the environment, such as temperature or pressure, will have remained more or less the same since the very beginning of life on Earth.

The fact that an upstart of a dynamic system later interpreted as a living one can be deduced from first principles means that the chemical and physical conditions on Earth must have been well defined. For the same process to happen on other planets, first principles apply there as well. This radically reduces the probability of a comparable upstart elsewhere in the universe, whereas further evolution along the same line, resulting after a few billion years in a humanlike, intelligent being with which we can communicate, is completely out of the question.


Energy Flow Quantum Tunneling Deductive Reasoning Biochemical System Strong Electronegativity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Hereby, I thank my wife Claire Hengeveld-Nicholls for correcting the English and the logic of this chapter.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vrije UniversiteitRandwijk, AmsterdamThe Netherlands

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