Archaea Cell


Quick Reads on The Origin of Life

                                         — J.X. Mason’ Blog of 8-17-20

While busy writing a new full-length Essay, “The Origin of Life on Earth,” I’ve come across a couple of excellent sources that are both accurate and highly entertaining.

One is “The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher,” by Dr. Lewis Thomas.  It was written in 1974, when he was President of the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and a member of the National Academy of Sciencies.  This slim book, a perennial best-seller, reads as easily as a good novel.  Here’s a typical quote demonstrating the poetic nature of  Thomas’ writing:

“A good case can be made for our [human] non-existence as entities.  We are not made up, as we had always supposed, of successively enriched packets of our own parts.  We are shared, rented, occupied.  At the interior of our cells, driving them, providing the oxidative enrgy that sends us out for the improvement of each shining day, are the mitochondria, and in a strict sense, they are not ours.  They turn out to be little separate creatures, the colonial posterity of migrant prokaryotes, probably primitive bacteria, that swam into the ancestral presursors of our [human] eukaryotic cells, and stayed there.  Ever sense, they have mainained themselves and their ways, replicating in their own fashion, privately, with their own DNA and RNA, quite different from ours.” 

The second source I want to recommend is not a book at all, but a beautifully illustrated film clip, only about 15 minutes long, written and narrated by the polymath Arvin Ash.  The clip is titled,  “How Did Life Begin? Abiogenesis. Origin of Life from Non-living Matter.”  It is available online, via YouTube.  This video quickly explains the linked scientific theories that explain how the three critical parts of “first life” likely arose.  These three parts are the lipids that form cell walls, the amino acids that form proteins, and the RNA/DNA molecule that has the power to replicate and carry genetic code from generation to generation.  Ash’s presentation is up-to-date on the latest scientific research, as of September, 2019.

— J.X. Mason