Biological Theory 5 (1):67-78 (2010)
This article presents a new hypothesis on the origin of life on Earth. According to this hypothesis, life arose within the limits of a particular material system representing a set of specific local environments integrated by a common circulating liquid medium where relatively short RNA molecules, viroid-like particles, are replicated with great accuracy. In each of the local environments, the synthesis of certain substances that are required for accurate replication and survival of the RNAs is carried out. The system, which we called “diffuse organism,” is, in essence, a very rough and bulky analog of the structural-functional organization of the cell’s biosynthetic machinery. The diffuse organism was an organismal and evolving system at the same time. It seems that only such a system that has emerged in the only specimen as a result of a set of chance events operating under a system of universal physical and chemical laws was able to give rise to life and evolution by means of biological selection. The outlined scenario for the origin of life allows us to narrow down the still insuperable gap between prebiological chemistry and the first living systems without devising conceptions unrelated to the realities of life
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