The basic inorganic building blocks from which life was formed are chemicals such as methane, ammonia, water, hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide, and likely a few more. To date no credible scientific theory has been advanced that can account for the process that results in the configuration of these basic materials into a life form.
While a precise definition of ‘life’ continues to be up for debate, I’m going with the statement that something is alive when it demonstrates at least some innate capacity to interact with its environment in a manner that goes beyond mere cause and effect as a function of the laws of physics. The ability to replicate – as essential it is to the continuation of life today would not be essential to the definition; the earliest living molecules may have been generated continuously for thousands of years in the earliest stages of Earth’s biosphere before the capacity for self-replication came about. My main point here is to discuss the emergence of animate matter – life – from what appeared to be inanimate matter, leaving the question alone as to what precise process was responsible for this.
Given a basic living system of sorts – e.g., a simple amoeba, a single cell organism – and subtract from it all the known material elements we can discern within it, so that nothing will be left over, we will not come across the property – at least not one that has been detected – that would account for the amoeba being alive. Other than the conclusion that we must have missed something in the analysis, the suggestion has been made that – in addition to the presence of critical material elements – identified as the building blocks of life – the appearance of life as an emergent property is strictly a function of how its material constituents are organized and able to interact with each other. A state of organizational integrity capable of expressing itself as a living organism, but we have no clue as to what the critical organizational element consist of or how it gets implemented.
Rejecting heavenly intervention (I know, a necessary assumption for some, but I am only interested in rational, non self-serving explanations) the questions remains how a given combination of material compounds is able to assume a life-exhibiting configuration and continue to persist as such. The conclusion must be that matter must have an innate capacity to be organized in this manner, leading to yet another mystery: how does this capacity -or at least the potential for it – reside in matter? In a sense it is similar to the innate potential for atoms to combine with other atoms into molecules of the various elements, as described by the laws of physics. Seemingly, biology extends these laws into the next level of higher organizational complexity, allowing life to appear.
At which point is the potential for life already present in matter? The conclusion seems to be that this potential is found within the most elementary forms of matter, and that as matter evolves into ever more complex patterns of organizational persistence the capacity for life exhibiting behavior increases in the case of compounds we have come to associate with being essential to the expression of life within matter.
Finally, the conclusion seems inescapable that if life – in terms of potential – resides within even the most elementary particle in the world. If this is true, the cosmos as a whole should be looked at as a living organism in its most elementary or innate form, potentially capable of reassembling itself under certain circumstances into the myriad of life-forms that we are already familiar with, including our own.