Harold Morowitz, D. Smith
Paper #: 06-08-029
Life is universally understood to require a source of free energy and mechanisms with which to harness it. Remarkably, the converse may also be true: the continuous generation of sources of free energy by abiotic processes may have forced life into existence as a means to alleviate the buildup of free energy stresses. This assertion -- for which there is precedent in non-equilibrium statistical mechanics and growing empirical evidence from chemistry -- would imply that life had to emerge on the earth, that at least the early steps would occur in the same way on any similar planet, and that we should be able to predict many of these steps from first principles of chemistry and physics together with an accurate understanding of geochemical conditions on the early earth. A deterministic emergence of life would reflect an essential continuity between physics, chemistry, and biology. It would show that a part of the order we recognize as living is thermodynamic order inherent in the geosphere, and that some aspects of Darwinian selection are expressions of the likely simpler statistical mechanics of physical and chemical self-organization.