2008 Annual Science Report
Montana State University Reporting | JUL 2007 – JUN 2008
Origin of Life and Catalysis - Philosophical Considerations
Our goal is to provide a solid philosophical foundation for the ABRC research program. To achieve this goal, we have several sub-goals like helping the students to develop their position as a group regarding a viable account for the metabolism-first theory, examining some methodological assumptions of the current astrobiological community, and finally propagating the information learned in our group to a larger community by offering courses on the origin of life.
Origin of Life and Catalysis – Philosophical Considerations
(Bandyopadhyay & Britton)
We have organized a focus group to examine the philosophical implications of our research in the context of the origins of life and the evolution of “life giving” catalytic functionalities. The group consists of ABRC PIs, graduate students, undergraduates as well as world-authority on the thermodynamic aspects of biological processes and the author of “Into the Cool”, Eric Schneider. The interests of the group are focused on examining definitions of life and living systems, where an effort is being made to understand “living” processes conceptually beginning at the chemical and physical levels. Through this work, an understanding of what is commonly regarded as living is to be reached where living forms are understood as dynamic, multi-realizable processes, thereby avoiding difficulties associated with current and past attempts to define life. This work runs orthogonal to current conceptions where life is understood as a thing or item that can be defined by a series of descriptors. In addition to these currents, the group is interested in and developing the idea that the emergence of specific and efficient life giving catalysts was precipitated in part via the action of quantum decoherence, and that quantum mechanically mediated sensing phenomenon makes more rational the emergence of the chemistry of life in an appropriate time frame following planetary formation. This idea is compatible and adds to current metabolism first models and yields insight as to the operation of extant biological systems and the physical behavior that underlies them. This novel system wide functional conception of life, in addition to the hypothesis of quantum mediated phenomena in the origination of life, address in part both how and why questions commonly dealt with in origins of life thinking. In fall 2008, we will offer a one-credit course on “What is Life?” at Montana State University where the goal is to extend the student driven discussion about the origin of life.
PROJECT INVESTIGATORS:Prasanta Bandyopadhyay
RELATED OBJECTIVES:Objective 3.1
Sources of prebiotic materials and catalysts
Origins and evolution of functional biomolecules
Origins of energy transduction
Origins of cellularity and protobiological systems
Foundations of complex life