This article in Live Science highlights a study by scientists that questions the materialistic, exclusively chemical approach to the origins of life. What is life? There is no simple definition and yet, the agreement has been that DNA must exist in order for something to be considered alive. The study’s authors, astrobiologists from Arizona State University argue that the, “Key to Life is information, not chemicals.”
“Instead of trying to recreate the chemical building blocks that gave rise to life 3.7 billion years ago, scientists should use key differences in the way that living creatures store and process information, suggests new research detailed today (Dec. 11) in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.”
The ASU researchers point out that inanimate objects differ from animate ones in that information flows in two different directions in living things. The ability to respond can therefore be prescribed to life.
“For instance, when a person touches a hot stove, the molecules in his hand sense heat, transmit that information to the brain, and the brain then tells the molecules of the hand to move. Such two-way information flow governs the behavior of simple and complex life forms alike, from the tiniest bacteria to the giant humpback whale. By contrast, if you put a cookie on the stove, the heat may burn the cookie, but the treat won’t do anything to respond.”