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Ursula Goodenough

I suggest that we not get bogged down in self-language, which is used very loosely. Sound waves, for example, are often spoken of as self-propagating. 


This sentence illustrates the quagmire we’re in: “If there now is consensus among origin-of-life researchers that RNA chains are too specialized to have been created as a product of random chemical reactions, then where did the life-forming intentionality come from that enabled RNA to self-emerge/auto-emerge?” Let me parse it a bit and see if that gets us anywhere.


There’s no such thing as a random chemical reactions. Atoms/ions/molecules interact, or not, in accordance with their inherent properties — their shape, charge, solubility — and external circumstances — temperature, radiation, concentration, solvent, catalysts. When these factors hit a sweet spot, then the reaction occurs spontaneously, in conformity with thermodynamic expectations.


My perspective is that there’s no reason to posit that there was any intentionality in the formation of RNA in terms of the “life-forming” capacities it came to acquire. Rather, the circumstances arose, as per above, for nucleotide monomers to form and their polymerisation into chains, and these then turned out to be particularly adept, due to base-pairing, at adopting shapes, and these shapes turned out to be effective as catalysts (emergent property).