In Geoffrey Zubay’s work titled the Origins of Life on the Earth and in the Cosmos, the author extrapolates the available research revolving around the beginning of life not just on earth, but on the first planet in the whole universe. Through his inquiry, he tries to capture the most conclusive evidence yet and elucidates the future possibilities in determining whether life originated from another planet on earth and if evolution from non-living organisms can be the natural process.
In 1905, the astronomer Simon Newcomb proposed that because Earth was a representative planet orbiting a representative star, life must be abundant throughout the universe. Around the same time, in 1903, Svante Arrhenius proposed that life on Earth was seeded by spores originating from another planet outside our solar system. Theories of panspermia, that life on Earth did not originate here but was transported here from another planet, have been elaborated on by others to include planned voyages by advanced civilizations.
Wherever the ﬁrst living system did arise, all fossil and biochemical information points to a gradual evolution of complex forms of life from simpler single cell organisms (prokaryotes) over a period of a few billion years. Although these ﬁndings do not preclude the possibility of panspermia, they are consistent with the view that life arose on Earth. Indeed, it is difﬁcult to imagine a planet that would have been more ideal for the origin of life than Earth.
In the late 1920s, the English biologist J. B. S. Haldane and the Russian chemist A. I. Oparin independently suggested that life may have originated from abiological materials on this planet. It was not until the 1950s, however, that serious experiments were performed to test the idea that biological molecules could be reconstructed from abiological materials. In 1950, Melvin Calvin at Berkeley, and shortly afterward Harold Urey at the University of Chicago, initiated such “prebiotic” experiments.
In both cases, the experiments consisted of mixing together simple compounds to make organic molecules of biological signiﬁcance. For instance, in Urey’s laboratory Stanley Miller mixed methane, ammonia, hydrogen, and water together; after passing an electric discharge through the mixture for a considerable length of time, he was able to detect certain simple amino acids. Although these early experiments were crude and possibly not performed under realistic prebiotic conditions, they were signiﬁcant because they represented a beginning of the experimental approach to the study of the origin of life.
There has been a slow growth of laboratories engaged in the origin of life research. By the late 1960s there were about 20 laboratories involved in such experiments and today there are probably around 100. There could be no better time to take this subject seriously.
Currently, we have a detailed description of over half of the reactions that take place in the simplest living cells and we have a deep enough understanding of organic chemistry to arrive at realistic ideas of how life is likely to have originated. We can hope that we are only a few years away from very plausible model systems for the origin of life.