The Universality of Life

Some citations from Christian De Duve, Vital Dust 1995. Chapter 13, The Universality of Life

In the introduction to this  book, I argued on theoretical grounds – remember the thirteen spades – that the ermergance of life must have involved a very large number of steps, most of which had a high probability of occuring under the prevailing conditions. But left open the possibility that there might be more than one pathway compatible with this exigency.  My conclusion, after a consideration of the underlying chemistry, is that, given the opportunity, the development of life is very to take the course it actually took, at least in all essential steps.

The figure of about one million “habitable” planets per galaxy is considered not unreasonable. Even if this value were overestimated by several orders of magnitude, it would still add up to trillions of potential cradles for life. If my reading of the evidence is correct, this means that trillions of planets exist that have borne, bear or will bear life. The universe is awash with life.

But the term “artificial life”, applied by analogy with “artificial intelligence”, could be misleading. Life is a chemical process. If it is ever to be created artificially, it will be by a chemist, not by a computer.


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