"In other words, self-sustaining, functionally closed structures can arise at a higher level (an autocatalytic set of autocatalytic sets), i.e., true emergence," they say.

That's an interesting view of emergence and certainly seems a sensible approach to the problem of the origin of life. It's not hard to imagine groups of molecules operating together like this. And indeed, biochemists have recently discovered simple autocatalytic sets that behave in exactly this way.

But what makes the approach so powerful is that the mathematics does not depend on the nature of chemistry–it is substrate independent. So the building blocks in an autocatalytic set need not be molecules at all but any units that can manipulate other units in the required way.

These units can be complex entities in themselves. "Perhaps it is not too far-fetched to think, for example, of the collection of bacterial species in your gut (several hundreds of them) as one big autocatalytic set," say Kauffman and co.

Link to the paper: http://arxiv.org/abs/1205.0584

Filippo Salustri originally shared this post:

Closing in on a scientific explanation of how life started.

Boy, that's piss the religulous fundiots off!

#science #mathematics #abiogenesis

Biochemists have long imagined that autocatalytic sets can explain the origin of life. Now a new mathematical approach to these sets has even broader implications