Is it possible for the origin of life to predate the origin of the Earth? Essay

Submitted By sparklestar007
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Is it possible for the origin of life to predate the origin of the Earth?

Recently, a thought-provoking paper was published on March 28, 2013 that suggested the possibility of the origin of life to predate the origin of the Earth. The highly arguable paper was written by Alexei Sharov who is a staff scientist at the U.S. National Institute on Aging, and Richard Gordon is a theoretical biologist at the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory in Florida. To prove their argument, Sharov and Gordon included a graph that plotted the relationship of genome complexity on a logarithmic scale over time. The plotted graph clearly indicated that the presence of life existed way before the origin of the Earth itself, which was roughly 4.5 billion years ago. With the provided plot, Sharov and Gordon suggested that the increase of genetic complexity follows the trend of Moore’s Law, which basically “summarizes” that complexity increases exponentially from zero over time. If Moore’s law were to be applied to genome complexity, it would imply that life had originated 9.7 billion years ago by starting off with a single DNA base pair then exponentially increased from there (as seen in graph below). The paper presented many debatable points about complexity, evolution, and the genomic sizes of various organisms that made their hypothesis unrealistic.

For the majority of the paper, Sharov and Gordon continuously argued that evolution played an important role in the increase of functional complexity. They explained, “function can be defined as a reproducible sequence of actions of organisms that satisfies specific needs or helps to achieve vital goals.” They emphasized that these functions are encoded into the organism’s genome, preserved, and then passed onto future generations. Because of the preserved functions that are engraved into the genetic memory, it made sense to them to conclude that genetic complexity is a representation of functional complexity. Furthermore, in order to prove their reasoning, they believed that the mechanism in which the genome becomes more complex “probably relies heavily” on the duplication of portions of DNA genes that led to the divergence of the function of those copies (Sharov & Gordon 2013). Much of what Sharov and Gordon wrote about the correlation between genetic and functional complexity were loosely argued. If we were to consider the role of evolution, it has no intention or aspirations to “improve” an organism. Evolution is a concept that does not drive an organism to some sort of an ideal or betterment state. Examples have shown that there are organisms that evolved to become more complex but also there are organisms that have evolved to become simpler. To put this into perspective, one of the largest known genome on earth belongs to the Polychaos dubium, which is an amoeba with approximately 670 billion pairs and if you compare that genome size to that of a vertebrate, humans only have approximately 3.2 billion DNA base pairs. The correlation between genomic size and complexity made by Sharov and Gordon seems rather silly.
Referring back to the graph in Figure 1, the time of origin is plotted against logarithmic scale of genome size in base pairs. The origin of the point shows to start at approximately 9.7 billion years ago, which is an indication that life originated with one DNA base pair. In addition, the straight line surpasses the origin of the Earth at roughly 4.5 billion years ago, which highly suggests the possibility of life in other parts of the universe or the possibility of the concept of panspermia. Again, I find it an absurd notion because there are no fossils or evidence of any sort to defend that hypothesis. Let’s put aside what Sharov and Gordon wrote in their submitted paper and consider the evolution of genome size. According to Michael Lynch, there is a good number of eukaryotes with multiple, complex cell structures that have less than 10,000 genes compared to