The Replicators – I
The journey of evolution is a long one. Our starting point is an existing universe with atoms that make up all of the matter in it and the forces that exist between these atoms. Of course, that does not answer how the universe came into being, or how the atoms came into being, or even how the forces between the atoms came into being. Those are questions whose answers lead to more of the same kind of questions. However, we need to start our explanation of evolution somewhere and this is a pretty simple starting point that does not require a lot of answers.
So, we have a universe with atoms, and there are certain forces between these atoms. If there were no forces, that would be the end of the story. Nothing would happen. But because there are forces, there will be interactions. We can consider these interactions as random. Note that we have not assumed the forces to be random, but merely the interactions. For example, if you put together two hydrogen atoms at a certain distance from each other, they will always react in the same manner every-time. Now when these atoms interact with each other, some of them may repel each other, whereas some may attract each other. The ones that attract each other may form a combination or what is called a molecule. The molecules so formed stay as such precisely because the forces of push and pull between the atoms balance out. Given this universe with atoms and forces between these atoms, it is not hard to imagine that certain patterns of atoms are stable and others are not. The ones that are stable, are by definition, molecules.
Now the same attractions and repulsions may happen between molecules and atoms as well as molecules and other molecules. This gives rise to a little bit more complexity in the universe. We now have different kinds of molecules in the universe. Now we can go backwards and apply the same kind of reasoning to the constituents of atoms such as electrons, protons, and neutrons. So we get different kinds of atoms as well.
We now have a fairly complex universe of different kinds of atoms and molecules. However, this complexity is nowhere close to the complexity found in living organisms. You can take all the atoms in the universe and all the forces between them and juggle them around for eternity and you will probably not come up with even an amoeba. So far we have relied on randomness in nature to form certain molecules which are just combinations of a few atoms. Nothing more complex. This is a reasonable assumption as we can observe this happening in nature ourselves. Water molecules are simply stable formations of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. However, if we want to create more complexity from this stage onwards, we need more rules. Pure random forces of nature will not create anything more complex, or to put it more correctly, greater the complexity of a molecule, lesser is the chance of it occurring in nature based purely on the random interactions happening among the inhabitants of our universe so far.
In my next post, I’ll explore how more complexity can arise from this stage onwards.
In the beginning was simplicity.