|The machine age came first|
A more relevant question: "Which came first machines or biological organisms?" is less often contemplated, so, in this series we have been exploring the realm of time prior to "life", a time before a border line existed between machine and organic.
That is, before the border line between abiotic and biotic, which are defined as:
abiotic: a·bi·ot·ic [ey-bahy-ot-ik, ab-ee-] adjective-
of or characterized by the absence of life or living organisms. (Dictionary).
biotic: bi·ot·ic [bahy-ot-ik] adjective-
pertaining to life. (Dictionary).
As it turns out the "border line" between the two is actually a great chasm of not only space, but of time as well.
This is quite important because the biotic realm is carbon based, and therefore could not, according to cosmological evolution, come into existence prior to carbon having been formed in stars.
Carbon was formed in stars late in the abiotic epoch, via the Triple-alpha process.
The lighter elements had to first evolve from primitive energy, which cooled soon afterwards to a temperature too cool for carbon to form.
That whole early era of evolution is described and detailed by evolutionary cosmology, not biological evolution.
It covers a vast amount of time compared to biological evolution, which only covers a fraction of the span of time abiotic evolution covers.
To illustrate, let's review some of that theory from zero to the advent of carbon in stars:
The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model that describes the early development of the Universe. According to the Big Bang theory, the Universe was once in an extremely hot and dense state which expanded rapidly. This rapid expansion caused the Universe to cool and resulted in its present continuously expanding state. According to the most recent measurements and observations, the Big Bang occurred approximately 13.75 billion years ago, which is thus considered the age of the Universe. After its initial expansion from a singularity, the Universe cooled sufficiently to allow energy to be converted into various subatomic particles, including protons, neutrons, and electrons. While protons and neutrons combined to form the first atomic nuclei only a few minutes after the Big Bang, it would take thousands of years for electrons to combine with them and create electrically neutral atoms. The first element produced was hydrogen, along with traces of helium and lithium. Giant clouds of these primordial elements would coalesce through gravity to form stars and galaxies, and the heavier elements would be synthesized either within stars or during supernovae.
(The Big Bang Theory, emphasis added). The Earth is said to have formed "around 4.54 billion ... years ago" (History of Earth).
Therefore The Big Bang happened about 9.21 billion years before the Earth formed (13.75 - 4.54 = 9.21).
Biological organisms formed on the Earth about a billion years later, which would be ~10.21 billion years after The Big Bang.
Humans, homo sapiens, are said to have evolved about 200,000 years ago, which would be ~13.7498 billion years after The Big Bang (13.7498 + 00.0002 = 13.75 billion years). Homo sapien evolution is a very tiny 0.0002 billion years of the 13.75 billion year story.
The abiotic epoch which preceded the biotic epoch involved a vast amount of "time" as we know it, populating vast areas of space with the atoms that make up chemicals, the subject of the scientific discipline Chemistry:
Dr Clarke said: “There are a lot of fundamental questions about the origins of life and many people think they are questions about biology. But for life to have evolved, you have to have a moment when non-living things become living – everything up to that point is chemistry.”
“Our cells, and the cells of all organisms, are composed of molecular machines. These machines are built of component parts, each of which contributes a partial function or structural element to the machine. How such sophisticated, multi-component machines could evolve has been somewhat mysterious, and highly controversial.” Professor Lithgow said.
Many cellular processes are carried out by molecular ‘machines’ — assemblies of multiple differentiated proteins that physically interact to execute biological functions ... Our experiments show that increased complexity in an essential molecular machine evolved because of simple, high-probability evolutionary processes, without the apparent evolution of novel functions. They point to a plausible mechanism for the evolution of complexity in other multi-paralogue protein complexes.
The most complex molecular machines are found within cells.
Writing in the journal PLoS Pathogens, the team from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences show how they studied the molecular machine known as the 'type II bacterial secretion system', which is responsible for delivering potent toxins from bacteria such as enterotoxigenic E. coli and Vibrio cholerae into an infected individual.
Professor Richard Pickersgill, who led the research, said: "Bacterial secretion systems deliver disease causing toxins into host tissue. If we can understand how these machines work, then we can work out how it they might be stopped."
(Do Molecular Machines Deliver Toxins of Power?). The gist of this is that the era of the evolution of machines is just another way of saying the epoch of abiotic evolution.
Let's look at the sequence again:
1) universe exists as singularity like a hot plasma;This sequence may appear simple at first blush, but is not as simple as it first appears to be, because it contemplates an exploration of the border line between life and non-life:
2) a big bang or explosion takes place;
3) parts of 'primitive machines' evolve (electrons, protons, and neutrons);
4) machines (atoms of "the elements") evolve from primitive parts;
5) elements/machines evolve into star machines (Suns);
6) star machines produce carbon, the basis of biotic forms;
7) finally, machines evolve into carbon based organisms (the biotic epoch begins).
The definition of life is as enormous a problem as the phenomenon of life itself. One could easily collect from the literature more than 100 different definitions, none satisfactory enough to be broadly accepted. What should the definition contain, to be suitable for all varieties of observable life? Humans, animals, plants, microorganisms. Do viruses also belong to life?
(What Is Life, The Scientist). Once we reach the cellular level, microbes, the jump to multicellular is easier to follow, in most cases, than the jump from abiotic to biotic (see Evolving Multicellularity).
Most scenarios one reads concerning evolution begin with biotic life already existing, then proceed from there.
Thus, the big picture of ~10.21 billion years of abiotic evolution which preceded that much smaller ~3.54 billion years of biotic evolution is often ignored or given short shrift.
Richard Dawkins interviews Steven Rose (minutes:seconds):
00:35 natural selection is only one process or part of evolution, not the exclusive process or part ...
01:20 organisms take part in the selection of their environment ...
03:30 Rose takes issue with the overuse of the gene as the most important element in evolution ...
04:10 entire organisms must change, not simply individual genetic parts of it ...
05:20 Rose does not think that genes pass themselves from one generation of a species to the next; rather he thinks the information is passed, but that the organism then produces genetic material from that information ...
05:25 Rose says the idea than genes replicate themselves is not true; the orchestra of the entire cell is what replicates the genes, the DNA ...
08:20 the cell decides which parts of the DNA, the genes, to turn on and off ...
10:30 Rose indicates that focus one only one molecule, the DNA molecule, the gene, leads down inaccurate pathways; the solution is to see the organism as an entire functioning entity with equal emphasis on the parts, not unequal emphasis on the genetics alone ...
The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.