Half-alive theory

Pearson (half alive)
English mathematician-physicist Karl Pearson's 1892 interjection on the jump from living (matter) to lifeless (matter), or dead matter to living matter, in regards to something "not yet life", which is a half-alive type of theory speculation. [6]
In science, half-alive theory or "more alive" / "less alive" theory is a speculative origin of life conjecture, hypothesis, or type of thought experiment which supposes that prior to the formation of the first “life” there existed a half-living thing (John Haldane, 1929), semi-living molecule (Time, 1957), in contrast to a living molecule, or less-alive molecule (Libb Thims, 2007), in contrast to a more-alive molecule, acting as a precursor to the first living thing.

In 1892, English mathematical physicist Karl Pearson, in his The Grammar of Science, a book looking at mind and life in the context of modern physical science, stated the following: [6]

“Those who believe that the organic [see: living matter] has been developed from inorganic, that living has proceeded from deadmatter’ [see: dead matter], may then assert that there must be in matter ‘something-which-is-not-yet-life-but-which-may-develop-into-life’, and may fitly term this side of matter supermateriality.”

Half-living thing
In 1929, English bio-chemist (chnops-chemist) John Haldane, in an article published in Rationalist Annual, argued that the atmosphere of the early earth was mostly carbon dioxide, ammonia, and water vapor, containing little oxygen; without oxygen no ozone would be present, hence: [1]

“When ultra-violet light acts on a mixture of water, carbon dioxide, and ammonia, a vast variety of organic substances are made, including sugars and apparently [Edward Baly, 1920s] some of the materials from which proteins are built up. The first living or half-living things were probably large molecules synthesized under the influence of the sun’s radiation, and only capable of reproduction in the particularly favorable medium in which they originated.”

In 2017, Krishna Dronamraju, in his Popularizing Science, devoted an chapter section to Haldane’s views on “half-living things”. [10]

In 1927, while not exactly a "half-alive theory", per se, but in the neighborhood, British animal psychologist Lloyd Morgan, gave the following outline: [7]

“Let us provisionally arrange ‘natural entities’ in ascending order in an emergent hierarchy. Such a suit may be: atom, molecule, colloidal unit, ‘biocule’, cell, multicellular organism, community of such organisms. Here ‘biocule’ stands for a hypothetical link in the chain.”

Morgan, in 1929, elaborated on this "biocule" (i.e. first "living molecule") hypothesis as follows: [8]

“On the assumption that all are in accordance with nature, and that they stand in order of evolutionary genesis, it follows that, at some stage of evolution a, there were atoms only; at stage b, molecules (and atoms) only. Not until stage c was reached were there living units (may one say ‘biocules’?) in biochemical relationship. Here we come into touch with the hypothesis, the fullest knowledge of the nature and properties of the atomic world at stage a would not enable the most for-sighted atomic logician, so to speak, to deduce and foretell the nature and properties of the molecules at stage b; nor would the fullest knowledge of molecules at this stage of evolution enable the molecular logician to predict the distinctive character of ‘biocules’ at stage c, that is before any ‘biocule’ had come into existence.”

While, again, this is not specifically a half-alive theory, the following is the gist of what Morgan is supposing, in his assertion that somewhere in or amid the jump from "stage a" to "stage b" (or at stage b) that "life" appeared:

atoms (dead) + molecules (dead) → biocules (alive)

A prolonged study and introspection of this "hypothetical" reaction in terms of free energy is where its logic shows through as faulty; thought, to note, this conclusion is not immediate.

Semi-living molecules
An early January 1957 Manhattan meeting for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a debate arose over what seems to be Haldane’s 1929 reducing atmosphere / hot thin soup (see: primordial soup) origin of life theory—supposedly in regards to his conjecture that: “that the first living or half-living things were probably large molecules synthesized under the influence of the sun’s radiation”. This debate spurred the Time magazine article “Of Molecules & Men”, which speculated on this further, discussing concepts such as “semiliving molecules” and automation: [2]

“The business of biology is to study all aspects of life, from semiliving molecules to automation. At last week's Manhattan meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which goes heavy on biology, platoons of speakers went to work on life. Some highlights: Original Soup. Best theory of how life began assumes that the earth once had a "reducing" atmosphere of methane, ammonia, hydrogen and water, as the outer planets have now. Solar radiation and lightning, according to the theory, turned this mixture into organic molecules which gradually grew complex enough to...”
More-alive less-alive theory
American electrochemical engineer Libb Thims' 2007 ridicule diagram of the absurdity of the "more alive" (coenzyme A, a 6-element molecule), "alive" (RNA, a 5-element molecule), not alive or "less alive" (aspartic acid a 4-element molecule), or definitely not alive hydrogen molecule (a 1-element molecule) or hydrogen atom position. [3]

More alive / less alive theory
See main: More alive / less alive theory
In 1993, Canadian political scientist Paris Arnopoulos, in his "Life" chapter, to his Sociophysics, gave the following summary: [9]

“Primitive and pagan people attribute some kind of life to all creation. The pre-Socratics concurred with this belief, as Thales’ hylozoism and Pythagoras’ pananimism attest. From this traditional viewpoint, all beings are alive in different ways and various degrees, the more formidable the complexity of its components, the more alive is the system.”

In 2007, American electrochemical engineer Libb Thims, in his "Molecular Evolution" chapter, to his Human Chemistry, was vacillating on on the popular notion that the RNA molecule is the first form of life, when viewed in the light of a molecular evolution table, which holds that evolution from the hydrogen atom (a presumed to be "not alive" entity) to the human molecule (a presumed to be "alive" entity) is but a progressive increase in element count (26 for humans), animation, and reactivity properties.

Thims, at this point, was indecisive as to the solution.

Defunct theory of life
In 2009, the faulty merits of the above "more alive / less alive" argument (2007), a repercussion of the RNA = first life theory, acted as a ridicule or Aunt Sally type stepping stone to arrival of the defunct theory of life, by American electrochemical engineer Libb Thims. [4] In this new perspective, namely that the grand unpublished "theory of life" is not a scientific theory, but rather a religious-mythology based theory forced into modern physical science and hence a defunct scientific theory that becomes acute in the chemical perspective (e.g. “chemistry does not know the word life", Charles Sherrington, 1938; “[I suggest we] abandon the word ‘alive’”, Francis Crick, 1966) and especially so in the chemical thermodynamic perspective (e.g. “there is no thing endowed with life”, Nikola Tesla, 1915), the premise of a "semi-living molecule", i.e. a molecule that is so-to-say "half-alive", in retrospect, is a near-absurdity, but one difficult to discern in conceptual context; such as was the case in the 2007-mindset of Thims.

Autogen theory
In 2011, American neurological anthropologist Terrence Deacon, in his mind from matter book Incomplete Nature, outlined his "autogen theory", which argues that prior to the formation of the first living thing (some type of membrane-bound cell with genetic material in his view) that a hypothetical molecular entity called an "autogen" (self-generating system) existed, which Deacon explicitly defines as being "not alive", that self-assembled or self-generated, via autocatalysis, autopoiesis, autocatalytic closure, recursive, circular, etc. methods, to form the first life. [5] Deacon's theory, however, is smothered in layers upon layers of emergence theory and hypothetical coinings and terms, to the point that discussion of his theory is crouched in hundreds of pages of his own made-up vocabulary (e.g. telodynamics, morphodynamics, autogenic chemistry, autogenesis, to name a few) and is a theory that amounts to a perpetual motion of the living kind theory.

See also
First life
Virus molecule

1. Ball, Philip. (2011). Unnatural: the Heretical Idea of Making People (pgs. 135-36). Vintage Books.
2. Staff. (1957). “Science: Of Molecules & Men”, Time, Jan 07.
3. Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume One) (more alive, pg. 130-31). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.
4. Thims, Libb. (2009). “Letter: Life a Defunct Scientific Theory”, Journal of Human Thermodynamics, Vol. 5:20-21.
5. Deacon, Terrence W. (2011). Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter (autogen, pgs. 305-). W.W. Norton & Co.
6. Pearson, Karl. (1900). The Grammar of Science (§The Definition of Living and Lifeless, pgs. 338-40; quote, pg. 339). Publisher.
7. Morgan, C. Lloyd. (1927). “A Conception of the Organism, Emergent and Resultant” (pgs. 141; biocule, pgs. 151-52), Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society.
8. Morgan, C. Lloyd. (1929). Mind at the Crossways (pg. 6; biocule, pgs. 16-17). Williams & Norgate.
9. Arnopoulos, Paris. (1993). Sociophysics: Cosmos and Chaos in Nature and Culture (being, pg. 31; more alive, pg. 39). Nova Publishers, 2005.
10. Dronamruju, Krishna R. (2017). Popularizing Science: the Life and Work of JBS Haldae (§§: Origin of Life; §: Half-Living Things, pgs. 143-). Oxford University Press.

TDics icon ns

More pages