Bottom-Up Emergence

While the ribosome may be a pinnacle of molecular innovation, unlocking the explosion of biological diversity on Earth that is still going on, this Darwinian threshold of cellular life was itself a result of eons of chemical evolution, directed not by a set of genotypic blueprints, but rather from the inherent, self-organizing properties of dynamic chemical networks.

Recognizing the importance of chemical networks, research in this realm is taking shape through the development of new models in the laboratory. These models allow scientists to explore how separate and chemically distinct genotypic and phenotypic molecular representations emerge. This work not only extends the space of standard biochemistry, but also requires completely new formats in the realm of chemical evolution. The ultimate goal is to sort out the chemical and environmental determinants that both allow for development of autonomous chemical networks and shape their evolution into unique functional forms.