Sin, Sex and Animal Diversity

Caroline Mckeon

Why life is all about reproduction

Life ay?

Its pretty rad.

But how did it start?

And WHY is it still here?

Life's Biodiversity
A little bit of Life’s and its Biodiversity Image Source

Some of you already have theories on the subject because you are a) evolutionary research scientists, b) religiously orthodox or c) the creator itself (hi God, glad you read my blog).

For anyone new to the topic, let’s take a quick and entertaining exploration into the possible past of how early life started, and why it continued.

To my knowledge, there are two main ideas (sometimes vying) to explain the how and why of life on earth.

1)      The gospel according to unfeasibly short geographical time spans.

How? God/s

almight and powerful greek gods
“Almighty and Powerful Gods” Image Source

The first explanations to arise were based on religion; myth arising from human culture attempting to control and explain the world around them.[1] (#earlyscience)  

Hypothesises of religious origins take many forms, but centre broadly around the theme of a divine and heavenly ruler (benevolence optional) who casts the first of his/her/their proverbial children from clay/mountains/other “children’s” ribs.

Creation-of-Eve
“Hey there Adam, you’re not using that are you?” Image Source

Familiar forms of this idea may include;

hindu creation story
Hindu god Brahma, born from a lotus stemming from Vishnu’s navel Image Source
norse creation cycle
Nordic Ragnarok, destruction before the rebirth in the world’s creation cycle Image Source

and Pagan creation stories.

Discworld-The-Great-A-Tuin
The Great A’Tuin – world holding turtle from the end of the improbability curve         Image Credit

 

Or indeed, the seven day marathon of creation by the Christian god, whose children then took on the modern day human form of naked and afraid in the wilderness, after activating original sin.

Why? 42

mouseHaving created humanity, along with gravity, oceans, the birds and the bees; the creator frequently tasks their creations with a purpose on earth. This has ranged from going forth to/abstaining from multiplication, building/not building temples to reach the heavens,subjugating the rest of creation/subjugating each other, to the general singing of praises/sacrificial appeasement.

As explanations for the initiation and continued diversification of life, these hypothesise are less than fully compatible with modern science, and are broadly considered to be fables.

The other leading suggestion revolves around probability, chemistry and a code that codes for propagation.

2)      The gospel according to Fluke

How? Chemistry and the laws of large numbers

Somewhere deep in geological time, 3.8 – 4.1 billion years ago,[2] conditions on earth where just about right for life. The temperature, ratios of atmospheric gas, presence of water and post-Haden wrath of the weather conspired to birth biology.

stanley miller experiment.png
Stanley Miller’s iconic experiment, simulating the conditions thought to have created early life[1] Image Source
Now some say it was all down to Amino Acids from Space, others say lightning strikes and tidal pools of lipid cells.[3]

Either way, it is thought that interacting chemicals combined to form the earliest RNA fragments – some of the basic genetic (coding) material found in all living things to this day.

But how and why did microscopic chains of organic molecules give rise to all the immense diversity and complexity of life we see around us today?

The answer lies in one of the most common alleged sinsSex.

Why? Priests vs prostitutes

Imagine the first RNA chain to form; tiny, fragile biology in a hostile pool subject to earth’s miserable (terms and) conditions. In all likely hood, it disintegrated soon after, without much ceremony. As the aforementioned miserable conditions persisted, another, similar RNA chain could have formed, with a slightly different arrangement, also disintegrating to no effect.

However……

By pure chance, one of the great numbers of tiny RNA fragments could have formed so that its molecules linked up with other, similar molecules, forming a copy of itself. This would mean that effectively, its molecular arrangement (or code) was programmed for replication.  

begining of life
Tiny squirmy stuff of life Image Source

This time, when the fragile little polymer disintegrated, it would leave behind a copy of itself, also arranged so as to replicate.

This inherent function of genetic material to carry out its own cloning is the reason for the spread and continuation of life on earth.[4] (further reading)

beautiful bacteria
Cloning before it was cool Image Source

Anyone who has experienced the majestic awe of biology will quickly realise that it’s a big old mess of mayhem and malfunctions.

As RNA copies itself, it makes mistakes, mutating it’s code. Like the combination sequences of many early biological molecules, most mutations are non-viable mistakes that results in the end of their tiny, squirmy organisms.

But, as the millions of RNA combinations thrown together eventually coded for self-perpetuation, some mutations proved useful.

Minute, spontaneous, serendipitous deviations from the original form of life lead to organisms better able to gather energy, resist physiological stress and most importantly – replicate their personal code in the next generation.

If genetic material result in carriers that survive to successfully produce offspring also adapted and driven to reproduce, then its presence will persist on the earth. Adaptations allowing for the exploitation of different resources lower competition between organisms, increasing survival, and therefore reproduction. Consequently, over millions of years, useful mutations built up and diverged into different species.

_Bernardino-de-la-Serna-microbes
Microbe Diversity Image Source

RNA fragments formed without this propagative coding die out, as they are not trying to make more of themselves. Anytime a fluke of meiosis produces a priest/other organism disinterested in mating, it will die happily, leaving no offspring with similar inclinations.

Thus and therefore, it is an absolute fact that all life of earth wants to make babies.

llm-why-babies-helpless
Image Source

And that is why night clubs are better attended than mass. If it wasn’t in your genes to do it, you wouldn’t be here.

This theory of sex as our worldly purpose leads to further fascinating musings on everything from patriotism to why we’re not immortal, but that will all be dealt with in later blog posts.

In conclusion, every adaptation in the entirety of life, in every organism from the smallest femtobacteria to massive giant red woods, from mongooses to lions to artichokes, has one thing in common.

They are all about reproduction.

 

References

1)      Harari, Y. (n.d.). Sapiens.

2)      Bell, E., Boehnke, P., Harrison, T. and Mao, W. (2015). Potentially biogenic carbon                   preserved in a 4.1 billion-year-old zircon. Proceedings of the National Academy of                          Sciences, 112(47), pp.14518-14521.

3)      Miller, S. (1953). A Production of Amino Acids Under Possible Primitive Earth                             Conditions. Science, 117(3046), pp.528-529.

4)      http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/credits.php

 

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