Allen S. Maller

270 chemical recipes and a Kabbalah poem could give rise to life

A recent article in the Eurasian Review claims that while life on a exoplanet might not look anything like life on Earth there are only so many chemical ingredients in the universe’s pantry, and only so many ways to mix them. A team led by scientists at the University of Wisconsin–Madison has exploited those limitations to write a cookbook of 270 chemical recipes with a good potential to give rise to life.

Their ingredient list could focus the search for extrasolar life by pointing out the most likely conditions — planetary versions of mixing techniques, oven temperatures and baking times — for the recipes to come together and produce life.

The process of progressing from basic chemical ingredients to the complex cycles of cell metabolism and reproduction that define life, the researchers say, requires not only a simple beginning but also ongoing repetition.

“The origin of life really is a something-from-nothing process,” says Betül Kaçar, a NASA-supported astrobiologist and UW–Madison professor of bacteriology. “But that something can’t happen just once. Life comes down to chemistry and conditions that can generate a self-reproducing pattern of reactions.”

Chemical reactions that produce molecules that encourage the same reaction to happen again and again are called autocatalytic reactions. In a new study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Zhen Peng, a postdoctoral researcher in the Kaçar laboratory, and collaborators compiled 270 combinations of molecules — involving atoms from all groups and series across the periodic table — with the potential for ongoing autocatalysis.

“It was thought that these sorts of reactions are very rare,” says Kaçar. “We are showing that it’s actually far from rare. You just need to look in the right place.” “If those conditions are right, you can start with relatively few of those outputs,” says Zach Adam, a co-author of the study: “Every time you take a turn of the cycle you spit out at least one extra output which speeds up the reaction and makes it happen even faster.” Autocatalysis is like a growing rabbits. Pairs of rabbits come together, produce litters of new rabbits, and then the new rabbits grow up to pair off and make even more rabbits.

A more poetic and religious way of thinking about how and why the creation of life occurred starts with the observation that life started out with a single cell and now it is estimated that there are around 37 trillion cells in each adult human body.

Before the beginning of God’s creating
There was nothing but God’s will.
There was harmony, peace,
Divine perfection and unity.
Allah was all knowing, all-powerful, all present, perfect,
and all alone.

There were no challenges, no changes, no relationships,
No feelings, no creativity, no vision, no religion
And no partner to love.

So Allah decided to create the heavens and the earth.
Not just space and time
Billions of galaxies over billions of years,
The laws of physics and math,
But also uncertainty, probability, and randomness
To evolve creatures with free will
To inspire, love, redeem and relate to.

In order to accomplish this God chose to self-limit.
To offer some of the Divine power, knowledge, freedom and creativity
To others, so they could learn, change, create and love.
Able to choose each other and God
In committed relationships as covenant partnerships.

The creatures created in God’s image. would engage in
competition, cooperation and consciousness;
Growth and decay, good and evil, love and hate,
War and peace, success and failure, illness and health,
Good deeds and evil acts.

Yet Allah created our world, and saw that it was good
And God added blessings, and holiness
So that our world would be very good.

Before there was matter and energy,
before there was space and time,
there was only the one God.
The Infinite One was unlimited.
All was in harmony.
All was perfect in the realm of being.

But there was no growth, no evolution,
no challenge and no choice.

Worst of all, there were no relationships.
The realm of becoming did not yet exist.

The Infinite One decided
to become a creator.
In order to do so the Infinite One
underwent self limitation,
contracting into an infinitely small singularity.

Then it was possible to create space/time and matter/energy.
Then it was possible to create the laws of nature,
both invariable and variable.
Then it was possible to create feeling and thinking creatures.

Then it was possible to create self conscious and religious creatures.

Then God was no longer alone.

But since creation must be finite,
limited by the laws of nature and free will,
creation was flawed; filled with fractures, tears and cracks.
Challenge and change meant that harmony
was replaced with competition and conflict.

Free will meant that errors and evils replaced perfection.
Limits were imposed on knowledge and life.

It would be the duties of all the creatures in the universe
created in the image of God
to mend the fractures, tears and cracks in the universe
and restore its unity.

In the process both the unique Divine One,
and the infinite number of creatures created in the Divine image, would grow together.

So that at the end of time all would be in harmony
as it was before the beginning and God’s name would become the Harmony One.

For all individual life forms
shortly before a soul is embodied
it is asked if it wants to be able to attach itself to its children,
to feel the pain of becoming detached from one it loves,
and in general to love and be loved.

If it says yes it is embodied in a mammal.
If it says no it is embodied as a fish or an insect.

Then the soul is asked if it desires to be
independent and responsible only for its own survival
or if it desires to be part of a group or a pack with a social structure.

If it desires to be only an individual
it is embodied as a solitary hunter.
If it desires to belong to a community
it is embodied as a social insect such as a bee or a termite
if it did not want to love,
or as a social mammal such as a chimpanzee or a dog
if it desired to love and be loved.

Finally, the soul is asked if it wants to be self-conscious
of its need to struggle with social and moral choices,
its duties and responsibilities to others,
and its spiritual connection to greater realities.

If it says yes it is created as a human being
or a Jinn extraterrestrial
and informed that humans
are God’s Khalifa/Vicegerents;
duty bound to increase righteousness,
and decrease selfishness
in all of Allah’s 18,000 life filled worlds.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 850 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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