As brought out in Chapter 4, the development of the Reciprocal System of physical theory has revealed that the observed material universe, which has hitherto been looked upon by science as the whole of existence, is actually only one sector of the whole. This theoretical development, the validity of which has been positively confirmed, definitely shows that there is a second sector, the cosmic sector, as we have called it, which is identical with the material sector except that the roles of space and time are reversed. Furthermore, the additional considerations discussed in the same chapter led to the conclusion that there is a third sector of existence completely independent of the space-time system that constitutes the physical universe. Existence as a whole thus consists of three distinct sectors, each with its own set of governing rules.
This does not mean that there are three completely separate sectors of existence. Both the cosmic sector and the material sector exist in space and time, and in the same space and time. Any given point in space-time thus constitutes a location in both the material sector and the cosmic sector. Similarly, this point is also a location in existence as a whole; that is, a location in the general metaphysical region, or sector. It follows that every location in space-time is potentially subject to influences originating in each of the three sectors.
With the benefit of the information that we have developed concerning the characteristics of the different sectors, we thus arrive at the theoretical conclusion that existence as it comes to our attention should have three different aspects (1) a material existence governed by the laws and principles of the material sector, the laws that govern the inanimate world about us; (2) a second aspect of physical existence in which the governing rules are those of the cosmic sector, to a large extent directly opposed to those of the material sector; and (3) a third aspect about which we know very little at this stage of our inquiry, other than that it is independent of Sectors 1 and 2, and has some characteristics that differ significantly from those of the other two sectors.
In Chapter 5, we carried out an analysis of the features of existence that we actually observe in our local environment, and this analysis showed that there are three distinct levels of this existence, each with its own peculiar pattern of behavior. Now we have deduced theoretically that observable existence should have three different aspects by reason of influences emanating from three different sectors of existence as a whole. We are therefore justified in identifying the observed levels of existence with the aspects that should theoretically exist.
This process of identification is a very necessary part of the verification of theoretical findings. Neither physical nor non-physical phenomena come equipped with labels. Consequently, when a certain entity or process emerges from the theoretical development, and we want to apply these findings to actual existence, we must look for an existing entity or process with exactly the same characteristics. The identification is ordinarily a very simple matter; in fact, the identity is usually obvious. But in any event it is self-verifying. If the identification is wrong, contradictions immediately appear as development of theory proceeds. Absence of discrepancies or inconsistencies verifies the identification. As an example, we may take the material particle known as the positron. All current physical theories (including the Reciprocal System) which purport to account for the existence of the negatively charged particle, the electron, predict the existence of a particle that is identical except that it is positively charged. This theoretical particle is called a positron. In order for the theory to be of any practical value, this theoretical particle must be identified with an actual physical particle. But there is no way in which an observed particle can announce, “This is a positron.” What has to be done is to find a particle that has exactly the properties of the theoretical positron. Such a particle has been located, and it is now accepted as the physical equivalent of the theoretical particle. The validity of the identification is confirmed by the fact that it has not led to any inconsistencies in the further development of theoretical and empirical knowledge in the particle field.
The same considerations apply to the identification of the phenomena of non-physical character. From the theory that has been developed (the Reciprocal System of physical theory and the extension of that theory into the metaphysical region), we deduce the existence of certain observable phenomena of metaphysical origin, which have certain specific theoretical characteristics. When we find existing phenomena with observed characteristics that correspond item by item with those of the theoretical phenomena, we can legitimately conclude that these are their counterparts.
This matter of correlating the theoretical and observational aspects of metaphysical phenomena has never required attention before because no systematic metaphysical theory has been available. Science has had nothing at all to say about the metaphysical region, while religion and philosophy have simply made assertions without incorporating them into an organized theoretical structure. Nor has any of these disciplines produced an explanation of the different levels of existence. Conventional science recognizes only the physical. Religion says that there are two levels: the physical and the spiritual. But, as we saw in Chapter 5, there are actually three distinct observable levels of existence. Thus no explanation can be correct unless it provides for three different systems. This is another place where an accurate knowledge of the structure of the physical universe is essential for an understanding of metaphysical phenomena. Without the discovery of the second, or cosmic, sector of the physical universe in the development of the Reciprocal System, there would still be no explanation of the levels of existence as they are actually observed even if the reality of metaphysical existence is recognized.
The accuracy of the identification of the three observed levels of existence with the three theoretical aspects originating in different sectors of existence as a whole will be confirmed in our consideration of the subject in this and the following chapter, not only by the absence of inconsistencies but also by showing how this clarification of the basic situation by means of the information obtained from theoretical sources explains many important details and aspects of existence that have hitherto been clouded in uncertainty. This is one of the great advantages of a theoretical approach, if an accurate theory is available. Observation is strictly limited; there are many areas that are totally or partially inaccessible. Inference can penetrate farther than observation, but it is of doubtful reliability at best, and the farther it reaches the less reliable it becomes. But a theory that has been established as accurate knows no limits, other than those resulting from the finite capacity of the human minds that develop its consequences.
Because of the finite limits to that capacity, it cannot be claimed that all of the details that will be discussed in the pages which follow have been established with certainty. But there is no element of uncertainty in the general conclusions. The theoretical situation in general is clear and unequivocal: the identification of the theoretical with the actual is positive, and the status of the theoretical universe as a true and accurate representation of the actual physical universe was definitely established in the preceding physical portion of the development. We are therefore on firm ground in concluding that the characteristics of a living organism (Level 2) are those theoretically applicable to Sector 2, the inverse, or cosmic, sector of the universe.
This does not mean that the biological organism is a Sector 2 structure. It is not possible for a purely Sector 2 structure (a cosmic motion or combination of motions) to exist more than momentarily in the material sector of the universe, for reasons that were explained in detail in the previous publications. A motion, or combination of motions, of the cosmic type may, however, exist as a minor constituent of a material structure. In such a case, the reaction of the material structure as a whole to environmental conditions may be determined, in whole or in part, by the minor component. In that event, it is appropriate to say that the total structure is under the control of the cosmic component, the term “control” being employed in a purely mechanical sense, as in the control of room temperature by a thermostat. The theoretical analysis thus tells us that a living organism is a compound structure; it is a material (Sector 1) aggregate connected with and under the control of a cosmic (Sector 2) unit. The cosmic unit is the “something new” that we saw in Chapter 5 is essential to account for the differences between the living and the non-living.
One point that is immediately apparent is that the new information does not resolve the controversy between the vitalists and the mechanists in favor of either side; it merely amalgamates the two positions. The new findings confirm the vitalists’ contention that there is a factor present in living organisms that is not present in inanimate matter, and that this new factor is responsible for the great differences in behavior between the living and the non-living. On the other hand, they identify this new factor as an integral part of the physical universe, and thus confirm the mechanists’ contention that the living and the non-living are all part of one vast and extremely complex mechanism.
A particularly significant feature of this new explanation is that it not only produces the kind of a factor that is required to account for the differences between living and non-living entities, but one which is also able to account for the nature of the differences that are observed. As pointed out in Chapter 5, a striking fact about the behavior of the living is that it is not only very different from that of the non-living, but in some respects is diametrically opposite. Indeed, if we were following the lead of those who see all activity as being teleologically controlled, we would have to conclude that the purpose of life is just the reverse of the purpose of the inanimate world. The natural processes of the inanimate world convert the fence post to carbon dioxide, water vapor, and ashes. The natural processes in the realm of the living take the carbon dioxide, water, and ashes, and out of them reconstitute the fence post. Accounting for this reversal of process direction has been a difficult problem for those who adhere to the theory that the living world has developed out of the inanimate world by a gradual increase in complexity—a problem that could only be evaded; it could not be resolved on any logical basis—but we now find that the new theoretical explanation requires just such a reversal.
Sector 2, the cosmic sector, is subject to a law similar to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but because of the reversal of space and time in this sector, the Cosmic Second Law of Thermodynamics requires that all naturally occurring processes be accompanied by a decrease in available reciprocal energy; that is, by an increase in available energy. To the extent that living matter acts merely as inanimate matter, it obeys the Second Law; to the extent that its behavior is controlled by Sector 2 influences, it obeys the Cosmic Second Law. It is evident that the general behavior of the living unit—that which seems to be its purpose, if we look at the situation from a teleological standpoint—must belong in the latter category. Here, then, we have an explanation as to why the living tree systematically undoes all of the work that the natural forces of the inanimate world accomplished in reducing the fence post to its chemical constituents. Furthermore, the evolutionary process as a whole, the pattern of development in the biological realm, is consistent with the Cosmic Second Law, as it should be on the basis of the Sector 2 explanation. As expressed by Needham: “The law of evolution is a kind of converse of the second law of thermodynamics, equally irreversible, but contrary in tendency.”110
One of the arguments on which the mechanists have relied as a support for their position is that, so far as can be determined, the physical and chemical processes that take place in the living organism are the same kind of processes that are encountered in the inanimate world. The conclusions that we have now reached are in full agreement with this interpretation of the observed facts. The processes within the organism are, indeed, ordinary physical and chemical processes. The unique character of the living system is not due to the kind of processes that take place within it, but to the control that is exercised over these processes.
As an analogy we may consider the operation of a chemical plant. Here, also, the processes are identical with those which take place in nature under appropriate conditions, but the results are altogether different, often reversing the results of the prevailing natural processes, simply because the processes in the plant are under human control and are deliberately directed toward certain ends. Similarly, the processes taking place in the living organism are under Sector 2 control, and consequently they are directed toward Sector 2 ends; toward order rather than toward disorder.
It is clear from theoretical considerations that the inanimate structure with which the Sector 2 unit is associated must be a relatively large and complex compound in order to have the Sector 2 unit as a minor component. This conclusion is corroborated by the observed fact that the polynucleotide, the giant organic molecule which is the basis of life as we know it, is the end product (for the present, at least) of the process of increase of complexity by means of aggregation. There are many larger structures, to be sure, but these are simply aggregates of smaller individual units, and they do not have the structural complexity of the large organic molecules. “DNA is the largest molecule known, containing, in advanced organisms such as man, as many as 10 billion separate atoms.”111 If it were possible to produce the behavior characteristics of life without utilizing the most complex molecules available, we would now have at least a few living organisms based on less complex structures. In fact, the greater probability of the occurrence of simpler units suggests that if simpler living structures were possible they would now predominate. But the evidence indicates that the polynucleotides such as DNA are the very essence of life, so far as its material aspect is concerned, and this means that the development of molecules of this type was a prerequisite for the emergence of life. On this basis, such molecules are not only the most complex units that are available; they are the least complex units that will serve the purpose.
All this implies that there is some feature of the end products of the aggregation process that is not possessed, or is not possessed in the required degree, by earlier products in the series, and the question now arises, What is this feature? The answer that emerges is that the structure of these molecules is such that, under appropriate conditions, they can reproduce themselves. Reproduction is, of course, one of the requirements for the persistence of life. A series of investigations has revealed that a DNA molecule is constructed of two long unbranched chains consisting of repeating units known as nucleotides which are coiled around each other in a double helix. One of the components of the nucleotide, a nitrogenous base, may have any one of four different compositions, and the sequence of these bases is the “code” of the molecule. In the replicating process, the two chains uncoil and separate. Each chain then constructs a duplicate of its former companion from whatever appropriate material is available. Thus each reproduces the original two-chain molecule, and sets the stage for a repetition of the process.
But a further analysis of the situation shows that no material molecule is self-replicating. Almost any molecule can attach others of the same kind if the environment is favorable, and a crystal can grow indefinitely where enough “food” is available. But if the final result is to be two or more duplicates of the original molecule rather than a single larger one, some outside agency must separate the parts of the resulting complex structure. As Barry Commoner has pointed out, this means that “neither DNA nor any other cellular component is, strictly speaking, a ‘self-duplicating molecule.’”112
Here, then, is the point at which the unit from Sector 2 enters into the situation. What is needed is something that comes into play when the double molecule is complete, and reverses the direction of the effective forces so that separation will take place. As brought out in the preceding chapter, such a situation simply demands the entry of a new factor. The governing principle of the inanimate sector, aggregation, causes the formation of a double molecule. But ordinary matter contains no reversing mechanism. There are “reversible reactions” in the material structure, to be sure, but they are not automatically reversing under a static set of conditions, and that is what is necessary in this case. Some agency that opposes the natural tendency of material bodies to aggregate must therefore take hold and cause the two halves to separate. This is just the kind of a thing that a unit from the cosmic sector is qualified to do, since the aggregation process in the cosmic sector is oppositely directed; that is, it moves the masses closer together in time, which is equivalent to increasing the separation in space. Ernest Pollard reports the suggestion “that there is a ‘hypothetical’ spinning apparatus which is at one end of the DNA”113: a clear recognition of the need for something more than can be provided by the material structure of the molecule.
The theoretical conclusion that a living organism is a compound unit in which a material structure is combined with, and under the control of, a cosmic unit is therefore completely in harmony with the behavior of the DNA molecules. Such a combination structure is the only form in which a cosmic unit could manifest itself (other than very fleetingly) in the material structure of the universe. A cosmic aggregate is localized in time, not in space, and it is therefore impossible for such an aggregate to have an independent existence at a specific spatial location, but it can exist in space as one component of a compound structure. Stable structures incorporating cosmic components exist in the chemical elements of the electronegative groups. One of the rotational motions of each of these elements is of the cosmic type—the kind of motion that is normal in the inverse, or cosmic, sector of the universe. It would not be possible for all, or even most, of the motion of a material atom to be of this type, but as long as the larger part of the motion is material in character, a cosmic type of motion may exist as a minor component. These elements are therefore, in a sense, combination material and cosmic structures, and thus roughly analogous to the theoretical biological combination.
As brought out in the previously published descriptions of the Reciprocal System, the cosmic sector of the universe is an exact duplicate of the material sector, except that space and time are interchanged. Every element and every combination of elements that enters into the structure of the DNA molecule is paralleled by an analogous cosmic structure, identical in every respect except for the reversal of the roles of space and time. Furthermore, the elements themselves are nothing more than combinations of several different motions, and any one of these motions may take the cosmic orientation as indicated in the preceding paragraph. Theoretically, therefore, the cosmic unit which alters the behavior of the DNA molecule may be anything from a complete cosmic molecule to a single feature of the structure of a single cosmic atom. Some further theoretical study or experimental work, or both, will be necessary before the exact nature of this unit can be identified. It is probable, however, that the cosmic component of the DNA molecule in a very simple organism is a relatively small unit: something which, like the cosmic type rotation of the electronegative elements, can be derived from sources that are readily available in the material sector. But aside from what bearing it may have on the question as to the origin of life, a subject that will be discussed later, a definite identification of this cosmic unit, the life unit, as we will call it, is not necessary for present purposes.
Just how the life unit accomplishes the control over the material aggregate of the biological organism has not yet been determined. Some idea of the possibilities can, however, be gained from a consideration of the role that motions of the inverse, or cosmic, type play in the formation of chemical compounds. The findings of the Reciprocal System of theory with respect to these compounds, a full account of which is available in previous publications, show that the formation of compounds is possible only if one or more of the component atoms has a motion of the cosmic type as a minor constituent of its motion system. Furthermore, the characteristics of this cosmic motion component are the factors that determine the nature of the resulting compound. In a certain sense, therefore, we can say that this cosmic component controls the compound formation. The manner in which the life unit exercises control over the biological organism is no doubt of this same general nature. The periodic reversal, which alternates the molecule building with the separation into halves, is something that the cosmic unit is capable of causing, as the regularities in the cosmic sector are in time, rather than in space. As seen in the context of the material environment, these regularities are periodic.
This illustration also shows how a purely mechanical, inanimate type of control can produce results which have a superficial appearance of being purposeful. The building of increasingly larger chemical compounds differs from simple aggregation in that it is a selective process. Only those atoms which can add to the existing compound are drawn from the environment, and the end result is the accomplishment of a specific objective: the construction of a larger and more complex molecule. The essential function of the life unit is similarly selective. Here, again, only those atoms or atomic groups that can contribute to the objective of the process, which in this case is the construction of replicas of the original structures, are drawn from the environment.
Inasmuch as the primary combining forces act between like units—material with material, and cosmic with cosmic—the growth of the material structure in size and complexity as evolutionary development proceeds is accompanied by a corresponding increase in the complexity of the life unit. The life unit in the most advanced living structures is the product of billions of years of this kind of development, and it is undoubtedly a very complex structure. Some of the implications of this point will be discussed later in the appropriate context.
One of the important consequences that normally follow discovery of the correct answer to a scientific problem is that much new light is thrown on collateral issues, and very often the answers to long-standing problems in these collateral areas are clearly indicated without the necessity of further study. So it is in this case. Our findings as to the nature of the life unit tell us immediately why living organisms are made up of individual cells, a fundamental fact of life that has hitherto been completely unexplained, and they go a step farther by furnishing an indication of the dimensional limitations to which the cells must conform.
In the previous study of the physical universe, it was found that material atoms and molecules exert certain short-range forces only within a limited region of space that has a radius in the neighborhood of 3×10-8 centimeters. When such atoms or molecules gather in a solid or liquid aggregate, they therefore take up positions in which they are separated by approximately this distance. In effect, each atom or molecule exercises a degree of control over its own small region of space, a region approximately coincident with what the crystallographers call a unit cell. Since a cosmic molecule has the same kind of properties as a material molecule, differing only in the direction of some of the forces, the life unit, too, exercises control over a small region of space, and only over that small region. This region, together with its contents, is a biological cell. The basic situation is the same in both cases: a material aggregate is a composite of cells; a complex biological organism is a composite of cells.
There is no definite boundary between the cells of a material aggregate similar to that between the cells of a biological structure, but this is merely a result of the fact that all of the units that are involved in the material aggregate are units of the same kind; that is, they are all material. Material unit A exerts a force on material unit B, but unit B is at the same time exerting a force of the same nature on unit C, and so on, the result being a continuous aggregate with no definite lines of demarcation. In the biological aggregate, cosmic unit X exerts a force on material unit Y, but unit Y cannot exert a force of this type, a cosmic force, at all, and the cosmic type of action therefore terminates at the distance limit within which the force exerted by X is effective. This limit is the cell boundary.
The biological cell is considerably larger than the unit cell of the material aggregate because of the cosmic nature of the life unit forces, the effective reach of which determines the cell size. The diameter of the cell in both cases is basically related to the natural unit of distance, which has been evaluated from fundamental relationships as approximately 5×10-6 cm, but the nature of the inter-atomic forces has an effect, explained in detail in previous publications, which reduces the radius of the unit cell of solid matter to roughly one 150th of this natural unit of distance, or about 3×10-8 cm. Because of the reversal of directions in the cosmic sector, the range of effectiveness of the cosmic forces is approximately 150 times the natural unit of distance, or about 8×10-4 cm; that is, the maximum diameter of a biological cell is about 0.015 millimeter.
Although this biological cell is an extremely small object, when judged by our everyday standards, it is immense compared to the size of an atom. Since its diameter is about 25,000 times the average inter-atomic distance in a solid or liquid, the volume of a cell is roughly 1.5×1013 times the volume occupied by an atom—15,000 billion times as great. Thus, from the atomic standpoint, there is plenty of room inside a cell, even for DNA molecules of ten billion atoms each. The cell is actually a large and highly organized system, containing billions of molecules, from which are constituted a great variety of cell components, each with its own specific function. The operation of controlling and coordinating these various functions is handled by the nucleus of the cell, a relatively small, but readily identifiable, body existing in the interior of most cells. The nucleus, in turn, is itself a complex structure, and the powers which it exercises probably originate in particular features included in the nuclear composition, rather than from the nucleus as a whole. Its essential component is the life unit that, according to our findings, is necessarily present and in overall control of the cell activities.
At some stage of development, the first joint action or cooperation between cells occurred, and since the opportunities for evolutionary adaptation are greatly enhanced by such an innovation, the multicellular organisms have continued to flourish. While the original combinations were undoubtedly mere aggregates or colonies of cells—and many of them still are—the door was now open for a new advance, cell specialization, which still further widened the evolutionary possibilities. A necessary accompaniment of specialization was the development of a central control whereby the particular activities of the individual cells could be coordinated to meet the requirements of the organism as a whole. The more advanced biological organisms thus consist of a multiplicity of cells, each with its own individual control mechanism, but subject to the direction of a central control system. Many of these organisms even have regional control centers which enable routine or emergency action to be taken without the necessity of a directive from the central unit.
As expressed by Schrödinger, the individual cells “resemble stations of local government dispersed through the body.”114 This analogy is strengthened by the fact that just as local governmental units are able to carry on most of their operations temporarily even if the central authority of the state collapses, so the life units controlling the individual cells are able to keep the cells alive and operative, at least for a time, in the absence of any central control. A number of experiments have been made in which cells have been removed from multicellular organisms and have been kept alive for long periods of time.
Another important contribution which the theoretical findings with respect to the nature of the control over the biological organism make toward clarifying collateral issues is that they enable us to account for some of the aspects of the situation along the borderline between the living and the non-living that have been difficult problems for the biologists: the behavior of viruses, for example. Some of the viruses can be crystallized, and in this form they have no biological activity. From all indications, they are no different from any other organic crystals. But when this apparently inanimate matter is introduced into a living cell, it behaves as a living organism, assimilating food from the environment and producing a multiplicity of replicas of itself. Is the virus, then, living or non-living, or does it occupy some kind of an intermediate position between the two?
On the basis of the theory developed in the preceding discussion, the virus in the crystalline condition is a purely material structure, and as such, has no biological capability. But it has the potential of replication in an appropriate environment, because of its molecular structure, and when it enters a living cell and becomes subject to the cosmic forces that are exerted by the life unit in control of the cell, this potential is activated and the virus behaves as a biological organism. Thus the virus is living within the cell because its behavior is controlled by a life unit, or a number of such units. Outside the cell it is not under such control and therefore is not living. The activities of the virus are detrimental to the cell, but the control exercised by the life unit is purely mechanical and it is unable to distinguish between foreign DNA and its own. It treats the DNA of the virus as if it were indigenous to the cell. Generalizing the foregoing explanation, we arrive at a definition of life:
Life is a condition in which a material aggregate is under the control of one or more life units of a cosmic (inverse) nature.
An idea of the difficulty that has been experienced in formulating a comparable definition on the basis of conventional theories can be gained from an examination of the following recently published wording:
Life is a partial, continuous, progressive, multiform and conditionally inter-active, self-realization of the potentialities of atomic electron states.115
On the foregoing basis, death is a process in which the life units lose control over the material aggregate. Since there is little reason for loss of control in a simple unicellular organism, such units should not die unless they exhaust their food supply, or are physically destroyed—by fire, for instance, or by becoming food for some other organism. This is confirmed by observation. Death from “natural causes” is a phenomenon of the complex organism, and it results from inability of the organism to keep all of its vital parts in good working order indefinitely. Whether or not this is inevitable is still an unanswered question. At any rate, it seems evident that it is the result of an evolutionary development. Clearly, a species in which the earlier and less adapted types of individuals are continually replaced by later types whose adaptation to the environment has been improved by operation of the selection process would have a substantial advantage over an otherwise similar species in which no deaths from “natural causes” occur. So far as the evolutionary mechanism is concerned, “natural” death is in the same class as good vision, a temperature regulating mechanism, etc.; it is a feature which contributes toward adaptation of the species to the environment. Since it was not present in the simple living unit, evolution produced it somewhere along the way.
In plant and animal life, a short remaining life-span of the old ones is favorable for the species. Perhaps the natural process of aging would never have developed without this selection pressure, for I see no biochemical reason why individuals should not be possible that would stay alive indefinitely if not killed by force.82 (C. F. von Weizsäcker)
It should be noted that these conclusions do not necessarily apply to the human situation. While natural death is a human inheritance from the past, it may not continue to be inevitable. Inasmuch as survival is not the sole, or even the principal, controlling factor in human life, it is possible that the role of biological evolution may diminish and eventually terminate, while cultural development becomes more important. Cultural advance would, of course, be favored by longer life.
Death of the constituent cells is not an immediate consequence of death of the organism as a whole, since the cells have a degree of independence, as pointed out earlier in the discussion, but the cells of a complex organism are highly specialized, and when the central control ceases to function, the cells are deprived of essential services and they can continue to live for only a very limited time. Meanwhile, however, some action, either spontaneous or originating from outside sources, may cause the central control to resume exercising its functions, in which case the constituent cells simply carry on without interruption. Under such circumstances, the question is often asked: Was the individual actually dead in the interim? On the basis of the understanding reached in this present investigation, we must answer, Yes, the individual, as such, was dead, since the central life unit no longer had control over the organism as a whole, but the separate cells were still under local control and therefore alive. This made it possible for the central control to be reasserted, and in this way the individual was brought back to life.
Our findings as to the nature of life also give us some understanding of the origin of life on our particular planet. In view of the existing uncertainty as to the exact nature of the primitive life unit, the cosmic unit that enters into combination with the material structure and causes the change in behavior from that of the inanimate world to that of the living organism, there is a substantial range of possibilities to be considered. If this unit amounts to any major portion of the molecule as a whole, then the occurrence of a combination of the right kind depends on the entry of the necessary unit from the cosmic sector and contact with an appropriate material aggregate in the extremely short time available. The probability of such a happening is very small, but it does have a finite value, and although such an event might not take place more often than once in a thousand years, or even once in a million years, yet it is certain to take place sooner or later when there are billions of years available for this small probability to take effect.
Even on the assumption that the primitive life unit is relatively large, therefore, the emergence of life on a planet such as the earth, where suitable conditions exist, is inevitable. If the life unit is a relatively small feature of a molecule, the probability of the right kind of an encounter is greatly increased, and in that case, the origin of life would be practically automatic, once the required giant organic molecules became available. After the first life unit has gained a foothold, an explanation of the spreading of life over the surface of the planet encounters no serious difficulties. The reason why we do not observe life originating in this manner, why life comes only from life, so far as we can see, is that the raw materials from which the forces of nature would build life if they had a chance to operate are so eagerly sought by the myriad of life forms already existing that they are never available. It should theoretically be possible, however, to observe the boundary between living and non-living experimentally by differentiating between a purely material molecule of DNA and a cosmically controlled molecule. The latter should replicate itself in the proper environment, while the purely material molecule should not. An experiment of this kind would distinguish between living and non-living at the lowest possible level. In fact, the viruses may already be trying to give us this information.
These findings as to the origin of life on earth are, of course, in conflict with the currently accepted viewpoint of the scientific community, which regards living organisms as having originated from non-living structures by ordinary material physical and chemical processes. But this current position is based on the “continuity from atom to man” hypothesis which, as demonstrated in the preceding chapter, is completely untenable. We can concede, to be sure, that there is a definite regularity in the course of development which leads from the atom to the complex organic molecule, and we can likewise concede that there is a regular course of development leading from the simplest life form to man. We cannot agree, however, that these two lines of development are segments of one continuous process, as is now claimed. Our findings are that biological evolution is very different from the process of development which takes place in the inanimate world, both in the character of the process and in the nature of the results. There is a major discontinuity between the two lines of development. As du Nouy puts it, “There is an immense gap between the molecular state, subject to disordered thermal agitation, and what we might call the protoplasmic state. Our ignorance on the subject is complete.”116
The more enthusiastic advocates of the currently prevailing view deny the existence of any discontinuity. Marshall Walker, for instance, tells us that “The transition from complex inert molecular aggregates to even more complex living molecular aggregates is a series of almost imperceptible steps.”117 But when we inquire as to the evidence upon which such statements are based, we find that there is no such thing. When they must face the issue, the proponents of this hypothesis have to admit that they are relying on “faith” or “hope” that the evidence will some day be forthcoming. A recent book by Dean E. Wooldridge illustrates this point. This author is about as definite and positive as anyone can be in explaining how life developed from inanimate matter, and he goes into great detail on the subject, yet he ultimately has to admit:
It can certainly not be claimed that the sequence of events just summarized has been documented, in this book or elsewhere, with anything like completeness…. It still appears necessary to invoke an element of faith if any story of the creation [of life] is to carry conviction.118
George G. Simpson reports that “virtually all biochemists agree that life on earth arose spontaneously from non-living matter,”119 but like Wooldridge he characterizes this as an act of faith rather than a scientific conclusion:
In any case, something new has definitely been added in these stages of the origin of life [from macromolecules to living cells]. It requires an attitude of hope if not of faith to assume that the acquisition of organic adaptability was deterministic or inevitable to the same degree or even in the same sense in which that was probably true of the preceding, more simply chemical origin of the necessary macromolecules.104
Simpson also admits that the organization of large organic molecules into living systems “is the step, or rather the great series of steps, about which we now know the least even by inference and extrapolation.”119 Oparin, whose pioneer work in the field constitutes the basis for much of present-day theory, is equally candid with respect to this point. He not only admits that there is a serious gap in the theory, but concedes, as many present-day writers are reluctant to do, that this gap is at the crucial point in the hypothetical course of development. “The most important, as well as the least studied, stage of the evolutionary process under consideration,” he says, “would seem to be the transition from the most complicated organic substances to the most primitive living organisms. This is the most serious gap in our knowledge.”120
This is indeed a “serious gap.” A theory which purports to explain how life originated from inanimate matter gives us a full account of everything except how inanimate matter acquired life. In other words, this theory deals only with collateral matters and does not touch the basic issue at all. Heisenberg's conclusion that “something has to be added to the laws of physics and chemistry” in order to make life processes understandable is not weakened in the least by the arguments of this present-day school of thought.
The findings discussed in this present chapter have now identified Heisenberg‘s “something.” Inanimate matter of an appropriate character acquires life when, and only when, it comes under the control of a life unit from the cosmic (inverse) sector of the physical universe, a sector in which the governing laws and principles are, like the actions of living organisms, the reverse, in many important respects, of those prevailing in the inanimate material sector. It should be noted, however, that this origin of life is just as “deterministic” and “inevitable” as the “preceding chemical origin of the necessary macromolecules,” and Simpson’s “attitude of faith” on this point has been justified, even though the theories which ascribe a purely material origin to life are no longer tenable.
The foregoing explanation of the origin of life on earth implies that life will originate anywhere in the universe where suitable conditions exist. The process which leads to the formation of planetary systems, as described in the previous publications dealing with the Reciprocal System, is of such a nature that a considerable proportion of the total number of stars are accompanied by such systems. Probability considerations then assure us that an appreciable percentage of the planets included in these systems are suitable for life. Since there are billions of stars in our galaxy alone, and billions of other galaxies in the region of space within the range of our giant telescopes, it is clear that there are at least millions, if not billions, of planets capable of supporting life within this region alone, to say nothing of the regions beyond the reach of the telescopes. Our deduction that life is certain to emerge wherever appropriate conditions exist then means that there are millions, probably billions, of other planets on which life exists.
Harlow Shapley has made an interesting calculation in this connection, using figures which he considers very conservative; that is, figures which underestimate rather than overestimate the number of planets on which life exists. Assuming that only one star in a hundred is a single star, that only one in a hundred of these has a system of planets, that only one in a hundred of these systems includes an earth-like planet, that only one in hundred of these earth-like planets is neither too cold nor too hot, and that of them only one in a hundred has a chemical environment similar to ours, he says that “we could still have, after all that elimination, ten billion planets suitable for organic life something like that on earth.”121
Life on these other planets is subject to the same physical laws as life on earth, laws that are universally applicable. Such life must be based on the compounds of carbon, simply because there is no other element capable of forming structures of the size and complexity that are necessary. Our finding that complexity equivalent to that of the DNA molecule is a prerequisite for entering into the kind of a combination that is the basis for life eliminates all possibility of life based on anything other than carbon compounds. There are other elements—silicon, for example—that form compounds of the same general type as some of the organic compounds of carbon, but these are limited to relatively small molecules of the simplest chemical families, and they are totally incapable of meeting the requirements as to size and complexity. A number of complex compounds of a somewhat different structure are formed by boron, and recent investigations have indicated that the range of possible compounds of this element is considerably greater than has heretofore been realized. But here, again, the largest combinations known are insignificant compared to the huge DNA molecule, and there is no indication that a replicating boron molecule is possible.
Aggregation under the influence of gravitation takes place on other planets in the same manner as on earth, and the same kind of complex organic carbon compounds are therefore produced. Similar considerations apply to the compounds of the inverse type that constitute the life units. We can therefore conclude that the simplest living organisms on another earth-like planet are essentially identical with their counterparts on the earth itself. If life has originated on planets that are not earth-like—that is, planets on which the relevant conditions are significantly different—its general characteristics must still be the same. There is sufficient evidence, both theoretical and observational, to show that all material aggregates throughout the universe are composed of the same kind of matter. In order to set the stage for the emergence of life, some giant organic molecule must be produced by aggregation of less complex units of this matter. It does not necessarily have to be DNA, but it must be a compound of an analogous character. Just which of the structures that will serve the purpose is determined by the relative probability of formation, and this may depend on the conditions to which the matter is subject. In any event, the simplest living unit on such a planet is formed by a combination of that giant organic molecule, whatever it may be, with a life unit from the cosmic sector, as in the life with which we are familiar. We thus arrive at the conclusion that the building blocks of the living world, the primitive life forms, like the building blocks of the inanimate world, the chemical elements, are essentially the same throughout the universe.