This proposal seeks $5.4 million from the JTF to support eight projects to understand how animate matter able to exploit Darwinism might emerge from inanimate matter, an emergence that defines the origin of life. One project will come from the FfAME; the remaining will come via peer review of proposals obtained by an open solicitation.
To be responsive, solicited proposals must:
a. Involve experiments supported by a model, with a strong statement explaining how expected results will help resolve one or more paradoxes that prevent current theory from accounting for the emergence of a Darwinian system from a non-Darwinian system.
b. Address the “scientific” origins question (How might life emerge?) rather than the “historical” origins question (How did life emerge?).
While all proposals having these two attributes will be considered, we will focus the solicitation in these areas.
1. Experiments to explain how organic matter could have self-assembled to support Darwinism without already being Darwinian, without generating “tar” first, how Darwinism might be supported in water by biopolymers that themselves are unstable in water, how information encoded in the sequence of building blocks in biopolymers could have self-assembled from building blocks in low concentrations, and how productive catalysts could arise from random processes more likely to generate destructive catalysts.
2. Activities that produce minimal artificial systems having all three components of Darwinism, (i) the ability to direct their own replication (ii) with imperfections where (iii) the imperfections are themselves replicable. These systems will help us understand the challenges of generating Darwinian processes in general.
3. Activities that allow us to understand the distribution of useful molecular behaviors within “structure space” defined by a molecular system.