Bit by Bit: The Darwinian Basis of Life
1 Department of Molecular Biology, Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California, United States of America,2 Department of Chemistry, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California, United States of America
All known examples of life belong to the same biology, but there is increasing enthusiasm among astronomers, astrobiologists, and synthetic biologists that other forms of life may soon be discovered or synthesized. This enthusiasm should be tempered by the fact that the probability for life to originate is not known. As a guiding principle in parsing potential examples of alternative life, one should ask: How many heritable “bits” of information are involved, and where did they come from? A genetic system that contains more bits than the number that were required to initiate its operation might reasonably be considered a new form of life.
Citation: Joyce GF (2012) Bit by Bit: The Darwinian Basis of Life. PLoS Biol 10(5): e1001323. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001323
Published: May 8, 2012
Copyright: © 2012 Gerald F. Joyce. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funding: This work was supported by NASA (grant no. NNX07AJ23G) and NSF (grant no. MCB-0614614). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing interests: The author has declared that no competing interests exist.
Abbreviations: GNA, glycol nucleic acid; TNA, threose nucleic acid
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