Originally posted by scottishinnz
Where, when and how I can tackle, although, bearing in mind it happened nearly 4 billion years ago there are, of course, assumptions. "Who did it?" is not a valid question for an athiest - nor is it necessarily a valid question per se.
When, I shall tackle first, because it's easiest, and requires least guess work.
'When' is sometime betw ...[text shortened]... nvestigators.
More tomorrow (well, later actually, after breakfast) Bat-fans...
Where and How.
Very intermingled, so will be treated in a single post.
First, one must understand the prevalent conditions. Solar output was approximately 25% less than currently. I'm no solar physicist, so I'm not really going to go into the why's or the how do we knows, but I'm instead going to focus on the more relevant points for us. Although the solar output was lower, the amount of UV-B radiation at the earth surface was far higher than it currently is. Since there was no oxygen (remember the analysis of those rocks?), there could not have been any UV-B absorbing ozone. Now UV-B is pretty harmfull stuff and will take out any biological materials that are directly exposed. This, however, is less of a problem than it sounds since UV-B is readily absorbed by water. Indeed, a cloud can absorb upto 50% of the UV-B from direct sunlight (although you can still get burned on a cloudy day). Thus, life, during it's early evolution had to occur in water. What's more, we know it had to be the sea. "How so?" I hear you cry. Well, the cellular osmotica in all living things, even us, has roughly the same osmotic composition as sea water - except at about 1/3 the strength in things that live on the land. Ocean living creatures match the external environment.
But I can go further than that. Whilst UV-B is dangerous stuff, it seems likely that the first cells existed in relatively shallow water, probably stuck to rocks. Rocks are fantastic things for biologists - they've got heaps of great properties, but best of all they're rough and sticky. By sticky I don't mean your hand will literally adhere to it, but organic molecules definately will. And if the rock is in water, they'll adhere to the rock at higher concentrations than they are in the free water. Also, of course, rocks tend to be rough, rather than smooth, especially if we're talking recently (rapidly) cooled ignious rocks. If we add some wave action and the aforementioned organic molecules (which we know existed, because of the chemical analysis of them pesky rocks) then you get... bubbles!
Bubbles made of oil. Or lipids, to be more precise. We all know, you drop some oil in water and what happens? I sticks together in a little ball. The reason for this is that all the oil molecules are trying to get away from the water molecules, due to their hydrophobicity. Okay, so we have our proto-cell membrane, now all we need is some RNA, and amino acids, and of course, to get them inside the cell!
Again this is easier than you'd think. Take a good, hard look at what makes up a supernova and you'll find hydrogen cyanide and a few other nasties, but dissolve them in water and what spontaneously forms? That's right, amino acids and RNA bases. Furthermore the Miller/Urey experiments unequivocally showed that from a few basic components you can make amino acids, even within the relatively short time period of 6 weeks or so. Earth had hundreds of thousands of years. And guess, what? Even better, these RNA bases will spontaneously join up. It's been shown in the lab, and is, in fact, the basis of the Polymerase Chain Reaction, which is used in many labs today to amplify DNA. Now, all we need is some basic natural selection pressure. But to that... next time!