There can be interesting parallels between one’s belief system and a scientific world view. While one is based on a empirical methodology and the other on story telling, what can seem so different will often collide in interesting ways. Consider the Sumerian texts on human origins. Found on a tablet in the 7000 year old city of Nippur, Mesopotamian, the creation myth claims that the body and blood of a god was mixed with a clay from which humans were made. Here, it is the clay that has an interesting parallel with the origins of life on Earth.
Abiogenesis is the origin of life from non-life, and requires the *spontaneous assembly of complex organic polymers. Known as macromolecules, these are the proteins that do the work of life, are the nucleic acids that hold the biological code, and the carbohydrates that fuel our existence. Abiogenesis requires that the blocks from which life is built be made in the Earth’s primordial atmosphere, that these blocks spontaneously polymerize, that a membrane concentrate the polymers to facilitate chemistry, and that the first genes, in the form of a molecular code, develop in the absence of a parent gene. Hypotheses and tests support the basis for each of these prerequisites, but it’s a second requirement that collides with the Sumerian myth. The spontaneous assembly of biological polymers from preexisting building blocks involved clay sands. Hot sands surrounding thermal vents could have provided the catalytic energy to assemble molecules without consuming them in a reaction. This hypothesis suggests that a heated clay could have been the substrate necessary to distort life’s building blocks to initiate the dehydration reactions that are now an ubiquitous process for life’s cellular chemistry. While I doubt the ancient Sumerians knew much about dehydration synthesis let alone chemical abiogenesis, I find it interesting that the clay from which humans “formed” was also a key requisite to construct the materials from which we are all assembled.
*spontaneous: Here the use of spontaneous refers to the assembly or organic molecules in the absence of life. Living organisms are capable of using small building blocks to build large complex molecules like DNA, carbohydrates and proteins.
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