According to biochemist Robert Shapiro, the "primordial soup" theory is as follows:

  1. Early Earth had a chemically reducing atmosphere.
  2. This atmosphere, exposed to energy in various forms, produced simple organic compounds ("monomers").
  3. These compounds accumulated in a "soup", which may have been concentrated at various locations (shorelines, oceanic vents etc.).
  4. By further transformation, more complex organic polymers – and ultimately life – developed in the soup.

From: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primordial_soup

I don't understand how in step four life forms out of nonliving organic polymers. Could you explain this process? Can it be reproduced in the lab?

Louis Pasteur already disproved Spontaneous Generation: The law of biogenesis

  • $\begingroup$ I think my 'answer' to this question may give you something to think about: biology.stackexchange.com/questions/19720/… Also, I'm sure this is a duplicate of many questions that have been asked here before. The simple answer is: we don't know. $\endgroup$
    – canadianer
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 7:54
  • $\begingroup$ Btw, the life-history tag indicates questions related to life-history traits and not with the "history of life". $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 8:07

2 Answers 2


Welcome to Biology.SE!

Your question has nothing to do with evolutionary biology

Evolutionary Theory does not explain the origin of life just like the Theory of Gravity does not explain the diffraction of light! In other words, explaining the origin of life is not within the scope of evolutionary biology. You should edit your title. But still, your question is within the scope of Biology so that your question is totally on-topic. This question would probably also be on topic on Chemistry.SE.

Some other posts may interest you

You may want to look at other posts on this site. This post for example explains what are our issues in order to select which of our hypotheses really explain the origin of life. This post, this one may eventually interest you as well.

Your question might be too broad. You may want to start with some introductory readings

Abiogenesis is not my field and I know very little about the origin of life. But at first sight, I am a bit afraid that your question is too broad and inaccurate and a good answer would ask for writing a lot. This post will give some good source of reading to further your knowledge. It may be good to start there and come back to this site with a more accurate question.

Hope I could help you a bit.


Some might think that this is a chemistry question, and indeed most of the work is done in chemistry departments, but that isn't because its not biology.

As far as evolutionary theory, there is a well-established definition of life as self-replicating systems and very little else. Richard Dawkins' theory of the Replicator is not always completely accepted (the link is to Stephen Gould's essay, who was usually in the opposition to Dawkins until he passed away). Nonetheless, its logic is hard to completely dismiss: Once and only once chemical systems can self replicate then evolution happens - selection, variation and replication. Dawkins thought springs from the pretty justifiable position that DNA is the center of all inheritance and variation in living things. I'm not going to get into the arguments for and against but suffice to say that the replicator model might not be entirely true, but its not entirely wrong.

As far as the fourth step you mention, there are theories which are very credible but its reasonable to say that we are short on details... they may not satisfy and they certainly have not duplicated step 4... The most detailed and credible theory is the RNA World Hypothesis. At some stage, RNA polymers were able to self-replicate, pretty much by themselves it seems.

The evidence for RNA world is compelling but its more molecular archaeology than a series of coordinate events as we see it. The ribosome and other RNA genes show that RNA could be fundamental genes. In particular the ribosome consists of RNA whose structure are supported by protein, but RNA does all the chemical work.

Consider the odds. The prebiotic soup may have existed for the better part of a billion years and covered all or a good part of Earth during much of that time. As such, its exceedingly unlikely that we will be able to reproduce self replication of RNA in the lab. Lucky and intelligent guesses may produce an environment that is just barely pre-biotic and produce a replicator, but even that seems quite unlikely. Almost all this work tries to show that compounds and processes that come close to life are possible in pre-biotic Earth.


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