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Keywords:

  • abiogenesis;
  • origins;
  • process philosophy;
  • Alfred North Whitehead

Abstract.

An initiating event in the development of life on earth is thought to have been the generation of self-replicating catalytic molecules (SRCMs). Despite decades of work to reveal how SRCMs could have formed, a chemically detailed hypothesis remains elusive. I maintain that this is due, in part, to a failure of metaphysics and question this research program's ontologic foundation of materialism. In this essay I suggest another worldview that may provide more adequate ontologic underpinnings: Whitehead's process philosophy of dynamic, relational becoming. Here we come to see molecules not as unchanging objects but rather as processes that possess the capacity for subjective experience. Molecular transformation is driven by experience, both internal and external. Process thought accounts for the world's creative impulse by positing a God who lures the becoming of all entities toward greater complexity and value. Chemical evolution is now seen as divine motivation of molecular becoming and, as such, possesses the potential for introducing true novelty into the world. The “causal joint” between God and world is hypothesized to be an energy transduction at the molecular level that allows divine action without violation of chemical principles or physical laws.