On the emergence of biological complexity: Life as a kinetic state of matter

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39 Scopus citations


A kinetic model that attempts to further clarify the nature of biological complexification is presented. Its essence: reactions of replicating systems and those of regular chemical systems follow different selection rules leading to different patterns of chemical behavior. For regular chemical systems selection is fundamentally thermodynamic, whereas for replicating chemical systems selection is effectively kinetic. Building on an extension of the kinetic stability concept it is shown that complex replicators tend to be kinetically more stable than simple ones, leading to an on-going process of kinetically-directed complexification. The high kinetic stability of simple replicating assemblies such as phages, compared to the low kinetic stability of the assembly components, illustrates the complexification principle. The analysis suggests that living systems constitute a kinetic state of matter, as opposed to the traditional thermodynamic states that dominate the inanimate world, and reaffirms our view that life is a particular manifestation of replicative chemistry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-166
Number of pages16
JournalOrigins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2005


  • Biological complexification
  • Chemical evolution
  • Kinetic stability
  • Kinetic state of matter
  • Molecular replication
  • Origin of life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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