Introduction: Origins

Nursing science does not develop in a vacuum (Rogers. 1970). Rather, nursing science's origins are woven into the origins of out universe. Science has consistently shown that the the universe evolves through self organization. Atoms, stars and galaxies self-assembled out of the fundamental particles produced by the Big Bang. The Big Bang theory is an effort to explain what happened at the very beginning of our universe. Discoveries in astronomy and physics have consistently shown that our universe did in fact have a beginning. Prior to that moment there was nothing; during and after that moment there was something: our universe.

According to the standard theory, our universe sprang into existence as "singularity" around 13.7 billion years ago. Singularities are zones which defy our current understanding of physics. They are thought to exist at the core of "black holes." Black holes are areas of intense gravitational pressure. The pressure is thought to be so intense that finite matter is actually squished into infinite density (a mathematical concept which truly boggles the mind). These zones of infinite density are called "singularities." Our universe is thought to have begun as an infinitesimally small, infinitely hot, infinitely dense, something - a singularity.

After its initial appearance, the universe apparently inflated (the "Big Bang"), expanded and cooled, going from very, very small and very, very hot, to the size and temperature of our current universe. In first-generation stars, heavier elements like carbon, nitrogen and oxygen were formed. Aging first-generation stars then expelled them out into space – we, who consist of these elements, are thus literally born from stardust. The heaviest elements were born in the explosions of supernovae. The forces of gravity subsequently allowed for the formation of newer stars and of planets. Finally, in the process of biological evolution from bacteria-like tiny cells (the last universal common ancestor) to all life on earth, including us humans, complex life forms arose from simpler ones.

Essential to the spontaneous origin of life was the availability of organic molecules as building blocks. The famous "prebiotic soup" experiment by Stanley Miller (Miller 1953, Miller-Urey experiment) had shown that amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, arose among other small organic molecules spontaneously in the lab by sparking a mixture of methane, hydrogen, ammonia and water. These conditions were assumed to simulate those on the primitive earth.It is now widely agreed that at the origin of life there was not the current DNA/(RNA)/protein system for gene information on one hand and catalysis, regulation, and structural function on the other. It would beg the question, what came first, protein or DNA? Protein catalysis without gene information, which allows it to be maintained and propagated, is not sufficient in the long term, and DNA gene information without catalysis, necessary for the function of life, would be useless as well.

Instead, it is assumed that RNA acted as a precursor of both protein and DNA, in the sense that it can serve both as catalyst (like protein enzymes) and as carrier of genetic information (like DNA, RNA is a polynucleotide). Even in the modern cell ribozymes (catalytic RNAs) still play a vital, albeit limited, role. In the ribosome, the synthesis of the peptide chains of proteins from RNA code is accomplished by ribozymes. They also catalyze splicing of RNA.

Could this so-called RNA World have offered a good basis for the origin of life? In an article published In Nature, and reported on in the New York Times, May 14, 2009, researchers at the University of Manchester discovered a major advance concerning the origin of life. For more than 20 years, researchers were unable to explain or demonstrate how nucleotides, in the form of RNA, could have appeared spontaneously on the primitive earth. However, for the first time, researchers John Sutherland, Mathew Powner, and Beatrice Gerland report that they have solved the mystery. Starting with naturally occurring compounds, half sugar and half base, then adding another half sugar half base, the RNA nucleotide called ribocytidine phosphate emerges. And a second nucleotide emerges when ultraviolet light is shone on the mixture. While the other two nucleotides have not been formed naturally yet, forming the first two naturally, was though to be more difficult. Once all 4 nucleotides are naturally formed, then then can easily combine to form the RNA molecule, and a plausible pathway to the natural origin of life emerges. And so beings the journey of life, and the destiny of the human species.

Human Beginnings