Independent genes were Earth's initial base organisms
May 19 2000, Dov to HMS Beagle.
I have accepted many years ago, intuitively and logically, Pasteur's Law that "all life must come from previously existing life". Therefore for many years I have been wondering why humans elect to regard the CELL as the base unit element of life. Most of the cells that we know ( and there are many mono-cells we do not yet know ) have such a variety and number of processes and of structures of wide range of sizes and functions that we should regard a CELL as an enclosed microplanet/spaceship comprising baser-than-cell life-base-elements. It is a matter of adjusting concepts re cells to a different scale of things, to a circa 10^-14 liquid-ambient (even though micro to us) world and planets.
I conjecture that independent pre-membraned-celled genes were the base life forms. Presently we regard an "organism" as a unit element of a continuous lineage with an individual evolutionary history. This applies also to the "organism" at its way-back evolutionary phase about which we know yet nothing or little. Questions about way-back gene-origin and nature are like questions about the origin of what big banged into our universe and so are also similar our concepts of the present status of the evolution and origins of the universe and of life.
Now, mitochondria and chloroplast and nucleus and chromosomes, each constituting a continuous lineage, are not NOW considered organisms because separately they now have no possibility nor even capability of survival, i.e. of independent replication. But once upon the time very likely each of them was "independent", until entering into an endosymbiotic association with a partner cell and eventually becoming dependent members of an association. Why is it difficult to accept that very likely independent genes likewise have been entering into symbiotic associations and that generally the independent vital functions ( survival and replication) of the association members were progressively relegated to the most efficient functionary partnership in the cell, that now directs and controls most aspects of the in-cell microplanet affairs and in poly-cell organisms also all aspects of the inter-cell conglomerations.
We should realize that each and every life form including US is designed and constructed to preserve and proliferate our DNA-based genes life elements. This is Life's neatly sole biological drive. Every aspect of each and every life form, including ours, derives from this drive and serves it, and for us these aspects include all our civilizations and all the various elements of all our cultural entities. These all evolve with but one drive and goal, to improve the chances to survive and proliferate so that our base genes survive and proliferate.