I heard it said recently that “Evolution” and “Origin of life” are two separate issues. I know that this is a falsehood, and I’ll discuss in a moment how and why it is not true. But first, I checked around with a few people that I know and love, and found out that some of them assumed this was true. I think it is something that has been said enough times that if you are not personally engaged in the research or just don’t think about it enough, you can easily assume that this is what the experts say. But they don’t.
It is possible that there is a nefarious force working here. And I’m talking about the “A-word.” If the evolution of species is one thing, and the origin off life is another thing, then we could, potentially, focus on evolution in, say, high school biology classes, and just ignore the whole origin of life bit. Let people think that god started life and perhaps set up a few (Darwinian) rules (theistic evolution). Etc.
But that is not actually how it works, and the best way to think about this is to ask the following question: “Just what do you think evolution is?”
Possible answers would be “Evolution is natural selection,” or “Evolution is the diversification of species,” or “Evolution is change organic change over time” and so on. These are all correct, of course. But if evolution is any two or more of these things, then it is not one of these things, exclusively. And, if evolution is both diversification and natural selection, then it is a concept that includes some very very different things. So, if you think “Origin of Life” is not evolution because it is somehow different from any one specific aspect of evolution (like natural selection) then you are being unfair to Origin of Life by treating its different-ness as an excuse for excluding it. Shame on you.
It seems that one argument is that the Origin of Life is not evolution because evolution is natural selection, diversification of species, and so on, and none of those things could have happened without life already existing, and it does not really exist at the moment of origin. This, however, is not correct for two reasons. The first (and probably most important) reason is that we don’t know what the origin if life was like. So, to characterize it as an instant when some stuff goes from being not-life to being life is fantasy. You don’t know that this is how it happened, so you can’t use this made-up trait of the origin of life to say that it is not evolution. The second reason is a bit more tenuous; Most models for the origin of life are very Darwinian. Most have some selection going on, most have some diversification going on, and all, by necessity and definition, have change over time going on. And, it is organic change, because the stuff of life before the primordial animation was organic stuff.
The origin of life is part of evolutionary biology.