TSW: "For decades it has been fashionable to apply the prefix 'self' to convergent reactions ascribed to living systems ... For the systems philosopher-neovitalist, it is a no-brainer: 'the complex molecule assembles itself.'"
BW: The prefix was used by Oparin, Wöhler, Ivanovsky, and Engels. I'm not sure whether they were "neovitalists".
TSW: "Ignorance of the macrocosm is transformed into a modern but still uncaused 'vitality'..."
BW: I don't think any scientist or natural philosopher has ever considered life (vitality) to be uncaused. Nor did any of them ignore or deny any "macrocosm" as significant environmental factors.
TSW: "Life as we know it arose through a specific chain of events that will never be repeated exactly nor documented with perfect precision."
BW: Maybe not *exactly*, but there's no reason to believe that it hasn't occurred - naturally - many times over the past several million years, maybe even today. I think it will be done - artificially - within the next 10 years. As for documentation, there are no fossils of living matter, so history is only what we can impute from the process.
TSW: "These are all hypothetical, but they demonstrate the basic principles."
BW: Pretty vague speculation. And, it includes a lot of "chance" events that you deride. My own speculation is that the chemical building blocks formed on ice asteroids that subsequently "watered" the planet. Basic cell structures were formed by millions of deep ocean vents, whose cyclical motion of sediment and wet chemicals formed cells. The persistent heating and cooling prompted chemical reactions that produced elementary RNA or DNA, which produced proteins. That environment also facilitated growth, bifurcation, and basic reproduction. At least, that's the scientific "state of the art" in terms of understanding the process that would lead to living cells. Evolution of the most successful forms proceeds from there.
TSW: "Indeterminists might consider the convergence of AB and X as a sort of predetermined or predestined event, or even as a matter of absolute chance."
BW: I think a determinist can reasonably assume that, given proper conditions, the creation of living cells was either necessary or probable. It was certainly possible, since it did occur. The evidence and logic also suggests that it's possible on other planets, though only a few "Goldilocks Planets" have so far been detected:
TSW: "The reactions above are typical of those producing animate as well as inanimate matter by means of Univironmental Determinism."
BW: Perhaps, but I think it's important to define living matter as an independent animated *process*, quite distinct from the indiscriminate chemical *events* that modify inanimate matter. The *boundary conditions* are real and deserve primary focus, as discussed previously.
TSW: "If one wishes, one may see competition and cooperation, even the survival of the fittest individual or group in these reactions."
BW: Anything can be anthropomorphized, but those characteristics are acts of *conscious* beings, not inanimate matter. It doesn't add to our understanding of nature, anymore than the inverse: "I am a rock!"
TSW: "The complexity of the reactions will be so great that from thenceforth it will be nearly impossible for all but the most naïve to view biopoesis as a 'self-assembly' process."
BW: I get your point, but this sentence seems to imply "other-assembly", which suggests a mystical conscious intervention or teleology. One of the features of life is that it's primary processes are contained within itself, not that those processes are isolated from its environment. Nature "selected" living things (animals) that could seek out a favorable environment by "intentional" motion (consciously or not). Humans are capable of creating their own environments, so they are even less dependent on favorable conditions.
TSW: "Today some people already accept the production of live viruses from inanimate matter as sufficient proof of the creation of life in the laboratory."
BW: See the first 'virology' link above for discussion of whether viruses are "living" and the errors in the early assumptions about viruses being precursors to life.
TSW: "Miss one turn in the road, goes the logic, and there goes a planet’s chances for verdancy."
BW: To some degree, that's true, reflected in the search for Goldilocks Planets (conditions which an overwhelming number of planets - even in our solar system - fail). It isn't *necessary* to nature that there be other planets with life, but there's no reason to believe that Earth is exceptional in a universe with trillions of planets.
TSW: "... every organism, if it lives long enough, eventually becomes cancerous."
BW: I don't think that's true, but I love the "probably maybe" from this expert geneticist:
BW: Since cancer is a destructive genetic mutation, sufficient knowledge will certainly allow humans to mitigate - if not eliminate - its effects. The bigger "threat" to seeking immortality is the exact inverse: the method nature selected to *constrain* runaway tissue reproduction were DNA telomeres:
BW: It isn't directly related to my Unimid Theory, but I do have an idea for an electronic "Variable Inference Processor" (VIP Chip) that can emulate the human abstraction process. It probably can't be realized before we die, but sometime in the future, sapients will be able to download their consciousness into an android and have a better chance of surviving whatever challenges nature dispenses (including The End of The World).
Next: The Biological Microcosm