ELSI’s philosophy is that life emerges as a collaboration among geological processes in an open-system context that is intimately connected by fluxes of energy and matter in the natural environment. Instead of separating geology and biology and emphasizing their difference, we instead seek understanding through their unification and placement within a common context.
A New Framework for the Origin of Life: The ELSI Model
A sequence of diversification and selection of processes that begin prior to planet formation, proceed through the emergence of diverse planetary environments, overcoming the key hurdle of cultivating self-replicating chemical systems with the capacity for open-ended evolution, the colonization of life forms in myriad niches with a variety of energy sources, and the emergence of a planet-life co-evolutionary relationship that span billions of years.
A theory of the origin of life is not a reconstruction of an event or a series of events. Rather, its main subjects must be processes. A complete theory of the origin of life will be an account of the cascade of processes, acting between low-level chemistry and physics, and entire biospheres, that expand the diversity of spaces of possibilities, interleaved by other criteria or processes that selectively reduce diversity in hierarchical and robust systems.