And it really bothers us. "Many people, perhaps most, hate the idea that life might depend on chance processes," writes biologist Dave Deamer on his blog.
Scientists have hypothesized that it started around hot vents on the seafloor, or that things heated up between the mica sheets, or that it came in a comet (which doesn't really solve the origin problem). But nobody knows.
Those who promote intelligent design — an attack on the theory of evolution thought by many scientists to be a thinly veiled effort to get religious ideas into science classrooms — suggest the the astronomical odds of it point to a designer being involved, rather than pure chance.
Deamer, in a complex argument, essentially suggests this: The odds are not so bad of you consider there were a lot of ingredients to work with. He assumes for his hypothesis that "an enormous number of random polymers are synthesized, which are then subject to selection and evolution."
In that scheme — you'll have to read his blog to get the gooey details — "genetic information can in fact emerge," he argues.
In our new Etc. format, LiveScience provides links to articles of interest around the web. It is in Beta.
Live Science newsletter
Stay up to date on the latest science news by signing up for our Essentials newsletter.
Robert is an independent health and science journalist and writer based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a former editor-in-chief of Live Science with over 20 years of experience as a reporter and editor. He has worked on websites such as Space.com and Tom's Guide, and is a contributor on Medium, covering how we age and how to optimize the mind and body through time. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.