Before there was life on Earth, there was a primordial soup of molecules, and at some point a specialized molecules began replicating. This self-replication kick-started a biochemical process that would lead to the first organisms.
How those molecules began replicating has been one of science's enduring mysteries.
In the early 1980s, researchers found that ribozymes — RNA enzymes — act as catalysts. It was evidence that RNA can be both the blueprints and the chemical catalysts that put those blueprints into action. This finding led to the "RNA World" hypothesis, which posits that RNA alone triggered the rise of life from a sea of molecules.