...life's origin can ultimately be explained by importing the language and concepts of biology into physics and chemistry, rather than the other way roundI absolutely agree! Work by biologists and theorists such as Davies is absolutely essential, to guide research, identify flaws and incoherence in hypotheses, and unify disparate data. Chemists can develop all kinds of ideas, but if they're physically or biologically irrelevant or implausible, what's the point? That said, allow me to mark some turf for the chemists working in this field.
As Davies notes, much of the work in this field has been carried out by chemists. Implicit in his article is the suggestion that these workers have had their ears closed to the rest of the world - that ideas from philosophers, biologists, and information theorists have not reached the chemical literature. This is simply not true.
Take, for example, the work of M. Reza Ghadiri and co-workers on self-replicating peptides. To distill a decade of research down to a tweet, Ghadiri looked at whether peptides can copy themselves, and what kinds of behaviour might emerge when many peptides interact. Much of this work was informed by the theoretical biologist Eörs Szathmáry. One of the most complicated systems published by Ghadiri (available here, open access) took a group of self-replicating peptides and analysed their interactions to build a large network. A small section of this network was then recreated experimentally, to confirm its behaviour. The point is: here is a chemist, guided by theoretical biology, speaking the language of network architecture. We're not as deaf as Davies implies.
Further, this is not an exception, an isolated example of a chemist looking beyond the fume hood. Pier Luigi Luisi's work on self-reproducing micelles and vesicles was prompted directly by the idea of autopoiesis, as proposed by Maturana and Varela - both of whom are biologists and philosophers. Autopoiesis is very much about the structure and flow of information through a system.
Of course, the ideas upon which Ghadiri, Luisi, and other chemists draw might turn out to be incorrect. Regardless, ideas from beyond the chemistry lab are at the heart of chemical research into the origins of life.
Both of these examples illustrate a second, more important point. It is necessary, but not sufficient, for theorists such as Davies to elucidate the form of living systems. These ideas must be made flesh, so to speak. This is certainly the work of chemists. By applying these ideas to physical substrates, their validity and generality can be tested.
Ghadiri's work is again illustrative. Both Ghadiri and other researchers, notably Jean Chmielewski, have reported extensive efforts to increase the efficiency of self-replicating peptides. According to Szathmáry, an exponentially-replicating species is required before Darwinian selection can occur. Reaching exponential replication turns out to be incredibly difficult. This is not unique to peptides; research on self-replicating nucleotides and small molecules by von Kiedrowski and Rebek has run into the same problem. I am not in a position to comment on the biological or theoretical merit of Szathmáry's work, but two decades of research suggest that it is unlikely to be relevant in real chemical systems. At the very least, it seems that it can only be achieved under demanding, prebiotically implausible conditions.
Any theory, however elegant or plausible, must be tested experimentally. We must see if it is a valid idea, and if so, how readily it is achieved. So, while I agree with Davies that chemists cannot work alone, it will ultimately be chemists who 'cook up' life.