Mutations are a fact of life. Heh, indeed mutations are required for diversity of life. There really isn't another way to get novel changes to DNA or RNA without it.
I think we can all agree that RNA strands are not alive... in the same way that viruses are not alive. But they do exhibit some of characteristics of life.
If you will allow me a brief diversion: While I was teaching, a student asked me what the purpose of life is. Without hesitation, I said, "reproduction". Of course, the 14-15 year old boys in the class thought that was hilarious and the student seemed quite put out. (I suspect she was attempting to elicit a philosophical point in a science class that she could badger me with.) All living things die, I explained. However, when an organism reproduces, it gives some of its genetic material to its offspring. In that minor way, that organism can influence all future life on the planet. If an organism dies without passing on its genes, then those genes are lost forever. There could have been a human 25,000 years ago that was born immune to HIV (not that HIV existed back then, but that's not the point). If that human didn't reproduce, then its unique ability to be immune to HIV was lost and it will likely never reappear in the world.
This was before I learned that there was an immunity to HIV in the human population. It's basically the selfish gene concept.
But are genes really selfish? Obviously, they aren't 'selfish' in the human emotional way. But, the gene that reproduces the most gets more offspring out in the world and becomes a larger percentage of the total genes in the population.
When I was in high school, I used to say that the human species is breeding for football players and cheerleaders. Actually what we're breeding for is sex craving men and easy women. It's true. I had my first child recently (several years ago), yet most of my high school classmates have multiple children, all much older than mine. In fact, there are two grandparents from my graduating class. My genes are being out competed in the human population (which is not really a bad thing considering my genes).
So, its not selfish, it's just better at spamming the environment with copies of itself.
I was going through my abiogenesis papers to find something interesting for you. I found this. Dr. Joyce does a lot of neat work and although not really an abiogenesis researcher, he has made some interesting discoveries in the field. This paper describes an experiment in which the experiment was destroyed because of a 'selfish' RNA.
In vitro evolution experiments are very cool. Basically, you take a RNA (or DNA) and amplify it using a reverse transcriptase and a polymerase that are known not to make perfect copies. One of my favorite articles using this technique is also by Joyce. The object (as shown in Darwinian Evolution on a Chip) is to evolve a sequence that is better for particular function.
But, something to be careful of is mutations that cause selfish RNAs to appear. In this case, RNA Z appeared. This new RNA was successful in competing for resources in the reaction, yet did not perform the desired function at all.
In other words, it is a more successful replicator, but not more successful at doing what it was supposed to be doing. In this case, it even has evolved some modifications to get around the system that Dr. Joyce used to prevent such a thing from happening.
In this experiment (as I understand it), the desired target product was also necessary for the continued replication of the RNAs. RNA Z got around that. I'm sure the paper explains it, but I am not up to that level of biochemistry. The paper contains a diagram showing how the substrate and promoters and RNAs and DNAs all interact.
After reading this, I am reminded of Jurassic Park (the book, not the horrid movie). Life finds a way.
Again, this just serves to emphasize our inability to truly separate life from non-life in a meaningful way. We can't draw the line here anymore than we can draw the line somewhere in a ring species.