Most helpful critical review
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Interesting account of RNA and its potentials
on September 7, 2010
Im not sure what prompted me to buy this, I think it was a recommendation for having bought Wetware. This book is about RNA and some of its complexity and properties. In this exploration, or overview perhaps, it is argued that RNA if properly considered can potentially fill in many of our gaps in understanding about the origin of life. In reading this book, I got a perspective on not only RNA but what pioneering biologists work on to build a framework for understanding the origin of life. There are a lot of computational biology ideas that seem embedded in the experiments done and ideas used. For example the book starts out with defining the differences between organisms RNA as a metric on genetic difference. In addition there are some real life genetic programming experiments that are done with putting in various combinations of nucleotides and then letting the mixtures self select the best solutions. I am a bit mixed on the book as a whole as it is supposedly written for a general audience, but there is a substantial amount of the book that requires a lot of understanding of cell biology (which I dont have) and logic chains are used with a need for very specific knowledge that the audience of this book is really not what is claimed.
The first 2/3 of the book I was able to follow more thoroughly, it is presented in short chapters about specific topics. Some of these are very understandable by a wide audience, they talk about intelligent design, plausibility of RNA's place in evolution, how to define life etc... The chapters end with specific references which allow the interested reader to explore further the topics considered. However, as one gets further through the book, the ability to follow becomes harder and harder for the non-expert. The reference become 100% journal articles which to be honest, are obviously not for general audience, and the arguments used for and agaisnt are very specific, needing a solid backgrouond in what I think is deeper than an undergraduate experience in biology.
All in all, if one is interested in cell biology and evolution and some of the complexity and properties of biologicial phenomenon, this gives a lot of food for thought. But this book is definitely mainly written for people who already know the topics the author is discussing, not for a person with casual interests in the subject. This book argues I think quite convincingly about the plausibility of RNA as the origin of selp replicating organic matter, but after reading this without a strong background, one is not in a position to truly appreciate the arguments properly.