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The FIFTH MIRACLE: The Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life 1st Edition
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The Fifth Miracle provides convincing arguments that life flourishes, and may indeed have begun, deep within the earth's crust, and not in Darwin's "warm little pond." And if in our planet's crust, why not in others'? Indeed, he shows that it is not just possible but likely that living organisms have passed between Earth and Mars embedded within meteorites. Davies's command of the data and his facility with explaining it to nonprofessionals give the lie to his self-description as "a simple-minded physicist" intruding in another's domain. The best scientists hate to see questions finally answered and love to see new ones raised; by that standard (and by any other), The Fifth Miracle is a first-rate book of scientific speculation. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
And that's saying something. If, five years ago, you'd told me I'd take the following ideas seriously, I'd have laughed nervously and edged away in a non-threatening manner. Here are Davies' ideas in a nutshell (no pun intended):
1) Life may have existed on Mars. 2) Life may still exist on Mars. 3) Life on earth may have arisen in space and migrated here (panspermia) 4) The "natural" home for life on earth may be in the hot depths of the crust, kilometres beneath the surface.
As I say, five years ago, those ideas would have been heresy. But it's been an interesting five years. The (in)famous martian meteorite, the discovery of tiny, primitive forms of life deep within the earth, life thriving around hydrothermal vents, the discovery of intricate chemical reactions happening in space ... well, it's been fun. And Davies takes full advantage of living in such "interesting times".
Davies makes a thoughtful (if not always persuasive) case for his views on the origins of life. And I found it a really enjoyable read. If you're at all interested in where life came from, or whether there might be life "out there" this is a great book to begin with. Davies is an excellent writer with some fascinating ideas and a great style:
"In a subject supercharged with such significance, lack of agreement is unsurprising.Read more ›
In claiming that water means life, NASA scientists are not merely being upbeat about their project. They are making--tacitly--a huge [italics] and profound assumption about the nature of nature. They are saying, in effect, that the laws of the universe are cunningly contrived to coax life into being against the raw odds; that the mathematical principles of physics, in their elegant simplicity, somehow know in advance about life and its vast complexity. If life follows from soup with causal dependability, the laws of nature encode a hidden subtext, a cosmic imperative, which tells them: 'Make life!' And, through life, its by-products: mind, knowledge, understanding. It means the laws of the universe have engineered their own comprehension. This is a breathtaking vision of nature, magnificent and uplifting in its majestic sweep. I hope it is correct. It would be wonderful if it were correct. But if it is, it represents a shift in the scientific world-view as profound as that initiated by Copernicus and Darwin put together. It should not be glossed over with glib statements that water plus organics equals life, obviously, for it is far from obvious (p. 246).
This book and Rare Earth by Peter Douglas Ward and Donald Brownlee pretty much cover the life in the universe topic for anyone interested in the topic, and both are engagingly written and understandable.
I think it overemphasizes the "life from space/Mars" faction a little, but I appreciate the plausibility that Davies brings forth re Panspermia as opposed to my own prejudice that these ideas involve too many miracles in a row.
Written as it was when, simultaneously, Information Science/Biology were rapidly being assimilated by all the various disciplines upon whose domains the abiogenesis question[s] border; and the overconfidence of the Genome reading successes of that time, this book provides a somewhat optimistic outlook on the imagined success of science to frame the question of the origin of life as we know it.
Very light on the technical details of the various theories of evolution, especially their roles in speciation and unique root of the origin of life. I expect that even the educated layman will have to consult Steve Gould and his cohorts for comprehensive threads of the evolution idea at these levels. [and/or more recent works by Molecular Biologists]
I am in search myself of a book at the educated layman level that extends the central themes initiated by Davies. The reader of Davies' book will probably be adequately equipped to put much of it in the category to which it belongs, ie long on speculation and short on any possibility of empirical verification. I was disappointed with the book's development of these theories from the point of view of Information Theory and Entropy. Much more was known even at the time of the writing about critical systems. Perhaps Davies, a physicist after all, eschewed a more mathematical treatment that such discussion would entail. He does know how to sell books. The writing is excellent and the "objectivity"is certainly admirable.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Half way through, and so far find the book stimulating and profoundPublished 2 months ago by Cornel Collins
Paul Davies never got the memo letting him know that all the different sciences have proven macro-evolution false decades ago. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Mark Me
This is a book about the origin of life. Paul Davies is a physicist but his interests are wide and one of those interests happens to be the question of life's beginning. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Matthew Rapaport
A good book re: The Origin of Life but beware, as one reviewer noted the Davies was "the recipient of the 1995 Templeton Prize for his work on the philosophical meaning of... Read morePublished 23 months ago by bowonwing
of all the books on the origin of the universe and life, this one is great. this author has turned answering these questions into a cottage industry. Read morePublished on July 23, 2014 by Malcoln_Rodgers
Paul Charles William Davies (born 1946) is an English physicist, writer and broadcaster, who is currently a professor at Arizona State University as well as the Director of BEYOND:... Read morePublished on May 23, 2014 by Steven H Propp
Great book! I had heard much more about this book from someone talking about our place in the universe, so I was prepared for a great read.Published on April 15, 2014 by Corine Ann Barnes
A good, engrossing read. A thorough examination of the the alternative ideas & their histories explaining the origin of life prevalant at the date of the book's publication. Read morePublished on September 16, 2013 by Barry Collier