- Paperback: 112 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (September 28, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521626684
- ISBN-13: 978-0521626682
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 23 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #665,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Origins of Life 2nd Edition
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From Scientific American
The plural of the title is purposeful: Dyson advances the hypothesis that life had a double origin. "Either life began only once, with the functions of replication and metabolism already present in rudimentary form and linked together from the beginning, or life began twice, with two separate kinds of creatures, one kind capable of metabolism without exact replication and the other kind capable of replication without metabolism." He sees reasons to favor the second possibility, with metabolizing creatures appearing first. Dyson is a renowned theoretical physicist (professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J.) who offers an "apology for a physicist venturing into biology" by citing physicist Erwin Schrödinger's maxim that "some of us should venture to embark on a synthesis of facts and theories, albeit with second-hand and incomplete knowledge of some of them, and at the risk of making fools of themselves." In this new edition of a book first published in 1985, Dyson builds his argument with characteristic skill and clarity. He views his hypothesis as "useful only insofar as it may suggest new experiments."
"...he [Dyson] makes strong arguments with real substance, going beyond the level of most popular science writing. Most impressive of all, Dyson writes succinctly and lucidly, fitting an amazing amount into 90 pages without ever appearing forced or hurried. Anyone interested in abiogenesis will find Origins of Life well worth the read." Reports of the National Center for Science Education
"...provocative, entertaining, and, above all, makes one think." Episodes
"In this new edition of a book first published in 1985, Dyson builds his argument with characteristic skill and clarity." Scientific American
"...well-written, easily comprehensible monograph." Science Books & Films
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The book is written for the nonspecialist reader. It features an abstract mathematical theory , on the origin of life, that is so simple it must not be true. However, it combines those features of life that Dyson feels are essential. That is, looseness of structure and tolerance of errors. Dyson claims this looser view of evolution is supported by past experiments in microbiology. A final point made is that ,quasi - random structures are more important in evolution, than the Darwinian competition of replicating monads.
I cannot help but note the somewhat humorous discussion on , junk DNA, and its useless biological role in life. Perhaps jokingly, Dyson suggests an analog in human culture where , " junk culture " is replicated. Examples include television commercials and political propaganda.
I conclude this review with my assessment that Dyson was a genius to write these 77 pages of rather challenging theories. Unfortunately, it may take another genius to fully understand this book. I failed in this regard, but I learned much ! It is a great book that might jump - start new approaches to explaining the origin of life on Earth.
Curiously, Dyson did not mention the concept of entropy. The book needs a Glossary.