The origin of life on Earth is an ancient puzzle. Religions have versions of how this happened, and science has offered its own explanations. The most widely accepted theory is chemical evolution, by which inorganic molecules combined in seawater eons ago to accidentally form organic and self-replicating molecules. A contending theory is that molecules came from beyond and evolved into Earth’s variety of creatures. A pioneer of this theory is Wickramasinghe (Cardiff University, Wales), who collaborated with Fred Hoyle, staunch proponent of the steady-state theory that competed with the big bang for many years. Their theory suggests that there are countless microorganisms all over the universe. The book reveals some of the rivalries, propaganda, and mutual bickering in which scientists engage while pushing their theories. The advocates of a competing theory are referred to as “Greenberg and his band of collaborators,” and Arnold Penzias‘s discovery becomes “so-called cosmic micro-wave radiation.” When scientists reminisce, some of their disappointments with the game of science find full expression. The book also presents a brief account of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe’s attempt to explain racism as arising from a biological imperative. The book is a fine blend of personal anecdotes, travel impressions, and scientific reporting–interesting, informative, and worth reading.
October 14, 2013