By A. G. Cairns-Smith
This publication addresses the query of ways lifestyles could have arisen on the earth, within the spirit of an interesting detective tale. It is dependent upon the tools of Sherlock Holmes, specifically his precept that one may still use the main paradoxical gains of a case to crack it. This method of the basic organic difficulties isn't really basically light-hearted, yet a desirable scrutiny of a few very basic questions. 'I understand of no different publication that succeeds in addition to this one in preserving the vital query in concentration all through. it's a precis of the easiest evolutionary pondering as utilized to the origins of lifestyles within which the $64000 matters are addressed pertinently, economically and with a contented recourse to inventive analogies.' Nature '... a fabulous tale - and a way more convincing one than the molecular biologists can supply in its place. Cairns-Smith has argued his case earlier than within the technical clinical literature, right here he units it out in a manner from which somebody - even these whose chemistry and biology stopped at 16 - can learn.' New Statesman
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Extra resources for Seven Clues to the Origin of Life: A Scientific Detective Story (Canto)
You will find pages and pages of tightly written instructions, couched in terms that assume your expertise in handling laboratory apparatus and require you to use many rather specialised and well-purifed chemical reagents and solvents. And the result of following such instructions? If you are lucky a few thousandths of a gram of product from kilograms of starting materials. Or go and read all the details and examine the engineering drawings for a laboratory machine that can build protein chains automatically.
Anyone familiar with scientific research (or detective stories) will know what I mean here. You make a guess on the basis of a few bits of evidence: you see if the guess holds up with more evidence; when it doesn't you first try to modify the guess; when it still doesn't you try another guess, perhaps an altogether different one. That sort of thing goes on all the time in science: it is called trying to work out what's happening. Rarer and more spectacular are the cases where a misguided insight comes right out into the open to become, for a time, a generally accepted doctrine.
It was the characteristic of inflammable materials that they contained this substance. When a piece of coal or wood or paper is reduced to ashes something has obviously gone away - the fire-stuff, phlogiston. The idea was extended to metals. The rusting of iron was also a giving off of phlogiston, this same phlogiston that all metals contain. (This is why all metals are shiny, by the way. ) Living organisms too were seen to be rich in phlogiston and the life process a slow kind of burning. It was a good theory, in its way, with a considerable coherence.