River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life

River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life

River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life

River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life

Excerpt

Nature, it seems, is the popular name
For milliards and milliards and milliards
Of particles playing their infinite game
Of billiards and billiards and billiards.

--Piet Hein

Piet Hein captures the classically pristine world of physics. But when the ricochets of atomic billiards chance to put together an object that has a certain, seemingly innocent property, something momentous happens in the universe. That property is an ability to self-replicate; that is, the object is able to use the surrounding materials to make exact copies of itself, including replicas of such minor flaws in copying as may occasionally arise. What will follow from this singular occurrence, anywhere in the universe, is Darwinian selection and hence the baroque extravaganza that, on this planet, we call life. Never were so many facts explained by so few assumptions. Not only does the Darwinian theory command superabundant power to explain. Its economy in doing so has a sinewy elegance, a poetic beauty that outclasses even the most haunting of the world's origin myths. One of my purposes in writing this book has been to accord due recognition . . .

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