Biogenesis: Theories of Life's Origin

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Biogenesis provides a detailed, critical discussion of the modern scientific study of the origin of life. It covers the entire history, including the biological, geological, and cosmological background. The author explains the rationale behind the main assumptions and experimental strategies of the study of the origin of life, and reviews its plethora of theories, models, scenarios, and controversies.
The book begins with the history of the search for life's origin from the Greek philosophers to contemporary scientists. The author introduces the reader to important aspects of scientific thinking, and covers the biases, successes, and failures of these thinkers. Part II succinctly describes selected attributes of life, which are connected to theories and controversies of the studies of the origin of life. The main features of the solar system and Earth, where life is assumed to have originated, are briefly reviewed in Part III. This section covers the formation of the planet, its primordial atmosphere and seas, and the Gaia theory. Part IV investigates the rationale of the scientific theories of the origin of life. It begins with the fundamental assumptions and guidelines, as well as the main experimental strategies used by origin-of-life researchers. The book proceeds with a search for clues in both the geological and biological records. It concludes with a critical, but objective discussion of the main reactions, processes, models, and scenarios suggested for the emergence of various attributes of life in prebiotic environment and the transition from inanimate to animate.

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About the Author:

Noam Lahav Emeritus Professor of Origin of life and Soil Science Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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"Before we can even address the origin of life, there looms the question of what life is anyway. In Biogenesis, Lahav quotes definitions of life culled from the scientific literature from 1855 to 1997. We see the special concerns of each, from Spenser's emphasis on evolution, to Schrodinger's on the law of physics, to Kauffman's on complexity theory. In pursuit of answers, scientists are using every technique from laboratory experiments to deep sea exploration to computer simulations. The most complete account of every approach and each important concept, theory, and experiment is found in this book. It is an invaluable resource for all serious students of origin-of-life research. Although much of this book is very technical, it is written in a highly accessible style. It is an outstanding contribution to the field." - Lucy Horwitz, Boston Book Review, March 2000


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