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Seven Clues to the Origin of Life: A Scientific Detective Story (Canto)

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  86 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
This book addresses the question of how life may have arisen on the earth, in the spirit of an intriguing detective story. It relies on the methods of Sherlock Holmes, in particular his principle that one should use the most paradoxical features of a case to crack it. This approach to the essential biological problems is not merely light-hearted, but a fascinating scrutiny ...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published September 13th 1985)
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Bob Nichols
A general, generic understanding of the origin of life is that organic chemicals came together by chance in just the right way so that replication occurred. Then random variation and natural selection took it from there and favored the better replicators. Cairns-Smith doubts this speculative account of life’s origins. He argues that the essential stuff of life (DNR, RNA, and proteins) are much too complex and must have been preceded by organized entities “that did not need nucleotides [links in ...more
Brian Powell
Oct 27, 2012 Brian Powell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: evolution, biology
Modern genetic components are too complex to have appeared by chance on the primordial Earth. DNA and RNA, and even their more elementary building blocks, require the assistance of an agent at least as complex as themselves for their synthesis. This is the famous Catch-22 of the origin of organic replicators. Cairns-Smith begins by clearly stating this problem, and then embarks on an innovative and imaginative journey to find its solution.

It is no shortcoming of this endeavor that a solution is
Robert Lewis
Nov 17, 2011 Robert Lewis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: evolution
A second reading of this book 20+ years later leaves me with the same conviction: Cairns-Smith must be right -- mineral processes rather than organic are the most likely source of the "naked genes" that are needed to bootstrap evolution. I'm not an expert in the field, and Cairns-Smith's ideas have been around a long time now. So I'll be watching for news of any research that supports his theory or suggests a way that organic molecules could have served as naked genes. In any case this book lays ...more
Dec 14, 2015 Kevin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-faction
concise scientific speculation on abiogenesis that asserts clay formation -kaolinite crystalline formation and propagation- as the original “genetic” materials from which our “high tech” organic molecules got their start. Cairns-Smith argues that we came first from smaller, simpler silicates rather than more complex carbon-based molecules. like building a photovoltaic cell from a myriad of pre-cursor tools like stone hatchets, steel hammers, arc welders, etc.

i particularly appreciate this book b
Mar 01, 2016 DrosoPHila marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to DrosoPHila by: Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins recommends this in The Blind Watchmaker (1986), though I generally prefer the more orthodox RNA world hypothesis (citation to be added later).
Eric Wurm
Nov 23, 2013 Eric Wurm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unlike other Cairns-Smith books, this one is meant to be read like a detective story. It is far less technical than some of his other works, and thus more accessible to the layperson. It details the evidences that are known as to how life may have arisen. Recommended for those that would enjoy an educational experience in a story format.
Nikos Karagiannakis
Πρόκληση-τροφή για σκέψη σε ένα βιβλίο εκλαϊκευμένης επιστήμης που δίνεται με τη μαεστρία ενός συγγραφέα αστυνομικής νουβέλας. Ένα από τα απαραίτητα αναγνώσματα για οποιονδήποτε ενδιαφέρεται, έστω και σε μικρό βαθμό, για την προέλευση και την εξέλιξη του φαινομένου της ζωής στον πλανήτη μας.

Ήδη ψάχνω για τα αντίστοιχα τεχνικά άρθρα του συγγραφέα.
Mar 29, 2009 Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Although some of our understanding of the early atomsphere has changed since this book was written, it still tells an interesting story about how scientists do their work in trying to see back in time to Earth's earliest days. Has some compelling information.
Xi Xi
Aug 29, 2013 Xi Xi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It argues that organisms are evolved from minerals, crystals etc...
quite an interesting read, with Holmes' quotes at beginning and end of each chapter.
feels like a detective!
Nov 26, 2012 Aina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read even though idea of life coming from clays is outdated.
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Alexander Graham Cairns-Smith, also known as Graham Cairns-Smith (born 1931) is a chemist and biologist. He works at Glasgow University (England).
More about A.G. Cairns-Smith...

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