Vital Dust: Life as a Cosmic Imparative

Christian R. De Duve, Author Basic Books $25 (384p) ISBN 978-0-465-09044-0
In a work of majestic sweep and bold speculation, Nobel Prize-winning biochemist de Duve presents an awesome panorama of life on Earth, from the first biomolecules to the emergence of the human mind and our species' future. Professor emeritus at Manhattan's Rockefeller University, de Duve rejects the view that life arose through a series of accidents, nor does he invoke God, goal-directed causes or vitalism, which regards living beings as matter animated by vital spirit. Instead, in a remarkable synthesis of biochemistry, paleontology, evolutionary biology, genetics and ecology, he argues for a meaningful universe in which life and mind emerged, inevitably and deterministically, because of prevailing conditions. Starting with a single-celled organism, resembling modern bacteria, which appeared 3.8 billion years ago and gave rise to all forms of life on earth today, de Duve delineates seven successive ages corresponding to increasing levels of complexity. He predicts that our species may evolve into a ``human hive'' or planetary superorganism, a society in which individuals would abandon some of their freedom for the benefit of all; alternately, if Homo sapiens disappears, he envisages our replacement by another intelligent species. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/02/1995
Release date: 01/01/1995
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-0-465-09045-7
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