Book review: The fifth miracle

The ultimate question to science must be “how did the universe come to be?”. After that, I think the central question is “How did we come to be?. How did life come to the earth, and how did life create us?”

Science has been working on these questions for a relatively short time. Remember that untill the late 19th. century, most people believed that the universe was static and unchanging. That the way things looked now, was they way they always had looked and always would look. Some scientists clung to a steady-state universe up untill the 1960’s.

The fifth miracle by Paul Davies examines the search for the origin and meaning of life. It is a thorough overview of the scientific theories that are currently being used to explain life on earth.

Paul Davies looks at each of the major theories, and evaluates their strengths and flaws. It seems that the idea that life aroes from “the primordial soup” is being abandoned. It looks like the most favourable place for life to arise would be underground or in the ocean, next to so-called “black smokers”, where nutrient rich and very hot water pours out from volcanic rifts.

The author himself finds it most likely, that life was created on Mars, and came to earth on pieces of Mars that were knocked loose by metoric impacts. A whole chapter is devoted to the idea that life may travel between the planets.

Along the way, he also looks at the origin and evolution of life from the perspective of information theory – a fascinating angle. As life evolves, we amass more and more information in our genes, which has both thermodynamic and informational consequences

The last chapter is devoted to the thought of a bio-friendly universe. Are the physical laws of out universe somehow skewed in favour of life, so that life is inevitable? Beautiful and poetic as that notion may be, Paul Davies argues against it. It is true, that life has become more complex since it’s origin 3.8 billion years ago. However, when life was created, it is likely to have been extremely simple. It could hardly have evolved to be less complex. The only way to go was in the direction of higher complexity. Which is a shame. I kinda like the idea of a universe that’s bio-friendly.

This is an excellent book. Paul Davies manages to explain a lot of very complicated concepts clearly and concisely. I recommend it highly!

BTW: No, this book has nothing to do with the fifth discipline books.

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