Quantum Evolution: The New Science of the Life Force

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9780002559485: Quantum Evolution: The New Science of the Life Force

Quantum Evolution presents a revolutionary new scientific theory by asking: is there a force of will behind evolution? In his astonishing first book, Johnjoe McFadden shows that there is.

How did life start? How did something capable of replicating itself emerge from the primordial soup? How did it defy the odds? And how did it carry on seeking out the very mutations that enable survival?

Living organisms are controlled by a single molecule – DNA. Yet the study of physics tells us that the behaviour of single molecules is also controlled by the laws of quantum mechanics. The implications of this for biology have not been fully thought through. Until now.

In this brilliant debut, Johnjoe McFadden puts forward a theory of quantum evolution. He shows how living organisms have the ability to will themselves into action. Indeed, such an ability may be life’s most fundamental attribute. This has radical implications. Evolution may not be random at all, as recent evolutionary theories have taught: rather, cells may, in certain circumstances, be able to choose to mutate particular genes that provide an advantage in the environment in which the cell finds itself. This ‘will’ – described by McFadden as ‘the life force’ – has startling implications. It is at the root of consciousness and free-will and provides a new understanding of the origins of life and the purpose of death.

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Review:

Quantum Evolution tackles the hairiest heresy of evolutionary biology, the one most likely to get scientists figuratively burned at the stake: the notion that any force more selective than blind chance could drive mutation. Such "directed evolution" smacks too much of a retreat into creationism for most science-minded readers to be comfortable with, but there's no a priorireason to reject the idea. Molecular biologist Johnjoe McFadden risks the Inquisition by suggesting just such a possibility in Quantum Evolution: The New Science of Life. Directed at a general but somewhat sophisticated readership, it covers the basics of both standard evolutionary theory and quantum-level physics, then synthesizes them in an interesting theory of made-to-order mutation that explains enough to warrant attention and is, importantly, testable.

McFadden's writing is clear and sharp, and shows a high regard for the reader's intelligence and patience for complex ideas. This is no airplane book--except for those already well-versed in the latest in both evolutionary theory and subatomic physics. The rewards of reading are great, and the author bows just enough to established theory that he might meet the fate of his intellectual predecessors. The ideas underlying Quantum Evolution may be right or wrong, but they challenge received wisdom without plunging into dogmatism--and that's good science. --Rob Lightner

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Comments about ‘Quantum Evolution’ from popular science authors.

From Professor Paul Davies, author of ‘The Ghost in the Atom’, ‘The Fifth Miracle’, etc. "McFadden's bold hypothesis that quantum physics plays a key role in the origin and evolution of life looks increasingly plausible. The weird behaviour of matter and information at the quantum level could be just what is needed to explain life's astonishing properties. If these ideas are right, they will transform our understanding of the relationship between physics and biology."

From Professor Graham Cairns-Smith, author of 'Seven Clues to the Origin of Life', 'Evolving the Mind', etc. "A highly enjoyable read with clear explanations of molecular biology and quantum physics - and then speculations in search of a borderland between them. It is not a question of whether quantum mechanics is needed to understand biochemical processes, but exactly where, and at what level. For sure we need quantum ideas to understand in detail how enzymes work. Maybe we need them too for those two great puzzles of evolution: the origin of life, and the physical roots of conscious experience."

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