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Hoyle marshals all the arguments from his recent spate of books--and adds a few more--to present his vision of the origin of life and the nature of the universe. ""Vision"" it is, for Hoyle admits to no uncertainties. His idea is that there is an intelligence within the universe (as opposed to above or outside), and that this intelligence has established our present carbon-centered life. We can expect change, however--with some future state of the universe using other elements and creating other life forms. These audacious conclusions build from earlier chapters in which Hoyle attacks Darwinism, gradualism, and the notion that life arose from non-life on Earth. He is quick to state that this does not mean he sides with fundamentalists, creationists, or UFOers. Nonetheless, he savors probabilistic arguments (on the rarity of formation of macromolecules, enzymes, various complex organs, etc.); he conflates evolution-by-natural-selection with opportunism and social Darwinism; and he uses the same specious what-survives-survives tautology to debase evolutionary ideas--all arguments ably countered by Stephen Gould and other anti-creationist writers. His alternative thesis is that life was seeded from space--from cometary trails or interstellar dust--by bacteria, viruses, or naked genes. He points to Francis Crick's recent ponderings on the panspermia idea--but says Crick is too narrow in assuming a higher intelligence that might have looked at Earth in particular. Hoyle prefers to argue for the universal existence of microorganisms that act as primitive begetters. When they land on a suitable planet, evolution does indeed take place, but by leaps and bounds, by wholesale incorporation of genes, for example--thus giving his theory a vaguely Gouldian and recombinant DNA flavor. The evidence adduced is equivocal to say the least: analysis of meteorites, speculations on crater damage, odd statistics on the incidence of influenza (purporting to prove that the virus came from space rather than from local infective sources). To top it all, there is a return to a Steady State Theory with a new twist having to do with the transformation of starlight into microwave radiation. Sumptuous photos and illustrations provide window dressing for the questionable goods inside.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1984
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston