Life on Earth arose nearly 4 billion years ago, bursting forth from air, water, and rock. Though the process obeyed all the rules of chemistry and physics, the details of that original event pose as deep a mystery as any facing science. How did non-living chemicals become alive? While the question is (deceivingly) simple, the answers are unquestionably complex. Science inevitably plays a key role in any discussion of life s origins, dealing less with the question of why life appeared on Earth than with where, when, and how it emerged on the blasted, barren face of our primitive planet. Astrobiologist Robert Hazen has spent many years dealing with the fundamental questions of life s genesis. As an active research scientist, he is down deep in all the messy details that science has to offer on the subject, tracing the inexorable sequence of events that led to the complicated interactions of carbonbased molecules. As he takes us through the astounding process of emergence, we are witness to the first tentative steps toward life from the unfathomable abundance of carbon biomolecules synthesized in the black vacuum of space to the surface of the Earth to deep within our planet s restless crust. We are privy to the breathtaking drama that rapidly unfolds as life prevails. The theory of emergence is poised to answer a multitude of questions even as it raises the possibility that natural processes exist beyond what we now know, perhaps beyond what we even comprehend. Genesis tells the tale of transforming scientific advances in our quest for life s origins. Written with grace, beauty, and authority, it goes directly to the heart of who we are and why we are here.
"The scientific study of the emergence of life is now under heavy attack by proponents of intelligent design, the latest representatives of the creationist movement. Genesis, written from the careful yet self-confident perspective of an experimentalist, serves as a solid rebuttal to such assaults. Candidly acknowledging that we have not yet reached a solution, Hazen convincingly demonstrates how he and his many colleagues are focused on obtaining a deeper understanding of a most fundamental problem."
"The origin of life is a hotly contested scientific field, of which Hazen provides a balanced view... He spends just as much time on the tools of the trade: the study of molecular fossils and even how we might search for life on other planets. His writing is clear and entertaining, giving a delightful look into his unpredictable experimental work without shying away from the complexity of the science."
-- Publishers Weekly, July 25, 2005
"There are few questions more interesting or more fundamental than those that surround the origin of life on our planet, and few authors more capable than Robert Hazen of providing a guided tour through this exciting and complex field. When you finish Genesis, you will have a new appreciation of both the problems being solved and the men and women solving them."
- James Trefil, Clarence J. Robinson professor of physics, George Mason University, author of Human Nature, and co-author of The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy
"Come be an armchair activist and, unimpeded by academic apartheid, join Robert Hazen in his exhilarating scientific search for life's origin. Astronomical, hydrogeological, and atmospheric cycles; high temperatures and pressures; minerals toxic to us; alternative energy sources; and so many other realities are embraced by Hazen as relevant to life's beginnings. His delightful awareness of Earth's past environments makes this informative and fun-to-read book unique."
- Lynn Margulis, Distinguished University Professor, University of Massachusetts, and 1999 recipient of the National Medal of Science
"A lively insider account of the various ongoing scientific investigations into the origin of life... [An] evenhanded and compelling read. " -- Library Journal, September 30, 2005
"The search for life s origins is no longer the exclusive purview of biology. The journey now requires cross-pollination with the fields such as chemistry, geology, paleontology, and, yes, astrophysics. Robert Hazen provides a gripping and up-close account of this greatest-of-all scientific frontiers, one that is now informed by the search for life in a universe where cosmic forces shape the environments in which life may thrive or fail."
-- Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History, and co-author of Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution
"Mesmerizing...What makes Hazen's scientific-cum-philosophical theorizing so appetizing, especially to humanities-based readers like myself, is his refusal of dogmatic opposition and his desire to encompass apparently opposing positions."
-- Salon, October 31, 2005
"In clear, careful prose Hazen takes us into laboratories, meticulously describes experiments, offers theories, supports them, and then questions them. His process mirrors science's own, step by step from details to educated guesses about larger designs, pointing out possible pitfalls along the way... Before we submit to raising a nation of scientific illiterates -- can we really afford to do that? -- we should read books like Hazen's. He presents evidence clearly and leaves mystery, for me the core of religious faith, intact."
-- The Providence Journal, October 25, 2005
"This book provides the best overview of the 'origin of life' field for the non-specialist reader that I have encountered. I think that even those who are familiar with most of its contents will enjoy the presentation."
-- Nature, February 23, 2006
"[W]onderfully engaging.... Among its other virtues, the book demonstrates comprehensively the vast gulf between real science and the creationist 'theory' of 'intelligent design'....[A] happily humanized overview of the current theories of how life on Earth arose in the first place."
-- The Guardian, February 25, 2006