Christian de Duve

Genetic of original sin Publication date : April 24, 2009

Written in a style that is accessible to a wide readership, this book sets out to show that the theory of evolution through natural selection is the most probable scenario for a cascade of events tracing all life forms back to a common ancestor. But the author does not stop with an explanation of our evolutionary past. He also offers a number of scenarios of the future evolution of life on Earth, and points out that all — except one — lead to the catastrophic disappearance of all life on the planet.

Not only will the present laisser-faire scenario lead to certain catastrophe so will many others, whether they favour cloning based on genetic engineering, or environmental protection, or education based on neuronal plasticity, not to mention scenarios based on religious power. According to the author, the only scenario that can save life on the planet is one in which women take power.

Christian de Duve has written a scientific book that is also a meditative work. Through his various scenarios, which we are free to alter and reinvent, he asks us to imagine the future of evolution and to commit ourselves to bringing about the one we believe to be the most desirable, in accordance with our own idea of humanity.

This is a fascinating new book by a Nobel Prize winner specialising in cellular life. In clear, jargon-free language, Christian de Duve tells us what we should all know about the origins of life — going back to a common ancestor from which all living forms descend. In addition, he describes a number of scenarios of future evolution on Earth that depend on life choices made by all of us. He argues that humankind is responsible for the catastrophic scenarios that threaten life. Finally, he appeals to women to assume control of evolution, because women are life's guardians.

Christian de Duve, a Nobel Prize laureate in Physiology or Medicine, is professor emeritus at the University of Louvain and at Rockefeller University, New York. He is the author of Life Evolving (2002) and Singularities (2005).