February 7, 2000
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 those very mutations that enable survival? Life is an extraordinary phenomenon whose existence requires an extraordinary explanation.
Living organisms are controlled by a single molecule – DNA. Yet the study of physics tells us that the behavior of single molecules is controlled not by classical laws but by the strange laws of quantum mechanics. The implications of this for biology have never been fully explored. Until now. In this brilliant debut, Johnjoe McFadden puts forward a theory of quantum evolution. He shows how quantum mechanics gives living organisms the ability to initiate specific actions including new mutations. Indeed, such an ability may be life’s most fundamental attribute. This simple but staggering theory has radical implications. Evolution may not be random at all, as evolutionary theorists have taught recently: rather, it may be directed – cells may, in certain circumstances, be able to choose to mutate particular genes that provide an advantage in the environment in which the self finds itself.
This property of living organisms to direct their actions has startling implications. It must be at the root of both consciousness and free will: Quantum Evolution provides a new understanding of the origin of life and the meaning of death. Life, this brilliant book argues, is a quantum phenomenon. Quantum Evolution provides a new biology for the new millennium.
Johnjoe McFadden is a Reader in Molecular Biology at the University of Surrey and editor of the first textbook on molecular mycobacteriology.
For more than a decade, Dr. McFadden has specialized in examining the genes of the bacteria that cause tuberculosis and meningitis. His research has ranged from inventing molecular tests to diagnose meningitis (which received worldwide press, radio and TV coverage), to the design of artificial-life computer programs that model key stages in evolution (also covered in the media). He was runner-up for the 1997 Wellcome Trust Prize for popular science writing. This is his first book for a non-specialist audience.