I received this book for Christmas this year, read it in 3 days, and began to read it again. It is very thought provoking. The historical symbiosis of ancient species is quite an earth shattering idea, that i had read about before, but never have seen put so convincingly together before. The book discusses the origins of life, how that life interacted with otherliving things in a random way to produce a more complicated existance for themselves. It challenges a lot of beliefs, not in a dis respectful way, but by compiling the evidence and gentle persuading you that chance does have an element in evolution. I would recommend this book without hesitation
Taking their title from Erwin Schrödinger's classic text of 1944, "What is Life?", Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan attempt to revisit the age-old question as to just what it is that constitutes that special property we call 'life'. They begin with Schrödinger's original question and having established a starting point for how, in their view, life ought to be characterised, they move on to present a grand survey of just how it might have arisen in the first place, how it has changed and evolved since, how it might be categorised now and then briefly to speculate how it might develop in the future. Along the way, they demonstrate not only how wondrous life is but also that it may be nothing like as fragile (or indeed special) a thing as we like to fool ourselves into thinking it is.
The mother and son team write well for both expert and lay reader alike, presenting between them a perfect blend of passion, good sense and scientific authority. And while this book is over 13 years old now, it hasn't really aged at all, which gives you some idea of how far ahead of her field Lynn Margulis' thinking has always lain. Many of the ideas that she and Dorion present in this book -- regarding early life, symbiogenesis and the division of all living things into five separate kingdoms instead of two -- are even now only just gaining common credence amongst evolutionary biologists. The book is both thought provoking and informative and is highly recommended to anyone interested in theories of early life on earth and in theories of evolution that aren't embedded in strict neo-Darwinism and the need for random mutations in the genotype to act as the sole agency for natural selection.