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What is Life? by Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan

1995; 207 pp. $40. Simon & Schuster.

Whatever biology we learned in grade school is deeply outdated. Even the familiar story of photosynthesis is a new story of microbial symbiosis. Margulis' great work has been to shift our whole understanding of life toward microbes and toward symbiotic creation. It was "bacterial geniuses" who symbiotically generated the four other kingdoms (protoctists, fungi, animals, and plants). They also created Earth's oxygen, thrive in the extremist environments, run 15,000-rpm rotary motors, and comprise in effect one enormous species making up most of the Earth's real variety and metabolism.

I think it's time for business and economic metaphors to shift from species-bound evolution and pond-and-forest ecology to the far more dynamic processes of Margulis' microbial soup, with its fast cycling (half-hour reproduction), explosive diversity, constant and wanton trait exchange, and embrace-anything symbiotic strategies.


ISBN: 0520220218

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