The RNA world

Why Evolution Is True

by Matthew Cobb

I have just sent off the final version of my book Life’s Greatest Secret: The Story of the Race to Crack the Genetic Code (to appear in 2015 with Profile Books, and Basic Books in the USA). The book is mainly history, covering the period 1943-1961, but the final four chapters bring the story up to date, describing things like the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome, the development of genetic engineering, and epigenetics.

To celebrate, I thought I’d give readers a condensed version of one of the sections dealing with that exotic-sounding entity, the RNA World.


Proteins and DNA, which are so important to life today, have not always existed on our planet. The RNA machinery that exists in every cell of every organism on Earth, and the ability of RNA molecules to act as enzymes, catalysing biochemical reactions without the involvement of proteins, all indicate that…

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3 thoughts on “The RNA world

    1. I agree, although I tend to think the fact that it happened as early as it did in Earth’s history indicates that it was probable under the right conditions. If Earth had sat lifeless for, say, two billion years, I would be much more likely to regard it as a rare chance occurrence and the rare Earth hypothesis more likely.


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