Latest Issue

Book review: The Vital Question: Why is Life the Way it is? by Nick Lane

By Philip Ball   May 2015

81+m6g9vkWL._SL1500_(Profile, £25)

Natural selection is one of the most elegant, powerful and convincingly verified theories in science. But it has remarkably little predictive power. We can rationalise in retrospect how it made life the way it is, but we can’t calculate what it holds for the future. We can’t, as biochemist Nick Lane points out, explain why life is the way it is.

For several years Lane, sometimes in collaboration with evolutionary biologist Bill Martin, has been arguing that regarding evolution as a Darwinian battle of genes overlooks a crucial constraint on the…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect