Shapiro, Robert (1935–)

Robert Shapiro is professor of chemistry at New York University. He has argued strongly against conventional origin-of-life theories that are based on the spontaneous – and to him, highly unlikely – generation of complex entities such as RNA, DNA, or genes. In his Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth (1987),1 he presented a pessimistic view of the possibility of life on Earth having emerged by chance. By 1999, in Planetary Dreams,2 he had elaborated his thesis to argue that universal self-organizing principles operating on basic organic materials would serve to generate life under a wide variety of circumstances. Given a liquid or dense gaseous medium, a suitable energy source, and a system of matter capable of using the energy to structure itself, primitive organisms will inevitably emerge-an idea he terms the "Life Principle." He further maintains that, following its elementary genesis, life will evolve in ways and directions that are wholly unpredictable.



1. Shapiro, Robert. Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth. New York: Bantam (1987).
2. Shapiro, Robert. Planetary Dreams. New York: John Wiley & Sons (1999).