Sunday, December 26, 2010

Science or metaphor?

I have just started reading a beautiful little book by Denis Noble entitled The Music of Life: Biology beyond genes. It highlights the limitations of a reductionistic approach to biology and the value of an emergent perspective, as in systems biology.

Some of the material is in an earlier article. He considers the following two paragraphs which both discuss the role of genes in an organism:

Now they swarm in huge colonies, safe inside gigantic lumbering robots, sealed off from the outside world, communicating with it by tortuous indirect routes, manipulating it by remote control. They are in you and me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence.

Now they are trapped in huge colonies, locked inside highly intelligent beings, moulded by the outside world, communicating with it by complex processes, through which, blindly, as if by magic, function emerges.  They are in you and me; we are the system that allows their code to be read. and their preservation is totally dependent on the joy we experience in reproducing ourselves (our joy not theirs!) We are the ultimate rationale for their existence.

Which do you agree with? Is there any experiment which could be used to distinguish the scientific validity of the two statements?

1 comment:

  1. I definitely think Denis Noble is right. If you read the book you will understand why. In summary genes really do not manipulate, instead are manipulated by proteins and environment. Then genes did not created us, body and mind... at all! Just think about this: genes could probably replicate by their own, but they can not make proteins withot other proteins, so they could not create anything alone.