Toward a Biology Worthy of Life > Getting Over the Code Delusion > Brief excerpt
A project by Stephen L. Talbott

The code versus the whole organism

The code was supposed to reassure us that something like a computational machine lay beneath the life of the organism. The fixity, precision, and unambiguous logical relations of the code seemed to guarantee its strictly mechanistic performance in the cell. Yet it is this fixity, this notion of a precisely characterizable march from cause to effect — and, more broadly, from gene to trait — that has lately been dissolving more and more into the fluid, dynamic exchange of living processes. Organisms, it appears, must be understood and explained at least in part from above downward, from context to subcontext, from the general laws or character of their being to the never fully independent details. In the end, we can meaningfully apprehend the lowest-level activities only so far as we recognize them to be performances of the whole organism.

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