Toward a Biology Worthy of Life > The Poverty of the Instructed Organism > Brief excerpt
A project by Stephen L. Talbott

How the organism “plays” its chromosomes

REMOVING NUCLEOTIDE BASES from their structured context and making a mere fact of sequential ordering central to our explanation of the organism is rather like making the fixed sequence of keys on a piano the primary basis for explaining the performance of a Mozart piano concerto. It is to ignore the music-making — the qualitatively distinct harmonic relations between the different keys, the way the keys are struck in time, the endless subtlety of touch, the carefully inflected phrasing, the melodic progression and shifting harmonies, the role of all the other players in the orchestra, and, above all, the way the entire performance holds together as a clearly recognizable, aesthetic whole.

But the analogy is a poor one, for, among other things, it ought to show the keyboard itself twisting and looping like the chromosome, morphing into ever new forms, dancing to a music that is really the music of the piano, pianist, and orchestra together — music in which the individual keys of the piano contribute their own fluid notes only as modulated by each other and by a thousand influences from other players in the orchestra.

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