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

It’s life all the way down

The one decisive lesson I think we can draw from the work in molecular genetics over the past couple of decades is that life does not progressively contract into a code or mechanism or any other reduced “building block” as we probe its more minute dimensions. Trying to define the complexity of the chromosome, according to geneticists Shiv Grewal and Sarah Elgin, “is like trying to define life itself”. Having plunged headlong toward the micro and molecular in their drive to reduce the living to the inanimate, biologists now find unapologetic life staring back at them from every chromatogram, every electron micrograph, every gene expression profile. Things do not become simpler, less organic, less animate. The explanatory task at the bottom is essentially the same as what we faced higher up. It’s rather our understanding that all too easily becomes constricted as we move downward, because the contextual scope and qualitative richness of our survey is so extremely narrowed.

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