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The Music of Life: Biology Beyond Genes

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The gene's eye view of life, proposed in Richard Dawkins acclaimed bestseller The Selfish Gene, sees living bodies as mere vehicles for the replication of genetic codes. But in The Music of Life, world renowned physiologist Denis Noble argues that, to truly understand life, we must look beyond the selfish gene to consider life on a much wider variety of levels. Life, Noble The gene's eye view of life, proposed in Richard Dawkins acclaimed bestseller The Selfish Gene, sees living bodies as mere vehicles for the replication of genetic codes. But in The Music of Life, world renowned physiologist Denis Noble argues that, to truly understand life, we must look beyond the selfish gene to consider life on a much wider variety of levels. Life, Noble asserts, is a kind of music, a symphonic interplay between genes, cells, organs, body, and environment. He weaves this musical metaphor throughout this personal and deeply lyrical work, illuminating ideas that might otherwise be daunting to non-scientists. In elegant prose, Noble sets out a cutting-edge alternative to the gene's eye view, offering a radical switch of perception in which genes are seen as prisoners and the organism itself is a complex system of many interacting levels. In his more expansive view, life emerges as a process, the ebb and flow of activity in an intricate web of connections. He introduces readers to the realm of systems biology, a field that has been growing in strength in the past decade. Noble, himself one of the founders of this field, argues modern systems biology may be the view we need to adopt to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of life. Drawing on his experiences in his research on the heartbeat, and on evolutionary biology, development, medicine, philosophy, linguistics, and Chinese culture, Noble presents us with a profound and very modern reflection on the nature of life.


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The gene's eye view of life, proposed in Richard Dawkins acclaimed bestseller The Selfish Gene, sees living bodies as mere vehicles for the replication of genetic codes. But in The Music of Life, world renowned physiologist Denis Noble argues that, to truly understand life, we must look beyond the selfish gene to consider life on a much wider variety of levels. Life, Noble The gene's eye view of life, proposed in Richard Dawkins acclaimed bestseller The Selfish Gene, sees living bodies as mere vehicles for the replication of genetic codes. But in The Music of Life, world renowned physiologist Denis Noble argues that, to truly understand life, we must look beyond the selfish gene to consider life on a much wider variety of levels. Life, Noble asserts, is a kind of music, a symphonic interplay between genes, cells, organs, body, and environment. He weaves this musical metaphor throughout this personal and deeply lyrical work, illuminating ideas that might otherwise be daunting to non-scientists. In elegant prose, Noble sets out a cutting-edge alternative to the gene's eye view, offering a radical switch of perception in which genes are seen as prisoners and the organism itself is a complex system of many interacting levels. In his more expansive view, life emerges as a process, the ebb and flow of activity in an intricate web of connections. He introduces readers to the realm of systems biology, a field that has been growing in strength in the past decade. Noble, himself one of the founders of this field, argues modern systems biology may be the view we need to adopt to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of life. Drawing on his experiences in his research on the heartbeat, and on evolutionary biology, development, medicine, philosophy, linguistics, and Chinese culture, Noble presents us with a profound and very modern reflection on the nature of life.

30 review for The Music of Life: Biology Beyond Genes

  1. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    The whole is greater than the sum of it's parts."The music of life is a symphony. It has many different movements. Some melodies find echoes in more than one, but the movements are non the less distinct."I don't want to over sell this book but it is fantastic stuff, combining the learnedness of Carl Segan with the conversational readability of Bill Bryson. It is so well written in fact, that on closing it I immediately google-searched (note the new verb) for anything else that he has written. It The whole is greater than the sum of it's parts."The music of life is a symphony. It has many different movements. Some melodies find echoes in more than one, but the movements are non the less distinct."I don't want to over sell this book but it is fantastic stuff, combining the learnedness of Carl Segan with the conversational readability of Bill Bryson. It is so well written in fact, that on closing it I immediately google-searched (note the new verb) for anything else that he has written. It's also a refreshing alternative to the pseudo fundamentalist polemic of Mr. Richard Dawkins or maybe, rather less harshly, what others have done with his writing. Here is somebody from within his own camp, somebody with scientific credibility that is, who in a calm and well reasoned voice can say "Now, Now, Mr. Dawkins. What you peddle as modern science is, at best a gross oversimplification, and in part at least, subjective polemic that reflects your opinion and prejudicial reading of the evidence rather than the facts of the matter." Word! "...the genome is viewed as dictating to all other levels (of a complex biological organism)...In a way, this is not so much an interpretation of biological data as the reflection of pre-existing assumptions about how things are meant to be..."And so Mr Noble tackles the reductionist (and pop-science) view of 'the selfish gene' head on; challenging it as opinion and rightfully reducing it to metaphor; and then a metaphor that isn't totally substantiated by the verifiable facts no less; bad science in that case!I hope this..(is)..a strong antidote to the 'genes program everything' view. To that end it has been useful to develop some alternative metaphors. But there are of course always limits to the validity of a metaphor. They are ladders to understanding. When you have climbed them, you can throw them away.He argues well, and with intelligence, in favour of using a different metaphor. In accepting that metaphor is already present in scientific language he then uses one that is better informed by reason and the experimental evidence, namely an orchestra; a complex interplay of DNA, the cell's community and systems theory. En route, this book tackles some pretty complex scientific ideas and presents them in very readable, straight forward form; downward causation; gene expression and encoded protein production as effected by systemic feedback, environmental control and phenotypic plasticity, integrated systems theory, physiology and a bit of biochemistry. These are all explained and stated in a very well articulated case for the cell being the basic biological unit of division and not the gene and the idea of a 'self', 'soul' or I as a reductionist wild goose. Life's processes are a reciprocal interplay between DNA, system (Cell, tissue, organ, organism) and environment. The problem with reductionist analysis is that it doesn't heed the old wisdom which states that 'the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts', when you reach the bottom i.e. the smallest reducible unit, you cannot build from there back up again and achieve realistic results without accepting some form of gestalt. In some ways this is in the Zeitgeist of much 'new science' writing of the last 20 years in that in recognises the limits of reductionism and the subjective aspects of the scientific method, i.e. what the experimenter/theorist brings to the experiment. He ends on a mystical note quoting, amongst others, Meister Eckhart! Very reminiscent of Fritjof Capra. It came then as no surprise to also see amidst the scientific papers of the bibliography a number of philosophical titles and even Zen Buddhist references! Scientific Zen or just a voice of reason and yet full of wonder?! More please, Mr Noble. More! Here are 2 links to related lectures by the author himself; http://www.pulse-project.org/node/25 http://www.pulse-project.org/node/32

  2. 4 out of 5

    Justin Covey

    Intriguing counter point to the popular gene determinist view of biology. We commonly think of DNA as the great determinator of life as it's the pathway of heredity and evolution, but Noble makes the case that DNA alone cannot do this. That it is virtually impossible to recreate an organism solely from its DNA, without also the egg cell and an understanding of the organisms embryonic conditions. In Noble's central metaphor DNA is not the program or plan it is normally imagined to be, but instead Intriguing counter point to the popular gene determinist view of biology. We commonly think of DNA as the great determinator of life as it's the pathway of heredity and evolution, but Noble makes the case that DNA alone cannot do this. That it is virtually impossible to recreate an organism solely from its DNA, without also the egg cell and an understanding of the organisms embryonic conditions. In Noble's central metaphor DNA is not the program or plan it is normally imagined to be, but instead an instrument used by the cell to create proteins. Consider that all the diverse cells of the body have the same set of DNA, but due to chemical tags applied by the cell they use this DNA, even the same segments, to accomplish wildly different tasks. This viewpoint also reveals holes in popular DNA similarity comparisons. When we hear that we and mice are very close genetically it does not mean we are nearly identical, no more than two pieces of music are identical because they are played on same instruments.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Denis Noble, professor emeritus (Oxford), writes a polemical response to Dawkins' The Selfish Gene. Dawkins has been crowned, rightly or wrongly, King of the Genetic Reductionists (that who we are, what we do, how we feel, and what diseases we get are a function of our genes). Noble, on the other hand, makes an impassioned plea for a more wholistic approach to understanding what Life is, and therefore thinks in terms of systems rather than genes. In doing this, he employs musical metaphors in ea Denis Noble, professor emeritus (Oxford), writes a polemical response to Dawkins' The Selfish Gene. Dawkins has been crowned, rightly or wrongly, King of the Genetic Reductionists (that who we are, what we do, how we feel, and what diseases we get are a function of our genes). Noble, on the other hand, makes an impassioned plea for a more wholistic approach to understanding what Life is, and therefore thinks in terms of systems rather than genes. In doing this, he employs musical metaphors in each of his short chapters. I find some of his metaphors expressive and useful (the human genome as an organ with 30,000 pipes). But at the level of the sentence, I found the book wanting.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jeannie

    In The Music of Life, Denis Noble argues for an integrative systems approach to evolutionary biology to complement the reductionist gene’s eye view that has prevailed throughout the past century. He begins by evaluating and reconstructing the framework of the metaphor used by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene to illustrate both the limitations of the gene-centric perspective and of the reliance on literary devices to convey scientific ideology. Noble elegantly moves outward from the genome, th In The Music of Life, Denis Noble argues for an integrative systems approach to evolutionary biology to complement the reductionist gene’s eye view that has prevailed throughout the past century. He begins by evaluating and reconstructing the framework of the metaphor used by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene to illustrate both the limitations of the gene-centric perspective and of the reliance on literary devices to convey scientific ideology. Noble elegantly moves outward from the genome, through the levels of systems physiology, to the philosophical perception of self, in order to illuminate the importance of an extended evolutionary synthesis. A perspective which encourages one to assess organismal life from the ‘middle-out’, Noble contends, will allow the scientific community to gain further insight into the mechanics of evolution. While the book makes a clear and compelling case for an extended evolutionary synthesis, it is possible that some readers may find Noble’s philosophical ruminations to be weak and unnecessary jaunts outside of the realm of hard experimental science. However, given the advances Noble himself has made to systems physiology using the extended synthesis approach to model the human heart, it is difficult to accuse him of being soft or pseudo-scientific. Readers of cross-disciplinary studies are likely to enjoy his venture into metaphysics, as it broadens the scope of the argument from the infinitesimal genome to a holistic view of life’s processes. This is a beautiful and stimulating addition to scientific literature.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Wiki

    Veelbetekenend boek over het gebruik van metaforen in de wetenschap, met aandacht voor metaforen gedurende ontwikkelingen met betrekking tot de evolutietheorie, Neodarwinisme en de expressie van reductionistisch determinisme in moleculaire biologie. Ik vind het een verschrikkelijk saai boek omdat het vanuit het perspectief van een in mijn ogen reductionist / determinist het gebrek in het werk van invloedrijke wetenschappers die nóg meer reductionistisch en deterministisch zijn bekritiseert en voo Veelbetekenend boek over het gebruik van metaforen in de wetenschap, met aandacht voor metaforen gedurende ontwikkelingen met betrekking tot de evolutietheorie, Neodarwinisme en de expressie van reductionistisch determinisme in moleculaire biologie. Ik vind het een verschrikkelijk saai boek omdat het vanuit het perspectief van een in mijn ogen reductionist / determinist het gebrek in het werk van invloedrijke wetenschappers die nóg meer reductionistisch en deterministisch zijn bekritiseert en voor de betrokken metaforen alternatieve metaforen voorstelt. In het voor- en nawoord komt daar nog laag van een in mijn beleving zwakbegaafde commentator bij. Dit boek gaat vooral over ethiek en filosofie, over de manier waarop men omgaat met wetenschap. En dus niet zozeer over biologie en genen. Het zal vast zeer interessant zijn voor de gemiddelde mens. En ik vind het telkens weer erg lastig om te zeggen door de sociale stigma's, maar in wetenschappelijke context vind ik de inhoud van dit boek en het gehele thema dom gezwets. Dáár zou een boek over geschreven moeten worden: de stigma's op verschil in intelligentie en het naar noodzaak ontwikkelende nut om bijvoorbeeld van het binair redeneren of 3D-denken door te groeien naar meer variabelen en zo ook het reductionisme op langere termijn afleren. Ik ben benieuwd of er al hoogfunctionerende autisten zijn die een serieuze omnidimensionale benadering van de werkelijkheid hebben beschreven. Hawking en anderen staan op mijn leeslijst maar iets dergelijks is niet waar je bekend mee wordt tot veel lezers de inhoud kunnen begrijpen en die gaan vereenvoudigen om het te rest uit te kunnen leggen, dus als er al iets geschreven is zal het waarschijnlijk niet makkelijk te vinden zijn. Indien deze tekst als provocerend overkomt, excuseer uzelf voor het vervallen tot stigmatisering van intelligentieverschillen. Mijn overtuiging is dat het niet goed of fout is om slim of dom te zijn. Deze tekst is dan ook vanuit mijn persoonlijke beleving geschreven, wat volgens mij de bedoeling is van een recensie. De lage score ken ik toe voor de presentatie van reductionistische metaforen als algemeen wetenschappelijk relevant; daar ben ik het niet mee eens, ik ben er zelfs tegen. Een reden is dat metaforen en andere vormen van reductionisme of vereenvoudiging tot in beangstigende diepten van de beleving van het bewustzijn doorgedrongen zijn en hun oorspronkelijke functie (ezelsbruggetjes voor het kunnen begrijpen van complexere zaken) niet meer ten dienst staan maar juist tegenwerken, namelijk door vereenvoudiging te gaan definiëren als volledige, correcte en absolute representatie van de complexe werkelijkheid. Als je dit niet snapt is dat niet erg, niet iedereen hoeft alles te snappen en er zijn ook zat dingen die ik niet snap, vandaar dat ik graag studeer. Ok doei.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tiina

    Bioloogia pole kunagi olnud üks minu tugevamaid aineid, geneetikaga olen ilmselt kokku puutunud veidi rohkem, kui mõned teised. Ometi võttis see raamat mind ohkama. Autor hüppab kohe suurele pildile, jättes kõrvale peamised algtõed, millega lugeja kindlasti peaks kursis olema. Minu arust oleks võinud Noble seda teha, et lugejale kas või lihtsalt varem õpitut meelde tuletada. Mina lendasin selle raamatuga pea ees vette ja pidin ise vaatama, kas ma upun või ujun. Jõudsin lõpule, nii et lained uhtu Bioloogia pole kunagi olnud üks minu tugevamaid aineid, geneetikaga olen ilmselt kokku puutunud veidi rohkem, kui mõned teised. Ometi võttis see raamat mind ohkama. Autor hüppab kohe suurele pildile, jättes kõrvale peamised algtõed, millega lugeja kindlasti peaks kursis olema. Minu arust oleks võinud Noble seda teha, et lugejale kas või lihtsalt varem õpitut meelde tuletada. Mina lendasin selle raamatuga pea ees vette ja pidin ise vaatama, kas ma upun või ujun. Jõudsin lõpule, nii et lained uhtusid mu kaldale. Võrdlus muusikaga jäi minu jaoks ka segaseks, aga jällegi võrdleb autor suuri asju omavahel. Muusika on rohkemat kui sümfooniad ja dirigendid ja heliplaadid, mis infot edasi kannavad. Jutustused tulnukatest ja nende vaatepunktist jäid minu jaoks ka segaseks. Mis nende eesmärk oli? Viimases peatükis kirjutab autor: „Ma panin käesolevale raamatule pealkirjaks „Elu muusika”, kuna ka muusika pole asi, vaid protsess. Seda tuleb hinnata eelkõige terviku seisukohast. Ja nagu me teame, on muusikat ka väga keeruline sõnadega kirjeldada.” Mina sellega ei nõustu. Muusikat on väga lihtne sõnadega kirjeldada, me teeme seda praktiliselt iga päev. Muusikat tuleb hinnata igat pidi, sa võid hinnata muusikat tervikuna nagu looduse ilu, aga kui sa tõesti tahad seda mõista ja sellest aru saada, siis tuleb teha tutvust noodikirja, instrumentide ja ka muusikapala autoriga. Tervikust endast ei piisa: igal noodil on oma tähtsus, oma roll selles helide näitemängus. Ja seetõttu jäigi mulle see raamat arvatavasti nii segaseks. Noble rääkis suurest pildist samal ajal, kui mina üritasin meeleheitlikult algtõdesid meelde tuletada. Soovitan seda raamatut pigem neile, kes bioloogiaga kodus on. Ehk nemad saavad sellest rohkem aru. Minule jäi sellest raamatust üks suur peavalu.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Helene Uppin

    Kas geenid siis ei juhigi kõike? Aga kes siis juhib? Mittekeegi - kuidas nii? Mõnes mõttes on see vastus Dawkinsi "Isekale geenile" (soovitaks isekat geeni enne lugeda, et vastuolust, millele raamat tugineb, aru saada), teisalt on see aga rohkem. See on nagu järgmine peatükk, etapp või faas eluteaduste mõtestamises. Ma nautisin väga autori laiast silmaringist ja kultuursusest tulenevalt rikkalikku näidetepagasit, nutikaid metafoore ja süsteemselt semiootilist lähenemist (kuidas mõjutab see, kuid Kas geenid siis ei juhigi kõike? Aga kes siis juhib? Mittekeegi - kuidas nii? Mõnes mõttes on see vastus Dawkinsi "Isekale geenile" (soovitaks isekat geeni enne lugeda, et vastuolust, millele raamat tugineb, aru saada), teisalt on see aga rohkem. See on nagu järgmine peatükk, etapp või faas eluteaduste mõtestamises. Ma nautisin väga autori laiast silmaringist ja kultuursusest tulenevalt rikkalikku näidetepagasit, nutikaid metafoore ja süsteemselt semiootilist lähenemist (kuidas mõjutab see, kuidas me mõtleme teadvusest, "minast" ja ajust, seda, kuidas me seda bioloogiliselt seletame?). Väga põnev olid epigeneetikat puudutav hüpotees. Mingitel hetkedel läks mu mõte aga rändama, võibolla seetõttu, et ma pole (loodus-) teaduskeelset aimekirjandust ammu lugenud, aga võibolla hakkas see nutikas ja poeetiline kõnemaneer lõpuks ennast hävitama (sisu jälgimine muutus keeruliseks, sest vormi läbinärimine võttis liiga palju energiat). Aga no see muusika metafoor (orkester ilma dirigendita) on muidugi geniaalne. Nii või teisiti, väärikas lisandus Rohelise Raamatu sarjale, soovitan. Lisaks on eestikeelsel väljaandel sümpaatne lõppsõna Kalevi Kullilt!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Cole

    I think Noble did an solid job launching a polemic against scientific reductivism and a deep dive into the topic as a whole. I overall agreed with the sentiments of Noble, but I also found that to be one of the biggest drawbacks of the book. A lot of what he was saying felt a little too light and over drawn out, like there was no really necessity to bring Buddhism into the mix. It felt like the author was trying to make a generic brand copy of Gödel Escher Bach on a topic which had significantly I think Noble did an solid job launching a polemic against scientific reductivism and a deep dive into the topic as a whole. I overall agreed with the sentiments of Noble, but I also found that to be one of the biggest drawbacks of the book. A lot of what he was saying felt a little too light and over drawn out, like there was no really necessity to bring Buddhism into the mix. It felt like the author was trying to make a generic brand copy of Gödel Escher Bach on a topic which had significantly less importance and room to explore.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ardon Pillay

    The thesis of this book is, essentially, a well-mounted counterargument against the idea that life arises purely because of the existence of genes. It’s very well written and extremely holistic, weighing the ideas put forward by prolific writers, like Richard Dawkins, and evaluating them thoroughly.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Interesting book and point if view. He states the book us written as a polemic, making the point that biology is much more than genes, indeed we are VERY complicated systems. I am not a biologist but at least one I respect thinks he makes a good case. Lots to learn, read it!

  11. 5 out of 5

    John Zobolas

    This book stands as an antithesis to "The Selfish Gene" in lots of ways. The layman's primary book on Systems Biology. Really well written and worth your time! It is very compact but it also inspires you to think about the stuff that you are reading (if you wish to do so)! This book stands as an antithesis to "The Selfish Gene" in lots of ways. The layman's primary book on Systems Biology. Really well written and worth your time! It is very compact but it also inspires you to think about the stuff that you are reading (if you wish to do so)!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anuraag Bukkuri

    This started off as a promising read, though it's clear that the author got carried away in certain later portions of the text. Decent book overall. This started off as a promising read, though it's clear that the author got carried away in certain later portions of the text. Decent book overall.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Steven Huggins

    Simple to understand, entertaining and mind blowing.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Viki Meadows

    I took it slowly and it wasn't always very easy but it was extremely interesting and thought-provoking and I enjoyed it. I took it slowly and it wasn't always very easy but it was extremely interesting and thought-provoking and I enjoyed it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nathemie

    An inspiring book though some points is not agreeable. He gives critiques on dawkin‘s selfish genes. Also he makes me reflect about how to evaluate all the metaphors in various fields in biology. This book is recommended by my first undergraduate supervisor 5 years ago. Enough as an introductory systems biology to attract students.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Saif Elhendawi

    Entertaining, informative and inspiring. The book is essential for the understanding of general terms used in biology all the time without us thinking much or focusing on their definition and implications. This lays out the ground work for his introduction of systems biology and deconstruction of reductionist biology. However, the most incredible aspect of this book is its discussion of the biology of the self, and how it can be explained that there is no of object of self. This has huge implicat Entertaining, informative and inspiring. The book is essential for the understanding of general terms used in biology all the time without us thinking much or focusing on their definition and implications. This lays out the ground work for his introduction of systems biology and deconstruction of reductionist biology. However, the most incredible aspect of this book is its discussion of the biology of the self, and how it can be explained that there is no of object of self. This has huge implications to eastern religions, mystic Abrahamic religions, and other "ego-death" based traditions. Mainly, because they have been concerned with using spiritual experiences to help explain the concept of 'no-self', 'self-dissociation', transcendence, and similar ideas that also lack an object of self. Although, the book is short and sweet, it is constantly suggesting areas for further exploration and providing sources for further reading. This is what pushed me towards giving it a 5 star rating.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joseph D. Walch

    Like New York City or the most complex space satellite, every cell in our bodies contain tens of thousands of moving parts that serve myriad functions. On top of that, these cells organize differently in groups to form functional organs which are in turn dependant on other organs in a system that sustains intelligent life. This book is the story of the delicate yet amazingly orchestrated biological systems that form the foundation of life. This is a very interesting book that explores the paradig Like New York City or the most complex space satellite, every cell in our bodies contain tens of thousands of moving parts that serve myriad functions. On top of that, these cells organize differently in groups to form functional organs which are in turn dependant on other organs in a system that sustains intelligent life. This book is the story of the delicate yet amazingly orchestrated biological systems that form the foundation of life. This is a very interesting book that explores the paradigms of our present biological models and how they are shifting in our age of nanotech and higher-order computing. It shows how the old reductionism of science (i.e., breaking down and isolating variables of a system for individual study) is giving way to a more holistic view of complex interactions in systems biology. It's a fascinating look into the irreducible complexity that forms the basis for many physiological functions (e.g., how heartbeats are orchestrated from a number of different ion channels acting in symphonic harmony with differential nerve conduction and heart muscle excitability) and points out the incredible emergent behavior from both normal interactive physiological mechanisms and pathological conditions that result in suprising effects. It also challenges the facile simplicity of the genes-as-god attitude present in millenial biology and explores how genes are affected just as much by protein modulators, silencers, activators, environment, etc. as they effect changes in all these factors in a complex dance during development an throughout maturity. Thus it endorses the study of physiology and life from the 'middle-out' perspective; 'middle' representing organ systems utilizing both reductionistic, holistic, and individualistic study of systems from the molecular/biochemical level all the way up through cells, organs, etc. to the level of clinical science. It's a very good book and a fascinating read that will fill the reader with wonder and profound appreciation for the incredible music of life manifest in the way our body and mind functions. I read this book after going to Experimental Biology in 2009 and hearing about it from the number of presenters who mentioned it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Roger

    I was a little disappointed with this book. It contains some good and thought provoking information on systems biology and on the expression and regulation of genes, but I found it rather slow moving and laboured. In my opinion, the author placed too much emphasis on using metaphors to explain the points he was trying to make (which, in fairness, he stated was his intent). I often found these confusing and I would rather have just had a presentation of his understanding of the mechanisms at play I was a little disappointed with this book. It contains some good and thought provoking information on systems biology and on the expression and regulation of genes, but I found it rather slow moving and laboured. In my opinion, the author placed too much emphasis on using metaphors to explain the points he was trying to make (which, in fairness, he stated was his intent). I often found these confusing and I would rather have just had a presentation of his understanding of the mechanisms at play within a organism rather than discussions about, for example, what an alien would make of it all or how it was analogous to something in the world of music. Whilst I thought he over-explained some of the biological issues, when it came to other areas, which were more philosophical, he used specialist terms without any explanation of their meaning. Denis Noble is a philosopher as well being a notable biologist and this no doubt accounts for the philosophical approach taken to the subject, especially in the later chapters. Notwithstanding these points, the book has stirred my curiosity to read more in the area of epigenetics. However, I felt that Prof Noble's book was more suited to those of a philosophical bent than those with backgrounds in the fields of biology and molecular biology.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Love this book and love him! Denis Noble is one of my favourite scientists and this book proves this once again. In this book he tackles the common believe of a gene-centered view and a reductionist approach while still remaining respectful. This book is shorter than many other books on this topic, but then again he doesn't repeat himself nearly as much as others do (The Selfish Gene - RicharD Dawkins). He does uses a metaphores but he also explains why and how he uses it. He also links this to Love this book and love him! Denis Noble is one of my favourite scientists and this book proves this once again. In this book he tackles the common believe of a gene-centered view and a reductionist approach while still remaining respectful. This book is shorter than many other books on this topic, but then again he doesn't repeat himself nearly as much as others do (The Selfish Gene - RicharD Dawkins). He does uses a metaphores but he also explains why and how he uses it. He also links this to language, culture and perception and the importance of it. This book really makes you look at things from a different angle and to question what we've learned so far in the scientific evolutionary field. Perception and synergy is key to understanding complex matter. This book is perfect for people who already have an understanding of physiology, evolution and especially the history about it. I recommend every scientist and practitioner of medicine to read this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    J Scott

    Denis Noble has given us a powerful little book to frame our notion of the appropriate role of the genome in science. His approach is called an integrative systems approach and make a lot sense. Instead of the reductionist certainty plaguing the science genetics, Noble encourages a different tack. His use of metaphor and analogy is both illuminating and entertaining; I found his use of music to be the most compelling. I purchased this book because I've been studying the application of metaphors Denis Noble has given us a powerful little book to frame our notion of the appropriate role of the genome in science. His approach is called an integrative systems approach and make a lot sense. Instead of the reductionist certainty plaguing the science genetics, Noble encourages a different tack. His use of metaphor and analogy is both illuminating and entertaining; I found his use of music to be the most compelling. I purchased this book because I've been studying the application of metaphors in different fields, Noble did not disappoint. This slim volume is excellent and recommended for anyone wishing to become better acquainted with alternative views on the role of genetics, and more importantly a systemic approach to our physiology. Well done!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tjibbe Wubbels

    Is this book about system biology? Or is it about language or more specifically metaphors? I really enjoyed the introduction and first chapter in which Mr Noble explains his theory. After that the theory gets repeated for different `levels of life` (cell, organ etc). Luckily for the reader it is repeated using these nice metaphors that keep you reading. In the last two chapters it becomes more vague and philosophical. It`s about the self being a process rather then an object. I guess it`s the ul Is this book about system biology? Or is it about language or more specifically metaphors? I really enjoyed the introduction and first chapter in which Mr Noble explains his theory. After that the theory gets repeated for different `levels of life` (cell, organ etc). Luckily for the reader it is repeated using these nice metaphors that keep you reading. In the last two chapters it becomes more vague and philosophical. It`s about the self being a process rather then an object. I guess it`s the ultimate conclusion of system biology, but does he really have to bring Zen Buddhism into the mix? A bit too much for me, that last chapter, hence the 3 stars instead of 4.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ruban

    The book is a brain-stretching delight: an impassioned attack on narrow thinking regarding evolution, whether from the general media or other, specialised scientists.. What makes this book interesting is the combination of state of the art knowledge in many totally different fields - it is rare to find a book with so many well founded and important philosophical implications of the scientific discoveries in our time.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Juan F. Abenza

    Reductionism is bad. Noble starts insisting very much in the fact that the scientific approaches are changing to became more wholistic, giving some redundant examples, and ends with a very interesting philosophical dissertation about the existence of the "self", the neo-dualism and the ways our language conditions us in our perception of the things. Worth reading it. Reductionism is bad. Noble starts insisting very much in the fact that the scientific approaches are changing to became more wholistic, giving some redundant examples, and ends with a very interesting philosophical dissertation about the existence of the "self", the neo-dualism and the ways our language conditions us in our perception of the things. Worth reading it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ian Harrow

    An enjoyable and stimulating polemic discussion about processes of life which uses music as metaphor.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Xin

    The book has some parts on the latest research developments, but overall is not particularly informative if you have some biology background.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tariq

    Wish I could write like this... short book, but makes a good point very well.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rohit

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Eastwood

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Chang

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bishoyh

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