(Roughly) Daily

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”*…

DNA is indisputably important to biological development. But, Alfonso Martinez Arias argues, far from being a blueprint for an organism, genes are mere tools used by life’s true expert builders: cells…

… Over the past century, scientists have discovered a material explanation for the source of life, one that needs no divine intervention and provides a thread across eons of time for all beings that exist or have ever existed: deoxyribonucleic acid — DNA. While there is little doubt that genes have something to do with what we are and how we come to be, it is difficult to answer precisely the question of what their exact role in all of this is.

A closer look at how genes work and what they can accomplish, compared to what they are said to achieve, casts doubt on the assertion that the genome in particular contains an “operating manual” for us or any other living creature. When it comes to the creation of organisms, we’ve overlooked — or, more accurately, forgotten — another force. The origin and power of that force are cells.

What makes you and me individual human beings is not a unique set of DNA but instead a unique organization of cells and their activities…

A fascinating essay, adapted from Martinez Arias’ forthcoming book, The Master Builder- How the New Science of the Cell Is Rewriting the Story of Life: “Cells, Not DNA, Are The Master Architects Of Life,” in @NoemaMag.

[Image above: source]

* Psalm 139: 13–14


As we delve into design, we might send insightful birthday greetings to Ernst Mayr; he was born on this date in 1904. A  taxonomist, tropical explorer, ornithologist, philosopher of biology, and historian of science, he is best remembered as one of the 20th century’s leading evolutionary biologists. His work contributed to the conceptual revolution that led to the modern evolutionary synthesis of Mendelian genetics, systematics, and Darwinian evolution, and to the development of the biological species concept.

His theory of peripatric speciation (a more precise form of allopatric speciation which he advanced), based on his work on birds, is still considered a leading mode of speciation, and was the theoretical underpinning for the theory of punctuated equilibrium, proposed by Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould. Mayr is sometimes credited with inventing modern philosophy of biology, particularly the part related to evolutionary biology, which he distinguished from physics due to evolutionary biology’s introduction of (natural) history into science.


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