Life: The Leading Edge of Evolutionary Biology, Genetics, Anthropology, and Environmental Science
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The newest addition to John Brockman’s Edge.org series explores life itself, bringing together the world’s leading biologists, geneticists, and evolutionary theorists—including Richard Dawkins, Edward O. Wilson, J. Craig Venter, and Freeman Dyson.
Scientists’ understanding of life is progressing more rapidly than at any point in human history, from the extraordinary decoding of DNA to the controversial emergence of biotechnology. Featuring pioneering biologists, geneticists, physicists, and science writers, Life explains just how far we’ve come—and takes a brilliantly educated guess at where we’re heading.
Richard Dawkins and J. Craig Venter compare genes to digital information, and sketch the frontiers of genomic research.
Edward O. Wilson reveals what ants can teach us about building a superorganism—and, in turn, about how cells build an organism. Elsewhere, David Haig reports new findings on how mothers and fathers individually influence the human genome, while Kary Mullis covers cutting edge treatments for dangerous viruses. And there’s much more in this fascinating volume.
We may never have all the answers. But the thinkers collected in Life are asking questions that will keep us dreaming for generations.
matters is if it’s true or not. And I have to say, evolution is true, never mind what millions might think. But why there’s been a sudden outburst of antirational mania I don’t understand. Maybe only an American can understand it. EDGE: How has the evolutionary idea itself evolved? JONES: It has, in fact, evolved in some quite unnecessary ways, because if you look back on many of the evolutionary controversies of the last thirty years, they have ebbed away as knowledge has grown. Take
classical. The number of quantum states becomes so large that classical mechanics becomes exact. When analog systems work classically, the quantized-energy argument fails. That is why survival is possible in the domain of classical mechanics although it is impossible in the domain of quantum mechanics. Fortunately, classical mechanics becomes dominant as the universe expands and cools. But Krauss and Starkman have not yet conceded. I am still expecting them to come back with new arguments, which
design of biology, as we will use them in the very specific design we do in the laboratory. And taxonomy is something where people sort of fool themselves by justifying what they see with their visual acuity. DAWKINS: The overlap of mammal genes that you’re talking about could come about through common ancestry. So the platypus and kangaroo genomes contain shared genes because they go back to a common ancestor. That is the normal assumption made by molecular taxonomists. VENTER: Yes, but once
arisen: high-throughput DNA sequencing. There are machines now where you can take the DNA you’ve extracted from a fossil and sequence random pieces of it so efficiently that you can, without targeting anything special, see everything that’s in there and then look at what, on this DNA molecule, looks similar to that of humans or chimps. And it’s generally just a few percent—2, 3, 4 percent—but there’s such a tremendous throughput in these technologies that you can afford to do that. You can throw
the genome now. We could look for mutations in individuals with cancer, whether they inherited those mutations, but now that we can do high-throughput resequencing of genes, we’re now sequencing these genes looking for somatic mutations, things that have occurred after the genome was established. And in every type of cancer, we’re finding mutations in these genes. Usually these mutations lead to unregulated cell growth. It turns on the kinase receptors and they run continuously. There have been