Wednesday, 5 August 2015

What is Life? How Chemistry Becomes Biology



Book 39 of 2015 is What is Life? How Chemistry Becomes Biology by Addy Pross.

Someone recently called my understanding of science unsophisticated. When I probed deeper in to what was meant by this, I found that he saw my acceptance of scientific facts as me lacking the ability to challenge an idea.

I thought about this for a while and dispute his perception of this because facts are facts. And facts determined using the scientific method are solid in my world. Damn us rational people.

What I think he thought was that I accepted scientific philosophy and hypothesis as facts when they were not yet proven. That isn't something I do. To prove that to myself, I choose a few books and have started reading the more interesting ideas in current scientific thinking.

This book is about Systems Chemistry which I hoped would help me extend my Systems Thinking views as well. Unfortunately, it did not.

Firstly, I should state that I haven't touched the wet sciences (Chem and Biology) since final year high school and my science is the most theoretical it gets in computer science and discrete maths. Maybe that meant I was lacking the basic knowledge required to call bullshit on this book or not.

The book is actually quite good and encourages you to think about micro systems in a macro systems fashion. In this case, the author tries to think about the essence of life in a chemical way using biological concepts like Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

The problem I had with this book is that the first half is spent on ideas like Teleonomy and on discussions that seemed to be heading towards Intelligent Design. Still, I continued.

The second problem I had with it is that if you look for patterns you will find them but that doesn't mean they are confirmation of your theory. Scientific method will make it fact. THEN I will buy in more.

What the final half of the book did do was try to extrapolate out from biological fact to philosophise on what is the clinching factor that brought molecules together to attain a spark of life. It isn't about god and thank the flying spaghetti monster for that.

As a book, it is easy to read although it does maintain a condescending overtone. You need at least high school biology, chemistry and physics to start this book. A critical and open thinker will enjoy this.

3 RNA strands out of 5.


Should I read this? Only if you care about thinking about thinking about science. Yes, I meant both "think about"s.
What did I learn? My understanding of science is not unsophisticated. In fact, I'm pretty well rounded but I do need to read more philosophical thought in general.

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