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The Music of Life: Biology beyond genes and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

The Music of Life: Biology Beyond Genes

22 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199295739
ISBN-10: 0199295735
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Editorial Reviews

Review

An excellent informal introduction to the concepts and issues that form the bedrock of systems biology... His conversational style gives readers the feeling they are with him sharing in an active process of discovery. Eric Werner, Science highly evocative essay Steven Poole, Guardian

About the Author


Denis Noble is Emeritus Professor of Cardiovascular Physiology at the University of Oxford. He was Chairman of the International Union of Physiological Sciences World Congress in 1993, and Secretary-General of IUPS from 1993-2001.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (July 13, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199295735
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199295739
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 0.9 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,569,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Steve Benner VINE VOICE on December 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
Denis Noble describes his short book, "The Music of Life: Biology Beyond Genes", as a polemic. It is, in fact, a clarion call for a rethink to the reductionist dogmas that currently plague--and hinder--so much scientific thinking, particularly in the field of biology and, most especially, genetics. Professor Noble is not, of course, alone in making this call (see, for instance, Stuart Kaufmann's "Reinventing the Sacred" or "Evolution in Four Dimensions" by Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb) but he presents a particularly clear-sighted argument which few others have so far matched. His is a far-reaching and eminently readable disquisition, attacking first the popular metaphor articulated primarily by Richard Dawkins in "The Selfish Gene" (and promulgated endlessly--usually incorrectly--by science popularists ever since) that genes are the engines of evolution and each genome a comprehensive "program of life". Throughout his book, Noble turns that view around with a different and far more accurate metaphor, presenting the genome as a database from which the organism can select in order to call upon an elegant modularity of gene expression in a bewildering display of inventiveness of response to environmental and physiological conditions.Read more ›
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Damir Janigro on August 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dr. Noble is one of the most creative physiologists of our time, and not surprisingly he decided to put an end to the endless "DNA craze" affecting scientists and media alike. In an era where everything is "genetic", Dr. Noble lucidly unmasks the pitfalls of gene-centrism, to reveal the powerful and obvious societal and organismal influences that govern gene expression. This little book does not deny the work by Dawkins and Gould (frequently and appropriately cited) but rather redefines the modern Darwinism of life in a more holistic, and scientifically acceptable perspective. The devil is in the details, and we have been fooled for too long by those who only see the music notation of life and not the whole symphony!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Lars Petter Endresen on August 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I honestly really enjoyed reading the book "The Music of Life" - it is one of the most important books I have ever read. Denis Noble's analogy between life and music is an important one. Just as music cannot be understood by investigating single notes at a time, one cannot investigate life by looking at single genes only. The interplay between genes, between genes and proteins, and between proteins is just as important as the genes themselves.

What makes this book particularly 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. I had to read this book twice to really appreciate all the beautiful metaphors, and I would recommend this book to everybody that enjoyed Erwin Schrödinger's book "What is Life" - this book is an update.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Daniel A. Beard on September 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This little book is a real treat. Among other things, it is a timely rebut of the genome-mania that has dominated biological science and popular attention paid to it over the past decade. This is not to say that Noble's book is an anti-genome book. On the contrary, Noble presents the view of the genome as not more (or less) than another few molecules that make up the complex interacting soup of life.

One of the gems in this book is Noble's description on the combinatorial explosion associated with the seemingly straightforward task of developing gene ontologies--the assignment of biological functions to genes. Noble explains in simple terms why it is practically impossible to enumerate necessarily immense set of high-level functions associated with a specific gene, and why the quest to map functions to genes or genes to functions is a hopeless task unless one adopts a systems view.

While The Music of Life is build around analogy, one of the crucial messages of the book is that there is great danger in mistaking analogy for theory in science. Noble's deconstruction of Dawkins' "selfish gene" analogy is a striking example. Noble's essay reveals that some of the great current debates in biology, such as that of the Dawkins view versus the Gould view of evolution are really scientific debates no more than they are arguments about the aesthetic qualities of competing metaphors. From a perspective that seeks rigorous testable hypotheses, the selfish gene is perhaps no more rigorous an idea than a god delusion.

The only nitpick that I have with this book relates to Noble's demonstration of emergent phenomena, using the rhythmic behavior of a cardiac pacemaker cell membrane potential arising from the integrated behavior of a collection of autonomous channels and pumps.
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