HONORS MODULE: THE CHANGING MODEL OF LIFE
March 30 & April 2:
Chapter 1 : The Schrödinger question, What is life?
First you may want to read my essay: Robert Rosen: the well posed question and its answer-why are organisms different from machines? to get an idea of why the Schrödinger question may not be well posed. But focus on the chapter since it introduces a lot of very important ideas. These are deep, difficult ideas. Dont expect them to be easy. There are few right answers here, if any.
Here are a few things to focus on in the chapter.
The notion of surrogacy is really the whole issue of inductive reasoning which is at the root of all experimental science. How many observations are needed before you can be reasonably sure you know what the outcome of any further observations will be?
Contrast Monods with Rosens idea that biology can tell us things about matter that physics cant. Be careful here! We are dealing with attitude and approach posed as if they were fact.
Genotypes and Phenotypes (page 9)
Heres where we want to apply what Rosen has to offer to contemporary developments. The contrast between molecular genetics and Mendelian concepts is in the forefront. Try to grasp the meaning of the dualism between genotype and phenotype in the context of Newtonian physics and the dualism between states and forces. This is a deep and difficult idea. He develops it further in terms of inertial and gravitational forces. It may be helpful to look at the Appendix to the syllabus that deals with causality in Aristotles ideas.
Go back over the ideas before as you plunge ahead in this chapter. Things circle back on themselves. The genotype/phenotype issue is a central one. Decisions are being made and have been made using one particular interpretation: DNA as a molecule is the key. Rosen puts this into another perspective. It is important to see things from this perspective whether you agree with it or not. Some of us predict that the simple view of molecular biology, even when it uses words like biocomplexity, may be in need of drastic revision. Rosen gives some major reasons why.