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The Music of Life: Biology Beyond Genes

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  218 ratings  ·  27 reviews
The gene's eye view of life, proposed in Richard Dawkins acclaimed bestseller The Selfish Gene, sees living bodies as mere vehicles for the replication of genetic codes. But in The Music of Life, world renowned physiologist Denis Noble argues that, to truly understand life, we must look beyond the "selfish gene" to consider life on a much wider variety of levels.
Life, Nob
Paperback, 153 pages
Published April 7th 2008 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published June 8th 2006)
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3.77  · 
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 ·  218 ratings  ·  27 reviews

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Dec 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anybody interested in life science and origins
The whole is greater than the sum of it's parts.
"The music of life is a symphony. It has many different movements. Some melodies find echoes in more than one, but the movements are non the less distinct."
I don't want to over sell this book but it is fantastic stuff, combining the learnedness of Carl Segan with the conversational readability of Bill Bryson. It is so well written in fact, that on closing it I immediately google-searched (note the new verb) for anything else that he has written. It
Jul 13, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Denis Noble, professor emeritus (Oxford), writes a polemical response to Dawkins' The Selfish Gene. Dawkins has been crowned, rightly or wrongly, King of the Genetic Reductionists (that who we are, what we do, how we feel, and what diseases we get are a function of our genes). Noble, on the other hand, makes an impassioned plea for a more wholistic approach to understanding what Life is, and therefore thinks in terms of systems rather than genes. In doing this, he employs musical metaphors in ea ...more
Oct 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In The Music of Life, Denis Noble argues for an integrative systems approach to evolutionary biology to complement the reductionist gene’s eye view that has prevailed throughout the past century. He begins by evaluating and reconstructing the framework of the metaphor used by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene to illustrate both the limitations of the gene-centric perspective and of the reliance on literary devices to convey scientific ideology. Noble elegantly moves outward from the genome, th ...more
Justin Covey
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Intriguing counter point to the popular gene determinist view of biology. We commonly think of DNA as the great determinator of life as it's the pathway of heredity and evolution, but Noble makes the case that DNA alone cannot do this. That it is virtually impossible to recreate an organism solely from its DNA, without also the egg cell and an understanding of the organisms embryonic conditions. In Noble's central metaphor DNA is not the program or plan it is normally imagined to be, but instead ...more
Mar 07, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Veelbetekenend boek over het gebruik van metaforen in de wetenschap, met aandacht voor metaforen gedurende ontwikkelingen met betrekking tot de evolutietheorie, Neodarwinisme en de expressie van reductionistisch determinisme in moleculaire biologie.

Ik vind het een verschrikkelijk saai boek omdat het vanuit het perspectief van een in mijn ogen reductionist / determinist het gebrek in het werk van invloedrijke wetenschappers die nóg meer reductionistisch en deterministisch zijn bekritiseert en voo
Helene Uppin
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aime
Kas geenid siis ei juhigi kõike? Aga kes siis juhib? Mittekeegi - kuidas nii?
Mõnes mõttes on see vastus Dawkinsi "Isekale geenile" (soovitaks isekat geeni enne lugeda, et vastuolust, millele raamat tugineb, aru saada), teisalt on see aga rohkem. See on nagu järgmine peatükk, etapp või faas eluteaduste mõtestamises. Ma nautisin väga autori laiast silmaringist ja kultuursusest tulenevalt rikkalikku näidetepagasit, nutikaid metafoore ja süsteemselt semiootilist lähenemist (kuidas mõjutab see, kuid
Oliver Mattinson
Sep 15, 2018 rated it liked it
An interesting book that makes the case for a systems-level approach to biology, as opposed to 'bottom-up'. Arguments include the fact that genes only operate through the actions of proteins that interpret them, that many aspects that are necessary for function are not strictly encoded (e.g. physical properties of water, protein-protein interactions), and the existence of feedback loops that function in a top-down manner. Therefore the image of a DNA template being read to create an organism is ...more
Ardon Pillay
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The thesis of this book is, essentially, a well-mounted counterargument against the idea that life arises purely because of the existence of genes. It’s very well written and extremely holistic, weighing the ideas put forward by prolific writers, like Richard Dawkins, and evaluating them thoroughly.
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting book and point if view. He states the book us written as a polemic, making the point that biology is much more than genes, indeed we are VERY complicated systems. I am not a biologist but at least one I respect thinks he makes a good case. Lots to learn, read it!
Steven Huggins
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Simple to understand, entertaining and mind blowing.
Viki Meadows
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I took it slowly and it wasn't always very easy but it was extremely interesting and thought-provoking and I enjoyed it.
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
An inspiring book though some points is not agreeable. He gives critiques on dawkin‘s selfish genes. Also he makes me reflect about how to evaluate all the metaphors in various fields in biology. This book is recommended by my first undergraduate supervisor 5 years ago. Enough as an introductory systems biology to attract students.
Ben Saward
Feb 23, 2017 rated it did not like it
The book presents an entirely metaphorical approach to combatting genetic reductionism. A bit of experimental evidence wouldn't have gone a miss. In my opinion, that is what brings a popular science book to life, its description of the logic and intuition that goes into a scientific experiment, something this book is entirely devoid of.
Joseph D. Walch
Apr 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Like New York City or the most complex space satellite, every cell in our bodies contain tens of thousands of moving parts that serve myriad functions. On top of that, these cells organize differently in groups to form functional organs which are in turn dependant on other organs in a system that sustains intelligent life. This book is the story of the delicate yet amazingly orchestrated biological systems that form the foundation of life.

This is a very interesting book that explores the paradig
Jun 10, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was a little disappointed with this book. It contains some good and thought provoking information on systems biology and on the expression and regulation of genes, but I found it rather slow moving and laboured. In my opinion, the author placed too much emphasis on using metaphors to explain the points he was trying to make (which, in fairness, he stated was his intent). I often found these confusing and I would rather have just had a presentation of his understanding of the mechanisms at play ...more
J Scott Shipman
Nov 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Denis Noble has given us a powerful little book to frame our notion of the appropriate role of the genome in science. His approach is called an integrative systems approach and make a lot sense. Instead of the reductionist certainty plaguing the science genetics, Noble encourages a different tack. His use of metaphor and analogy is both illuminating and entertaining; I found his use of music to be the most compelling.

I purchased this book because I've been studying the application of metaphors
Tjibbe Wubbels
Is this book about system biology? Or is it about language or more specifically metaphors? I really enjoyed the introduction and first chapter in which Mr Noble explains his theory. After that the theory gets repeated for different `levels of life` (cell, organ etc). Luckily for the reader it is repeated using these nice metaphors that keep you reading. In the last two chapters it becomes more vague and philosophical. It`s about the self being a process rather then an object. I guess it`s the ul ...more
Feb 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is a brain-stretching delight: an impassioned attack on narrow thinking regarding evolution, whether from the general media or other, specialised scientists.. What makes this book 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.
Juan F. Abenza
Jul 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Reductionism is bad. Noble starts insisting very much in the fact that the scientific approaches are changing to became more wholistic, giving some redundant examples, and ends with a very interesting philosophical dissertation about the existence of the "self", the neo-dualism and the ways our language conditions us in our perception of the things. Worth reading it.
Alessio Franci
Feb 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Epigenesis, explained with beautiful metaphor
The last chapter brain/intelligence probably deserves more attention...
Ian Harrow
Jul 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
An enjoyable and stimulating polemic discussion about processes of life which uses music as metaphor.
Sep 08, 2011 rated it liked it
The book has some parts on the latest research developments, but overall is not particularly informative if you have some biology background.
Sep 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wish I could write like this... short book, but makes a good point very well.
rated it it was amazing
Mar 01, 2015
Jennifer Chang
rated it liked it
Sep 20, 2014
rated it it was amazing
Dec 28, 2012
Arunachalam Bharathi
A great book... a must read for any one interested in life.
rated it really liked it
Jul 19, 2011
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Denis Noble is Emeritus Professor of Cardiovascular Physiology. He now directs the computational physiology research group. He was the first to model cardiac cells (in two papers in Nature in 1960) and has published over 350 research papers. He is one of the leaders of Systems Biology and has written the first popular book on Systems Biology, The MUSIC of LIFE (OUP, 2006).

“Quite soon, as we move from genes to the proteins that they code for, and then on to the interactions between these proteins, the problems become seriously complicated.” 1 likes
“Much contemporary popular writing on genetics assumes that it should be possible to reconstruct living systems from the bottom up, starting with the raw DNA code. And that is precisely the sort of procedure we have just seen to be so entirely impracticable. Clearly, we need first to narrow the options. And there is only one way to do that; we must observe how nature itself has narrowed the options.” 0 likes
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