Reading for today:
"In the beginning was the Word? The genetic code and the Book of Life"
by Lily Kay, historian of biology.
The Book of Life: Just a metaphor?
- The persistence of this particular metaphor.
- the operational force of imagining that DNA is
- DNA linguistics and bioinformatics "A metaphor literalized."
Kay suggests that this metaphor does not stand up to any rigorous
investigation of the concept of language: does that mean that
genetics is operating under a faulty assumption? what might be
the impact of such a state of affairs?
- Not all metaphors are created equal. Some metaphors
are better than others for the creativity of scientific
"Yet there were and probably could be
other ways of knowing." p.226
"Here it a human being; it's me." Are you this book?
History of twentieth century science: biochemistry meets molecular
genetics meets linguistics meets
"Site of the command and control of life"
Can there be a history of a natural,
universal, eternal "book of life"?
The meanings of this notion, the book of life, change from
historical period to historical period.
- In the ancient world of Plato and Socrates, speech
is the locus of truth, writing is only the imperfect
imitation of truth.
- In the old testament, God creates the earth through
speech, and Adam names the animals.
- In the New Testament, the gospel of St. John says: "I am the word." "The word made flesh." "In the beginning was the word." Augustine, Aquinas and others have
written commentaries on the Book of Life.
- In the Medieval era, the book of nature is a
supplement to the book of life, and is an image of all
things ordered according to grammatical categories.
- After the 15th c. The "book of nature" became a mechanically
- In the 18th century Kant points out that even knowing all the letters and
pronounciations is not enough to understand a book. Something more
must be necessary
- In the twentieth century, books are "information" or
worse, "content" rather than books.
|Some words to know...
table of correlations