In February 1943 Erwin Schrödinger, delivered a seminal lecture, entitled ‘What is Life?’, under the auspices of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, in Trinity College, Dublin. This was published as a book – What is Life?
Craig Venter revisited this question in a lecture “What is Life? A 21st century perspective” a week or so back. This was presented in Dublin at the Science in the City program of Euroscience Open Forum 2012 (ESOF 2012). Venter covers the history of research into the nature of life over the last 60 years – from Schrödinger’s lecture up to his own recent discoveries.
Also at this lecture was James Watson, one of the discovers of the helical structure of DNA. Watson briefly commented on Venter’s lecture – and left the audience with a typically provocative question – given the role of chemistry in life does any role remain for biologists?
The video of Venter’s lecture is about one hour-long, and the sound quality is not the best. But listen to it if you can. Alternatively the text of his lecture is at the Edge web page – WHAT IS LIFE? A 21st CENTURY PERSPECTIVE.
(Sorry, I can’t embed these edge videos).
There is a shorter version of Venter’s lecture given as an after dinner speech at the Edge Dinner in Tuirin a few days before – see J. CRAIG VENTER: THE BIOLOGICAL-DIGITAL CONVERTER, OR, BIOLOGY AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT.
If you prefer podcasts this weeks Guardian Science Weekly also covers Venter’s speech. Alok Jha interviewed Venter – part of the interview is in the regular podcast. The full interview is in a podcast extra.
Posted in creationism, Health and Medicine, philosophy, SciBlogs, science, Science and Society
Tagged Craig Venter, DNA, Dublin, Erwin Schrödinger, James D. Watson, SciBlogs, What Is Life?
The Arizona State University Origins Project in partnership with the Science Network, J. Epstein Foundation and the NASA Astrobiology Institute has sponsored another interesting debate – The Great Debate – What is Life? This follows on from their recent debate on morality – The Great Debate – Can Science tell us Right from Wrong? (see Telling right from wrong).
I have yet to watch “What is Life?” (videos and audio downloads are available) but it certainly looks interesting. From the Science Network description:
Richard Dawkins, J. Craig Venter, Nobel laureates Sidney Altman and Leland Hartwell, Chris McKay, Paul Davies, Lawrence Krauss, and The Science Network’s Roger Bingham discuss the origins of life, the possibility of finding life elsewhere, and the latest development in synthetic biology. More than 2500 people filled ASU Gammage Auditorium on Saturday, February 12 to listen to this remarkable collection of scientists whose particular perspectives range from the cosmic to the microscopic.
Posted in Dawkins, Environment and Ecology, evolution, philosophy, science, Science, Science and Society
Tagged Christopher McKay (planetary scientist), Climbing Mount Improbable, Craig Venter, NASA Astrobiology Institute, Richard Dawkins, Roger Bingham, SciBlogs, Sidney Altman, The Science Network
I guess this little joke had to come. After the one about Venter’s new synthetic life form disapproving of God playing scientist (see God, stop ‘playing science’ ) we now have from the same source (NewsBisciut) breaking news of the world’s first synthetic news story about DNA (Journalists create world’s first artificial news story):
Journalists in the UK have succeeded in creating the world’s first synthetic news story about artificial DNA.
The hacks developed the outline of a normal piece of reporting about a tentative, abstruse scientific discovery, and transplanted into it some organic tripe about an unprecedented scientific breakthrough which will change the world and possibly wipe out all human life.
Up to now, journalists have only been able to report on scientific news with rigorous accuracy, unwavering attention to detail and a complete absence of hyperbole. But the new technology means that there is now no theoretical limit to the quantity of hysterics which can be generated by the slightest scientific advance, however minor.
‘This has never been seen before, and it’s no exaggeration to say that it’s the greatest single moment in the history of the media,’ said Professor Brian Jenkins, tabloidologist at the University of Suffolk, ‘even more momentous than the destruction of the universe by the Large Hadron Collider, the disappearance of Jupiter or the creation of Dolly the Sheep. You can read all about it in tomorrow’s papers.’
Some time ago (Evolution – a theory or a fact?) I made the observation:
“Our knowledge about evolution includes facts (e.g., fossil records, genetics, molecular biology of DNA), theories (e.g, natural selection, sexual selection, genetic drift) and speculation (e.g., much of evolutionary psychology). Just like any other body of scientific knowledge.”
We could add that although many ideas in evolutionary psychology are speculative, some of these are firming up. Steven Pinker does a good job of separating the more reliable ideas from the more speculative (see his books: The Blank Slate, How the Mind Worksand The Stuff of Thought). Similarly, some of the theories, such as natural selection, are now so well supported by factual evidence they are beginning to be accepted as facts in themselves. A bit like the laws of thermodynamics.
Posted in Christianity, creationism, Darwin, Dawkins, evolution, faith, intelligent design, interfaith, religion, science, supernatural, superstition
Tagged Craig Venter, DNA, evolution, evolutionary psychology, natural selection, Richard Dawkin, Steven Pinker