Woolfson, Adrian Life Without Genes

ISBN 13: 9780006548744

Life Without Genes

3.62 avg rating
( 13 ratings by GoodReads )
9780006548744: Life Without Genes

Can life exist without genes? What will living things be like in the future and how did life evolve in the first place? ‘“Life Without Genes” is gloriously playful, enticing, eye-opening and heartening.’ Scotsman

‘Lucid and entertaining…From Airfix kit-inspired, “Just-So” stories to lucid descriptions of the work of the mathematician Ilya Prigogine, Woolfson is a virtuoso in full command of extraordinary material.’ Simon Inges

Taking us beyond biology and genes, Adrian Woolfson changes our view of the future forever. Might giraffes grow taller than skyscrapers? How could crocodiles stay underwater for more than an hour? Is it possible to turn a stickleback into a daffodil, or a tiger into a porcupine? Woolfson asks us to imagine a hypermarket stocked with every possible type of toy in the universe, to see DNA as a infinitely flexible Lego, and he takes us on swirling Peter Pan-like trips through our own genes, showing us the full scope (and perils) of genetic engineering. A uniquely accessible work of science, with shades of Huxley, Lewis Carroll and Darwin, ‘Life Without Genes’ presents a truly startling vision of a future where the consequences of our current genetic experiments turn out to be both stranger and more foreign than we ever imagined.

‘Fine-woven from dreams, swooping around the outer edges of the imaginable, “Life Without Genes” takes us to some mind-boggling conceptual spaces, conjuring into existence frightening Borgesian worlds, to make us question our assumptions about life…Wildly, ferally enjoyable.’ Lisa Gee, Scotland on Sunday

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.


If life started with genes, then hominid tool making may as well have started with the Model T Ford. Genetic processes are too sophisticated to have arisen spontaneously. So how did we come to be? Where must we look in our search for the beginnings of life? Adrian Woolfson is less interested in examining every theory than in exploring and explaining the whole notion of self-organisation: how the simplest self-organisers--the droplet of fat, say, that adopts a spherical shape in water--might give rise to living complexities. On the way, he offers a lucid and entertaining account of genetic processes, their importance--and their limitations--in making us what we are. Woolfson takes a mathematical approach to his subject. From a mathematical perspective, "living creatures are symbols which stand for their underlying mathematical edifices". So far, so dry: but Woolfson leaves us in no doubt as to what this implies: " ... packed alongside the small collection of crocodile gene kit boxes that have ... experienced the thrill of life and tasted blood ... is a much larger collection ... Crocodiles the size of tadpoles, winged crocodiles, tree-climbing crocodiles or crocodiles with elephant tusks and tiger stripes." Might DNA and genetic processes themselves be superseded? Woolfson's account ends on a speculative note. Life Without Genes is ground-up explanation of the first water. From Airfix kit-inspired, just-so stories to lucid descriptions of the work of the mathematician Ilya Prigogine, Woolfson is a virtuoso in full command of extraordinary material. -- Simon Ings

From the Publisher:

‘Wildly, ferally enjoyable… fine-woven from dreams, swoops around the outer edges of the imaginable, LIFE WITHOUT GENES takes us to some mind-boggling conceptual spaces to make us question our assumptions about life (such as how can we define it). Woolfson also examines life’s possibly geneless origins with unconventional – but not implausible – hypotheses and looks at modes of development and possible future(s). The first chapter fetches up in ‘Gene Space’, ‘the hypermarket of all possible gene kits, the shop that stocks every type of DNA device that does, has or might ever in principle be able to walk, crawl, swim, float. Fly, flutter, drift, run hover, buzz or whirr across the space of the universe’. Scary. But not as scary perhaps, as the infinite dimensions of the Information Sea’, or the formless quasi-beings howling in the ‘Geneless Zoo’, the frightening Borgesian worlds Woolfson conjures into existence… LIFE WITHOUT GENES also communicates a sophisticated understanding of cutting-edge genetics research. However, what I found particularly grabbing is the way Woolfson lifts Darwinian evolution free of the language and structures of free-market capitalism, substituting historical contingency, the effects of environment and laws of probability for the more familiar lingo of costs, benefits and competition.'SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY

‘A gloriously playful antidote to the prevailing gloomily determinist notion that everybody and everything is inescapably genetically programmed. Woolfson wears his daunting erudition lightly and encourages us to think of DNA as, for instance, an infinitely flexible Lego set with all manner of enticing possibilities. Eye-opening and heartening.’ SCOTSMAN

‘A welcome antidote to the naïve genetic determinism that is all too prevalent in popular science, and a pleasure to read. You have nothing to lose but your genes!’ IAN STEWART, author of Does God Play Dice? and Life's Other Secret

‘Be not afraid of the title! Adrian Woolfson loosens the meaning of the terms ‘life’ and ‘genes’, to provide us with new toys in the great playground of possibilities – where perhaps we shall come to understand the origins of life. It is serious fun.’ GRAHAM CAIRNS-SMITH, author of Seven Clues to the Origin of Life

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace


Woolfson, Adrian
Published by FLAMINGO (2000)
ISBN 10: 0006548741 ISBN 13: 9780006548744
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Irish Booksellers
(Rumford, ME, U.S.A.)

Book Description FLAMINGO, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0006548741

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
£ 83.21
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds