The great challenge - as yet unrecognised by
bioscience - is to appreciate the phenomenal
capacity that exists within the living cell.
Individual cells show marked ingenuity; they are
far from being machines. They take decisions. They
construct homes. They show refined senses and
preferences. They communicate with their fellows.
We have been seduced by the decoding of DNA,
wrongly believing that it explains everything.
Just because you decoded the digital code within a
computer, you would not expect to be able to
compose great music or construct great art, would
you? So it is with the cell. We know much of its
minutiae; little about its behaviour.
The current view (expounded by Susan Greenfield
and others) is that the brain, ultimately,
controls everything in the body. My view is the
converse - apart from movement and cognition, the
brain controls almost nothing that matters. The
maintenance of the body, our health, sustenance,
nutrition, repair and development - these are what
keeps us alive and none of this realm is
controlled by the brain. Decision-making within
single cells is what matters and understanding
this is our great challenge.
Apart from the complexity of cellular life, the
only central preoccupation has to be coping
with CO2 excess. Kyoto came too late; the
atmosphere is heating up steadily even if we were
to switch off every engine and every power station
at midnight tonight. How can human societies
survive in an overheated world? Thatís our only
major concern; it must be.
Brian Ford is author of books including
The Secret Language of Life: How Animals and
Plants Feel and Communicate (buy this book
(UK) or Amazon
(USA)), and The Future of Food (buy
this book from Amazon
(UK) or Amazon
(USA)). See his website.