The discovery of DNA's structure in 1953 frequently called the double helix held promise briefly that a simple understanding of life's functions and evolution would develop. By reducing all of the complexity of life into proteins, amino acids, and nucleic acids with different base-pair sequences many hoped that genes possessed the secret of form and function in all living things. But Lewontin's book shows that there are added ingredients that complicate this picture of DNA as the "secret of life." Often the argument referred to as nature versus nurtureobscures a reality that combines genetic and environmental influences by the way that proteins alert, silence or in some uncertain way permit inherited information to express or repress traits.
Through this third way called epigenetic, the complexity of inheritance of genes, mitochondrial DNA, and proteins has replaced the simplicity of deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA – as the double helix – at the root of life with a triple helix!
The artists's rendering of the biochemical elements as atomic contributors to the DNA molecule, or double helix.
is not possible to work in science without using a language that is
filled with metaphors. Virtually the entire body of modern science
is an attempt to explain phenomena that cannot be experienced directly by human beings . . . ."
". . . explanations
of the way in which a reductionist approach to the study of living
organisms can lead us to formulate incomplete answers to questions
about biology or to miss the essential features of biological processes,
or to ask the wrong questions in the first place."
is useless to call . . . for some more synthetic approach or to say that
. . . we need a new insight."
in biology depends not on revolutionary new conceptualizations, but
on the creation of new methodologies that make questions answerable
in practice in a world of finite resources.