Life: Its Nature and Origin

Life: Its Nature and Origin

Life: Its Nature and Origin

Life: Its Nature and Origin

Excerpt

The transformation of non-living matter into the multitudinous forms of living plants and animals, from the visible to the ultra- microscopic, is one of the least comprehensible of all natural phenomena. In this book an attempt is made to explain the basic mechanism of life and its processes in terms of better known and more readily grasped concepts. Life is so usual, so widespread, so persistent, that it peculiarly justifies the motto which hangs on the wall of a large research laboratory:

THIS PROBLEM, WHEN SOLVED, WILL BE SIMPLE

For nature, not limited by our experimental or mental capabilities, solves directly and with ease the most complicated problems submitted to her. Man spends years in endeavoring to discover and comprehend her operative mechanisms, in the hope that he may mold them nearer to the heart's desire.

Though science properly demands that we should accept only what we can unequivocally demonstrate, it is unscientific to condemn a view simply because we cannot check it experimentally with methods at present known. The future has always brought new methods, new light, new insight. Napoleon's clever but sometimes untrue statement--history is a lie, agreed upon-- points up the fact that science has sometimes accepted, taught and dignified notions later proven to be erroneous--for example, the indivisibility of the atom, and the belief that all atoms of every element are precisely alike.

The chemist and the physicist, starting with the many kinds of atoms and more recently with the fewer kinds of sub-atomic particles, have been working their way upward into larger aggregation units, the molecules, and into the still larger macro-molecules, chain-molecules, molecular groups, and colloidal particles. On the other hand, biologists in their various fields have been steadily working downward to smaller and still smaller units in the cell and "protoplasm," once naively spoken of as "the living jelly." These two groups of investigators have been drilling a tunnel through the mountain of ignorance from opposite directions, and . . .

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