Thursday, April 26, 2012

Biology 101: An Introduction

This has been a rough year for me. (More on this much later.) While trying to put together a community of sorts, I've been spending my spare time (what else?) reading.

Reading about community? Consensus decision making? Social change? Spiritual paths?

Well, yes, but mostly I've been reading about biology.

It started with me finding a recent, detailed college biology textbook in with the free books at my very local recycling center. I realized that if I was interested in taking care of people, health stuff, nutrition, growing food, plants, and ecosystems, these all had to do with life, and therefore, biology.

At my house, you can often find me at one kitchen table or another, reading a biology book (or several)--slowly poking my way through the big textbook as I eat lunch or dinner (always stopping if there's a housemate to talk with), really trying to learn this stuff. I have been supplementing the textbook with all sorts of other books on the various aspects of what I'm studying at the particular moment. I'm making my way systematically through the book. I've gone through biochemistry, cell structure, metabolism, cell communication, cell respiration, and photosynthesis. I'm now working my way through genetics.

I think that some of what I've been learning is important enough to put in this blog. Since one of the things I think is most important in social change is taking care of people and meeting their needs, I think that having some knowledge of how people work and the natural world works, can be useful in this.

Feel free to skip the next bunch of posts if most of this doesn't interest you (hopefully you skip things that don't interest you here anyway) but my hope is that social change activists and other people concerned about people might want to learn a little of what we're made of and what keeps us alive.

Quote of the Day: "Life can be explained by its underlying chemistry, just as chemistry can be explained by its underlying physics. But the life that emerges from the underlying chemistry of biomolecules is something more than the collection of molecules. ... once these molecules came to reside in cells, they began to interact with one another to generate new processes, like motility and metabolism and perception, processes that are unique to living creatures, processes that have no counterpart at simpler levels. These new, life-specific functions are referred to as emergent functions.
"...I once again revert to my covenant with Mystery, and respond to the emergence of Life not with a search for its Design or Purpose but instead with outrageous celebration that it occurred at all. I take the concept of miracle and use it not as a manifestation of divine intervention but as the astonishing property of emergence. Life does generate something-more-from-nothing-but, over and over again, and each emergence, even though fully explainable by chemistry, is nonetheless miraculous." - Ursula Goodenough

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