Chemistry versus biology: 90 second lecture (3/11)

Uploaded by OUlearn on 23.03.2009

I'm Jonathan Silvertown with the Department of Live Sciences
at the Open University.
I'm going to talk about whether life is just chemistry.
I'm going to do this by telling you a tale.
There were three scientists. One had an egg
and the other two were a chemist and a biologist.
The person with the egg said, 'I'm going to boil this
and I'm going to give you each a boiled egg
and I want you to produce a new egg from that.
One that will actually hatch which is a chicken.'
The chemist saw the egg put in the boiling water,
took it out, thought, 'I could do this
but I'm going to have to break the whole thing down
into its individual elements,
then I'm going to have to reconstruct it in some way.
I don't know how. I need a big research grant to do this.'
The biologist took the egg, 'No problem, I can do this.
Give me a chicken.'
Chopped the egg up, fed it to the chicken,
a week later the chicken laid an egg,
hey presto, you have an egg that will produce life.
The point of this story is that there are rules in biology
which are not mere chemistry.
That is not to say that chemistry
isn't the basis of everything that happens
but it's very, very complicated.
It isn't something that you would just find
in the periodic table of elements.
So biology is an independent science with its own rules.
Biology is not simply complicated chemistry.