Things Fall Apart

An aging widower is losing the battle to maintain his crumbling home. The body of a gray fox lies prone in a stand of birch trees; over a season it swells, decomposes, then shrinks back into the soil. Rivulets of spring water roll down a hillside. What thread connects these disparate phenomena?

So begins my attempt to explain the core of biology in a short series that will appear as separate pages on my sidebar. It sounds about as exciting as a repertory film festival in Delaware featuring elementary school filmstrips. But I swear if it weren’t such a hackneyed title, I’d call it Biology for Poets. It is specifically not for science types.

I have noticed that many people have a good grasp of various aspects of biology but, by no fault of their own, lack a clear view of how it all fits together. And, unless you are a scientist, it is truly the big picture that is important. The basic ideas that underlie our presence here in the world can be an endless source of metaphor and creative inspiration for anyone trying to make sense of all this madness. My God, I am a biology evangelist. At once creepy and dorky.

The first subject I address is entropy, which is another way of saying that things fall apart. They unravel and shrivel and disintegrate and crumble and melt. This seems natural to us. But the vitality of living things stands against that inclination, at least for a while.

Published in: on November 29, 2006 at 11:47 am  Leave a Comment  

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