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From philosophy to religion


The origin and the evolution of life: Life Evolving
Christian de Duve Scientist
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Vital Dust appeared... I forget now, '85... no '95... something like that, and then later in 2002 appeared the later book which was called Life EvolvingMolecules, Mind and Meaning as subtitle. And I don't like the title; it was more... sort of, more or less, imposed on me... not imposed, but suggested by others in publishing, but I prefer the title of the French translation... well, translation... I also wrote it because French is my mother language and the French book is called A L'écoute du VivantListening to Life – and I thought that was a better title, because all... the book is really trying to learn from life what kind of message... what kind of lesson it has... it has to give us, and so the book is, again, addressed to a general public, and also to scientists – which was a mistake, to mix the two... the two readerships in a single book. Anyway, the book covers much of the same ground as... as Vital Dust but in a different vein and it goes further... it goes further into topics such as extraterrestrial life and intelligence, biotechnologies and so on, which are not discussed in Vital Dust, but basically the book does survey the origin and the evolution of life. As I said, it's addressed at the same time to scientists and to the general public; that is, to scientists because I used that book to introduce some of my... some of my ideas and I will come to one that I think is of some importance a little later, but... but at the same time was trying to explain to the general public what biology is all about. And so I think the book... the book wasn't successful, not in the United States; the French translation was... was moderately successful, in fact. But in the United States it was not successful, probably because I was mixing two audiences; the scientists found all the stuff addressed to the general public boring and the general public found all the stuff addressed to the scientists as much too complicated.

Belgian biochemist Christian de Duve (1917-2013) was best known for his work on understanding and categorising subcellular organelles. He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1974 for his joint discovery of lysosomes, the subcellular organelles that digest macromolecules and deal with ingested bacteria.

Listeners: Peter Newmark

Peter Newmark has recently retired as Editorial Director of BioMed Central Ltd, the Open Access journal publisher. He obtained a D. Phil. from Oxford University and was originally a research biochemist at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School in London, but left research to become Biology Editor and then Deputy Editor of the journal Nature. He then became Managing Director of Current Biology Ltd, where he started a series of Current Opinion journals, and was founding Editor of the journal Current Biology. Subsequently he was Editorial Director for Elsevier Science London, before joining BioMed Central Ltd.

Tags: Vital Dust, 1995, 2002, Life Evolving: Molecules, Mind and Meaning, A L'écoute du Vivant, Listening to Life

Duration: 2 minutes, 55 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008