What can a fingernail tell us about the mysteries of creation? In one sense, a nail is merely a hunk of mute matter, yet in another, it's an information superhighway quite literally at our fingertips. Every moment, streams of molecular signals direct our cells to move, flatten, swell, shrink, divide, or die. Andreas Wagner's ambitious new book explores this hidden web of unimaginably complex interactions in every living being. In the process, he unveils a host of paradoxes underpinning our understanding of modern biology, contradictions he considers gatekeepers at the frontiers of knowledge.
Though we tend to think of concepts in such mutually exclusive pairs as mind-matter, self-other, and nature-nurture, Wagner argues that these opposing ideas are not actually separate. Indeed, they are as inextricably connected as the two sides of a coin. Through a tour of modern biological marvels, Wagner illustrates how this paradoxical tension has a profound effect on the way we define the world around us. Paradoxical Life is thus not only a unique account of modern biology. It ultimately serves a radical-and optimistic-outlook for humans and the world we help create.
Andreas Wagner is a professor in the department of biochemistry at the University of Zurich and an external faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute. Educated at Yale University and at the University of Vienna, Wagner focuses his research on the evolution and evolvability of biological systems.