The Music of Life: a systems biology view of Buddhist concepts of the self/no-self

Denis Noble


Systems Biology is the study of the interactions between the elements (genes, proteins and other molecules) of living systems. Genes do not act in isolation either from each other or from the environment, and so I replace the metaphor of the selfi sh gene with metaphors, many of them musical, that emphasise the processes involved rather than the molecular biological components. This may seem a simple shift of viewpoint. In fact it is revolutionary. Nothing remains the same.  There is no ‘book of life’, nor are there ‘genetic programs’. The consequences for the study of the brain and the nature of the self are profound. They lead naturally to the concept  of anatman (Pāli: anatta), no-self, and to a better understanding of the relation between the microscopic and macroscopic views of the world.

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