Animating embryos: thein totorepresentationof life

In the preface to the tenth and latest edition of his authoritative textbook on developmental biology, Scott F. Gilbert states that the science of becoming is currently itself undergoing a ‘metamorphic molt’, at the end of which there will be an as ‘yet unnamed developmental science’. 1 To a large extent, systems biology is responsible
for this developmental science yet to come. Systems biology is the attempt to redefine the study of life by regarding life in its complexity, examining it computationally, and providing types of explanation different from those previously known in the history of biology.2 According to Gilbert, the new science of development will ‘integrate anatomy, physiology, genetics, cell biology, systems theory, genomics, and structural
biology’.

In fact, Gilbert traces the beginnings of modern systems biology itself to that same science of development, which was one of the first to apply ‘principles of causation, integration, and context dependency’. 4 As a science of syntheses and relationships, embryology has from the outset asked the questions that will be asked by all the future life

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