Francis Crick

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In existographies, Francis Crick (39-BE-49 AE) (1916-2004 ACM) (IQ:175|#239) (RGM:297|1,350+) (PR:2,097|65AE / biologist:18) (Becker 160:48|5L) (Simmons 100:33) (FA:201) (CR:108) (LH:11) (TL:123|#82) was an English geneticist, neuroscientist, and philosopher, noted for []



In 1953, Crick, together with James Watson, discovered the molecular structure of the DNA molecule.

Molecules and Men

In 1966, Crick, in his Of Molecules and Men, a published version of his "Is Vitalism Dead?" University of Washington lectures, attacked and refuted (see: debate) what he called neo-vitalism, of the previous decade or so, the "scientific vitalism" of Michael Polanyi in particular; the following is a key section:[1]

“On the subject of ‘motivation’, in respect to vitalism, it would be of interest for somebody to inquire into the religious faith of these various writers? I have a strong suspicion, that it is the Christians, and the Catholics in particular who write as vitalists and it is the agnostics and atheist who are the anti-vitalists. Whether this is widely true, I must confess I do not know.

Let us return now to a consideration of the meaning of vitalism. We have seen that it means that there must be something else in a biological system which cannot be included under the heading of ‘physics’ or ‘chemistry’. This must be some sort of ‘force’[2] or some directing ‘spirit’ – this is the sort of idea that appeals to the non-scientists.

Scientists, on the other hand, prefer to think that there will be ‘extra laws’ in biological systems, which are not included in physics and chemistry. The difficulty with this last point is to say clearly what sort of thing such an extra law would be, and, even more, to give a concrete example of one. In a certain sense it could be argued that natural selection is such an extra law, and I would certainly think it was a law of the most fundamental importance for biological systems. But it is not at all clear that something like it could not have been deduced from the study of, say, the chemistry of open systems. It is quite conceivable, that the study of chemical engineering would have thrown up a law similar to natural selection, since if we came across anything in the form of a replication process in a simple chemical system we would be confronted with behavior of this kind. Such behavior, however, may be exceedingly rare.

But what test could be used to refute vitalism? One obvious approach could be to try and make some biological object completely synthetically, starting from chemical elements. It would certainly disturb many people if some simple living organism could be made in this way. Nevertheless, I foresee that even if it were done there would be those who would claim that the system, having been made by us was then ‘colonized’ by the ‘vitalistic force’, or the ‘soul’, or whatever they might like to call it, which thus took over the workings of the system. So, in addition to being able to ‘synthesize’ it we see that it is necessary to explain the ‘behavior’ of the organism in terms of physical and chemical laws.”

— Francis Crick (1966), Of Molecules and Men (pg. 25-27)


Quotes | By

The following are quotes by Crick:

“Let us abandon the word alive.”
— Francis Crick (1966), Of Molecules and Men (pg. 5)

End matter


  1. Crick, Francis. (1966). Of Molecules and Men (pg. 5); John Danz Lectures: "Is Vitalism Dead?", University of Washington, Feb and Mar. Prometheus, 2004.
  2. See: scientific god synonyms.


  • Crick, Francis. (1966). Of Molecules and Men (John Danz Lecture: "Is Vitalism Dead?", University of Washington, Feb and Mar) (pg. 5). Prometheus, 2004.

External links

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