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The systems approach to biology has a long history. Its recent rapid resurgence at the turn of the century reflects the problems encountered in interpreting the sequencing of the genome and the failure of that immense achievement to provide rapid and direct solutions to major multi-factorial diseases. This paper argues that systems biology is necessarily multilevel and that there is no privileged level of causality in biological systems. It is an approach rather than a separate discipline. Functionality arises from biological networks that interact with the genome, the environment and the phenotype. This view of biology is very different from the gene-centred views of neo-Darwinism and molecular biology. In neuroscience, the systems approach leads naturally to 2 important conclusions: first, that the idea of 'programs' in the brain is confusing, and second, that the self is better interpreted as a process than as an object.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date



44 Suppl 1


S9 - S14


Animals, Brain, Gene Regulatory Networks, Genome, Genome, Human, Genotype, Humans, Models, Biological, Molecular Biology, Phenotype, Systems Biology