In lecture 12 of Professor John R. Searle's U.C. Berkeley class, "Philosophy of Mind", he remarks [18m22s]:

We no longer talk mysteriously about how heredity works. We can actually identify the mechanisms in DNA and RNA molecules. Indeed, according to Francis Crick, we don't really have much use for the notion of a gene anymore because we mostly deal with the molecular biochemistry.

I have looked for (presumably his later) works and interviews which might support Professor Searle's claim about Crick, and cannot find anything. Can anyone shed some light on this remark? Or, provide a reference citing Crick?

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    $\begingroup$ I cannot find any evidence that Francis Crick ever said that. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Apr 5 '17 at 17:33

I don't know if Crick actually said that, but it seems unlikely given (1) his whole career was focused on elucidating the genetic basis of life and (2) the notion of a gene is still widely invoked in modern biology. It is more likely that he (or someone) said that the notion of a gene has changed with the advent of modern biochemistry. This is certainly true. I refer you to this profile of Crick titled The Francis Crick Papers:

Researchers working on DNA in the early 1950s used the term "gene" to mean the smallest unit of genetic information, but they did not know what a gene actually looked like structurally and chemically, or how it was copied, with very few errors, generation after generation.


Crick and Watson recognized, at an early stage in their careers, that gaining a detailed knowledge of the three-dimensional configuration of the gene was the central problem in molecular biology. Without such knowledge, heredity and reproduction could not be understood.


[Watson and Crick] had shown that in DNA, form is function: the double-stranded molecule could both produce exact copies of itself and carry genetic instructions. During the following years, Crick elaborated on the implications of the double-helical model, advancing the hypothesis, revolutionary then but widely-accepted since, that the sequence of the bases in DNA forms a code by which genetic information can be stored and transmitted.

Perhaps you could send Dr. Searle an email and get it straight from the horse's mouth.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks, I have written him in the past and gotten a helpful and courteous response. $\endgroup$ – Mr. Kennedy Apr 5 '17 at 16:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Mr.Kennedy Great! If you do happen to get a response, please share it here and answer your own question. $\endgroup$ – canadianer Apr 5 '17 at 16:50

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