One of the very first lessons in Biology that we usually discuss is the biochemistry of cells. We then note that cells consist mainly of water plus biomolecules and some minerals. If I ask my students the question “why is water the most abundant component of cells?” – One answer that usually comes up is - “because water is a universal solvent.”
Huh? I simply cringe every time I get this answer. Sometimes I even get ballistic! Ugh! Double Ugh! How can one say water is a universal solvent??? Why is this mentioned in Biology books and even in Chemistry books? Water is not a universal solvent! It is just a very good solvent but not a universal solvent. If it is a universal solvent, then we will not even exist. There will be no cells, no plants, no animals, no mountains, rocks or stones. Everything will be dissolved in water. Everything will be in solution. Everything will be…water. In fact the only thing that there will be is…water!