Friday, June 18, 2010

the Economist on Vitalism's Death [Ah, Dead Again]:

the Economist states [via Carr, G. (? ?] in "Biology 2.0":

"the science of biology is being transformed [...] post-genomic biology -- biology 2.0, if you like -- has finally killed the idea of vitalism, the persistent belief that to explain how living things work, something more is needed than just an understanding of their physics and chemistry [...] no biologist has really believed in vitalism for more than a century [...] the promise of genomics, that the parts list of a cell and, by extension, of a living organism, is finite and cataloguable, leaves no room for ghosts in the machine [...] viewed another way, though, biology 2.0 is actually neo-vitalistic [huh?]."

Note: what a muddle, really.  If the properties of a living organism are essentially due to the organization of their material [read physical and chemical] components [e.g., DNA all the way upwards], then we are not being vitalistic.  AND, emergent properties which occur at higher levels of bioorganization that are not seen at lower levels of bioorganization do not support the idea of vitalism.  That immaterial 'something more' is now, as it has been for several decades, a figmentation.  Yes, but the author's language is a muddle.  Neo-vitalism?  That's like stating that a new astronomy discovery is neo-astrology.  So, another final nail in the coffin of vitalism yet the author apparently still wishes to play with the 'ghost in the machine' figmentation.  Something more is indeed needed beyond knowledge of JUST basic components [the micro].  We also need to know the larger say ecological picture when dealing with living things [the macro].  But, just because we're appreciating the micro and and macro conceptually, ghosts and figmentations should not be embraced if we wish to maintain science's epistemic and ontologic integrity.
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