Science, Technology, and Human Responsibility

Issue #181            December 9, 2010
A Publication of The Nature Institute
Editor: Stephen L. Talbott (

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This issue of NetFuture:

Editor's Note
The Unbearable Wholeness of Beings (Stephen L. Talbott)
      What biologists really know about organisms, but are afraid to say
About this newsletter


Some of you have wondered where I am headed with the current series of articles on molecular biology. What does it all mean? Am I trying to say something about mechanism versus vitalism, or materialism versus a more spiritual view of the world, or issues such as reductionism, emergentism, holism (whatever these might mean) — or, most perilously of all (if one's concern is for light rather than heat), intelligent design versus standard evolutionary doctrine?

In the current and following issues I will try to satisfy a good deal of that curiosity. However, I will attempt to do so without descending directly into old and tired quarrels — quarrels that, I believe, have resisted resolution because the antagonists share certain false assumptions that make the issues impossible to resolve — for example, the assumption that the organism is constructed from parts in the manner of a machine. Such assumptions are so deeply rooted that it is almost impossible for people today to question them — or even to see them. That is why I prefer to speak directly about what we find when we look at the organism, hoping that a fresh vision can somehow lift us out of old ruts.

One way or another, things are astir in the world of biology. The articles I've already written have brought me sympathetic communication from a range of biologists whose fresh thinking is tremendously encouraging, even if it has yet to overcome the inertia of the flagship technical pub